Bulgarian: Жените харесват котки (generalization)

Evo900

Member
French
Hello everyone,

I am very confused about the use of definite articles when expressing a generalization such as:

Жените харесват котки.
In general, women like cats, not referring to a particular group of women or a particular group of cats.
In this sentence the subject is definite but the object is not.

I thought this was the rule until I came accross the following sentence:

Конете имат по-дълга опашка от прасетата.
In general, horses have a longer tail than pigs, not referring to a particular group of either horses or pigs.
In this case both the subject and the object have a definite article.

Is there an explanation and a rule to this?

Thanks
 
  • DarkChild

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    I don't know if there is a rule but your two examples aren't identical.

    In the second one horses and pigs are being compared and both categories are on equal footing, so to speak, so both are with definite articles. In the first one the main focus is women and the information states that they like cats. An identical example would be Жените обичат повече риба от котките. I don't know if that answers your question.
     

    aleksk

    Senior Member
    македонски, Macedonian
    Yes, it's interesting but it's best to remember it and apply it as a rule - the subject will take the definite article and the object won't when you make generalizations. I don't speak French but in the other two Romance languages I do speak (Spanish and Italian,) you would also use the definite article when forming these sentences, e.g. a las mujeres les gustan los gatos. I know here 'mujeres' is the object, but they are still a general category as your Bulgarian equivalent. And yes, here both the subject and the object take definite article.

    For speakers of English this doesn't make sense - why would you say "a las mujeres" if you are referring to women in general and not a particular group of women?

    I don't think I have been ever offered an explanation by any Spanish grammar. It's just a rule I've remembered to apply when making generalizations.

    Not sure if this answers your question either but some grammar phenomena do not have a logical explanation but are only understood through usage.
     
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    Evo900

    Member
    French
    Thanks for both of your answers. I understand what you mean, Aleksk, it is the same in French (and as you said in Spanish - which I also speak): both the subject and the object are definite in generalizations.

    So I don't necessarilly find it strange that I have to use a definite article in Bulgarian, but it is confusing that the subject is always definite and that the object sometimes is, and sometimes is not. As a learner, how do I know if I have to make the object definite in Bulgarian?

    The sentence "Жените обичат повече риба от котките" is very interesting, but even more confusing :)

    EDIT - Wait, риба in this sentence is singular, could that explain why it's not definite?
     

    DarkChild

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Риба here is in the sense of food which is why it's singular. Confusing example on my behalf.
     

    aleksk

    Senior Member
    македонски, Macedonian
    To answer your question: no. In your example if 'риба' was plural, it would still not take the definite article. But it sounds better in singular, because as explained above, it's used as a food category (e.g. as in the Spanish 'pescado', also used always singular as a food category). However, I can think of many examples of this generalization type where the object can be in plural, and it would remain indefinite.

    I think it's safe if you leave the object always indefinite when making generalizations and always use the definite article for the subject. Remember 'cats' takes the definite article in your example because they are compared against the subject - 'women' - which also takes it (as opposed to the fish, the object, that remains indefinite).

    I don't want to confuse you further beyond this simple rule but in case you see it -in these generalizations, sometimes (not always) it is possible to use a definite article with the object as a general category with no differences in meaning. I suppose it's more a phonetic choice and personal preference than a grammar rule. Why in some situations this would work and not in others - I can't explain it. It's a practice developed through usage.

    But this is optional - if you leave the object indefinite and make sure you use the definite article for the subject when making these generalizations, I think you will always be correct.
     

    Evo900

    Member
    French
    Thanks. So, would you say that “Конете имат по-дълга опашка от прасета” would technically be ok, even though it doesn't sound great?

    I also notice that in both this example and the one provided by DarkChild, the object takes a definite article when following от. Not sure if this is just a coincidende or if this could be considered a rule.
     

    DarkChild

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Thanks. So, would you say that “Конете имат по-дълга опашка от прасета” would technically be ok, even though it doesn't sound great?
    Not really. It sounds incorrect. Like I said earlier, you're comparing groups of the same categories - horses to pigs regarding something both "do". In that case they are both definite.
    In the case of Конете не обичат прасета it would mean that horses are the main topic of discussion while pigs are not. Horses are the doers here. If the sentence was Конете и прасетата не се обичат, then both are definite because both are the doers.
     
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