BCS: numbered plural 2-4

< Previous | Next >

polskajason

Member
English - American
I had always learned that, and confirmed via a cursory Google search, that for the plural of 2, 3, or 4 objects, you use the genitive singular.

jedan pas
dva psa
tri psa
četiri psa
(pet psova, itd)

However, for any associated adjectives, that's clearly not the case (at least for masculine nouns):
dva stara psa (not: dva starog psa)

And the associated verb form, for the past, has the same form as neuter plural:
dva stara psa su došla

What are the rules exactly?
 
  • Zec

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    Hello,

    what we have here is a special "counted plural" form, used with numerals 2, 3 and 4. For some words it is identical to the genitive singular, but for others it isn't, as you've learned the hard way... "same as gentive singular" looks like a helpful trick for memorizing this form, but in the end it turns out less than helpful!

    The exact rules can be found in this book. For noun, adjective and pronoun declensions, start at page 28, section 2.1.2, where you will see the "counted plural" form explicitely written out in declension tables. For the L-participle (the form used to form the past tense you have in mind here) declension, look at page 43, section 2.2.1.8, where the "counted plural" form is also explicitly written out. For the use of this form, start at page 78, section 3.10.4.

    Also, I've spotted a mistake: the genitive plural of pas is pasa, not *psova, so: pet pasa. :)

    (a note: in the book it says the "counted plural" form doesn't distinguish cases. This is only true of some varieties of the language (it depends on the region and on the register of the language). As in the spoken language of all regions the "counted plural" form doesn't, indeed, distinguish cases, you don't need to worry about that.)
     

    polskajason

    Member
    English - American
    Thank you so much for a reply that was far more thorough than I had expected! And I appreciate the correction on pasa. :)
     
    • Thank you!
    Reactions: Zec

    Panceltic

    Senior Member
    Slovenščina
    Just to add to Zec's explanation, the special form discussed here is called "paucal" number. In Slavic languages, it is common to have a "count" form like this, usually connected to the numbers 2-4
     

    QuasiTriestino

    Senior Member
    American English
    a note: in the book it says the "counted plural" form doesn't distinguish cases.
    This always confuses me. If I want to say "I gave the dog a cookie" --> Dao sam keks psu. If I want to say "I gave the dogs a cookie" -> Dao sam keks psima.

    But when I ask Serbian friends how can I say "I gave three dogs a cookie", invariably they first try "Dao sam keks psima" and when I press them, "No, no. Three dogs...", they always give me a confused look. In Slovenian, for example, there are different cases for numbers and there's no question what form of "three dogs" you'd use.

    How could I translate this in BCS and somehow get across that "three dogs" is in the dative case?
     

    jazyk

    Senior Member
    Brazílie, portugalština
    Dao som keks trima psima.

    But I think I've read somewhere that BCS speakers don't (like to) decline numbers in some situations, so I'm not sure anymore.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Not Czech, Polish, and Slovak.
    In Russian there are several nouns where the paucal count form isn't identical to the genitive singular form (the difference is in the stressed syllable: sg. gen. chása "of an hour" vs. dvá chasá "two hours"), but that's not really typical. The adjectives in numeral phrases are a mess, though. For 2-4 they will be genitive plural, but feminine adjectives are more typically nominative plural (and the exact preferences are decided by the context: animacy, the numeral, the declension paradigm of the feminine noun, etc.).
    In Slovenian, for example, there are different cases for numbers and there's no question what form of "three dogs" you'd use.
    P.S.: And if a numeral phrase appears in an oblique case in Russian, then all the complexety disappears: everything begins to agree in number and case (три больших пса - трём большим псам, трёх больших псов, тремя большими псами etc.)
     
    Last edited:

    Panceltic

    Senior Member
    Slovenščina
    Bulgarian is an interesting case, its "count forms" occur only in the masculine. There is even an instance of a suppletive stem: човек "a person", pl. хора "people", count form души (stressed on the "u", as opposed to душа, души (stressed on the last syllable) "soul(s)").

    In Slovenian, we don't have paucal. Instead we use nominative singular for 1, nominative dual for 2, nominative plural for 3 and 4, and genitive plural for 5+ (up to 100), e.g. "en mož, dva moža, trije možje, štirje možje, pet mož ..." Both the numeral and the noun decline normally: "enega moža, dveh mož, treh mož, štirih mož, petih mož; enemu možu, dvema možema, trem možem, štirim možem, petim možem" etc.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    There is even an instance of a suppletive stem: човек "a person", pl. хора "people", count form души (stressed on the "u", as opposed to душа, души (stressed on the last syllable) "soul(s)").
    In Russian челове́к "human, person" with the normal plural form лю́ди "humans, people" has the count form челове́ка for 2-4 (which is the quite expected genitive singular form) and челове́к for other "plural" numerals (which genitive plural form isn't used without a numeral, being otherwise replaced by людéй).

    P.S.: Counting people in "souls" is archaic in Russian, although it can still be found in some expressions.
     
    Last edited:

    nimak

    Senior Member
    Macedonian
    @Panceltic
    In Russian челове́к "human, person" with the normal plural form лю́ди "humans, people" has the count form челове́ка for 2-4 (which is the quite expected genitive singular form) and челове́к for other "plural" numerals (which genitive plural form isn't used without a numeral, being replaced by людéй).
    In Macedonian the "regular" plural of чóвек "human, person, man" is actually a collective plural лýѓе (лýд-је) ['ɫuɟɛ], and it is used as a count form too: двајца луѓе; пет луѓе; десет луѓе; сто луѓе etc. In some Macedonian dialects are used the forms: човека and човеци too. Дýши, which also means "souls", is used as a count form too.
     

    Zec

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    This always confuses me. If I want to say "I gave the dog a cookie" --> Dao sam keks psu. If I want to say "I gave the dogs a cookie" -> Dao sam keks psima.

    But when I ask Serbian friends how can I say "I gave three dogs a cookie", invariably they first try "Dao sam keks psima" and when I press them, "No, no. Three dogs...", they always give me a confused look. In Slovenian, for example, there are different cases for numbers and there's no question what form of "three dogs" you'd use.

    How could I translate this in BCS and somehow get across that "three dogs" is in the dative case?
    Dao som keks trima psima.

    But I think I've read somewhere that BCS speakers don't (like to) decline numbers in some situations, so I'm not sure anymore.
    This is what I alluded to in my note, skipping the details so as not to overwhelm the OP. When declining counted nouns, there are two options: a more archaic one, where both numerals 2-4 and the count form are declined, and a more innovative one, where neither the numerals nor the count form are declined. The latter prevails in spoken registers of standard BCS, while the former is found in formal registers of standard Croatian at least* and in various dialects.

    In the declined option, the special count form endings are only used in the Nom. and Acc. cases**, in other cases the usual plural endings are used:

    1. Nom: Dva/tri/četiri psa laju. 'Two/three/four dogs are barking.'
    2. Acc: Vidim dva/tri/četiri psa. 'I see two/three/four dogs.'
    3. Gen: Ne mogu bez svojih dvaju/triju/četiriju pasa. 'I can't live without my two/three/four dogs.'
    4. Dat: Dao sam keks dvama/trima/četirima psima. 'I gave a cookie to two/three/four dogs.'
    5. Loc: Brinem se o svojim dvama/trima/četirima psima. 'I take care of my two/three/four dogs.'
    6. Inst: Igram se s dvama/trima/četirima psima. 'I'm playing with two/three/four dogs.'

    In the non-declined option, basically, the form seen above in the Nom. and Acc. is generalized to all cases:

    • Nom: Dva/tri/četiri psa laju. 'Two/three/four dogs are barking.'
    • Acc: Vidim dva/tri/četiri psa. 'I see two/three/four dogs.'
    • Gen: Ne mogu bez svoja dva/tri/četiri psa. 'I can't live without my two/three/four dogs.'
    • Dat: (?) Dao sam keks dva/tri/četiri psa. 'I gave a cookie to two/three/four dogs.'
    • Loc: Brinem se o svoja dva/tri/četiri psa. 'I take care of my two/three/four dogs.'
    • Inst: Igram se s dva/tri/četiri psa. 'I'm playing with two/three/four dogs.'

    Basically, when there is a preposition to indicate the role of the phrase, as in bez svoja dva/tri/četiri psa or in s dva/tri/četiri psa, nobody blinks an eye and not declining numerals and the count form is not a problem at all. But when there is no such preposition, then the confused looks you mentioned happen.*** the sentence "Dao sam keks dva/tri/četiri psa." is really weird and it definitely wouldn't be the way I would say it. I would rather use the nouns dvojica/trojica/četvorica 'a group of two/three/four', which is declinable, and say "Dao sam keks dvojici/trojici/četvorici pasa. But these nouns are only found in the masculine gender, so this trick isn't an option when counting cats, for example. In addition, they are usually only used when counting humans, so using them to count dogs is already stretching it.


    *standard Croatian actually insists on declining numerals and the count form. As for standard Bosnian and Serbian, AFAIK, they don't insist on doing so, although they still keep the declension as an option.
    **theoretically also in the Voc. case, although I can't think of a situation where one would use a numeral + noun combination in the Voc.
    ***this actually depends on the exact case. An undeclined possessive genitive, as in On je vlasnik dva/tri/četiri psa. 'He's the owner of two/three/four dogs.' sounds much less weird than an undeclined dative, as in Dao sam keks dva/tri/četiri psa.
     

    Lazar_Bgd

    Member
    Serbian - Serbia
    How could I translate this in BCS and somehow get across that "three dogs" is in the dative case?

    That’s a tough one indeed. I think we generally avoid saying numbers in that kind of sentences. Here are a couple of examples (don’t know about the rules, this is just how it sounds acceptable to me in Serbian).

    Dao sam keks jednom psu (totally OK)
    Dao sam keks trima psima (OK)
    Dao sam keks četirima psima (not really)
    Dao sam keks pet/sedam/deset psima (no way).

    This construction seems to work no problem, though, if the object is a human being and in masculine:
    She sent letters to five/ten friends => Poslala je pisma petorici/desetorici prijatelja.
    ’Dao sam keks dvojici/trojici/četvorici pasa’ sounds funny as it somehow implies that the dogs are humans.

    If the object is feminine, it works up to the number of five:
    Poslala je pismo jednoj prijateljici.
    Poslala je pismo dvema/trima prijateljicama.
    Poslala je pismo četirima prijateljicama. (with 4 it is a bit stretched, one doesn't hear it very often)
    This could also include animals:
    She gave food to two birds => Dala je hranu dvema pticama.

    And then from five on it has to be paraphrased:
    She sent letters to five/ten girlfriends. One might translate this as:
    ’Ima pet/deset prijateljica kojima je poslala pisma’ (i.e. ’She has five/ten girlfriends to whom she sent letters’).

    One can also express this for one object in neuter:
    He gave a toy to one child => Dao je igračku jednom detetu.

    So, a suggestion to get round this ‘five/seven etc. dogs’ as in your example might be to try and put this number somewhere else (if possible), like:
    I saw five dogs and I gave them cookies => Video sam pet pasa i dao sam im kekse.
    Or
    I have seven dogs and I gave them cookies => Imam sedam pasa i dao sam im kekse.
     
    Last edited:

    nimak

    Senior Member
    Macedonian
    So, a suggestion to get round this ‘five/seven etc. dogs’ as in your example might be to try and put this number somewhere else (if possible), like:
    ...
    Imam sedam pasa i dao sam im kekse.
    This one is not possible and/or natural?
    Dao sam kekse mojim sedam psima.

    Also, this one:
    Dao sam kekse jednim sedam psima.
     

    Lazar_Bgd

    Member
    Serbian - Serbia
    This one is not possible and/or natural?
    Dao sam kekse mojim sedam psima.
    Not really because this 'sedam' is in nominative or accusative case and it clashes with the rest of the sentence. When you start a sentence with 'I gave something to...' you kind of expect to hear the number with the inflexion for dative, which doesn't exist, so it's better paraphrased. Of course, everyone will understand you but no one really talks like that.

    Your second sentence is wrong. We don't use two numbers next to each other.
     

    QuasiTriestino

    Senior Member
    American English
    So, a suggestion to get round this ‘five/seven etc. dogs’ as in your example might be to try and put this number somewhere else (if possible), like:
    I saw five dogs and I gave them cookies => Video sam pet pasa i dao sam im kekse.
    Or
    I have seven dogs and I gave them cookies => Imam sedam pasa i dao sam im kekse.
    This is exactly what happened when I asked some Serbian friends how to make this sentence work. After the momentary confusion, they immediately switched to a different phrase to get the point across. Thanks for the tips!

    But when there is no such preposition, then the confused looks you mentioned happen.
    And I'm guessing you can't force the matter by throwing in a "u" or a "na" or even a "za" before tri psa? (Which is exactly what my English-speaking brain would attempt to do.)
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    And I'm guessing you can't force the matter by throwing in a "u" or a "na" or even a "za" before tri psa? (Which is exactly what my English-speaking brain would attempt to do.)
    As far as I know, "dati" in the meaning "to give" doesn't have alternative government models, unlike English "give".
     

    Zec

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    And I'm guessing you can't force the matter by throwing in a "u" or a "na" or even a "za" before tri psa? (Which is exactly what my English-speaking brain would attempt to do.)
    I thought about it, and the answer is no. It's the obvious solution, but it hasn't been attempted yet by the native speakers of the language. Not even in the possessive genitive, where there is some precedent for using that case with a preposition*, let alone in the dative.

    *in the spoken language, the possessive genitive is often used with a redundant preposition od 'from', e.g. To je stan od moje bake 'This is my grandma's apartment' instead of To je stan moje bake. However, there seem to be some constraints on using it, and I haven't figured out what they are exactly. As I said in my previous post, I wouldn't spontaneously use od with dva/tri/četiri psa, for example: On je vlasnik dva/tri/četiri psa 'He's the owner of two/three/four dogs' sounds perfectly fine and examples of such sentences can be found by googling it.

    As for dvojici/trojici/četvorici pasa... yes, that's weird! It's not how one would say it in an actual conversation. I was a bit too creative when I wrote this sentence.
     

    Daniel.N

    Member
    Croatian
    *in the spoken language, the possessive genitive is often used with a redundant preposition od 'from', e.g. To je stan od moje bake 'This is my grandma's apartment' instead of To je stan moje bake. However, there seem to be some constraints on using it, and I haven't figured out what they are exactly.
    It's not redundant, since it makes possible to make sentences like this:

    *Knjiga je mog prijatelja Marka. *Lopta je Ivana.

    Knjiga je od mog prijatelja Marka. Lopta je od Ivana.


    This then a semantic expansion of the origin, the book is "from him" > it's "his". The point is getting rid of possessive adjectives, which spoken language seems to be doing. The od + G phrases then behave as (postponed) possessive adjectives (auto od moje žene), used also as predicates (auto je od moje žene).
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top