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A typical verb denotes the occurrence or abandonment of an action (run, stop), a relationship (have, lose), or a state (stand, melt). In Elefen, verbs do not change to indicate such things as tense or mood. Instead, adverbs are used – especially the three preverbs ia, va, and ta. Any verb can be reused without change as a noun.


The future tense is marked with va (a word of French origin). Past tenses, including perfect and pluperfect, are marked with ia (of Chavacano origin). These are special adverbs that precede the verb. The present tense is unmarked:

Stories often describe events that take place in the past (or an imagined past), or whose location in time is of no concern to the reader. In such cases, the ia may be omitted.

Elefen does not distinguish perfect and imperfect aspects of the verb (e.g. “I ate”, “I used to eat”, “I have eaten”, “I had eaten”). However, one can easily clarify the temporal sequence of two actions by marking the earlier one with ja (“already”):

There are other ways to clarify the temporal sequence:

Elefen has an optional “irrealis” particle ta (of Haitian origin) that can be used to indicate that something is unreal, or in doubt, or merely possible or desired. A sentence with ta addresses an alternative reality. In sentences using si (“if”), ta is added in the main clause, but it is usually omitted in the “if” clause – although including it there is not prohibited. It can suggest a future that is less probable than one using va. Ta can also convey a polite request. It can be used in various situations where many languages would use subjunctive or conditional moods, and it often corresponds to the English word “would”:

Normally, only one of va, ia, and ta can be used with each verb. An exception is ia ta, which has the same meaning as the past conditional in the Romance languages and “would have” in English. An example is an amusing comment by Richard Nixon:

Unlike in English, reported speech in Elefen retains the tense of the original utterance:


The imperative, or command form of the verb, is unmarked. It differs from the present tense in that the subject is omitted. The subject would normally be tu or vos, i.e. the person addressed. Ta or ta ce can be used if a subject has to be included:


Verbs are negated with the adverb no, which precedes both the verb and va, ia, or ta:


A participle is a verb used as an adjective or adverb. Verbs form active participles in -nte, and passive participles in -da. These are adjectives equivalent to those in ”-ing” and ”-ed” (or ”-en”) in English, and can be used equally well as adverbs and nouns. The active participle normally also implies an ongoing action, while the passive participle suggests that the action occurred in the past:

The active participle can have an object. Furthermore, it can be used as a complement of the verb es to convey a progressive sense:

But a participial construction is often unnecessary, as there are others ways to express this meaning:

The passive participle can be used as a complement of the verbs es or deveni, producing a passive sense. Par (“by”) introduces the agent of a passive action:

An active sentence with on or algun as its subject is often an elegant alternative to a passive sentence:

The active participle of es is esente:


A transitive verb is one that can be directly followed by a noun phrase (an object), with no intervening preposition. An intransitive verb does not have an object. For example:

Transitivity is flexible in Elefen. For example, if you add an object after an intransitive verb, the verb becomes transitive. The object corresponds semantically to the intransitive subject, and the verb now means “causes (the object) to …”:

The object of a transitive verb can be omitted if it’s obvious from the situation or the context:

When a verb’s object and subject are the same thing, you can use a reflexive pronoun as the object:

And to make it clear that a verb is being used transitively, you can use expressions with fa or causa:

In some languages, the object of a transitive verb can have a complement. Elefen uses other constructions instead:

The one exception involves the verb nomi, and is regarded as an example of apposition:

Verbs with dummy subjects

Every finite verb in Elefen must have a subject, even if only as a placekeeper.

In some languages, it’s possible to omit the subjects of verbs that refer to the weather or the general environment. In Elefen, lo (“it”) is used:

Another example is when the subject is effectively a trailing noun clause. Because it comes after the verb, lo is used as a dummy subject:

Likewise, with the verb es, if the subject is a pronoun (typically el, lo, or los) followed by a relative clause, one can move the real subject to the end of the sentence and substitute lo as a dummy subject:

On ave indicates the presence or existence of something:

Verbs as nouns

Elefen has two ways to use verbs as nouns: the infinitive and the verbal noun. Both use the verb unmodified.

The infinitive ​introduces a special kind of noun clause, called ​an “infinitive ​clause”​, whose meaning is like a clause introduced by ce. The infinitive is still really a verb, capable of being followed by adverbs and an object, and of negation by the word no placed before it. Importantly, it does not accept a subject or an indicator of tense or mood. These are conveyed by the context.

The most common use of an infinitive clause is as the object of another verb. The subjects of both verbs are usually the same, but they can be different if the meaning suggests this, as in the example with proibi come below:

Infinitives are also often found after prepositions, ​where they can still accept no before them, and adverbs and an object after them:

By contrast, the verbal noun is just a noun, and is normally preceded by la or another determiner. The noun denotes either an occurrence of the verb’s action, or its immediate result. It can accept adjectives, but a preposition (most commonly de) must be used if an object needs to be included:

With a verb such as ajunta, there is little difference between un ajunta and un ajuntada. But la traduida is the original text from which la tradui is produced, and un crea is an act of creating un creada. This follows from the meaning of the objects of the verbs themselves: -da always refers to the object. With crea, the object is also the result of the action; but with tradui, the object and the result are two different things. With a few verbs, such as dansa, where the object and the action are the same thing, we say un dansa, not un dansada.

An infinitive clause can be used as the subject of a sentence:

But, in writing, if an infinitive clause is long, the reader may risk mistaking the infinitive verb for a command, at least until they get to the main verb of the sentence. One can avoid this by changing the infinitive to a verbal noun by adding la or another determiner before it, or by using the plural:

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Lo ia es automatada jenerada de la paje corespondente en la Vici de Elefen a 29 febrero 2024 (16:03 UTC).