"se" vs. "si"

Discussion in 'Grammar & Pronunciation' started by brook, Mar 10, 2006.

  1. brook

    brook Well-Known Member

    This example was given in another post:

    I spilled beer on myself. = Polil jsem se pivem.
    I spilled beer on my shirt. = Polil jsem si pivem košili.

    There is one thing I am still not absolutely clear on and that is when to use "se" and when to use "si." I know that se is reflexive and used when referring to yourself, but what about si? Is there only one rule regarding si or many? We've talked about this in our czech class before, but it just never soaked in. :?

    Thanks so much for any insights you can give me!
  2. Wicker808

    Wicker808 Well-Known Member

    Hi brook.

    Good question. The answer is that "si" is the dative form the reflexive pronoun, and "se" is the accusative. This means that "si" normally indicates an indirect object, and "se" usually indicates a direct object. Translated to trough English, therefore, "se" means "oneself" and "si" means "to oneself." (Very roughly.)

    In order to fully understand the syntax of these example sentences, you need to understand the syntax of the verb.

    Polít roughly means to "spill on" or maybe "to make wet by spillage." It takes a direct object (in accusative case) showing what has had something spilled on it. It takes a instrument (in instrumental case) showing what has been spilled. And it can also take an indirect object (in dative case) showing the recipient or beneficiary of the spillage, or, more likely, the owner of the direct object.

    Therefore the first example sentence can be analyzed as such: The subject is já, I. The direct object is "se" oneself. And the instrument is beer. So, I spilled beer on myself.

    The second example sentence is similar, but a little more complicated. The instrument is still beer. The direct object is now košile, shirt. And the owner of the shirt is expressed using an indirect object, si. So, I spilled beer on my (one's own) shirt. If we replace the "si" with "ti" it would mean, I spilled beer on your shirt. We could also theoretically eliminate the indirect object entirely, and the resulting sentence would mean "I spilled beer on a/the shirt."

    Indirect objects are often used in Czech where in English you would expect a posessive pronoun. For example, "Ukradli mi auto" means "They stole my car." Gramatically correct, but stylistically unusual, is "Ukradli moje auto."

    "Si" and "se" are the short forms of the reflexive pronouns... the "long" stressed forms are used when you want to emphasize them. These are, respectively, sobě and sebe.

    There are other Czech verbs that can also be translated as "to spill," but they may have a different syntax. For example, "rozlít" is similar to "polít" but the direct object is used to show what was spilled, rather than the instrumental case.

    This may have been more explanation than you really wanted... but too late now. :)

    Oh, and if you ever happen to find yourself in a Booeymonger, or in Julia's Empanadas in Dupont Circle... pick something up for me, will you? :)
  3. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    In addition (and in accordance with Wicker808's comment), "se" is very often used (in a little alibistic way :wink:) to construct passive form - e.g.

    dům se staví ~ house is built (house build itself)
    dělá se to snadno ~ it is easy to done

    and "si" is used to express pleasure or amusement - e.g.

    čtu si ~ I read for myself, I read for amusement.
  4. fabik317

    fabik317 Well-Known Member

    in a nutshell (though maybe not absolutely precise) "se" means "by self" and "si" means "to self"
  5. brook

    brook Well-Known Member

    Thank you so much! I love those "aha!" moments. :mrgreen: That makes a lot more sense now. We hadn't covered the dative when se and si were first introduced so it makes sense to me now why that would go over my head. We are just now diving into dative...I think the only one left for us is instrumental...at which point I think I'm supposed to be somewhat proficient in the czech language, haha...

    Wicker - I'm happy that someone else knows what an empanada is! (for the curious, an empanada is basically a little fried pie with any number of fillings from savory to sweet. Here is a general photo: http://www.redargentina.com/recetas/images/empanada.jpg). I love the Dupont area - so many interesting people in this city. :)
  6. brook

    brook Well-Known Member


    Polila jsem ti pivem košili. ~ I spilled beer on your shirt.

    Čtu si česky ~ I read czech for pleasure. (or amusement? :wink: )
  7. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Hey Wicker---That's fantastic.
    Your se and si explanation was pretty enlightening.
    Reflexive--se -accusative
    si-is dative
    Oy vey. Lights are coming on.

    Napil jsme se--We drank
    Napil jsem neco--we drank something

    Oblekam si kosili-I am putting on (for myself) shirt
    Oblekam se-I am getting dressed.

    Myslim si, ze vysvetlite veci dobre
    I am thinking (to myself), that you explain things well.

    Snidal jsem se--I ate breakfast(no direct object)
    Snidal jsem chleb-I had bread for breakfast
    Vyspali jsme se dobre
    So I can say
    Ukradli si auto-They stole for themselves a car?

    I will save that explanation of yours.
  8. Wicker808

    Wicker808 Well-Known Member

    I'm glad that you found my explanation useful. But be careful, not all verbs work exactly like this.

    For example, "napít se" meaning "to have a drink" always requires the reflexive accusative pronoun. If you want to specify an object, it needs to be in the genitive case. Thus:

    Napil jsem se. I had a drink.
    Napil jsem se něčeho. I had a drink of something.

    Your example with oblékat is correct. In addition, this verb supports an additional syntax, where the person being dressed is in the accusative. Thus:

    Oblékám dítě. I am dressing the child.

    Also, be careful of aspectual errors. Present tense requires an imperfective verb. So you need to say:

    Myslím si, že vysvětlujete věci dobře.

    Or, since this is an informal environment:

    Myslím si, že vysvětluješ věci dobře.

    Some verbs are never or rarely used with reflexive pronouns. So what you wrote would mean:

    *Snídal jsem se. *I was having myself for breakfast.

    You want to say:

    Posnídal jsem chléb. I had bread for breakfast. I breakfasted on bread.

    Likewise, be careful of overuse of reflexive pronouns. What you wrote would mean:

    *Ukradli si auto. *They stole the car from themselves/each other.

    What you want to say is:

    Ukradli auto pro sebe. They stole a car for themselves.

    Note that the semantics of ukrást are different in Czech than in English. In English, you can use the indirect object to specify the recipient. (For example: I stole my mother a new car.) In Czech, the indirect object specifies from whom it was stolen. Thus to specify the recipient, you need to use a preposition.

    So, in summary: each verb has different semantics for using reflexivity. And it's basically necessary to memorize how it works for each verb. Fortunately, all verbs fall into one of several categories, and eventually you'll start to recognize patterns.

    I hope that's clear. If you have any more quesions, go ahead and ask.
  9. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Dekuju Wicker
    Napil jsem se mleka/vody/piva---neceho
    Ukradli jim auto, protoze nechali klice v aute.
    Zlodej ukradl auto pro sebe, prototoze ho policajti honili.
    Myslim si, ze vysvetlujes veci-----
    How about this
    Myslel jsem si, ze to vysvetlil dobre?

    This is great Wicker
    Are you a teacher?
    Zda se mi, ze vis mluvnice velmi dobre.
    The syntax is tricky
    By this word, do you mean whether the verb takes a direct object or
    indirect object.
    Got any questions about English, je se ptej.
  10. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Dyt, jen se ptej.

    Also--most verbs have aspectual pairs.
    Some use budu, budes, apd. to create future tense.
    Is there a certain class of verb that does this? I am looking for a pattern to help me.
    Sometimes I find myself trying to create a non-existant verb by forming what I think would be the verbs partner.
    I will use myslet as an example ok?
    Budu myslet--I will think
    Myslel jsem---I thought-I was thinking
    Myslim-I am thinking
    Now, if I did not know better, I might try to form it's non-existant partner by saying vymyslet--But that is a different meaning--to think something up..
    That's not a really good example, ale je jen vec, ze bych se mohl vymyslet.
  11. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    Maybe, scrimshaw want to say:

    "Nasnídal jsem se"

    I think it is'nt so simple. Thief is usual recipient of booty, so there's no need to emphasize it once again by using "si" but IMHO it's grammatically correct.

    "Ukradli si auto" could be both "They stole a car from themselves/each other" and "They stole a car for themselves"

    exactly in the same way as

    "Vzali si auto" could be both "Thay took a car from themselves/each other" and "They took a car for themselves".
  12. eso

    eso Well-Known Member

    "Ukradli si auto" activated my amateur poetry gene:

    Dva zloději, byli, žili,
    slušní, žádná holota,
    ukradli si auto a snili...
    o jízdě až do konce života.


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