Bulgarian: Past Perfect and aspect

Discussion in 'Other Slavic Languages' started by Psi-Lord, Aug 7, 2009.

  1. Psi-Lord

    Psi-Lord Junior Member

    Cândido Mota, São Paulo, Brazil
    Portuguese - Brazil
    A text I wrote had a sentence along the lines of:

    „Нито Иван, нито Павел някога бяхме сметнали гуавите за нещо забележително.“

    A friend corrected it to:

    „Нито Иван, нито Павел някога бяхме смятали гуавите за нещо забележително.“

    I do know that I often have a hard time dealing with concepts where aspect and tense ‘clash’ (from a Romance or Germanic point of view), such as when one has an imperfective aorist. So, when I first wrote the sentence, I believe I automatically thought of the past active aorist participle as perfective (from сметна), but I see it should’ve been imperfective after all (from смятам).

    So, what I’m wondering is – could anyone provide me with the grammar behind this particular aspectual choice, so that I can try to see where my reasoning’s failing me?

  2. Kanes Senior Member

    It's actually not wrong but it means different thing. It works only when you are reffering to a know specific time in the past when you saw guavas for first time, like the first impression of the guavas. The second sentance just mean that generaly in the past you and your frend have not considered them smething special. Without reference of a specific point/event. Also it is strange refering to yourself by name, actually it is the only strange thing here. :)
  3. SparedByMercy Senior Member

    Bulgaria, Bulgarian
    With the auxiliary you are using:
    "сметнали" expresses something that happened once (before a past moment).
    "Смятали" expresses that the two guys thоught so for a while (before a past moment) (though in your case it's the negative of the tense - they didn't find guavas remarkable).

    Your first sentence is indeed wrong. "Бяхме сметнали" as an action that only happened once (we decided so at a certain moment) excludes the use of "някога".

    "Бях" will only go with "сметнал" in an "If" phrase: "Ако бях сметнал, че е неподходящо, нямаше да дойда".

    BUT... since "смятам" is a verb that expresses an opinion, when you say "бях сметнал", it sounds like "I'm thinking that it's wrong" or "I'm wanting this". It doesn't fit so well for certain tenses. We would say "Ако смятах, че не е неподходящо, нямаше да дойда".

    Kanes is right about you referring to yourself by name. In case you are Ivan, you could say :
    До онзи момент (the moment you changed your mind about guavas) нито аз, нито Павел намирахме нещо забележително в гуавите.
    До онзи момент аз и Павел никога не бяхме мислили, че гуавите са забележителни.

    I could not name any tenses, sorry about that!
  4. Psi-Lord

    Psi-Lord Junior Member

    Cândido Mota, São Paulo, Brazil
    Portuguese - Brazil
    Много ви благодаря! :) I think it’s a lot clearer now.

    And as for Иван, Павел and бяхме, that’s embarrassing – I don’t know what I was thinking! :eek: Thanks for pointing that out, too.
  5. Egrorian Junior Member

    I'd only add that in Bulgarian whether you would use singular or plural on "guava" may depend on the context. Usually, if you mean the fruit of the guava, it's singular, or it is specified by adding "плод/ове":
    - Отивам да купя гуава (not гуави), though you are obviously about to buy more than one single guava fruit.
    - Вземате два плода гуава (не "две гуави"), обелвате ги и ги нарязвате на ситно (in a cooking recipe)
    Though if you mean a distinct amount of guava, you'd use sungular again - "Искам да купя един килограм гуава".

    If you mean the guava tree, however, you may use plural.
    - Имам две гуави в саксии.

    In your example sentence, Psi-Lord, you may want to reconsider the number of the noun depending on what you actually mean.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2009
  6. Psi-Lord

    Psi-Lord Junior Member

    Cândido Mota, São Paulo, Brazil
    Portuguese - Brazil
    I indeed had the fruit and not the tree in mind. This leads me to a question, though – is this particular to all types of fruit, or specific to guavas (and perhaps other exotic / unusual fruit)?

    And, although this is a different tense, it’s a follow-up to the initial conversation. This time, though, the sentence was written by a native speaker himself. Still talking about exotic fruit (especifically speaking, mangoes and avocados), he said:

    „Аз още не съм ги опитвал.“

    My doubt is similar to the one in my first post – why not „не съм ги опитал“? Does it have something to do with his not having tried them yet, so that, if he already had, he could say „вече съм ги опитал“? Or am I following a wrong path here?
  7. Egrorian Junior Member

    As far as I know, the names of the most fruits in Bulgaria have singular and plural forms which can be used accordingly without much special considerations - ябълка/ябълки, круша/круши, портокал/портокали, etc. and when one means certain amounts (e.g. 1 kg), the plural is used alright (един килограм портокали). An exception I can think of is грозде, where singular is used most of the time - there's simply no plural, even if you mean the plant where grape grows as it's called лоза. One can say "грозд/ове", but that means one/or more than one bunch of grapes, in which the single bunch of grapes is an independent entity, if I may say so. To a basket of grapes one would say "кошница грозде".

    Fruits with foreign names like guava, mango, papaya, avocado (apart from banana - there is a plural, банани) are always in singular (unless you mean the tree) - there simply isn't a normal-sounding plural form, though for kiwi, one may say кивита "За тази готварска рецепта ще ти трябват пет кивита". For the trees of mango, avocado, etc. if you mean a single tree, one may say simply "авокадо" - "Имам едно авокадо в саксия", and for more than a single tree one may use the form "дръвче авокадо" - "Имам пет дръвчета авокадо в градината".

    As for "не съм ги опитвал" - this is correct. I am not a linguist so my explanations may sound unbeliavably lame, but in this case this tense is used to denote something that started in the past and continues at the moment of speaking. "No, I have never tasted guava". If the speaker means to say that he tried already, he may say "Опитах ги вече" - which, however, conveys the message that this happened recently, or he may say "Опитвал съм ги вече" - which basically means that this happened some time ago, and possibly that he tried them on more than one occasion. It depends on the question too, as it may set the conditions, e.g. whether it is about ever tasting guava or the specific batch of guava which is in the fridge at the moment, etc.

    For an example:
    - Опита ли гуавата, която купих вчера?
    - Да, опитах я, много е вкусна.
    - Не, не я опитах, не съм я видял.

    - Ти опитвал ли си гуава?
    - Да, опитвал съм, когато бях в Бразилия (supposedly that happened some time ago)
    - Не, не съм опитвал никога.

    Hope that helps.
  8. Christo Tamarin

    Christo Tamarin Senior Member

    In my opinion, both sentences are not quite correct.

    My guess: „Нито Иван, нито Павел някога биха сметнали гуавите за нещо забележително.“ Neither John nor Paul would ever consider guavas as something remarkable.

    My guess: „Нито Иван, нито Павел някога са смятали гуавите за нещо забележително.“ Neither John nor Paul have ever consider guavas as something remarkable.

    Another guess: Преди да ги опитат, нито Иван, нито Павел някога бяха смятали гуавите за нещо забележително.“ Neither John nor Paul had ever consider guavas as something remarkable before tasting them.

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