cieľ cieľom


Senior Member
There is a fable in my coursebook, “korytnačka a zajac”.

An excerpt: “ …ale keď videl, ako ďaleko zostala korytnačka, nechal cieľ cieľom, natiahol sa do trávy a zaspal”

Cieľ = finish (line)
cieľom = (in order) to, with the purpose of

So my machine-like translation of the 2nd part is like “… did not care (or neglected/abandoned) with the finish line in order to make himself able to lay down to the grass and sleep.

But the Slovak sentence is written in a different way: 1. the verbs after cieľom are not bare infinitive, but past forms 2. there is no comma before cieľom.

So I started to feel that maybe “cieľ cieľom” should be interpreted together as one term, but I did not find it anywhere except for my book.

Don’t you, native Slovak people, feel that this sentence is clumsy? Or cieľom can mean not just a purpose, but a cause, too? And the sentence should read like “…. therefore the rabbit neglected the finish (line)….”?

Thanks for the clarificatio.
  • numerator

    Senior Member
    Hungarian, Slovak
    Hi Visztula, just a quick simple answer:

    I see "nechať cieľ cieľom" as a shorthand for "nechať cieľ, aby bol cieľom" - i.e. to let it be whatever it is and no longer pay any attention to it, "forget about it". The construction "nechať X(acc.) X(instr.)" can be used with pretty much any noun.

    So your translation "did not care/neglected/abandoned" is right on the spot. But there is no relation of cause or purpose between the clauses "nechal cieľ cieľom", "natiahol sa do trávy" and "zaspal" - they just list a series of events as they unfolded.

    Perhaps someone else may wish to comment on the stylistic value of "nechať X(acc.) X(instr.)". Is it a bit folksy/literary? I know I don't use it productively myself; I would say "nechal X tak" (this works best with a physical task or object one has been working on), "prestal myslieť na X", "úplne zabudol na X"...

    [EDIT: "cieľ" is of course accusative here, not nominative! Corrected.]
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    1. So this contsruction always includes an X(acc.) X (instr.), where there is one X, and X(acc.) Y (instr.) would be incorrect.

    2. btw cieľom with meaning I supposed originally (purpose) seems to be obsolete, see

    "Slovník slovenského jazyka
    z r. 1959 – 1968*.
    cieľom predl. s 2. p. zastar. na niečo, pre niečo, s cieľom (s neurč.): „cieľom ľahšieho použitia“, správ. pre ľahšie použitie"

    At least I suppose that zastar. = zastaraný


    Senior Member
    Hungarian, Slovak
    1. I guess you are right! The instrumental case is used to express "being something" or "becoming something" often enough, with verbs like byť or stať sa - but not, it turns out, with nechať.
    So - the construction seemed quite transparent to me at first (let X be X), but now I realize it only works in this idiomatic fashion. You can't generally say "let X be Y" in the same way.
    "Nechal som Jozefa, aby bol zástupcom celej rodiny." :tick: (I let Jozef be the representative of the whole family)"
    "Nechal som Jozefa zástupcom celej rodiny." :cross:

    2. Yes, that usage parallelling Hungarian céljából must have been obsolete already in 1959.