Slovak: Ale sa mi snívalo o práci

Concise

Senior Member
Hungarian
There is a joke in my book.
- Úradník zaspal na stole. Príde vedúci a hovorí:
- Vy tu spíte?
And the punchline is:
- Ale sa mi snívalo o práci.

Without knowing anything about the usage of stredný rod / neuter in case of verbs, it became quite clear for me during my checks in online dictionaries that this is quite common, especially in past.

I bet that similarly to other languages it may be that questioning about acting sthing can be answered with a happening, but what does it express? Perhaps being a “passive” object instead of being an “active” subject in order to mitigate the personal responsability?

Is there any simple explanation why the answer of the officer is in neuter instead of simply using the 1st person, past form of a reflexive verb?
 
  • Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the King's
    Yes, the verb is being used in your example as an impersonal construction because "dreaming" (when it means something that comes to us involuntarily in our sleep) is a process over which we have no control, as you noted. The dream "dreams itself" to us. We don't choose it, we are the passive recipients of the dream. In that sense it seems quite logical.

    The use of impersonal constructions is quite common in Slovak (and other Slavic languages), e.g.:
    Chodí sa mi ťažko - I find walking difficult, I find it hard to walk, I have difficulties walking, I can't walk very well, etc.
    Knizka je napisana putavym modernym stylom, vel'mi dobre sa mi číta - ... I really enjoy reading it.
    Zle sa mi na to pozeralo - I found it hard to watch, I didn't like looking at it, it was horrible to see, it was a horrible sight, etc.
    Pracuje sa mi s ním veľmi dobre - I really enjoy working with him, he's really great to work with, etc.

    (The word order in "Ale sa mi snívalo o práci", with "sa" as the second word, sounds unnatural to me here, but I'll leave it to a native to comment on that.)
     

    Concise

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    My notes:
    1. Earlier we discussed impersonal constuction in another thread, only in present temse, but it was not highlighted that even in present tense the subject is in neuter (although it does not make any difference since eg. chodí is chodí for on, ona and ono, too.)

    2. Even it is quite logical, neither English, nor Hungarian have this philosophy. So one cannot be sure ever and that’s the reason I ask so much.

    3. Actually I was thinking about the word order for a short while, too, because I felt he “ale” is a kind of word which should not count in case of 2nd place rule. So I’d say with my beginner-level Slovak that "Ale mi sa snívalo o práci". Did you mean that version?

    4. Does “snívam/snívaš/snívame/snívate sa” exist at all? Can they be used in some cases at all?
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the King's
    Ale mi sa snívalo o práci. :cross:
    Ale snívalo sa mi o práci. :tick:
    "Mi" is the short (and therefore "weak") dative form of the personal pronoun "ja". A sentence introduced by "ale" presupposes a context in which what I was dreaming about was in contrast to something else, e.g. Tebe sa snívalo o dovolenke, ale mne (sa snívalo) o práci. You were dreaming about holidays, but I was dreaming about work. so we'd need to use the "full" or "strong" dative form "mne", not the "short" or "weak" form "mi". In your context the topic focus is not on who was dreaming - we know it was the clerk, so the pronoun (which tells us who was dreaming) is not the topic focus in that context. In fact the pronoun is the weakest element in the context of that sentence. The topic focus is what the clerk was doing (dreaming, instead of working), and what the clerk was dreaming about.

    I wouldn't expect to see "snívam sa" with no complement, because it's not clear what it's supposed to mean.
     
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    Concise

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    I meant “snívam sa” et al not without complement, but with any complements. I meant whether snívať sa is restricted to 3rd persons and if it is not then in which case we can use 1st and 2nd persons?
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the King's
    There are examples to be found, such as Snívaš sa mi už deviatu noc - "I've been dreaming about you for the ninth night", and
    Snívam sa ti? "Do you dream about me?" / "Are you dreaming about me?" (Literally: "am I dreaming myself to you?" :cross:) but these, again, are impersonal constructions used with the second and first persons.
    There are several ways of saying "I dream" and I would not advise using the reflexive snívat' sa, unless it's in an impersonal construction.
     
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    Concise

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    I was afraid of getting this sort of answer.;-)

    Thank you for guiding me on this tough road.

    So in this case not the 3rd person which makes the construction impersonal (of course together with sa), as I supposed so, but the whole verb (snívať sa) is an impersonal construction. That was the crucial piece of info for me which gave me a new level of understanding.
     

    jasio

    Senior Member
    Perhaps being a “passive” object instead of being an “active” subject in order to mitigate the personal responsability?
    Perhaps it's expressed indirectly in the discussion, but although passive voice - or 3rd person form - can be used to "mitigate personal responsibility", as if things happened by themselves, it's not the case here. After all, sleeping and dreaming are two different activities, aren't they?
     

    Concise

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Sure, they are different, but both “sleeping” and “dreaming” requires active voice and not passive voice in lots of languages.
     

    Concise

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Since the last post about “snívať sa” I faced a ´real life´ example:
    “Často sa nám sníva,
    to čo sa sníva všetkým chlapom odjakživa.” ;-)
     
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