BCS: ovo / to (this)

Discussion in 'Other Slavic Languages' started by TriglavNationalPark, Jun 14, 2010.

  1. TriglavNationalPark

    TriglavNationalPark Senior Member

    Chicago, IL, U.S.A.
    Slovenian (a.k.a. Slovene)
    A very basic question about Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian: What is the difference between to and ovo (including their various forms)?

    I know that they are both equivalent to this in English (and to in Slovenian), but when do you use one or the other?

    Unapr(ij)ed hvala!
  2. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    The difference is thin, and they largely overlap in meaning. However, "ovo" is a proper demonstrative, and means "this very thing", while "to" can also be contextual and refers to "the thing we're talking about". For example:

    "Ovo je moja supruga. To je žena koju najviše volim."

    That is, you can start the pointing with either "ovo", "to" or "ono" (expressing different distances from the object), but later on you refer to it just by "to". Similar holds for adjectival forms (taj, ta, ti, takav, etc.)
  3. phosphore Senior Member

    I think "to" corresponds to "that" rather than "this".

    That's right. To je tačno.
    I'm fine with that. Meni je to u redu.
    Who's that? Ko je to?
    I have nothing to do with that. Ja nemam ništa s tim.

    The question would thus be how to differentiate "ono" from "to". I'm not sure however that "this" is always traslated as "ovo", so it is possible that "to" corresponds to both "this" and "that" to some extent.
  4. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    The problem of translating demonstratives of "three kinds" ("to - ovo - ono") to ones of "two kinds" ("to - ono", Slovene; or "this - that", English) always is difficult, and even more complicated if you want to translate to German ("dieser - jener" theoretically, but it's not as easy as that - you can also use "da" or the article "der/die/das" or combinations which overlap in meaning in German).

    I don't think that a 1:1 relationship between any of those "two kinds demonstrative languages" words and the "three kinds" one of BCS is possible: depending on context, there will always cases when e. g. "ovo" should be "to" in Slovene in some contexts, but "ono" in others, same with English etc. Or at least that is my personal experience. :)

    (I hope this doesn't complicate the topic unnecessarily - but I feel the attempt of finding a 1:1 translation is bound to fail, and thus felt it necessary to write this. :))
  5. TriglavNationalPark

    TriglavNationalPark Senior Member

    Chicago, IL, U.S.A.
    Slovenian (a.k.a. Slovene)
    Hvala svima!

    I've been thinking. Slovenian actually has three kinds of demonstrative pronouns: to - tisto - ono (or ta - tisti - oni my grammar sources prefer). Even though tisto and ono exist on the other side of the proximity scale from to, I suppose the difference between tisto and ono in Slovenian (both broadly equivalent to "there" in English) is somewhat comparable to the difference between ovo and to in BCS (both of which can be equivalent to "here" in English): They express very similar nuances in distance, albeit on a different part of the scale.

    Am I on the right track?
  6. phosphore Senior Member

    A first approximation would be that "ovo" refers to what is close to the speaker, "to" to what is close to the hearer and "ono" to what's away from both of them.

    Hoćeš ovu majicu? Do you want this T-shirt?
    I might be holding the T-shirt in my hands or it is right in front of me.

    Dodaj mi te pantalone. Give me those trousers.
    The trousers are either in your hands or very close to you.

    Vidiš onu jaknu? Do you see that jacket over there?
    The jacket might be on the other side of the shop.

    To refer to what has just been said "ovo" or "to" are used. Now I'm not sure about this, but I would say that "ovo" has a real demonstrative sense in that case ("this what I said"), while "to", besides functioning as a demonstrative ("this what you said"), may also function as an expletive pronoun ("it" or "that").

    Evo ti dve hiljade. To naravno ne znači da treba sve da potrošiš.
    I'm giving you two thousand. That doesn't mean of course that you have to spend it all.

    You may replace "to" with "ovo" with a slight change in meaning.

    Evo ti dve hiljade. Ovo naravno ne znači da treba sve da potrošiš.
    I'm giving you two thousand. This doesn't mean of course that you have to spend it all.

    "Baš me briga." Kako bi glasila ova rečenica na francuskom?
    "I really don't care." How would you say it in French?

    If you replaced "ova" with "ta" in this case however the sentence wouldn't sound natural.

    Now imagine you're showing your family photos to a friend. If you take a particular picture from the album to show how your brother looks like, you would say:

    Ovo je moj brat.
    This is my brother.

    You would use the same demonstrative if you pointed on your brother in a picture.

    Ovo je moj brat (a ovo je njegova devojka).
    This is my brother (and this is his girlfriend).

    But if you were showing all the photos and now you are on a picture with you brother in it, you would say:

    To je moj brat.
    That's my brother.

    You would you use the same demonstrative to answer if asked about your brother.

    - Ko je ovo? - To je moj brat.
    - Who's this? - That's my brother.

    And so on. I can't possibly cover all the uses, I hope this helps.
  7. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Oh right, I forgot that that's actually three too.
    But my skills in Slovene and BCS aren't good enough if they equal the BCS ones in the sentences given by phosphore; for all I know, they might.
  8. Ante Portas Member

    We have no problem with ovo/to/ono, but unforunately it seems Montenegrin is not part of your Other Slavic Languages... :)
  9. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    Dobrodošao. :)
  10. Ante Portas Member

    Bolje Ve naša! :)
  11. danielstan Senior Member

    Romanian - Romania
    Before 1989 I knew there was one Serbo-Croatian language (with dialectal differences), now I read a new language has been born: Bosnian!
    From another hand I saw people from different ex-Yugoslav countries speaking between them without translators.
  12. Daniel.N Member

    There are more subtle differences. The word to (its neuter singular forms only) has a much wider grammatical role than ovo.

    For example, you can say:

    Igor je kupio auto. To je jako dobro.

    But you cannot replace the to in the second sentence with ono or ovo. You can use only to to refer to the whole sentence.

    You can use to (in the right case, of course) after a preposition to introduce a whole clause, where a noun phrase is normally used:

    problem je u bravi

    problem je u tome što je brava puna smeća i prašine

    Again, you cannot replace tome with ovome or onome in such a sentence.

    In fact, the word to is so frequently used to refer to anything, that you will hear the neuter personal pronoun ono very rarely.
  13. Daniel.N Member

    There are two types of variations:
    • how people actually speak (dialects)
    • how official documents, newspapers are written, and how it is spoken on public TV (standards)
    Nothing changed regarding the dialects, but there were some adjustments regarding the standards. Basically, there are 5 + 2 standards:
    • standard Slovene
    • standard Croatian
    • standard Bosnian
    • standard Montenegrin
    • standard Serbian (ijekavian)
    • standard Serbian (ekavian)
    • standard Macedonian
    Standard Slovene and Standard Macedonian are outliers, others are quite similar (I sorted them in a way that similar standards are close.)

    Yes, usually it's so, but for Slovenes and Macedonians it means trying to speak some "Serbo-Croatian" mix (they often cannot distinguish fine differences).

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