Posted in Scottish Gaelic

What I Learned On My First Scottish Gaelic Lesson

Having got through the first stage of Duolingo Scottish Gaelic, (and by the way, came top of the gold league, just sayin’ ūüíÖ ) I thought it was time I booked my first online lesson.

It was really good! A bit daunting, but good. I found the teacher on iTalki and he was very nice, helpful and encouraging and as the torrent of new words came at me he typed them all into the skype chat for me so I wouldn’t have to write them down. Although writing things down might seem like a good idea, it’s quite confusing in Gaelic because the spelling is so weird. Up to now, I’ve been using Duolingo to load vocabulary into my head but although I know “gaothach” is pronounced like “Goo-hock” I have to type it in Duolingo, so I find myself memorising the spelling by saying it to myself phonetically as “gowt-hatch” so it’s like I am learning two parallel versions of everything and until I can read the syllables properly, writing things down is probably going to be a hindrance rather than a help. I’m addressing this by looking at the video tutorials on Gaelic with Jason‘s YouTube Channel and I’ve started reading a small introduction to the language called Scots Gaelic: An Introduction to the Basics by George McLennan. It’s surprisingly readable as an overview of the language and how it got that way.

So many words!

Anyway, no point wasting time asking a teacher about pronunciation, so let’s crack on! A bigger problem is why the hell there are so many words. For example, in the lesson about weather there is the following question:

And why does it bother me that there are so many “extra” words here? Well, I remember when I started learning French, the phrase that sounds like Kesker Say but is written Qu’est-ce que c’est just seemed like an arbitrary collection of letters and so I always found it hard to remember the spelling because i didn’t really understand what the components meant. It was only later when I twigged that it literally means “What is it that it is?” that I started to understand how it related to “c’est” and “est-ce que”, and the other little building blocks of the language. And from there I started to decode the rhythms and the… well, the plumbing of the language. So I thought if I could just parse this sentence then I could start to unravel Gaelic in the same way.

Here’s how it goes

Cò risa thaant-sìdecoltachan-dràsta
Whatistheweatherlikenow
C√≤ means “who” usually but can be pressed into service to mean “what” or “where” sometimes. “Ris” means something like “against” usually (or “rice”!)Actually, “tha” on it’s own is the singular, present tense form of the word “to be” so it’s more like “this is” female articleWhy hyphenated? I have no idea. Presumably it could be broken down even further but Ididn’t get into thatEmbarrassingly, I thought this meant “weather” whch is probably why I was so confusedAs with “t-s√¨de”, I possibly could have asked whether an and dr√†sta have their own individual existences, but I didn’t go that far

I think the teacher was sceptical as to how useful this would be but I find it really helpful because I can watch out for the patterns in other sentences.

Questions

C√≤ ris isn’t always the word used for “what”. A more usual form of asking those kinds of questions is “D√®”, as in “D√® an obair a th’ agad?” (pronounced “Jane Opper a Hacket”) meaning “What work do you do? Obair must be related to “Obra” (in portuguese) and “Operation” in english via some circuitous etymological backchanneling, I think.

The answer to this question can be a bit odd or unfamiliar. “Is e IT consultant a th’ annam” which means “It is an IT consultant that’s in me”. Er… OK…

And, yes, like most languages, Gaelic uses some imported english words, especially for relatively modern words. “IT Consultant” was just written as-is, but it seems more common for them to be transformed into Gaelic spelling. I like “brabhsair” for “browser” for example and “cupa t√¨” for “cup of tea”.

Verbs

First of all, there aren’t any conjugations. So “Tha” means “is” and “am” and “are”. It has a past (bha) and a future (bidh). I’m not quite sure where “chan eil” fits into this. On its own it means “no” but it always seems to go at the front of the sentence (which is where the verb is always found in Gaelic) so maybe the “chan” part is… a….negative— form… of… the… verb…? I’m thinking out loud here, obviously.

There are only eleven irregular verbs. What are they? I have no idea. He did give me one example and all I can say it was pretty damn irregular, but I can live with that for the joy of not having to memorise long lists. Yeeeessss! I picked the right language!

Pleasantries

Gaelic, like french, has two forms of the word “you” (I was going to write “like portuguese” until I remembered that portuguese has about 17), and the more formal one is “sibh”. The effects of this aren’t always obvious: it messes with the endings of some common phrases like “thank you” which can be “tapadh leit” or “tapadh leibh” in the thu and sibh forms respectively, “and “what’s your name?” which can be “D√® an t-ainm a th‚Äô ort?” or “D√® an t-ainm a th‚Äô oirbh?”

Fh√®in is a handy little word for returning a question or greeting back to someone. It means “yourself”. So if someone asks how you “D√® an t-ainm a th’ ort?” then after you tell them “Cailean a th’orm” (Colin = Cailean) you can lob the question back to them with “D√® an t-ainm a th‚Äô ort fh√®in?” (How are you yourself). So now I’m going to end this blog post and get back to work, so I’ll say tapadh leit for reading and wish you a good evening with a cheery “feasgar math”, and if you want to be able to tell everyone that you replied to a blog post in scots gaelic today, you can do that by replying in the comments below “feasgar math fh√®in”. Don’t bother with the accent if your keyboard isn’t up to it: we’re all friends here.

Posted in Portuguese

Cam√Ķes Conseguiu Escrever Muito Para Quem S√≥ Tinha Um Olho

Comprei este livro porque achei que fosse uma piada. Em ingl√™s existem alguns livros c√≥micos que mostram erros feitos por alunos nos exames de v√°rias disciplinas. N√£o h√° d√ļvida que h√° alguns erros reais nestas colec√ß√Ķes, mas tenho certeza absoluta que a maioria s√£o piadas inventadas pelos autores, e o efeito d√° para rir muito.

Cada erro tem a sua pr√≥pria explica√ß√£o.Seja como for, este livro n√£o √© propriamente a mesma coisa. √Č verdade que existem respostas engra√ßadas, tal como o t√≠tulo do livro mesmo, mas o prop√≥sito do livro √© mais elevado: a autora √© uma professora e quer ensinar os leitores a escrever bem portugu√™s e para mim, claro, isto √© ainda melhor porque quero aprender mais e isso √© um bom m√©todo de aprender. Assim como o “101 Erros de Portugu√™s Que Acabam Com a Sua Credibilidade”, muitos erros s√£o erros de pregui√ßa ou de p√©ssimo h√°bito que, paradoxalmente, eu, como estrangeiro, provavelmente teria menos risco de fazer do que um nativo, mas h√° muitas dicas √ļteis. J√° escrevi algumas publica√ß√Ķes no meu blogue e fiz duas notas de publica√ß√Ķes futuros.

Posted in English

Don’t Believe the H√≠f

More from “Cam√Ķes Conseguiu Escrever Muito Para Quem S√≥ Tinha Um Olho”. Its very good. Not at all what I expected (I thought it’d be much more like those toilet books like “F in Exams”) but very educational for intermediate Portuguese learners. I’m writing out this list of compound words in the hope that it’ll help me remember when to use a hyphen. They’re words commonly written incorrectly, with or without hyphens (h√≠fens)

Abaixo-assinado and Abaixo assinado: The first is basically a petition, whereas the second is more like “the undersigned”

Antiacordo and pr√≥-acordo. Pr√≥-acordo needs an accent because the stress is on the prefix. A lot of words prefixed Pr√≥, P√≥s or Pr√© seem to be like this. Antiacordo doesn’t need a hyphen because when the second part of the word begins with a consonant (other than h) or a vowel that’s different from the last letter or the prefix it doesn’t need one. The other examples she gives include autoevalia√ß√£o, extraescolar, hidroel√©ctrico and plurianual.

Anti-inflamatório takes a hyphen because anti ends in an I and inflamatório begins with one.

Antirrugas and antissocial don’t need a hyphen but the r/s gets doubled to preserve the pronunciation, much as we’d do in English.

Bem-vindo: bem and mal tend to be hyphenated in situations where they’re joined to words that begin with vowels or Hs. When there stem word starts with a consonant it’s a bit more iffy. Mal tends to be joined to the stem word more often (malmandado, malcriado) whereas bem is more likely to be hyphenated (bem-mandado, bem-criado) but some conjoined words starting with bem do exist, like be feito and benquerente. Benvindo (capitalised) can also be a surname, apparently.

Coautor: co- is generally not hyphenated.

Contrassenha : as with some of the examples above, the s gets doubled to preserve the pronunciation.

Cor de laranja/Cor-de-rosa: she explains this in terms of one being a locution with its own meaning and the other not. I guess one is “the colour of an orange” and the other is “rose-coloured” but this just looks very inconsistent to me.

Ex-marido: words prefixed with ex in general have hyphens

Dia a dia, unlike day-to-day, has no hyphens

Efeito de estufa (greenhouse effect) and Fogo de artif√≠cio (fireworks) are “locu√ß√Ķes nominais” and don’t need hyphens

Fato de banho (bathing suit), gaita de foles (bagpipes) and Fim de semana (weekend) don’t need hyphens because they’re a “locu√ß√Ķes substantivas”

Febre-amarela (yellow fever) is a compound word and needs a hyphen

Galinha-da-√ćndia, louva-a-Deus, ouri√ßo-do-mar are zoological species and all need hyphens. Could also have mentioned estrela-do-mar and porquinho-da-√ćndia

Gr√£o-de-bico mad noz-da-√ćndia are examples of botanical species and behave the same way as the zoological species above.

Georreferenciação is another compound word that needs a double r to preserve the pronunciation.

H√°s de /hei de: this is a bit niche. It used to be correct to write some forms of haver+de with a hyphen between them but in the acordo ortogr√°fico it ceased to be correct, so you’ll see both forms. There’s a ciberd√ļvidas question about it here.

Hiper-rugoso: hiper needs a hífen when the stem word begins with an r.

Infraestrutura: if the word following “infra” begins with a consonant or a different vowel, it can be joined as one word

Infrassom: of the stem word starts with an r or an s then it gets doubled for the sake of pronunciation.

Intra-abdominal has a hyphen because the stem word starts with an a.

Limpa-para-brisas is a compound word (windscreen wipers) and takes two hyphens

Mais-que-perfeito: where this refers to a verb tense (ie, it means “plu-perfect” not “more than perfect”) it takes hyphens.

Micro-ondas: takes a hyphen because ondas begins with a vowel

Microrradiografia: the r is doubled to preserve the pronunciation where “micro” is followed by an r.

Minissaia: if the prefix Mini is followed by an s then it’s doubled to preserve the pronunciation.

Neorrealismo: if the prefix Neo is followed by an R it is doubled to preserve the pronunciation

Pós-graduação and pré-historia: pós and pré always have hyphens

Recém-nascido (newborn): likewise, any compound word starting with recém takes a hyphen

Sem-abrigo (homeless): likewise, any compound word starting with sem takes a hyphen

Semirrigido and semisselvagem: where “semi” is followed by an r or an s, it is doubled to preserve pronunciation.

Super-homem /supermulher: this immediately struck me as inconsistent like the example of cor de laranja and cor-de-rosa but in this case there’s a decent reason: homem begins with an h, and a lot of prefixes like supra and extra and contra and infra take a hyphen when they are followed either by an h or by the same vowel they end with. Anti-higi√©nico, anti-homofobia, extra-humano for example. Supermulher has a nice solid consonant so it’s immune.

Supraestrutura is the same story as infraestrutura.

That was a really useful list because I find those a bit random, so it’s good to know there’s some method to the madness!

Posted in English

Close Encontros

Another nugget from the book I’m reading: this time, it’s two phrases that are similar and can be easily confused

Ir ao encontro de = to agree with – “A minha opini√£o vai ao encontro da tua” (my opinions agree with yours)

Ir de encontro a = crash into – “O ciclista foi de encontro ao muro” (The cyclist went into the wall)

So in the mistake: “Concordo com o narrador e a minha opini√£o vai de encontro ao que ele afirmou” the student is saying they agree with the author and their opinions collide with his

Posted in English

A Pr√≥clise, A Mes√≥clise e a √änclise e o Rock ‘n’ Roll

Pr√≥clise, Mes√≥clise and √änclise are words used in grammar lessons to describe the position of the adverb relative to the verb. In Brasil, Pr√≥clise is far more common than either of the other two, but in Portugal it’s the exception rather than the rule, These notes are taken from a Ciberd√ļvidas post.

Próclise

The pronoun goes before the verb

  1. After certain common adverbs such as¬†bem, mal, ainda, j√°, talvez, apenas, tamb√©m, n√£o, sempre, s√≥ (according to Wikipedia, “Hoje” is a pronoun that fits this bill too, believe it or not!)
    • Sempre o vejo
    • Ainda me rio quando penso nisso.
    • Hoje¬†me¬†convidar√£o para a solenidade de posse da nova directoria
  2. After indefinite subjects such as “ambos” or “alguns”
    • Ambos o odeiam
  3. In subordinate clauses
    • Quando a ouvi, n√£o acreditei
  4. In coordinate clauses – basically where you’ve referred to a thing in a sentence already, then you use a conjunction like “and”, “but” or “or” to join to another clause where you refer to it again
    • Ou tens o bolo ou o comes.
  5. Where the subject of the verb goes after the verb it wold be crowded to have the object pronoun there too
    • Isso te digo eu

Mesóclise

The pronoun goes inside the verb like an insane pronoun sandwich, which seems… peculiar…. until you realise that it was originally because the future and conditional tenses were made up of the infinitive and a form of “havere” the version of latin that eventually became the portuguese language. Actually, it’s still peculiar, but knowing the reason behind it is some consolation, I suppose.

  1. Future tense [where none of the próclise conditions apply]
    • Contar-lhe-ia uma hist√≥ria
    • Com√™-lo-ei
    • BUT Quando sairmos do UE, n√£o o arrepender√°?
  2. Conditional tense
    • Dar-lhe-ia
    • BUT Se encontrasse Boris Johnson, nao lhe falaria

 

Ênclise

The pronoun goes after the verb

  1. Basically
  2. All
  3. Other
  4. Times
Posted in English, Portuguese

J√° and Ainda

Another one I get wrong from time to time: Vamos a isso!

Translating from this question on Ciberd√ļvidas: Somos tr√™s alunos estrangeiros a estudar na Univ. do Minho. A pergunta √©: qual a diferen√ßa na utiliza√ß√£o de j√° e de ainda?

1. “J√°” “ainda” are adverbs. I usually think of j√° as meaning “already” and “ainda” as “still”, but j√° has quite a few other meanings to do with immediacy, so it can be translated as “still” or “now” in some contexts.

a) When a question contains the word “j√°” and you want to reply in the affirmative, you always use “j√°” in the reply. If you want to reply in the negative, use “ainda n√£o”.

“J√° leste este romance?” (Have you read this book already?)

  • “Sim, j√° o li.” (“Yes, I’ve already read it”)
  • “J√°, sim.”
  • “J√°.”
  • “N√£o, ainda n√£o o li.” (“No, I still haven’t read it”)
  • “N√£o, ainda n√£o.”
  • “Ainda n√£o.”

b) Likewise, a question that contains “ainda” is answered with “ainda” if it’s positive or “j√° n√£o” if not
“Ainda vais sair?” (Are you still going to go out?)

  • “Sim, ainda vou.” (Yes, I’m still going to”)
  • “Sim, vou.”
  • “N√£o, j√° n√£o vou.” (No, I’m not going any more)
  • “N√£o, j√° n√£o.”
  • “J√° n√£o.”

2. In plain speech, “ainda” can have the following meanings
a) up to the current time (english: “still”)
“Ele ainda n√£o voltou.”
“Este velho carro ainda participa em corridas.”

b) up to that time (english: “still” again but about something in the past)
“Quando o filho nasceu, ele ainda morava em Lisboa.”

c) One day in the future
“Tu ainda h√°s-de ser muito feliz.”

d) Precisely, exactly
“Ainda ontem o vi.”

e) Also, furthermore (cf “ainda por cima”)
“Fui jantar, comi muito bem e ainda me diverti com a conversa do Miguel.”

f) Finally
“Tenho de arrumar a casa, ir √†s compras e, ainda, fazer o jantar.”

g) At least (surprised me but of course, we use “still” in this way in english too: “A meteior is about to strike the earth… still, mustn’t grumble, at least we won’t have to hear any more about Brexit”)
“Ainda se ele marcasse um golo, o dinheiro era bem gasto, mas assim…”

3. “J√°” on the other hand, has the following meanings:

a) Now, at the moment
“O menino j√° sabe ler.”
“O pai j√° n√£o tem paci√™ncia.”

b) Immediately, without delay
“Vou-me j√° embora.”
“Faz j√° isso!”

c) Before now, already
“Ele j√° tinha comido.”
“Eu j√° tinha visto este filme.”

d) Previously, before that time
“Eu j√° sabia que isso ia acontecer.”

Posted in English

Grammar Smackdown

In a very occasional series entitled “disagreeing with my Portuguese teacher”, here’s a more complicated example of tortuous grammar from the book I’ve just finished that underscores the reason I have to keep struggling with the word “se”.

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It’s confusing AF so I’ll highlight the salient words in red in both the original and translations so you can see where they go.

Talvez que o marido da tia Emília se tivesse podido salvar se estivesse na cidade e tivesse dinheiro para o médico e para os tratamentos.

I was convinced one of these was a reflexive pronoun but my teacher said they were both condicionals, not pronouns, which would make it

Maybe Aunt Em√≠lia’s husband if he had been able to save and if he was in the city and had enough money for the doctor and the treatments.

I scratched my head over this for a while because there doesn’t seem to be a main verb. I’ve just asked m’wife and she translated it the same way I would have, which makes me feel vindicated

Maybe Aunt Em√≠lia’s husband would have been able to save himself, if he was in the city and had enough money for the doctor and the treatments.

It’s confusing because the three verbs underlined in the original quote are in imperfect subjunctive tense, which can be triggered by “se” when it’s used as a conditional, so it’s hard to see if that “tivesse” is triggered by se (meaning if) just before it or by the “talvez” at the beginning of the sentence.

I reckon the first “se” is a reflexive pronoun and I’ve got my wife’s entirely unbiased opinion backing me up. In a less complicated sentence you could write it as “Se tem podido salvar” or “he has been able to save himself”. Or even less complicatesd, “Salvou-se”.

So there you go, if even two portuguese people can’t agree the meaning of a sentence, there’s no need to feel embarrassed if you don’t get it right straight away either.

Posted in English

Oh Se Can You See (Version 4)

This is an updated version of my brainstorm about the four intractable problems¬†(“4 evil exes”) I identified before my first B2 exam, trying to wrestle with the subject by putting it into a post, because explaining something to someone else is usually a pretty good way of learning it yourself. Since I wrote the first version, and then my second my understanding as developed a bit so I thought I’d update this to solidify that knowledge. Just ignore version 3 – it was just like 2 but with some new mistakes. In fact, in general, remember I’m writing this mainly as a way of helping my own understanding and you’d be crazy to believe anything I say. If you’re confused, go and ask a proper teacher.


 

Quite often in Portuguese, the word “Se” crops up in unexpected places, hanging around verbs, and it isn’t always clear what it’s doing there. Here is a breakdown of its possible uses,

As a word meaning “If”

This is the odd one out, really, and the easiest one to spot. In this case, the word happens to be hanging around the sentence and maybe the verb will have to change as a result¬†but in this case it’s not really strongly interacting with the verb, so you can just translate it in your had as “if” and move on.¬†If you’re at B2 level and don’t already know about the¬†subjunctive imperfect, go and have a read. Otherwise, forget it.

Não sei se na vossa casa sobrou muito chocolate dos ovos de Páscoa?

Or

Se tivesse dinheiro o suficiente, eu encheria a casa de livros

As a reflexive pronoun

Se is one of the pronouns used in the construction of reflexive verbs. Reflexive verbs. Reflexive verbs are just verbs in which the subject and the object can be the same thing. For example, “I can dress myself”. I am the one who is doing the dressing, and I am the one being dressed, so it’s a reflexive verb. In Portuguese and other romance languages, reflexive verbs seem a bit counter-intuitive.Sometimes they are used in situations you wouldn’t expect and sometimes they mean “each other” instead of “oneself”.

Of course, it’s not always “se”. The complete set of pronouns looks like this:

  • me
  • te
  • se
  • nos
  • vos
  • se

Here are some examples of reflexive verbs:

 Standard Meaning Reflexive Meaning
 lembrar to remind lembrar-se to remember
amar to love amar-se to love one another
 apaixonar to fall in love apaixonar-se to fall in love with each other
 deitar to lay (something) down deitar-se to lie down
 levantar to lift levantar-se to get up
 beijar to kiss beijar-se to snog each other
 banhar to bathe (someone) banhar-se to have a bath
 chamar to call (someone) chamar-se to be called/named
 lavar to wash something lavar-se to have a wash
 sentar* to put someone in a sitting position? sentar-se to sit down
 sentir  to sense something  sentir-se to be conscious of something
 voltar  to turn, return, re-do  voltar-se to turn around
 servir to serve servir-se to help oneself to
 vestir to dress someone vestir-se to get dressed
 ** suicidar-se to kill oneself
 cortar cut cortar-se to cut oneself
 achar to find achar-se to find oneself

*sentar apparently exists but it’s not used often

**When I first wrote this article I confidently said that “suicidar” couldn’t exist in a non-reflexive form since you can’t suicide someone else. However, you’ll occasionally come acorss this sort of thing:

https://twitter.com/OhFazFavor/status/774212893189496832?s=09

which my teacher tells me is just crap grammar.

And here are a few that need pronouns with them (to call back to this post)

Infinitive Meaning
aproveitar-se de to take advantage of
convencer-se de to convince oneself about
lembrar-se de to remember about
esquecer-se de to forget about
queixar-se de to complain about
rir-se* de to laugh about
decidir-se a to decide
dedicar-se a to dedicate oneself to
acostumar-se com to get familiar with
parecer-se com to resemble
surpreender-se com to be surprised by

*surprisingly, rir is supposed to be reflexive most of the time. You’re not laughing something, you’re just laughing. There’s nothing on the receiving end of the verb. People often use it non-reflexively but that’s an informal use.

Reflexive pronouns usually go after the verb in european portuguese (but there are exceptions such as negatives, questions and after words like “que”. In Brasil they just whack it in front of the verb, the dirty beasts.

If it’s a compound verb, you have options. With ir+infinitive, the pronoun can attach either to the stem or to the auxiliary

Ele vai-se encontrar com ela.

Ele vai encontrar-se com ela.

but with ter+participle it has to go after the auxiliary

Ele tinha-se separado de sua namorada.

Ele tinha separado-se de sua namorada.

Note that we usually think of reflexive verbs as “bouncing back” to the subject, so the subject and the object are the same person, like when we say in english “I’ve wet myself” instead of “I’ve wet the baby’s head”. This isn’t always true as we can see from the list above, and we can also think of it as having some sort of mutuality

Pedro e Maria deram-se as m√£os.

They held each other’s hands, not their own hands.

As an impersonal pronoun

When discussing a generalised situation – like the english “one”, described in this Portuguese grammar article as “sujeito indeterminado” (unknown subject)

One shouldn’t drink too much

It’s not used very often these days because it’s usually felt to sound a bit pretentious, so people will usually use “you”

You shouldn’t drink too much

which of course sounds as if the speaker is admonishing their listener directly to lay off the booze. This is a bit of a loss to the english language, because being able to speak in general terms is useful and avoids a lot of misunderstandings.

The Portuguese haven’t made this mistake and use “se” as an impersonal pronoun, which makes more sense, I think.

Here’s an example that really threw me because it was used with the verb “ser”

H√° uma frase inglesa que est√° sempre presente: “I had to smile“. Significa que se foi obrigado a sorrir

Se foi means “one was”. Some person was obliged to smile.

Similarly

Sabia que é preciso pagar para se ser santo?

I was confused because it looks like “Saint” is a noun and it’s the object of the verb so it shouldn’t need the se, but santo is more like a condition – an adjective. “Did you know that you need to pay to be [holy]” not “Did you know that you need to pay to be [a saint]” Now this seems to be a bit subtle but it seems to be a way of amphasising the verb as a verb. It’s optional, in other words, but it sounds better. Bloody hell…

Ou l√° o que se faz no Facebook

Or whatever happens on facebook.

Here’s a nice example that’s a lot harder to translate but pretty.

O √™xito do celebre poema de Florbela Espanca deve-se a maneira como trata o verbo amar como intransitivo. Ama-se como chove. Perguntar: “Mas amar quem?” √© como perguntar: “Chove quem?”

autorid01231OK, I said it would be hard to translate but I’ll have a go. Amar is normally a transitive verb (X loves Y.) but here Miguel Esteves Cardoso praises¬†¬†Florbela Espanca¬†for the way she uses it intransitively (X loves.) and he uses “se” to talk about how people in general love.

The success of the well-known poem of Florbela Espanca is owed to the way in which she treats the verb “to love” as an intransitive. One loves like it rains. To ask “but love who” is like asking “rain who?”

Um… well, I hope I’m not too far off the mark there. Incidentally, I think this is the poem he means.

Notice that he also uses “deve-se”, and that brings me onto the next type of se:

As part of a sentence in the passive voice

Passive voice is when you use a phrase like “it was done”, “mistakes were made”, “a murder was committed” instead of the more direct “He did it”, “We made a mistake” or “Someone committed murder”. I quite like this form of words and use it in writing but some people find it vague and evasive, and for that very reason it’s popular in political speech and PR briefings.

O √™xito do […] poema […] deve-se… means “The poem’s success is owed…” [or “is due to”]

“O livro publicou-se” means “the book was published”

Em Portugal bebe-se muito café (A lot of coffee is drunk in Portugal)

or

Fala-se Inglês (English is spoken here)

and in the negative…

N√£o se fala Espanhol no Brasil

One context that will be familiar to a lot of portuguese learners is this from the introduction to some of the Di√°logos in the Practice Portuguese Podcast:

As conversas que se seguem são baseadas em factos verídicos

“The conversations that follow are based on true facts.”

But which one is it?

Now, it’s not always clear whether a phrase like

Em Portugal bebe-se muito café

should be translated as “a lot of coffee is drunk” (passive voice) or “one drinks a lot of coffee” (imperonal pronoun) but, really, is there a lot difference?

Apparently the key is whether you can replace it with Ir+participle. Passive verbs described in the presvious section are known as “passiva sint√©tica” to distinguish it from “passive anal√≠tica” which is where you say something like¬†“Muito caf√© √© bebido em Portugal” and that works, so this is a passive voice construction. The only difference it seems to make is that in passive voice, the verb changes with the subject

“Muitos pasteis s√£o comidos em Portugal” => “Comem-se muitos bolos no Brasil”

…which means it’s reflexive, so if many cakes are eaten, it needs to be comem-se, not come-se.

But in the example given on the web page….

“Trabalha-se muito por aqui” can’t easily be transformed in the same way without changing the meaning “√Č trabalhado muito por aqui.” It doesn’t really work. So it won’t ever need to become “Trabalham-se muito por aqui” or “Trabalhas-te muito por aqui”. We don’t know who the subject is so we won’t ever make the verb agree with the subject.

I think in the more ambiguous cases, it’s best not to worry about translating and just read it as it is, and not think of it as directly equivalent to either english form. The upshot of both sentences is that an awful lot of coffee drinking goes on in Portugal. This is a good way of training yourself not to automatically translate everything into english but instead just try and absorb the meaning from the portuguese words.

For Emphasis?

I’t’s not quite clear how phrases like “Vou-me embora” fit into this. The subject is known and it’s not really passive. My teacher said it’s to do with emphasis, and the fact that it’s intransitive (ie, it’s a verb that just happens without needing to happen to something) probably helps too.

 

Posted in Portuguese

Homework

Attempts to grope my way towards proper use/non-use of the reflexive pronouns where the object of the verb is a condition as opposed to a “thing”. (a) answers are the former, and (b) the latter
1a) Sabe que é preciso pagar se ser português?
1b) Quer tenha cidadania quer não, não é possível ser um português verdadeiro se não foi criado lá.
2a) A Cristandade incentiva os seus aderentes se serem mais honestos.
2b) A Cristandade ajuda os seus aderentes serem pessoas melhores.
3a) A frase que se segue é mais um exemplo
3b) Esta frase segue a frase passada.
4a) Se ganhar o Euromillions, ir-me-ei feliz?
4b) Se mudar o meu modo de vida irei uma pessoa mais feliz?
5a) Fiquei desiludido por iTalki e por isso tornei-me membro do Lingq
5b) Fiquei desiludido pelo chuveiro e por isso tornei o torneira para tomar banho
6a) Ri muitas vezes enquanto li este livro
6b) Riu-se quando pensou da sua primeira tentativa falar português.
Posted in English

Oh Se Can You See (Version 3)

This is an updated version of my brainstorm about the four intractable problems¬†(“4 evil exes”) I identified before my first B2 exam, trying to wrestle with the subject by putting it into a post, because explaining something to someone else is usually a pretty good way of learning it yourself. Since I wrote the first version, and then my second my understanding as developed a bit so I thought I’d update this to solidify that knowledge.

Quite often in Portuguese, the word “Se” crops up in unexpected places, hanging around verbs, and it isn’t always clear what it’s doing there. Here is a breakdown of its possible uses,

As a word meaning “If”

This is the odd one out, really, and the easiest one to spot. In this case, the word happens to be hanging around the sentence and maybe the verb will have to change as a result¬†but in this case it’s not really strongly interacting with the verb, so you can just translate it in your had as “if” and move on.¬†If you’re at B2 level and don’t already know about the¬†subjunctive imperfect, go and have a read. Otherwise, forget it.

Não sei se na vossa casa sobrou muito chocolate dos ovos de Páscoa?

As a reflexive pronoun

Se is one of the pronouns used in the construction of reflexive verbs. Reflexive verbs. Reflexive verbs are just verbs in which the subject and the object can be the same thing. For example, “I can dress myself”. I am the one who is doing the dressing, and I am the one being dressed, so it’s a reflexive verb. In Portuguese and other romance languages, reflexive verbs seem a bit counter-intuitive.Sometimes they are used in situations you wouldn’t expect and sometimes they mean “each other” instead of “oneself”.

Of course, it’s not always “se”. The complete set of pronouns looks like this:

  • me
  • te
  • se
  • nos
  • vos
  • se

Here are some examples of reflexive verbs:

 Standard Meaning Reflexive Meaning
 lembrar to remind lembrar-se to remember
amar to love amar-se to love one another
 apaixonar to fall in love apaixonar-se to fall in love with each other
 deitar to lay (something) down deitar-se to lie down
 levantar to lift levantar-se to get up
 beijar to kiss beijar-se to snog each other
 banhar to bathe (someone) banhar-se to have a bath
 chamar to call (someone) chamar-se to be called/named
 lavar to wash something lavar-se to have a wash
 sentar* to put someone in a sitting position? sentar-se to sit down
 sentir  to sense something  sentir-se to be conscious of something
 voltar  to turn, return, re-do  voltar-se to turn around
 servir to serve servir-se to help oneself to
 vestir to dress someone vestir-se to get dressed
 ** suicidar-se to kill oneself
 cortar cut cortar-se to cut oneself
 achar to find achar-se to find oneself

*sentar apparently exists but it’s not used often

**When I first wrote this article I confidently said that “suicidar” couldn’t exist in a non-reflexive form since you can’t suicide someone else. However, you’ll occasionally come acorss this sort of thing:

https://twitter.com/OhFazFavor/status/774212893189496832?s=09

which my teacher tells me is just crap grammar.

And here are a few that need pronouns with them (to call back to this post)

Infinitive Meaning
aproveitar-se de to take advantage of
convencer-se de to convince oneself about
lembrar-se de to remember about
esquecer-se de to forget about
queixar-se de to complain about
rir-se* de to laugh about
decidir-se a to decide
dedicar-se a to dedicate oneself to
acostumar-se com to get familiar with
parecer-se com to resemble
surpreender-se com to be surprised by

*surprisingly, rir is supposed to be reflexive most of the time. You’re not laughing something, you’re just laughing. There’s nothing on the receiving end of the verb. People often use it non-reflexively but that’s an informal use.

As an impersonal pronoun

When discussing a generalised situation – like the english “one”

One shouldn’t drink too much

It’s not used very often these days because it’s usually felt to sound a bit pretentious, so people will usually use “you”

You shouldn’t drink too much

which of course sounds as if the speaker is admonishing their listener directly to lay off the booze. This is a bit of a loss to the english language, because being able to speak in general terms is useful and avoids a lot of misunderstandings.

The Portuguese haven’t made this mistake and use “se” as an impersonal pronoun, which makes more sense, I think.

Here’s an example that really threw me because it was used with the verb “ser”

H√° uma frase inglesa que est√° sempre presente: “I had to smile“. Significa que se foi obrigado a sorrir

Se foi means “one was”. Some person was obliged to smile.

Similarly

Sabia que é preciso pagar se ser santo?

I was confused because it looks lihe “Saint” is a noun and it’s the object of the verb so it shouldn’t need the se, but santo is more like a condition – an adjective. “Did you know that you need to pay to be [holy]” not “Did you know that you need to pay to be [a saint]” There isn’t really a thing or an object on the receiving end of the verb.

Ou l√° o que se faz no Facebook

Or whatever happens on facebook.

Here’s a nice example that’s a lot harder to translate but pretty.

O √™xito do celebre poema de Florbela Espanca deve-se a maneira como trata o verbo amar como intransitivo. Ama-se como chove. Perguntar: “Mas amar quem?” √© como perguntar: “Chove quem?”

autorid01231OK, I said it would be hard to translate but I’ll have a go. Amar is normally a transitive verb (X loves Y.) but here Miguel Esteves Cardoso praises¬†¬†Florbela Espanca¬†for the way she uses it intransitively (X loves.) and he uses “se” to talk about how people in general love.

The success of the well-known poem of Florbela Espanca is owed to the way in which she treats the verb “to love” as an intransitive. One loves like it rains. To ask “but love who” is like asking “rain who?”

Um… well, I hope I’m not too far off the mark there. Incidentally, I think this is the poem he means.

Notice that he also uses “deve-se”, and that brings me onto the next type of se:

As part of a sentence in the passive voice

Passive voice is when you use a phrase like “it was done”, “mistakes were made”, “a murder was committed” instead of the more direct “He did it”, “We made a mistake” or “Someone committed murder”. I quite like this form of words and use it in writing but some people find it vague and evasive, and for that very reason it’s popular in political speech and PR briefings.

O √™xito do […] poema […] deve-se… means “The poem’s success is owed…” [or “is due to”]

“O livro publicou-se” means “the book was published”

Em Portugal bebe-se muito café (A lot of coffee is drunk in Portugal)

or

Fala-se Inglês (English is spoken here)

and in the negative…

N√£o se fala Espanhol no Brasil

But which one is it?

Now, it’s not always clear whether a phrase like

Em Portugal bebe-se muito café

should be translated as “a lot of coffee is drunk” (passive voice) or “one drinks a lot of coffee” (imperonal pronoun) but, really, is there a lot difference? I think in the more ambiguous cases, it’s best not to worry about translating and just read it as it is, and not think of it as directly equivalent to either english form. The upshot of both sentences is that an awful lot of coffee drinking goes on in Portugal. This is a good way of training yourself not to automatically translate everything into english but instead just try and absorb the meaning from the portuguese words.