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A Grammar of Interlingua

Alexander Gode & Hugh Blair IALA 1951

Parts of Speech



Adjectives end in a vowel or a consonant. The former group ends almost without exception in e, the latter in one of the consonants l, n, r, c. Since other words can have the same endings, these do not identify adjectives, which can only be spotted by the function they perform in a sentence or at times by a suffix which happens to occur with no other part of speech.

delicate 'delicate'
american 'American'
parve 'small'
dan 'Danish'
blau 'blue'
par 'even'
equal 'equal'
cyclic 'cyclic'


There is no adjectival INFLECTION or AGREEMENT.

Le parve femina es belle 'The little woman is beautiful'
(Le) parve feminas es belle '(The) little women are beautiful'
(Le) parve homines es belle '(The) little men are handsome'
Le parve libro es belle 'The little book is beautiful'


Adjectives placed next to a noun can either PRECEDE OR FOLLOW. The latter position is more frequent and hence normal. Adjectives preceding a noun tend to suggest that what they express is an essential feature of the noun concept and not merely a feature distinguishing the present representative of the noun concept from others.

le lingua international e le linguas national
'the international language and the national languages'

Su integre vita esseva ric in viages longe e breve
'His whole life was rich in long and short trips'

Long adjectives should rarely be allowed to precede a noun. Brief adjectives like bon, alte, parve, grande, belle, breve, longe, etc., may precede merely for rhythm's sake or as a matter of personal preference. The two possible positions of the adjective cannot ever express two distinct meanings. Numeral adjectives (cardinals as well as ordinals) precede the noun they qualify.


Degrees of COMPARISON are expressed by means of the adverbs plus and minus.

bon: plus bon: le plus bon 'good: better: best'
bon: minus bon: le minus bon 'good less good: least good'
interessante: plus interessante: le plus interessante (interesting)
interessante: minus interessante: le minus interessante

When the comparative happens to be preceded by the definite article, it coincides with the superlative. The examples below (§35) show that this involves no confusion.


Comparison of equality is expressed by tanto . . . como or si . . . como 'as . . . as.' The particle after the comparative is que 'than.'

Comparative and superlative forms following the noun repeat the preceding definite article - provided there is one.

Un homine es tanto bon como un altere e frequentemente etiam un grande portion plus bon
'One man is as good as another and frequently even a great deal better'

Iste historia es le minus interessante que io ha legite
'This story is the least interesting (which) I have read'

Iste historia es le minus interessante del duo
'This story is the less interesting of the two'

Del duo summas paga le plus parve
'Of the two amounts pay the lesser'

Chesterlucks es plus blande
'Chesterlucks are milder'

Le presidente del committee ajorna omne le questiones le plus urgente
'The committee chairman postpones all the most urgent questions'

Illa ha le plus dulce temperamento e le ideas le plus naive
'She has the sweetest disposition and the most naive ideas'


The idea of the so-called ABSOLUTE SUPERLATIVE may be expressed as in English by various constructions: most interesting, very interesting, extremely interesting, terribly interesting, etc. A device used specifically for purposes of the absolute superlative is the suffix -issime.

Su replica esseva un "non" multo emphatic
'His reply was a very emphatic "no"'

Su replica esseva un emphatichissime "non"
'His reply was a most emphatic "no"'

Ille parla in un maniera terribilemente interessante
'He talks in a terribly interesting fashion'


The particles plus and minus, which are used to express degrees of comparison, are themselves expressive of the comparative degree of adverbs which admit no regular forms of comparison. See §44 below. Similarly there are in the Interlingua vocabulary a few adjectives which one may wish to regard as irregular synonyms of certain comparative and superlative forms.

parve : plus parve : le plus parve or minor : le minor or minime
'small: smaller or lesser: smallest or least'

magne: plus magne: le plus magne or major: le major or maxime
'great: greater: greatest'

bon: plus bon: le plus bon or melior: le melior or optime
'good: better: best'

mal: plus mal: le plus mal or pejor: le pejor or pessime
'bad: worse: worst'


Theoretically EVERY ADJECTIVE CAN SERVE AS A PRONOUN. The noun it represents may either be one expressed in the preceding passage or it may be a more or less definite notion in the mind of the speaker.

Le puero ha un conilio mascule e duo conilias. Le mascule pare assatis grasse pro esser edite
'The boy has one male rabbit and two she-rabbits. The male (one) seems fat enough to be eaten'

A causa de su eterne mal humor nos appella le "le acre"
'Because of his eternal bad humor we call him "the acrid (one)"'

In the first example, 'the male' stands for 'the male rabbit'; in the second example, 'the acrid one' suggests a male human being but not a specific noun like 'man, boy, teacher, etc.' In instances of the latter kind it may be preferable to speak of "adjectives used as nouns" or "substantivized adjectives" rather than of "adjectives used as pronouns." Adjectives used as nouns include also abstracts of the type 'the good, the true, the beautiful' in the sense of 'goodness, truth, beauty.'


Adjectives used as pronouns or nouns behave grammatically like ordinary nouns and can be pluralized.

Le puero ha quatro conilios, duo mascules e duo feminines
'The boy has four rabbits, two male and two female ones'

A causa de lor eterne mal humor nos appella les "le acres"
'Because of their eternal bad humor we call them "the acrid (ones)"'


Numerous adjectives listed in the Interlingua-English Dictionary correspond to parallel noun entries.

Adjectives Nouns
bon 'good' bono 'good (as "the good and the beautiful");
good one ( = good man); certificate, coupon'
auguste 'august' augusto '(the) august (one); (month) of August'
Augusto 'August, Augustus'
Augusta 'Augusta'
characteristic 'characteristic' characteristica 'characteristic (trait)'
chromatic 'chromatic' chromatica 'chromatics'
indonesian 'Indonesian' indonesiano 'Indonesian'
natural 'natural' natural 'disposition, temperament'
provincial 'provincial' provincial 'provincial'
technic 'technical' technico 'technician'
technica 'technique; technology'
automobile 'self-moving' automobile 'automobile'
ambiente 'ambient, surrounding' ambiente 'environment'
alte 'high' alto 'top; alto'
belligerente 'belligerent' belligerente 'belligerent'
comestibile 'edible' comestibiles 'food'
combustibile 'combustible' combustibile 'fuel'
composite 'composite' composito 'compound'

The possibility of thus turning adjectives into nouns is limited by nothing but common sense. Unless otherwise crystallized by usage, an adjective used as a full-fledged noun (not simply as a pronoun for a noun previously mentioned) expresses either the abstract notion of the quality represented by the adjective - e.g. the good, the beautiful, the sublime - or a thing or person characterized by what the adjective expresses - e.g. the dear, the beloved, the former, the wounded. When they express an abstract quality and when they represent a male being, adjectives turned into nouns either assume the vowel ending o or remain unchanged; when they represent female beings they assume the vowel ending a or remain unchanged.

The switch to the vowel endings o and a under the conditions stated is the norm. The adjectives which do not follow that norm are listed below in §41. It should be noted, however, (a) that the list is exhaustive and hence includes a good many items for which the distinction of male and female has no practical significance, and (b) that the list is a "purists' list" so that the mistaken use of the endings o and a with its items cannot be considered a serious matter.


Adjectives which cannot, when used as nouns, assume distinct forms in o and a although - sense permitting - they are capable of assuming the plural ending, include the following:

  1. all adjectives which end in -ce and -u; e.g. rapace, precoce, dulce, hindu, manchu, blau, etc.;
  2. all adjectives whose apparent stem is followed by -e(n)se, -il(e), -ior, -nte whether or not these endings are clearly recognizable as suffixes; e.g. futile, junior, consciente, clemente, francese, etc.;
  3. all adjectives ending in the suffixes -al, -ar, -bile, -oide, -plice; e.g. natural, linear, amabile, negroide, duplice, etc.
  4. the adjectives
    agreste 'rustic'
    alacre 'eager'
    breve 'short'
    celebre 'famous'
    celere 'quick'
    celibe 'unmarried'
    cruel 'cruel'
    fidel 'faithful'
    folle 'bellows'
    forte 'mad'
    grande 'big'
    grave 'heavy'
    juvene 'young'
    leve 'light'
    mediocre 'mediocre'
    memore 'mindful'
    minor 'lesser'
    molle 'soft'
    necesse 'necessary'
    omne 'all'
    par 'even'
    plure 'several'
    prode 'valiant'
    pubere 'pubescent'
    qual 'which'
    quite 'quit'
    solemne 'solemn'
    suave 'sweet'
    tal 'such'
    tenue 'thin'
    triste 'sad'
    ubere 'fruitful'
    verde 'green'
    vetere 'old'
  5. all adjectives derived from those listed above by prefixes; e.g. supernatural, infidel, etc.;
  6. the geographical and racial name adjectives
  7. indeclinable grammatical adjectives like cata, que, and combinations with -cunque;
  8. certain adjectives derived by means of a prefixed element but without a suffix (see §164) from the following nouns:
    anno (e.g. bienne, trienne)
    caput (e.g. bicipite, precipite)
    color (e.g. incolor, tricolor)
    corde (e.g. concorde, discorde)
    corno (e.g. bicorne, unicorne)
    cuspide (e.g. bicuspide, multicuspide)
    fin (e.g. affin, confin)
    flor (e.g. multiflor, unifior)
    forma (e.g. multiforme, uniforme)
    lingua (e.g. bilingue, crassilingue)
    remo (e.g. bireme, trireme)
  9. the following adjectives which represent the same type as those listed under (h) but which are either isolated formations or cannot be readily recognized in their composition:
    insomne, semi-somne
    isoscele, macroscele


On the formation of adjectives as well as of derivatives from them, see §139, §140, §141, §142, §45-§47, §152-§153.

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