All Slavic languages: 4 jsou (are) but 5 je (is)

Papageno Latino

New Member
Italy, Italian
Hi.
I noticed that in czech language:

1 is singular (as expected)
2,3,4 are plural (of course, as expected)

...but...

5,6,7, etc. are singular again.

So you will say: "5 je..." and not "5 jsou..." as logic would suggest.
Might somebody please explain why, what is the rationale behind?

Tnx in advance.
 
  • Oletta

    Senior Member
    Polish the same:

    1 jest (is)
    2 są (are)
    3 są (are)
    4 są (are)
    5 jest (is)
    6 jest (is) and so on.

    That's weird! An interesting observation Papageno Latino! But I don't know how come.
     

    Tagarela

    Senior Member
    Português - Brasil
    Ahoj,

    I am studign Czech too, well, and there is anoter strange rule about number from 5 to up, isn´t there? That one should use the genitive instead nominative to indicate amounts bigger than 4. It is the singular or plural genitive? I haven´t noticed this 'je' x 'jsou' untill now, but I am a very begginer in Czech.

    Děkuji

    Na shledanou.:
     

    Colei che...

    Member
    Italy Italian
    This is an interesting topic. I noted that some words have a different plural forms if referred to more than 4 objects.
    For example "kráva" (cow, mucca):
    1 kráva
    2, 3, 4 kravy
    5, 6, ... krav (!)

    (I hope I wrote it well)

    The same behaviour for a lot of words - like muž (man, uomo), žena (woman, donna)...
     

    Jana337

    Senior Member
    čeština
    This is an interesting topic. I noted that some words have a different plural forms if referred to more than 4 objects.
    For example "kráva" (cow, mucca):
    1 kráva
    2, 3, 4 kravy
    5, 6, ... krav (!)

    (I hope I wrote it well)

    The same behaviour for a lot of words - like muž (man, uomo), žena (woman, donna)...
    Not some but all of them. Except it is not a different plural form but the genitive case (plural).
    So we say:
    one cow,
    two cows, three cows, four cows,
    five of cows etc.

    As Tagarela said, verbs change as well.

    One cow grazes,
    two cows, three cows, four cows graze,
    five cows graze etc.

    From 5 upwards, the numeral is considered a subject and the noun itself just its qualifier. And we think of numbers as singulars (although they are different from one), hence the verb in the singular.

    More threads about numbers:
    http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=67964
    http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=80850
     

    winpoj

    Senior Member
    However, there is an important caveat: This only works, if the numeral is in nominative or accusative.

    Pět krav se pase na louce.

    Vidím pět krav.

    But!

    s pěti kravami. - not "s pěti krav"

    o pěti kravách - not "o pěti krav"

    But I do find it interesting - why did we single out 2, 3 and 4 for a different treatment?
     

    Irbis

    Senior Member
    Slovenian, Slovenia
    It is similar in Slovenian:
    1 krava je
    2 kravi sta
    3 krave so
    4 krave so
    5 krav je
    ...
    100 krav je
    101 krava je
    102 kravi sta
    103 krave so
    ...
     

    Oletta

    Senior Member
    This is an interesting topic. I noted that some words have a different plural forms if referred to more than 4 objects.
    For example "kráva" (cow, mucca):
    1 kráva
    2, 3, 4 kravy
    5, 6, ... krav (!)

    (I hope I wrote it well)

    The same behaviour for a lot of words - like muž (man, uomo), žena (woman, donna)...
    Yes, exactly. We have the same in Polish:

    1 krowa
    2, 3, 4, krowy
    5, 6 ....krów

    In accordance with the number we change the cases.

    Nominative: kto? co? krowa
    Nominative: kto? co? krowy (plural)
    Accusative: kogo? czego? krów (plural)

    At the same time:

    Jest jedna krowa.
    Są dwie/trzy/cztery krowy
    Jest pięć/sześć/siedem etc krów.
     

    sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Grammatically this is kind of a genitivus partitivus which only takes effekt from the numbers 5 to 9 (105-109, 1005-1009, etc.): the noun which is counted is in singular-nominative, (where there is one: dual-nominative), plural-nominative for the numbers 1+2+3+4 and from 5-9 the noun is declensed in genitive plural.

    For those who can read German there's a very short reference of this phenomenon (with an exotic form of a dual residual) for Serbian in the corresponding Wiki article, just search the site for "partitivus".

    This genitivus partitivus seems to be used in all Slavic languages, as this thread (and the older one) seem to suggest; the same grammatical phenomenon exists in other languages, but I know of no one where only the numbers 5-9 are affected, like it is in Slavic languages.

    So the reason for that one is a mystery to me. It would be easier to explain if numbers 3-9 were affected only (as the dual still was alive at Old Church Slavonic times the 2 could have been explained away).
    This leaves only the speculation that numbers 1+2+3+4 are (were, more to the point) still considered being 'small' and 'countable' while higher numbers were not: which of course would only make sense diachronically, synchronically certainly not (as 104 won't require genitivus partitivus but 105 will: I hope you see the point here).
     

    Athaulf

    Senior Member
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    So the reason for that one is a mystery to me. It would be easier to explain if numbers 3-9 were affected only (as the dual still was alive at Old Church Slavonic times the 2 could have been explained away).

    It's really odd, indeed. Indo-European cognates among numbers are not limited to 1-4, so why do these strange rules for agreement exist only in Slavic languages? Are there actually any other IE languages that do something similar?

    This leaves only the speculation that numbers 1+2+3+4 are (were, more to the point) still considered being 'small' and 'countable' while higher numbers were not: which of course would only make sense diachronically, synchronically certainly not (as 104 won't require genitivus partitivus but 105 will: I hope you see the point here).

    When it comes to higher numbers ending in 1-4 (except those ending in 11-14, of course :D), I actually perceive them intuitively the following way: when you say, for example, dvadeset i jedan dolar ("twenty-one dollars"), my mind parses it as dvadeset dolara i jedan dolar, with the first mention of "dollar" omitted. Thus, my instinct makes me feel like it's completely natural and logical that numbers like 21, 31, 131... should be followed by the singular, and similarly, that those ending in 2-4 should require the same agreement from the following nouns as the numbers 2-4 themselves. However illogical this might sounds to non-Slavic speakers, my language instinct really screams in agony when I'm forced to say things like "twenty-one dollars" in English; in fact, it happens to me sometimes even nowadays that I accidentally use singular after such numbers in English.
     

    Athaulf

    Senior Member
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    In Croatian, there is no end to bizarrities when it comes to numbers. First, to answer your question, yes, we have the same anomaly, but it's not fully consistent. Numbers greater than four will usually take the singular of the verb, but sometimes they can also take plural, depending on the context! For example:

    Pet ljudi je spašeno. = Five people were saved.
    (singular) *
    Ovih pet ljudi su pravi junaci. = These five people are real heroes. (plural)

    *(In Croatian, passive sentences like these use present tense.)

    But this is only the tip of a huge iceberg regarding the oddities of the grammar of Croatian numbers. For example, when you're using numbered nouns as the subject with the verb in the past tense, which uses the above verb biti "to be" as auxiliary, not only does the auxiliary verb follow these weird patterns, but the number and gender of the main verb participle also change in outlandish ways. Take for example the masculine noun čovjek "man":
    • One man worked. = Jedan čovjek je radio. (verb is in masculine singular, as you might expect)
    • Two/three/four men worked. = Dva/tri/četiri čovjeka su radila. (verb is in neuter plural!)
    • Five men worked. = Pet ljudi je radilo. (verb is now in neuter singular!!! :confused::eek:)
    (The pattern for feminine nouns is however different, for example "tri žene su radile" = "three women worked" takes the "logical" feminine plural of the verb.)

    To make things even more complicated, there are actually several different sorts of numbers in Croatian, and the choice between these depends on subtle criteria of gender and animacy. They also have different rules for agreement with nouns and verbs. For example, ljudi, the irregular plural of čovjek, can mean either just men or a group of mixed sex. If you want to make the gender composition of the group explicit, you can use different kinds of numbers, which require different agreement from nouns and verbs:

    Five men [no women] worked = Petorica ljudi su radili. (verb is in masculine plural)
    Five people [including both men and women] worked. = Petero ljudi je radilo.
    (verb is now again in neuter singular! :confused:)

    Overall, an unfathomable mess... And don't even get me started on what happens when you start putting these numbered nouns in cases other than nominative... :D
     

    Maroseika

    Moderator
    Russian
    In Russian only 2-4 coordinate with the nouns in a "weird manner".
    The reason of this uncommonness is that in Old-Slavoinic and Ancient-Russian noun after 2 was in the dual form, and later on 3 and 4 also obtained the same property (I don't know this term in English, in Russian it is подравнивание). I believe the same has happenned in other Slavic languages, therefore the case of nouns after 2-4 is not Gen. Part., but Dual Gen.
    As for other numbers, in Russian there is no unusual beginning with 5 - nouns all are in Pl. Gen. (but of those ending on 2-4, of course).
     

    Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!

    Member
    Czech | Czech Republic
    Grammatically this is kind of a genitivus partitivus which only takes effekt from the numbers 5 to 9 (105-109, 1005-1009, etc.): the noun which is counted is in singular-nominative, (where there is one: dual-nominative), plural-nominative for the numbers 1+2+3+4 and from 5-9 the noun is declensed in genitive plural.
    Actually, it also applies to the numbers 10-19 as well as all multiples of ten (20, 30, 100, 1000, 1000000 etc.). I believe this is also true of all (or most) Slavic languages.

    Additionally, a 20th century development in Czech is the spread of the partitive-genitive to all other numbers upwards of 4, with the numbers not respecting the gender of the nouns (e.g. "101 [sto jedna] krav, 102 [sto dva] krav, 101 [sto jedna] volů" rather than "101 [sto jedna] kráva, 102 [sto dvě] krávy, 101 [sto jeden] vůl"). This usage is now strongly prevalent and was even codified as grammatical in the late '90s.

    (That's not the only recent development in the declension of numerals; people just seem to have completely forgotten how to do it. :()
     

    dihydrogen monoxide

    Senior Member
    Slovene, Serbo-Croat
    To explain things here:
    Take a look at these sentences, I'll use Slovene in this example.
    Prišel je en mušketir (One musketeer came)
    Prišla sta dva mušketirja (Two musketeers came)
    Prišli so trije mušketirji (Three musketeers came)
    Prišli so štirje mušketirji (Four musketeers came)
    Prišlo je pet mušketirjev (Five musketeers came)
    The verb goes to 3rd person singular neutral, because there is no agreeing with the subject.
    The noun isn't in nominative anymore but in genitive. Now let's get back to number five. There is no nominative where number five is concerned, so the verb goes into a default state. In this example the default state would be the sentence Deževalo je. (It was raining.) The verb which we would use would be 3rd person and gender would be neutral.
    So why is there no nominative plural in all cases but number five. This is an all Slavic phenomena. There seems to be a border between the numbers 4 and 5. If we make an exception and use Croatian we would see that the numbers 3 and 4 use genitive plural and number 5 uses genitive singular.
    The reason for this is that ancient Slavs knew only how to count to four. And then more than four would be many. There would be a distinction between so called "big and little" plural. When they expanded from 4 to 5 and 6 the syntax structure was changed. The numbers would mean something of five, something of 6 and these kind of structures required genitive.
    So it is simply the case of genders.
    We have some evidence that PIE used to cound to four and that proof would be the number 8. I somehow doubt this theory because it supports that number 4 is 1+3. But if that would be the case *kuetuor, the word would have to be *tuorkue. This theory of PIE numbers is disputed.
     
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