An interesting little pronoun

Consider these three sentences:

I have my pen.
I have his pen.
He has his pen.

In Czech they become:

Mám své pero.
Mám jeho pero.
Má své pero.

Did you catch it? In the first sentence “my” translates to “své”. In the third sentence “své” means “his”. But “his” is “jeho” in the second sentence. To complete the cycle, “He has my pen.” becomes Má mé pero.

There is a special pronoun, svúj, that takes over when the possessive pronoun refers to the subject of the sentence, no matter who or what the subject of the sentence is. So in “I have my pen” svúj takes over for the usual múj (and then is converted to the proper form, following the same pattern as múj). Same thing in “He has his pen,” since the “his” refers to the same thing as the “he”.

I’m not sure it improves communication at all, whether it reduces ambiguity in the language. I think it does. When you say “Mary has her pen.” you know right away whether the “her” refers to Mary or to some other woman. I’m liking the svúj.


21 thoughts on “An interesting little pronoun

  1. I don’t know a clever way to show a stressed syllable so I will use square brackets: [stress].

    Growing up out west, I used to go skateboarding on suh – [ment] sidewalks. The longer I associate with my southern in-laws, the more I notice I say it

    [see] – ment. As in Ellie May went swimming in the [see]-ment pond.

    Which is a long introduction to saying, that it is interesting to me that Jerry says, “I’m liking svuj” rather than “I like svuj.” I think he is starting to be affected by all the furriners he hangs out with.

    BTW, why do czechs try to write with a pero? Isn’t that spanish for dog? Don’t they get a lot of slobber all over the page. Or maybe Mexicans like to keep a lot of pens around for pets.

    Why can’t we all just speak english, the way God intended?

    I am being tongue-in-cheek. I am knowing dog pero is perro.

  2. In fact, F-G-F, the pero-pero thing gave me trouble for a while. Despite that (or perhaps because) the word was not in my native tongue, it was very difficult for me to disconnect pero from dog.

    Often when I’m stuck for a czech word, I’ll substitute French or Spanish. I guess in my head there are two categories: English and Other. Other has subcategories, but failing to find a word in the specific category, I come up with any applicable word in the Other bin. It was only when I learned the Czech word for dog that the trouble cleared up.

  3. And the quote was, “I’m liking the svůj”, and is an indication of what Southern California did to my language usage. We can only hope the czechs straighten me out.

  4. Going further, as I am compelled to do, there is a parellel between “the svůj” and Czech-English relations.

    Remember “The Donald?” Ivana, his wife, was (and still is, actually) Czech. The Czechs, they don’t have, “the” so much. ‘The’ vs. ‘a’ is as much a mystery to them as ‘nikam’ vs. ‘nikde’ is to me.

    It is a natural tendency of czechs speaking English to misplace their the’s. Thus, “The Donald.” Was this what led to “The WB”?

    It’s a romantic notion, that a czech influenced pop culture so, but in So-Cal we had “The Five” (interstate five) long before we had The Donald. But there is a resonance there, an overuse of ‘the’ that echoes the speech of people who don’t know what ‘the’ is. For the five, it is marketing. Putting ‘The’ on something makes it singular. It is pretentious and pompous to use the that way.

    And I did it.

  5. Yes, the the and a thing seems to be unique to English and hard for lots of foreign peeples. I regularly correct journal articles for a korean colleague and he often mis-uses “the.” The shameful thing is – I can’t explain to him the rules ’cause I don’t know them myself. I use the famous Judge logic about pornography: “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” I don’t know why “the” sounds appropriate or inappropriate in a particular context, I just know it because I’m a native speaker.

    BTW what is czech for dog?

  6. What is Czech for, “I have a terrible burning and itching in my groin region, do you have any topical ointment?”

  7. First off, careful with pero, cause if you ain’t got péro, zou ain§t got dick.

    The “the” thing has always been a sticky point with me and the wife; it seems some languages just don’t have articles as such. I’ve best explained it like this: the “the” is used for somethig specific, something already know to the speaker, and to the speakee. If one were to hear something about “The sweater,” you wold be thinking about the same sweater as I. Of course, the specific sweater depends on the context in which the “the” was used. Right nowe, we are not thinking of the same sweaters, espwcially since Alpace isn’t that common.

    If one were to talk about just “a sweater,” then you, the listeners / readers, would each have an individual notion of the sweater. There is, contextually speaking, no specific sweater.

    Now you got yer “The” Donald. Yes, he has become that big.

  8. Funkmaster, I’ve been retrained, but in my secret OK/KS voice, I say SEEment. I know this is correct, because my dad was once a cementer for Halliburton, and they all called it SEEmenter.

    Jerry, keep the language lessons coming. They are most enjoyable.

  9. Jer, It is a sometimes thing with Interstate names. I’ve said, *I was going up the Five when …* I’ve also said, *I’m coming down Five and the Mother *#$%@!!!” Then again I hail from the MittVest regardless of my cultural integration to Cali seemingly.

    And F-G-F, I believe the correct pronunciation is: “AAAAHhhhhhAHHHhhhhAHHHHAhhhhh!!!!!11111one!!!1”

  10. Looks like Czech has a wonderful way of assuring clearer pronoun references.

    Meanwhile, determiners can cause a whole lot of confusion. Asian and Slavic languages don’t really have determiners, so those of my students who come fron such backgrounds often make wild guesses about whether to use them and which one to use. However, Latin-based languages such as French and Spanish use the equivalent of “the” a whole lot more than English does; hence, constructions such as “I’m studying the mathematics.” There are even differences between American and British — we say a person who is seriously ill is “in the hospital”; the Brits say “in hospital.”

    As for the word for pen: In French and British, the word for a ball-point pen is “biro” (pronounced bee-roh), after the inventor of it, Auguste Biro, who, being a technical genius but not exactly smart about financial or legal matters, forgot (or didn’t bother) to patent it. The Bic company in France picked it up, and while they didn’t pay him the royalties he really deserved, they did put his name on it. It is my guess that the Czech pero is an adaptation of the name biro.

  11. CA, It’s all about the CZ baby.

    See –

    The Hungarian Laszlo Biro, a magazine publisher, noticed, during a visit to a printer’s, how quickly the printer’s ink dried. It occurred to him that this fast-drying ink would work well in a fountain pen. This dense ink, however, would not flow through a pen. Therefore, Biro decided to replace the metal writing nib of his pen with a slim ball bearing. As the pen moved across the paper, the ball turned and suctioned ink from the reservoir, which then transferred it to the paper. This principle of the ballpoint pen was not, however, a new one. It had been patented in the year 1888 by John J. Loud, but had not been used commercially.

  12. By the way, the word for dog is pes. At least, some of the time it is. Other times it’s psa (when it’s the object in certain conditions) and other times it’s different yet, but I haven’t learned those cases yet.

    Můj pes má fleas. – my dog has fleas

    Mám rád meho psa – I like my dog

  13. I can’t believe CA and BF didn’t leap in with erudite expalanations of “the” and “a.” Senseis, you have let me down.

    BTW I misspelled explanations, but love the error too much to change it. I wonder what expalanation could mean. (aside from the obvious – “Lucy, joo better expalanate whas a goeen on chere!”)

  14. Expalnation would be the flaking away of concrete, either through impacts upon the concrete, or through frost expansion.

    You want the really technical definition of the difference between “the” and “a/an”? “The” refers to something that’s already been specifically named, a particular item. “A/an” refers to some generic item that hasn’t already been defined.

    Jimmy got a map from a newsstand. He put the map in his pocket.

    Students whose native language doesn’t even include determiners are often left guessing when to use them and which one to use.

  15. That’s so weird. I almost brought up “spalling” – the fractioning of the surface of concrete, when I talked about expalanation. But figured it was too wonky to mention. Great minds think alike. In the end, though, spalling is spalling, and expalantion is….?

  16. Well, obviously it comes from the root “pal”. palanation, or making friends, has narrowed in definition over the years to refer specifically to sexual relationships. Expalanation is roughly similar to “Breaking up”.

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