Bulgarian: word order in the past anterior tense

Evo900

Member
French
Hi everyone,

Here's another question about Bulgarian word order (that's a big struggle).

I know it can be complicated but I found the following very clear rule in my grammar book:

The past anterior is similar to the past indefinite in that it is composed of an auxiliary and an L-participle. Word order rules are also similar: the auxiliary
precedes the object pronouns, the negative particle must precede the auxiliary, the interrogative particle comes after the first element in the string, and the entire string of clitics must bе adjacent to the L-participle.
It doesn't seem that bad. This comes with the following examples:

Не бяхме му го дали
Не бяхте ли му го показали?

But I am now confronted to the following real life examples:

Аз я бях срещал преди
Те ни бяха дали ключът

I would have expected the following:

Аз бях я срещал преди
Те бяха ни дали ключът

But I'm told those don't sound "as good". They seem like they conform to the rule. Am I missing something?
 
  • DarkChild

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Word order is generally not rigid so any clear cut "rule" should be questioned. I've personally never heard of this one.

    To me both word orders are fine. I would probably use the 1st set more often in real life. But in reality both are perfectly acceptable and do not trigger any "informal/incorrect/dialect" triggers.

    P.S. Ключа in these examples is the correct form.
     

    pastet89

    Senior Member
    bulgarian
    Не бяхме му го дали
    Не бяхте ли му го показали?

    But I am now confronted to the following real life examples:

    Аз я бях срещал преди
    Те ни бяха дали ключът

    I would have expected the following:

    Аз бях я срещал преди
    Те бяха ни дали ключът

    But I'm told those don't sound "as good". They seem like they conform to the rule. Am I missing something?
    "Аз бях я срещал преди" - I would use this word order only if I would continue the sentence, for example:
    Аз бях я срещал преди да стана наркоман. /I had met her before I became a drug addict./
    If you use only your initial sentence as a whole, it doesn't sound natural. I would use instead "Аз я бях срещал преди"
    "Те бяха ни дали ключa" - I would never ever say that. I would say only "Те ни бяха дали ключa".

    I actually also disagree with one of the examples from your textbook:

    "Не бяхме му го дали" - again, this might be fine, if you continue the sentence after that. If you use only this as a whole sentence, it sounds bad. I could imagine at most someone saying this in their dialect as a colloquial form, but not as a regular Bulgarian. I would say "Не му го бяхме дали".

    P.S. You must use ключa, that's an object, not a subject.
     

    Evo900

    Member
    French
    Sorry for reviving this thread, and thanks for the feedback everyone.

    I am still struggling with the placement of clitics with compound tenses, and it doesn't help that different people seem to have very different point of views as to what is acceptable or not :)

    Can I check another sentence, which is in a different tense but I imagine the logic is the same:

    Ако ти не ми беше помогнал, нямаше да намеря мястото

    Would it also be correct dative pronoun be placed between the auxiliary and the verb?

    Ако ти не беше ми помогнал, нямаше да намеря мястото

    (This would, in a way, be similar to the structure of the "Аз бях я срещал преди" sentence)
     

    pastet89

    Senior Member
    bulgarian
    it doesn't help that different people seem to have very different point of views as to what is acceptable or not :)
    That's because natives never speak their language properly. If you want a grammatically unbiased statement, you need to search for scientific literature. You can do this on Google by Googling what you need and clicking on the "Books" tab. This is what I just did. So far I can not find this particular example in the books online though.

    From my personal point of view - the first sentence is perfect, the second sounds bad and you will not encounter it in a high-level styled language. Some people would use the second as well. Is it strictly wrong as per the current written standard? I can not tell.

    However, if you want to sound as well and normal as possible, you can always perform this simple check on any language. When in doubt, Google both options in quotes. Googling in quotes forces google to return results which contain specifically results in this phrase as it appears, in this fixed order. Then compare the number of results and make the obvious conclusions:

    "ако ти не беше ми" returns 16 200 results.
    "ако ти не ми беше" returns 83 300 results.
    So, statistically from the language used online, the second one is ~5 times more common. Or, one in 5 Bulgarians is likely to use the first one, which seems to confirm my internal feeling that the second one sounds quite weird.
     

    Evo900

    Member
    French
    Thanks for your response

    I love your method of searching Google for the frequency of both options, I didn't think of that!
    It's great that it even gives pretty accurate usage statistics.

    That answers my question for this particular sentence, and I'll definitely try that method next time.
     
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