v39: flyttas

Here’s a test for you. Is each of the s-forms in the examples and photos below, passive or deponent?

1. Cyklar flyttas
2. Se och synas
3. …Firefox startas



1. Cyklar flyttas = Bicycles are being moved. Passive. You might think it is a deponent, and translate as Bicycles are moving, but flyttar means move as in move location. Inanimate objects don’t move of their own accord, they get moved. People, however, can both move and be moved:

Vi flyttas = We are being moved
Vi flyttar = We are moving


2. Se och synas = See and appear. Deponent. Optician. Just remember the list of deponent verbs.

3. …Firefox startas = …Firefox is started. Passive. This is a bit trickier, because …Firefox starts is an equally good translation. However, it seems that in Swedish, computer programs (for example) don’t start, they get started.

Enough of s-forms (for now). I hope they’re starting to make a little more sense to you!

Published in: on November 5, 2010 at 10:05  Comments (3)  
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v38: minnas

Wikipedia says that a deponent verb is active in meaning, but passive in form. The University of Surrey describes deponency more generally as a mismatch between morphology and morphosyntax. That is, a mismatch between form and function. There is a fairly accessible paper by Matthew Baerman which goes into more details.

The active/passive verb contrast is the archetypal example of deponency thanks to Latin, but it is alive and well in, of all languages, modern Swedish. And perhaps even more interestingly, not in Danish and Norwegian. Let me show you what I mean:

Jag minns att jag gjorde det.
I remember that I did it.

In the above sentence, minns is clearly functioning as an active verb (subject = agent), but is an s-form; the normal active form would be minnar, which doesn’t exist. Note, however, that minnas (the s-form infinitive) covers only part of the meaning of English remember: to remember something in the past, or to reminisce. To remember a specific thing in the present, use komma ihåg or glömma inte (don’t forget).

Deponent verbs take a bit of getting used to. Fortunately, the list of deponent verbs is quite short, but unfortunately, some of them are rather common, so you’re just going to have to do some learning. Here’s a partial list:

andas = to breathe
hoppas = to hope
kräkas = to vomit
låtsas = to pretend
minnas = to remember
synas = to appear
trivas = to like it
trängas = to crowd

It’s hard to generalise about the deponent verbs, these examples give an idea of the diversity of ways in which they are used:

Minnas can behave just like a normal active verb:

Jag minns min gamla cykel.
I remember my old bicycle.

Hoppas and låtsas are modal equivalents (followed by the bare infinitive, remember?):

Pilot låtsas svimma
Pilot pretends to faint

Trängas has an active pair, tränga:

Vi fick trängas i bussen.
We were crowded together in the bus.
Försökte tränga bil av vägen
Attempted to push car off the road

Got all that? Well, then, next post we’d better have a little test…

Published in: on November 4, 2010 at 11:33  Leave a Comment  
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