verb meaning "to be fluent in" / "to have a good command of"

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by Gavril, Oct 1, 2012.

  1. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Many languages have a transitive verb that means, "to be fluent in (a language)", "to have a good command of (a discipline)", or similar:


    Spanish dominar

    No domino el tema
    "I'm not well acquainted with this subject"
    Ella domina el francés
    "She speaks fluent French"

    Finnish hallita

    Hän hallitsee salaustekniikan "He is an expert in cryptography"
    Hallitset hyvin suomea "You have a good knowledge of Finnish"

    English has various phrases that express these concepts -- to have mastery (of), to have a (good) command of, etc. -- but I don't think we have a single verb that does so, apart from the verb control, which is only used in technical contexts such as

    This test will determine whether the subjects control [= "are fluent in"] English.

    What other languages have verbs like the ones above, meaning "to have expertise in (an area of knowledge)" or similar?
  2. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    I can't think of a transitive verb with that exact meaning in Russian.

    The closest that comes to mind is владеть [vladiet’] - to possess / to have power over, but even that often requires qualifiers, like "very well", "perfectly" etc…

    Она в совершенстве владеет фpанцузским языком – lit. she possesses French in perfection (she speaks fluent French)
    Hападающий должен прекрасно владеть мячом – lit. a forward must possess the ball excellently (a forward must have excellent mastery of the ball)

    Otherwise, it is "to be a specialist/expert in...", "to know very well", "to have a good knowledge/skill"...
  3. e2-e4 X Senior Member

    I'd also add this is not a transitive verb. It takes Instrumental.
  4. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod (AL mod)

    French (lower Normandy)
    In French: "maîtriser" (which has other meanings like "control")

    "Elle maîtrise son sujet."
    "Elle maîtrise le français."
  5. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    In Greek we do not have a specific verb for it:

    «Μιλώ άπταιστα* αγγλικά»
    [mi'lo 'aptesta aŋgli'ka]
    "To speak flawlessly English"

    «Mιλώ με ευχέρεια** αγγλικά»
    [mi'lo me ef'çeri.a aŋgli'ka]
    "To speak with fluency English"

    *Adv. «άπταιστα» ['aptesta] a derivation of the ancient adj. «ἄπταιστος, -ος, -ον» 'ăptǣstŏs (masc. & fem.), 'ăptǣstŏn (neut.) --> not stumbling (compound, privative prefix «α-» + neuter noun «πταῖσμα» 'ptǣsmă --> lit. stumble, trip, metaph. error, fault, with unknown etymology)
    ** Fem. noun «ευχέρεια» [ef'çeri.a] --> fluency, facility, from the Classical fem. noun «εὐχερία» euxĕ'rīă --> manual dexterity, skill (compound, adv. «εὖ» eu --> well (PIE *esu-s, good, able; cf. Hit. āssu-, good, dear; Skt. सुख् (sukh), delight) + feminine noun «χείρ» xeir --> hand (PIE ǵʰesor- /ǵʰesr-, hand; cf. Lat. præstāre, to provide; Hit. kieššar, hand)
  6. CapnPrep Senior Member

    English: master
  7. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA

    isn't a stative verb: it doesn't mean "to have a mastery of" (the meaning I'm asking about in this thread) but rather "to gain mastery in".

    For example, it would sound strange to say I master Chinese in English, because it would imply that you regularly achieve fluency in Chinese (rather than that you possess fluency in Chinese). I'm not sure how you can "regularly" master a language unless you regularly forget your knowledge of it as well.
  8. CapnPrep Senior Member

    The dictionary agrees with you, but for me, and apparently for other speakers/writers, it can be stative, in the same way as master in the less figurative sense of "be the master of [a team, a crew, etc.]". The following examples are from COCA:

    • Another brilliant younger American conductor, David Charles Abell, is based in London because of the dynamic musical scene there. Mr. Abell - who masters composers from Mozart and Puccini to Broadway tunesmiths - agrees with observers who argue that there is an American conducting style, and that there is a strong pool of American conducting talent available.
    • He's interested in ordinary things. He loves baseball. Baseball is ordinary. He masters it.
    Even as an achievement verb, the perfective forms of master would imply a state, so they would satisfy your single-verb requirement: She mastered ChineseShe was fluent in Chinese, She has mastered ChineseShe is fluent in Chinese.
  9. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    I disagree: having achieved mastery of something isn't the same as possessing current mastery of it.

    Granted, a sentence like "She has mastered Chinese" could (in certain contexts) imply current fluency, but it's possible to lose one's skills in something, even if those skills were at a "master" level.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2012
  10. ancalimon Senior Member

    Turkish: Türkçeyi akıcı konuşmak. (to speak Turkish fluently)

    akıcı: fluent (from the root verb "ak" meaning "to flow")

    We also have a different form (to be an expert in a subject)

    Türkçe'nin uzmanı olmak (to be the expert of Turkish)


    Türkçe'de uzman olmak. (to be expert in Turkish)


    Türkçe uzmanı olmak. (to be a Turkish expert)
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2012
  11. Ghabi

    Ghabi AL/OL/Ar/Zh mod

    Hong Kong
    Hi! There is a number of transitive verbs (actually causative in terms of morphology) in Arabic for that: اتقن/احسن/احكم/اجاد etc. In Classical Chinese one can use 善/擅/工 etc, with the postposition 於 being optional.
  12. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    Tagalog: 1.) fluent= Bihasa/sanay mangusap or manalita 2.) to have good command of= May kakayahang makapagsalita (able to speak)
  13. AutumnOwl Senior Member

    Hon behärskar engelska flytande
    - she (to) masters English fluently.
    Behärska can be translated into to possess, to command, to master, to control, to dominate; be- is a prefix meaning to (do something), (not the infinitive to + verb, Swedish: att + verb), härska means reign, govern, command.
  14. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Dutch: beheersen (keep under control, dominate), containing 'heer', dominus, though our verb has been borrowed from German. Expression: onder de knie hebben/ krijgen ( to have under the knee, to get).
  15. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    The main meaning is controlling, isn't it? What is the root of the Finnish equivalent?
  16. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    hallita also means "to govern" or "to control". I don't know what its original meaning was in Finnish, but I think it comes from the same source as English hold, Swedish hålla, etc.
  17. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Great information, thanks! (I am going to ask some European students about this tomorrow if I don't forget...)

Share This Page