Could you explain 'the slightly different meaning' between 'There are no mice' and 'Mice do not exist'? Dependent on the context, both phrases can mean exactly the same, no? Cf. Dutch: 'Er zijn geen muizen' and 'Muizen bestaan niet'. The first sentence could have a more specific meaning, given a certain context. Same for German.
"Finns" is quite difficult to translate into English. It is somewhere in between "to be" and "to exist". Sometimes the correct translation will be one and other times it will be the other.
I would recommend exposing yourself to many sentences with "finns" and try to get a feeling for the word instead of trying to find a perfect English translation.
What is it that decides whether finns means "exists in reality" or the more general "is over there" sense? What made this sentence clear that mice simply dont exist, as opposed to there not being any (in some implied location), as in other examples with bread. Is it dependent on the noun (ie for mice finns = exists)? Is it because this sentence is negated? Did the conjugation of "inte" give it away?
In common usage, would the implication of this sentence be more localized?
That is, rather than essentially saying "Mice are a figment of your imagination," would this sentence communicate more along the lines of, "Not in my kitchen. I clean up after every meal. Here in this house, mice do not exist"?
I first wrote "there are no mice" which was taken wrong. So I asked my girlfriend who's from Sweden and she said that the sentence is incomplete. It need a specification of space or time. Something like "Möss finns inte i mitt hus" or "Möss finns inte längre". As it is, she says, it is bad Swedish. To say "mice don't exist" you'd have to say "Det finns inga möss". She is an experienced translator so I trust her more than Duolingo :)
That's not quite right. You know how English, somewhat simplified, can phrase this in two ways, using either "no" or "not", with a slight difference in meaning:
- There are no mice
- Mice do not exist
Swedish does the same thing:
- Det finns inga möss
- Möss finns inte
These correspond to the English sentences perfectly, and are just as grammatical, even though the grammar for the second is more like "Mice exist not" if that had been idiomatic English.
But there's no reason to specify space or time: the sentences are complete and valid just as they are - much like in English.
Swedish girlfriend responding now :) Well, the distinction between the two ways of saying it is valid as you describe. However, we do not say ”Möss finns inte”, it is not idiomatic. To use this construction we need a determined noun, ”bestämd form” in Swedish. So, we can say ”Mössen finns inte” when we are talking about specific mice that we are looking for but do not find, for example. But from the moment you say the noun in the generic form, in this case ”möss”, it presupposes that it exists. So we have to introduce it with ”Det finns inga” to show that we want to mention something that does not exist.
I can just think of one possible situation when ”Möss finns inte” could be used and that it if someone asks someone for example if they have different things in their country. ”Finns det lejon (i ditt land)?” ”Ja.” ”Finns det hästar?” ”Ja.” ”Finns det möss?” ”(Nej,) möss finns (det) inte.” So in this case "möss" is placed first in the sentence to emphasize that we have a lot of different animals, but mice, we do not have. And in this case, we would translate it with ”There are no mice”, not with ”Mice do not exist”. It is very difficult to describe the very small difference between these two phrases expressing almost the same thing, but in short, a Swedish person would not use ”Möss finns inte” if wanting to say that mice do not exist. It just sounds strange and incomplete to us. Having said that, it does not mean that we would not understand it
I'm also Swedish - I just reply in English since many learners have expressed that they prefer I do.
I honestly really don't get why you'd think this. I mean, of course the phrase requires context, but it's not hard to construct a context where it's perfectly grammatical and natural.
- Vi har pratat om det här. Möss finns inte!
- Ankor finns inte. Möss finns inte. Hästar finns inte. Vilka djur finns egentligen?
It also functions as a mass noun even if later referred to in the definite. Hence, both of these work:
- Möss finns inte, även om de tror att de gör det.
- Mössen finns inte, även om de tror att de gör det.
Personally, I find the top one much better, for basically the same reason that "mice don't exist" is better than "the mice don't exist" in English in general.
I respect if this sounds unnatural to you, but it's not an uncommon construction in Swedish at all, and I really doubt that most natives would find it odd. As a sanity check, I asked five different natives about it, and everybody thought it was perfectly natural.