Derivations of modals 'may'/ 'can'

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by ThomasK, Jun 22, 2013.

  1. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    What are the modals 'may' and 'can' in your language (if ...), and what derivations do you have of those verbs?

    In English there are some: might (power) for example. But there might be more. 'Power' refers to French 'pouvoir'.

    In Dutch there is 'kunnen' and 'mogen', and quite some derivations:
    - macht, power
    - vermogen, capacity, maybe also power
    - kunst, art
    - kunde, craftmanship
    There might still be more, but these already give you some idea.
  2. arielipi Senior Member

    אם - im, no difference between may and can, except for may can be more formal and be said "ha'im" האם
  3. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    But no derivations from im, Arielipi?
  4. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    But no derivations from im, Arielipi? Is it possible that it can mean 'if' (maybe in Biblical Hebrew)?
  5. Ёж! Senior Member

    Russian: the single verb «мочь», with two important derivations: «мощь» (power, ~force) and «немочь» (illness, lit. 'non-capacity'). The verb «занемочь» means 'to fall ill', but usually the verb «заболеть» is used, which makes reference to pain instead of lack of capacity. There are other words that are derived from the first two.
  6. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Is 'non-capacity' the general term for illness? It reminds me of 'dis-ease' in English ('mal-adie' in French ?)...
  7. arielipi Senior Member

    What derivations can be? im... acts exactly as if does in english. it does mean if.
  8. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    But it is new to me that a verb can function as a conjunction, or that a verb gives rise to a conjunction (grammaticalisation, that is called: words turning into conjunctions, prepositions, etc.). Very interesting... (I can imagine a similar use of a may clause in Dutch, but without may/ mogen turning into a conjunction, as in mocht [dialect moest] het gebeuren/ [might ?/] should it happen)]
  9. arielipi Senior Member

    I dont see where you see a verb, im is a conjunction; im acts as if both in modern and biblical hebrew.
  10. bibax Senior Member


    moci = can, to be able (< *mog-ti, root is *mog-/mag-, related to German mögen, die Macht);

    nouns: moc (power/might, die Macht); nemoc (= disease, illness); pomoc (= help);
    adj. mocný (= mighty) > mocnost (= (world) power), mocnář (= monarch, sovereign, usually Franz Joseph I), mocnářství (= monarchy, usually the Austro-Hungarian m.); nemocný (= ill) > nemocnice (= hospital), nemocnost (= sickness rate); pomocný (= auxiliary) > pomocník (= helper);
    perfective verbs: pomoci (= to help), namoci (= to strain), vymoci (= to enforce e.g. a claim), přemoci (= to overpower/overcome/subdue), domoci, vzmoci, ...;
    imperfective (iterative) verbs: pomáhati (= to help, continuously or repeatedly), namáhati (= to strain) > námaha (= strain, exertion), vymáhati, přemáhati, domáhati, vzmáhati, ...;

    umocniti (impf. mocniti) = to raise to the power (also in math.), to enhance, to intensify;
    odmocniti (impf. odmocňovati) = to extract the root of (math.);
    math. mocnina (= power), odmocnina (= root);

    možný = possible, möglich; možnost = possibility, Möglichkeit; (English uses Latin loanwords)

    směti = may, to be allowed (< *su-moi-ja = daring person, cf. Gr. Eumaios);
    adj. smělý = daring, bold, courageous > noun smělost = daring, boldness > verb osměliti se = to pluck up courage;
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2013
  11. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    @arielipi:a modal like may is a verb,isn't it? Or is it no verb in Hebrew? Not impossible but I had not consideredthat possible...

    @Bibax: moci cannot mean ‘may’, permission, then? What is thedifference with pomocny ? Is moci a main verb then, not a formalmodal verb?
    How dothe -mahati verbs fit in? Do they have to do with moci (pomocny)?
    Smeti – could there be a link between allowing and daring? There is a similar phenomenon, I suppose, linking Dutch durven (to dare), and German dürfen (may,can, be allowed to), but I do not see the inherent semantic link...
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2013
  12. Ёж! Senior Member

    No. The usual word is «болезнь», from «боль» – 'pain'.
  13. arielipi Senior Member

    no - may and if are merged into one word.
  14. er targyn Senior Member

    In Turkic auxillary verbs to take and to know are used to mean ability.
  15. ancalimon Senior Member

    In Turkish we use "-abil" suffix for "can".

    I can do : Yapabilirim.
  16. er targyn Senior Member

    In Kazakh it's: Jasa.i (iste.i) al.a.myn.
  17. bibax Senior Member

    Moci expresses capacity/ability/possibility, whereas směti expresses permission/authorization, however these meanings often overlap esp. in questions, e.g. Mohu/smím vám pomoci? = Can/may I help you?
    Elektřina může zabít. = Electricity "has ability" to kill.
    Elektřina smí zabít. = Electricity "has permission" to kill. (quite nonsensical)
    James Bond smí zabíjet. = J. B. "has permission/licence" to kill.

    Směti originally meant 'to dare', 'to venture', hence the derived words smělý, smělost. I don't know why the meaning has shifted from 'to dare' to the modal 'to be allowed to, to have permission to'.

    Pomoci (prefix po- + moci) means 'to help'. All prefixed verbs -moci/-máhati are common regular verbs (pomoci, přemoci, vymoci, pomáhati, přemáhati, vymáhati, etc.), they have all forms like any other regular verbs.

    For example:

    přemoci (perf.) < *pre-mog-ti, the root is *mog- = to overcome, übermögen;
    přemáhati (imperf.) < *pre-mag-a-ti, the root is *mag-, a grade of *mog-;

    Přemohu tu bolest. = I shall overcome the pain.
    Přemáhám tu bolest. = I am overcoming the pain.
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2013
  18. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    As for Turkish and Kazakh, I don't quite understand. Where is the can/ may precisely? I suppose there are no derivations then...
  19. er targyn Senior Member

    Yes, there are no derivations. can/may are in verbs al- "to take", bil- "to know", bol- "to be/happen/finish". One more example: "May I come in?" in Kazakh would be "Kirwge bola ma?", which literally translates as "To coming-in will happen?" :)
  20. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    'Will happen ?' is then something like maybe, peut-être, Dutch misschien, I guess. But I am not sure, as 'will' is not 'may' as such... I suppose it is too complex to compare with other languages. But thanks!
  21. Ёж! Senior Member

    There is an even more important derivation, so important that it seemed too obvious for me somehow, and I skipped it. It is the adjective «возможный» ('possible'), with some regular derivations therefrom. And, well, «помочь» and «перемочь» exist in Russian like in Czech ('to help' and 'to overcome').
  22. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I had forgotten it myself in Dutch: mogelijk, of course !
  23. bibax Senior Member

    Das ist unmöglich! ;)

    BTW, Russian has also an equivalent to the Czech verb směti: сметь (in fact it is the same verb, only written in Cyrillic):

    směti - сметь;
    smělý - смелый;
    smělost - смелость;
    osměliti se - осмелиться;
  24. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    In Tagalog these two can be translated in one word "Maari" but in older forms Can is " Mangyari" or "magawa" while May is " Loobin" or "Papangyarihin".
  25. Ёж! Senior Member

    It does not look like an equivalent. All it means is 'to dare' (when someone else forbids or is likely to forbid). When a person «смеет» do something, this means s/he is not allowed / does not have permission to do it (but nevetheless does).
  26. bibax Senior Member

    In Old Czech the verb směti also meant 'to dare'. Now it means 'to be allowed/to have permission'.

    However in the negative sentences směti and сметь have very similar (if not identical) meaning:

    tohle nesmíš dělat — ты не смеешь этого делать — du darfst das nicht tun  — you must not do it / you are not allowed to do it;
  27. Ёж! Senior Member

    Well, the Russian version means exactly that someone is not allowed to do something and he does not do that; figuratively, it can mean only the first, i.e. not having permission, but the expression results to be very strong ('It cannot be imagined that you do that! Forget that way of action altogether, it cannot happen, that's all!').

    This is a very beautiful 'false friend', by the way; let's say, for example, a Russian furiously remarks «Он смеет воровать мои деньги!»*, and a Czech listens. :)

    * lit. 'He dares steal my money!'
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2013
  28. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I had always wondered about the link between daring and being allowed, but what Ëx writes , is quite plausible: something like challenging someone. We only think of daring as having the guts to dosomething, something personal, not challenging authority or a person first of all, I think. But in this way may/can and dare have some kind of intrinsic link, I guess... As a matter of fact, there is something like 'I dare you' in English, I believe...
  29. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    But then: no nouns like power, or craft, or .., based on it? Or possible (< potere, pouvoir, be able to)?
  30. arielipi Senior Member

    In hebrew theres also an opposite direction:
    usually the one asking may is the more powerful, or theyre the same power level.
    in more formal uses of may and can, for may: the less powerful will use the word התואיל hato'il which is translated to 'would', while the powerful uses the regular may.

    of course it is not a must, its just something that can be thought of as a way less powerful people would ask from more powerful (just like saying your majesty instead of just you, or the king etc).
    It can also be to show impatience, התואיל בטובך לשבת כבר? would you (show kindness [impatiently]) sit already?
  31. Ёж! Senior Member

    I think the Russian & Czech version has nothing to do with challenging anyone, rather it is connected to not having fear, not fearing obstacles, not stopping before obstacles, or things like these. Of course, 'dare' is an inaccurate translation.
  32. bibax Senior Member

    It is supported by the meaning of the old derivations smělý (= bold) and smělost (= boldness). Smělý člověk, смелый человек (a bold man) is a man that does not fear of obstacles. Also abstract concepts may be bold: смелый эксперимент молодого режиссера — smělý experiment mladého režiséra — a bold experiment of a young director.

    I still wonder why the meaning of směti and сметь are so different in the affirmative sentences whereas there is nearly no difference in the negative sentences.
  33. Ёж! Senior Member

    Is there really no difference in negative? If the Russian verb «не смеет» is used, neutrally it is taken to mean he does not do that: «он не смеет ко мне приближаться» ~ 'he does not approach me as he is afraid of me, as he thinks he is not permitted to and/or fears my anger'; this is a stylistically coloured version of «он не осмеливается ко мне приближаться», which means nearly the same. As far as I understand your explanations, the Czech verb would mean that he does not have permission to approach me, which is not the sense of the Russian sentence. «Я хотел было пройти через двор дома Егоровых, но не посмел» – 'I thought to pass by the courtyard of Egorovy's house, but changed my mind, as I decided I'm not permitted to nor welcome there'.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2013
  34. bibax Senior Member

    In Czech the meaning slightly depends on context. There are certain nuances in meaning.

    On se ke mně nesmí přiblížit. = He is not allowed to approach me (maybe he has a judicial stay away order).

    On se nesmí přiblížit k mému psovi. = He mustn't approach my dog (as if he did it then my dog would bite him).

    Consider Russian "Ты не смеешь упасть!", in Czech "Nesmíš upadnout!" = You mustn't fall! I think it means 'if you fell it would be a catastrophe for you/me/both' both in Russian and Czech.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2013
  35. Ёж! Senior Member

    There is a common trait in the two meanings: both report someone's not feeling nice about doing something. I think this trait played the trick here.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2013
  36. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Yet, I think, my misunderstanding might have shown some link between both concepts - and the explanation for the evolution in German.

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