Thursday, January 12, 2012

Haves and Haves Not

The verb to have seems like a such basic thing.  Every language must have one, of course?  Actually, while the Latin-based languages do, other languages have invented others ways to signal possession.
While the English to have and the French avoir are possessive verbs in themselves, Russian and Hebrew used somewhat complex structures: у меня есть [u menya yest] and יש לי [yesh li], literally meaning there is to me.  Somehow the existential verb to be gets involved, with the possessor being marked as an object, not a subject of the sentence.
The situation becomes much hotter (or colder) when viewing how people feel. The straightforward English I am cold become J’ai froid [I have cold] in French, мне холодно [mene holodno] or קר לי [kar li] cold to me in Russian and Hebrew, respectively.
As for eating, in English, one has breakfast, lunch, and dinner whereas, in French and Hebrew, people more logically eat those meals.  Russian is the most efficient by having specific verbs:  завтракать [zavtrakatz] and обедать [obedatz].
An unsuspecting American or Brit risks ridicule by saying Je suis plein(e) after a meal, literally translating I am full, unless it is a woman, who may be congratulated.  The French phrase means I am pregnant.
I’ll leave on that note and hope that you have a good day.

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