Slovak: dať vs dávať in a dialogue

Tisztul_A_Visztula

Senior Member
Hungarian
Months ago I promised I would be back definitely with some questions regarding the perfective and imperfective verbs.
As a sort of backtest of my understanding regarding this field let me refer to a dialogue.

“Veselý dialóg

- Fero, dal si koňom žrať?
- Dal.
- Dal si im dosť?
- Dal som im dosť.
- Veľa si im nemusel dávať.
- Nedal som im veľa.
- Nemusel si im dať nič.
- Veď som im nedal nič.”

In sentences no. 1-4. the focus is on whether someone has done a job or not, so the use of perfective is evidently logical.

In sentence no. 5. there is a sort of general declaration focusing not on the result of the process, but on the process itself, I think it is why it is in imperfective and not perfective. Am I right?

Sentence no 6. is tricky, because it is a sort of answer to the previous sentence (which is not an explicit interrogation, but a sort of question since it is a provocative declaration) and the ‘speaker’ uses a perfective verb in his answer after the other ‘speaker’ used an imperfective in his implicit ‘question’.
My bet is that the verb in sentence no. 6. could be in imperfective form, too, but this speaker focuses still more on the result of his activity then the process itself. He is more involved than the other speaker, maybe it is the reason.

Sentence no. 7. is even trickier, because the speaker switches back to the usage of perfective verb. Why? Maybe because to give nothing “dať nič” cannot be a process, since it takes zero time.

In sentence no. 8. the speaker in his answer is again logically uses the same form, perfective.


Summarizing it: either the sentence no. 5. is incorrect and also in this sentence there should be an perfective form OR there should be a similar kind of explanation as I figured out (even if mine is not perfect).
 
  • jasio

    Senior Member
    Except that this dialogue is confusing itself and I'm not sure whether the horses have actually been fed or not, the aspect part of it can be confusing as well.

    The first thing to remember, is that the actual usage of the aspects is not always 100% consistent with the rules, and can sometimes deviate from what you could expect - especially with the most common words like "go", "eat", "give", etc. It's a bit like with the tenses: the future or the past events can be sometimes expressed in the present tense ("jutro jadę do domu", which clearly refers to the future, while grammatically it's the present tense), hence concepts of 'near future' or a 'certain future'. On the other hand, the future tense does not always refer to the future events either, and it may express for example uncertainty, at least in some situations ("trzy i pięć to chyba będzie siedem", 'three and five, it will probably be seven'). To make a long story short, most of the time the rules do work, but there are exceptions.

    For example, if someone asked me "strzelałeś kiedyś z pistoletu" ('have you ever shot a handgun', in the imperfective aspect), I would probably respond 'strzelałem' (imperfective) even, if it happened once in a lifetime - and it takes a blink of an eye to fire a gun. If I would deliberately want to stress that it was only one shot ever, then I would say "strzeliłem" (perfective). But internally I feel that the latter response would invite me to tell more about the circumstances: why did I shoot, why only once (i didn't like it that much perhaps, or caused some damage), perhaps when, etc., while the imperfective response feels more neutral with this respect. On the other hand, if I was to ask if you actually killed anyone, it would be more natural for me to use the perfective aspect instead ('zabiłeś kiedyś człowieka?"), and would continue to use the perfective even if the situation was repetitive ('zabiłem wielu ludzi'). But 'zabijałem ludzi przez całą wojnę' (I kept killing people during the whole war, imperfective). So it's complex.

    Second thing, the perfective-imperfective aspect opposition covers several distinct semantic phenomena. Focus on the activity vs. the outcome is one thing. A perceived internal temporal structure of the activity vs. a lack of (you may call it 'an atomic event') is another. Finished vs. unfinished activities are yet another. One-time vs. repetitive, is another. In case of movement - going forth and back vs. going forth only, etc. Consequently, theoretical analysis of the actual expressions could be quite complex sometimes - while you may only have a split second to decide how to respond. ;-)

    Third thing, there is a difference between the said "perceived internal temporal structure of the activity" and its actual duration (or a lack of). The latter is not necessarily that relevant; what we actually express using the perfective aspect is that for the moment we disregard the duration or what actually happened during the course of action, and want to focus on other - pun not intended - aspects of the activity instead. You may also think of "nic nie robiłem" (imp) vs. "nic nie zrobiłem" (perf). The former means that I was lazy, doing nothing (in a particular moment, but also across a whole day or a year - so rather figuratively rather than literally), while the latter - that I was expected to do something specific, and I failed to do it. Which could have taken quite a while as well. On the other hand, the perfective aspect gives a certain impression of time compression indeed ("to stało się tak szybko", "it happened so quickly" vs. "to trwało i trwało", 'it lasted and lasted').

    I recall similar discussions on the Polish forum, which sometimes led to over-complicated interpretations or hair splitting, while in fact some of them should have been concluded by an observation "this is the most natural way for the native speakers to express the meaning".

    Frankly speaking, I do not know why in #5 the imperfective aspect is used, and what would be the difference in meaning should the perfective aspect be used instead - except that in Polish I would use the imperfective as well. Perhaps a mental focus on the activity rather than on the outcome could be a good trace though, hence the difference between #5 and #6. BTW, in Polish I would probably use the imperfective aspect in the remark #7 as well, as it would sound more natural to me in this context. And, of course, the perfective in #8.


    I'm sorry if all in all I added insult to injury, instead of clarifying it. ;-)
    In the Slovak language some details can differ, but I expect that the overall situation is quite similar - hence my response.
     

    Tisztul_A_Visztula

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    One thing is sure. I have read your answer, actually already twice, but I am afraid I am going to read it at least twice more, because your contribution was really complicated for me. But it is something that I am fond of. ;)
     

    numerator

    Senior Member
    Hungarian, Slovak
    And, as if verbal aspect wasn't complicated enough, negation can complicate it even further.

    You have perhaps learned already that the negative imperative uses the imperfective:
    Sadni si. Sit down.
    Nesadaj si. Don't sit down.
    But it's also possible to use the perfective:
    Nesadni si. (cca = Nie že si sadneš! Mind that you don't sit down.) when we are warning the speaker not to do something which they may feel inclined to do or something they may do accidentally (e.g. Nespadni!)

    With "nemusíš", there's also a difference, even though the sentences are declarative, not imperative:
    Nemusíš to robiť. You don't need to do it. (general, neutral - it's just not necessary)
    Nemusíš to urobiť. You don't have to do it. (Even though someone is pressuring you to do it. Or: I see you don't want to do it, and technically you don't have to, but you'd better do it, or else...)

    So, my reading would be that #5 Nemusel si im veľa dávať says "You didn't need to give them a lot" in a neutral tone, and #7 Nemusel si im dať nič says something like "It's nice you gave them food, but you didn't actually have to give them anything, you know."

    A perfective version of #5 Nemusel si im dať veľa would carry a bit of a presupposition "You probably gave them a lot, but you didn't have to."
    #7 would work just as well in the imperfective Nemusel si im dávať nič.

    And now I'm off to bed before I confuse myself or anyone else even further :)
     

    jasio

    Senior Member
    But it is something that I am fond of. ;)
    Thank you.

    It may be complicated indeed, but think that we, the Slavs, struggle with the lack of this fundamental feature in the Western languages, and for our minds the phrase is incomplete without it. For example, you might have noticed that people of Slavic origin, virtually regardless of their mother tongue, tend to overuse the past continuous tense in English. It's because we tend to artificially add the imperfective aspect which according to our brains is missing from the simple past tense, and we desperately try to include it. It takes some time and effort to realize that English simply does not work that way, and in English the aspect (which exists, but is expressed in other ways) is not mandatory.

    From the understanding perspective, one of key things is to recognise the aspect of the verbs you hear, especially in the non-past structures. The exact same phrase with the imperfective verb ("czytam zajmującą książkę Ferenca Molnara") is considered the present tense, while with the perfective verb ("przeczytam zajmującą książkę Ferenca Molnara") is the future tense - and it's a huge difference. It works this way in Polish, Russian and Ukrainian, so I expect that in Slovak it's the same. If you speak - if you use a compound future with the perfective verb, it will be incorrect, but the phrase will still be understandable. But if you mess-up the aspect in the non-past, you may end-up saying something different than you intend. Hence, adding an adverbial of time for clarification could prove be useful. In the past tenses the difference in meaning is somewhat more subtle and may be less clear, especially that we do use words like "finish doing something" less often, because the aspect says it all.

    On the other hand, there are situations which seem to be pretty straightforward. For example, if you have two simultanous actions, I would expect that both are expressed using imperfective verbs - whether in the past or in the future. If you have an action interrupted by an event ('the bell rang when I was reading a book'), the interupted action is expressed with an imperfective verb, while the interupting event - by a perfective ("gdy czytałem książkę zadzwonił dzwonek"). If you have a sequence of actions - whether in the past or in the future - the earlier action is often expressed using the perfective verb (unless it's clearly suspended or interrupted before something else happens). "Gdy przeczytałem książkę, zadzwonił dzwonek" means that when the bell rang, I had just finished reading.

    Certain words suggesting that the action is completed (like 'finished', 'completed', 'finalised' in English) tend to be translated using the perfective variant of the main verb, while some others (like 'interrupted', 'suspended', 'interrupted' in English) - would rather use imperfective verbs.

    When you learn new verbs - or new forms of the verbs - learn them along with their aspect or as a part of a phrase. It's a lexical category, not a part of the inflection, so relying on prefixes or infixes can be misleading.

    It's difficult indeed, but it's not entirely a mission impossible.

    Nevertheless, I worked with foreigners who spoke quite good Polish, and after years in Poland they still struggled with the aspects. So do not be discouraged by your mistakes. It takes time and practice.
     
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    Tisztul_A_Visztula

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    For example, you might have noticed that people of Slavic origin,
    No, I was not noticing it. :)
    It works this way in Polish, Russian and Ukrainian, so I expect that in Slovak it's the same.
    Yes, it is, as I know
    The exact same phrase with the imperfective verb ("czytam zajmującą książkę Ferenca Molnara") is considered the present tense, while with the perfective verb ("przeczytam zajmującą książkę Ferenca Molnara") is the future tense - and it's a huge difference.
    Actually for my Hungarian brain it is something that can be swallowed rather toughly. Because in Hungarian also verbs with the perfective aspect can be used both in the present tense and in the future tense (moreover there are two compounded future tenses, for all the verbs independently from their aspects.
     

    Tisztul_A_Visztula

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    You have perhaps learned already that the negative imperative uses the imperfective:
    Unfortunately, I have not yet.
    Sadni si. Sit down.
    Nesadaj si. Don't sit down.
    But it's also possible to use the perfective:
    Nesadni si.
    What about Sadaj si?
    What is the difference between it and Sadni si?

    With "nemusíš", there's also a difference, even though the sentences are declarative, not imperative:
    Nemusíš to robiť. You don't need to do it. (general, neutral - it's just not necessary)
    Nemusíš to urobiť. You don't have to do it. (Even though someone is pressuring you to do it. Or: I see you don't want to do it, and technically you don't have to, but you'd better do it, or else...)
    I guess your point must be the main point as regards why the perfective and the interpefctive forms were used this specific way in the dialogue. Double thank you!
     
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    francisgranada

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    What about Sadaj si?
    What is the difference between it and Sadni si?

    In my opinion the difference is clear: sadať si means "to sit down repeatedly or in general". I don't say Sadaj si! instead of Sadni si! when I simply want to say "Sit down!" or "Ülj le!".

    The same in negative, e.g. Tam si nesadaj! means something in the sense that "do not sit down there at all, not only now but in general or never".
     

    Tisztul_A_Visztula

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Thx.

    So if I understand it well, you say that using the imperative form does not change or finetune the aspect of the verb, neither in positive, nor in negative. Is my understanding correct?

    If so then I feel it contradictory to what numerator mentioned in his/her analysis.
     
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    jasio

    Senior Member
    Actually for my Hungarian brain it is something that can be swallowed rather toughly. Because in Hungarian also verbs with the perfective aspect can be used both in the present tense and in the future tense (moreover there are two compounded future tenses, for all the verbs independently from their aspects.
    From the perspective of the Slavic languages, using perfective verbs in the present tense - in a construction which would have the present meaning - would be illogical. If something is "perfective", ie. intrinsically completed, it could have either been completed in the past, or would be completed in the future. But the present action - apparently perceiving "present" as a thin boundary between the past and the future - can only be uncompleted, which implies using imperfective verbs. In other words, either I have already eaten a cake, or I will have eaten it in future. If I'm still eating it, it means that I have not eaten it yet. At least this is an explanation I've found in grammar books.

    The rest is just an economy of the language. Existing simple future tense distinct from the present tense or even separate simple future tenses for perfective and imperfective verbs is theoretically possibłe, but for a reason our ancient ancestors decided that the set of present tense suffixes applied to perfective verbs would be interpreted as a future tense. And decided to use a compound future tense structure for the imperfective verbs as well. Which is quite consistent, btw., because at the time there also existed compound past tense, with the same "to be" verb in the proper tense form. And it still exists in Slovak, Czech, and probably in some other languages, while in Polish and in East Slavic languages it evolved into simple past tense instead, albeit in different ways and yielding different results.
     

    francisgranada

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    If so then I feel it contradictory to what numerator mentioned in his/her analysis.
    Perhaps yes. However I did not say that "Sadaj (si)!" and "Nesadaj si!" are not heard or not used in the colloquial speech instead of "Sadni si!" and "Nesadni si" (sometimes inadequately, in my opinion).

    "Sadaj (si)!" and "Nesadaj si!", beeing imperfective forms, express rather the idea of "sitting down" and "not sitting down" instead of "to sit down" and "not to sit down".

    (sadnúť is linguistically an inchoative verb that expresses the beginning of becoming, while sadať expresses rather the process of the proper action)
     
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