Hindi: 'To have' and abstract nouns

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06vijhk

New Member
English - UK
Hello everyone,

I'm struggling to get clarity on how you would communicate from english to hindi the sense of 'having' an abstract noun. The textbook I've read says to use the 'mujhe' construction for abstract nouns. While that applies in some cases (i.e. mujhe zukaam hai = I have a cold ), I don't think that's always the case. I've given some examples below, which I don't think apply.

Grateful for your corrections on the below, and any wisdom on how to communicate 'possessing' abstract concepts.

I have time.
Meraa paas samay hai

I don't have work.
Meraa paas kaam nahin hai

I have an idea.
Mere paas vichaar hai

I have a question.
Meraa ek savaal hai.

I have an answer.
Mere paas ek javaab hai.
 
  • MonsieurGonzalito

    Senior Member
    Castellano de Argentina
    You are referring to three different grammatical phenomena in your examples:
    1. the construction with [mere paas] + [the thing] + [conjugated honaa], used to indicate possession: mere paas ghoRaa hai = I have a horse
    2. just saying [the thing] + [possessive] used as an attributive or as an afterthought: yah ghoRaa meraa hai = this horse is mine
    3. the general dative construction [oblique "subject"] + [the thing] + [conjugated honaa]: mujko zukaam hai = I have a cold

    Some of your examples look incorrect:
    Meraa paas samay hai
    I don't have work.
    Meraa paas kaam nahin hai
    it is always "mere paas", as the "mere" is an (oblique) genitive required and agreeing with the adverb "paas" which is working as a compound postposition, it doesn't agree with "you" or "the thing".

    I have a question.
    Meraa ek savaal hai.
    If you are trying to use the dative construction, it should have been:
    mujhko ek savaal hai

    If you were identifying that question as yours (I don't know, for example, from a pool of possible questions contributed by different people) it should have been:
    vah savaal meraa hai
    that question is mine



    All that aside, I think your general question is valid.
    I am also curious as to why "I have a question" translates as "mujko ek savaal hai" rather than "mere paas ek savaal hai".
    Maybe because a question is perceived as "an inquietude" that you experience or affects you, rather than something that you "possess"?

    I don't think it has to do with the thing being "an abstract noun" (a question is not something abstract, BTW).
    But wait for someone who really speaks the language.
     

    06vijhk

    New Member
    English - UK
    it is always "mere paas", as the "mere" is an (oblique) genitive required and agreeing with the adverb "paas" which is working as a compound postposition, it doesn't agree with "you" or "the thing".
    Yes, sorry - that was a typo


    If you are trying to use the dative construction, it should have been:
    mujhko ek savaal hai
    I was not trying to use a dative construction. My Hindi textbook (Naresh Sharma's Hindi Tutor) says that the construction "mera ek savaal hai" is used to say "I have a question", and it says "mere paas javaab hai" is used to say "I have an answer".

    This is why I'm slightly confused as to the rules regarding possession. I understand that the three constructions you mention can all be used to convey some sense of 'having'. However, I haven't found a resource (or a teacher!) to date that goes through the nuance of this.

    The Usha Jain grammar book says to use the dative construction for the possession of anything abstract/non-tangible - but as these examples have shown, that is clearly not true in all cases. (Yes, if you're talking about having an illness, for example. However, not always the case if you're talking about time, or work, for instance.).


    I don't think it has to do with the thing being "an abstract noun" (a question is not something abstract, BTW).
    Fair. What I mean to say is nouns describing things you don't tangibly possess - that includes abstract nouns, but also things like 'questions'!

     
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    MonsieurGonzalito

    Senior Member
    Castellano de Argentina
    Probably, having a question is idiomatically expressed as "an inquietude that you experience".

    But l am exhausting my Hindi here. Let's see what the knowledgeable people have to say.
     

    aevynn

    Senior Member
    USA
    English, Hindustani
    There are in fact three constructions that can be used to express a kind of "possession" that might be expressed using the word "have" in English: using ke paas, using a genitive (kaa, meraa, etc), and using a dative (ko, mujhe, etc).

    I don't know that there's any great way to decide which of these gets used based on the noun that's being "possessed." Even if there is an underlying systematicness, it will be a rather long and pedantic set of rules with lots of exceptions and lots of gray areas. So, my first and foremost suggestion would be that you just try to mimic things you read/hear. If you haven't run into something, you can ask fluent speakers which they would use, but you should be prepared to receive inconsistent responses.

    Here are some heuristics and/or comments and/or examples to consider.

    First up, some opinions on the examples from the OP:
    • I have time.
      • mere paas samay/vaqt hai sounds fine.
      • I'm having trouble thinking of situations where a genitive or dative might be used to express "possession" with samay/vaqt.
    • I don't have work.
      • mere paas kaam nahiiN hai sounds fine.
      • There are situations where a dative might be used. For example, mujhe aaj bahut kaam hai for "I have a lot of work today."
      • There are also situations where a genitive might be used. For example, uskaa koii kaam-dhandhaa nahiiN hai for something like "He's a layabout" (literally, "He has no work").
    • I have an idea.
      • mere paas vichaar hai is understandable.
      • The genitive construction, meraa ek vichaar hai, sounds a little better to me.
      • I'm having trouble thinking of situations where a dative might be used with vichaar.
    • I have a question.
      • mere paas ek savaal hai is understandable.
      • The genitive construction, meraa ek savaal hai, sounds a little better to me.
      • I'm having trouble thinking of situations where a dative might be used with savaal. In particular, *mujhko ek savaal hai doesn't sound right to me.
    • I have an answer.
      • mere paas javaab hai sounds good.
      • I'm having trouble thinking of situations where a genitive and dative might be used with javaab.
    Genitive vs ke paas:
    • Sometimes the genitive construction is analyzed as inalienable possession, while the ke paas construction as alienable possession. This is an okay heuristic. But it doesn't really seem to capture everything to me.
      • For example, I find meraa ek savaal hai acceptable, as I noted above, but are questions really inalienable? I have had lots of questions that I don't have any more, and I probably will have lots of questions in the future that I don't have now!
    Genitive:
    • This genitive construction is used pretty consistently for family members, friends, etc. This is maybe the only "rule" worth keeping in mind.
    • A number word is often used in the genitive construction. For example, maybe the most natural way to say "I have two sisters" is merii do bahaneN hai. That number might also be "ek." For example, unless context dictates otherwise, I would translate merii ek bahan hai as "I have a sister" but merii bahan haias "She is my sister."
      • But this is not a hard-and-fast rule. For example, if someone keeps talking for you and you want to express annoyance since you can talk for yourself, you could say meraa bhii muNh hai, maiN khud bol saktaa huuN ("I have a mouth too, I can talk for myself.") There's no number word there.
    • I would probably lean towards the genitive for body parts (mere do kaan hai for "I have two ears").
    Dative:
    • Besodes zukaam/jukaam, another noun that comes to mind that usually uses the dative construction is haq ("right"), as in mujhe X karne kaa haq hai ("I have the right to do X.")
    • There are some things that are expressed using a dative + honaa in Hindi-Urdu that seem like the same kind of grammatical construction from the perspective of Hindi-Urdu's internal logic, even though the corresponding English translation would not use "have."
      • For example, mujhe usse mohabbat hai is "I love him," but a more literal translation might be "I have love for him."
    • What do colds, hates, and rights have in common? I don't know.
    Anyway, I have no idea how to bring order to this chaos...
     

    aevynn

    Senior Member
    USA
    English, Hindustani
    another noun that comes to mind that usually uses the dative construction is haq ("right"), as in mujhe X karne kaa haq hai ("I have the right to do X.")
    I was doing some bedtime reading and, maybe since I had been thinking about these possessive constructions earlier today, I happened to notice the grammar of the following sentence in Rahi Masoom Raza's Topii shuklaa.

    kyaa un laRkoN kaa naukriyoN par adhik adhikaar nahiiN hai jinke baap, maamuu, duur ke chachaa, duur ke maamuu (duur kaa baap hotaa nahiiN, yaa hotaa hai...?) garaz ki kisii bhii rishtedaar ne aazaadii kii laRaaii meN hissaa liyaa thaa?​

    This is a perfectly natural usage of the genitive construction mentioned above ("those boys ... have a greater right ..."), and adhik adhikaar here could just as well be replaced with zyaadaa haq.
     

    MonsieurGonzalito

    Senior Member
    Castellano de Argentina
    Reviewing how grammar books treat the issue, they usually divide the what is possessed into 3 categories:

    -"inalienable" (whether tangible or intangible: limbs, family members, etc.)
    -"alienable" (temporary, especially tangible possession)
    -"intangible" (better than "abstract" IMO)

    Inalienable goes with [possessive] +[thing] + [conjugated honaa]
    Alienable goes with [ke/genitive] + [paas]
    Intangible goes with the dative construction

    Notice that a question can be perceived by the senses, hence, it is not abstract, but it is "intangible".

    I like the examples given in the book "Urdu, an essential Grammar", by Schmidth

    hamaaraa ghar nahiiN hai = We have no home => inalienable
    haamaare paas bahut se ghar haiN = We have many properties => alienable
     

    littlepond

    Senior Member
    Hindi
    hamaaraa ghar nahiiN hai = We have no home => inalienable
    But in affirmative that would usually be "hamaare paas (apnaa) ghar hai." Of course, "hamaaraa apnaa ghar hai" also works. Both sentences are natural in their respective contexts.

    I don't see, anyway, how "ghar" is inalienable! In your sentence, most words would work, in fact, substituting "ghar" (shaihar, mohalla, iraadaa, kaaliin, bartan, ...).
     
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    littlepond

    Senior Member
    Hindi
    I have an idea.
    Mere paas vichaar hai
    That's a very strange Hindi sentence; do also note that "vichaar" means "thought," not "idea." One would say "mere paas ek yuktii hai"* - or "I have a few thoughts (in my mind)," which would be "mere paas kuchh vichaar haiN."

    *If context demands speaker to be emphatic about it, "ek" could be omitted and exclamation mark could be inserted at the end.
     

    littlepond

    Senior Member
    Hindi
    I have time.
    • mere paas samay/vaqt hai sounds fine.
    • I'm having trouble thinking of situations where a genitive or dative might be used to express "possession" with samay/vaqt.
    Genitive: "meraa samay hai," "uskaa samay hai," etc., can be, and are, used to indicate it's someone's time (i.e., someone is in ascendancy, someone's good time is going on): of course, not to indicate that someone has time, is free.

    Dative: A question like "tujhe samay hai?" or "tujh ko samay hai?" (the latter being more common somehow when it comes to "samay") - though less common than "tere paas samay hai?" - is very much there. A sentence like "mujhe samay hii samay hai" is almost as common as "mere paas samay hii samay hai," I would say.

    • I have an idea.
      • mere paas vichaar hai is understandable.
      • The genitive construction, meraa ek vichaar hai, sounds a little better to me.
      • I'm having trouble thinking of situations where a dative might be used with vichaar.
    I am also having trouble thinking of dative here: probably, dative cannot work with inalienables, a thought or idea being quite inalienable.

    • I have a question.
      • mere paas ek savaal hai is understandable.
      • The genitive construction, meraa ek savaal hai, sounds a little better to me.
      • I'm having trouble thinking of situations where a dative might be used with savaal. In particular, *mujhko ek savaal hai doesn't sound right to me.
    • I have an answer.
      • mere paas javaab hai sounds good.
      • I'm having trouble thinking of situations where a genitive and dative might be used with javaab.
    Given that "savaal" and "javaab" come up also in the zaihn of a person, they can be equated with vichaar or yuktii, and hence inalienable, thus dative being unable to be used.

    • I would probably lean towards the genitive for body parts (mere do kaan hai for "I have two ears").
    The "paas" construction also works. "tere paas kaan haiN ki nahiiN!" is a quite-used sentence when a person is annoyed. If someone were to say "mujhe kaan haiN," it would give an impression as if the ears were not there and have now grown (thus again implying that dative is unable to be used if one takes ears as permanent, i.e., inalienable). However, "mujhe kaan meN dard hai" is perfectly fine. But, let's remove ears, then one usually says "mujhe dard hai" (just like the jukaam thing), and some people do say "mere dard hai" - but no one would say "mere paas dard hai" (though it'd work in poetry in certain contexts).
     
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    aevynn

    Senior Member
    USA
    English, Hindustani
    Thanks, @littlepond jii, for all of of your additional examples and thoughts!

    Given that "savaal" and "javaab" come up also in the zaihn of a person, they can be equated with vichaar or yuktii, and hence inalienable, thus dative being unable to be used.
    I think the inapplicability of the dative for inalienable things also should not be construed as a hard-and-fast rule. For example... The philosophy of human rights explicitly construes rights to be inalienable, and yet, Article 17 part (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads:

    Hindi: pratyek vyakti ko akele aur duusroN ke saath milkar sammati rakhne kaa adhikaar hai.​
    Urdu: har insaan ko tanhaa yaa duusroN se mil kar jaa'idaad rakhne kaa Haq hai.​
    The inapplicability of the dative for zehnii things also shouldn't be construed as a hard-and-fast rule. For example, memories are also zehnii, and yet we say mujhe yaad hai. This is admittedly one of those situations that would not be translated into idiomatic English using the possessive "have" (it would rather be "I remember"), but from the point of view of Hindi-Urdu grammar, this construction feels to me to be no different structurally from mujhe jukaam hai (ie, a non-idiomatic English translation might be "I have the memory").

    Anyway, I'm sure there are lots of decent heuristics one can formulate, but I'd be surprised if anything really explained the situation very completely.

    ---

    Another thing I want to point out is that... Part of the reason for all of this weirdness comes from treating English as the "semantic base" that one is working from. But there's no reason for doing this, and English has lots of quirks of its own. For example, there's no good reason that Anglophones don't say "I have the memory" (except maybe in very particular circumstances), even though it's perfectly conceivable to me that we might have said that in place of "I remember." It's a grammatical sentence and the semantics would line up, but we don't say it, and that's just the way it is.

    Another example. In English, one "has" a cold. In Hindi-Urdu, one (dative + honaa)'s a cold. In Japanese, one "is pulling" a cold (風邪を引いている). There's no good philosophical or linguistic reason that any one of these should be treated as the "semantic truth," and the others as "idiomatic deviations" from that "semantic truth."

    There is a good practical reason to treat English as a "semantic base" if you're an Anglophone learning language X, but even in that case, it's worth recognizing at an intellectual level that you're really dealing with quirks of both English and X, not just of X.
     
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