"I do not know any soldiers."

Translation:Én nem ismerek katonákat.

August 19, 2016

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So, why not "Én nem katonákat ismerek"?


That is saying "It is not soldiers that I know." I'm not sure the English sentence is trying to express that.


Okay, köszönöm :)


Does the english translation match perfectly with the Hungarian? I dont see a word for any.


It's better get used to the fact you rarely get one-by-one matches for different languages. It's very possible you won't see the same words or even the same amount of words when translating a sentence which is meant to, well, mean something. :)

Yes, in this sentence, the lack of articles pretty much expresses the same thing as "any". If you really wanted to try hard, you should aim for something like "egy katonát sem" which is also very far from literal - closer to "not even one soldier".


It's 'any' because katonákat doesn't have an article (a /az) .. which would make it 'the' soldiers.

Since we are not talking about specific soldiers, it could be 'any' soldiers.


Egy katonát sem ismerek.


Katonákat nem ismerek - ?


That's acceptable.

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I think I'll start tossing coins for word order. It seems Hungarian has syntax nuances that simply don't exist in English.


It does, yes. The word order rules are slightly complex, but learnable. The biggest problem is that you have to throw your Indo-European assumptions about word order over board. :)

It's relatively simple in this sentence. You have four words you can juggle around (I'm including the én here, which is not necessary in this sentence anyway), one of which is a negation. Negations are pretty important things, so they tend to be put towards the front.

The word that follows a negation is, unsurprisingly, the one getting negated. Now what do you want to negate?

  • Nem én ismerek katonákat. - It's not me who knows soldiers, but Csilla might know some.
  • Én nem katonákat ismerek. - It's not soldiers that I know. I'm only familiar with tanks.
  • Én nem ismerek katonákat. - I do not know soldiers.

The last option is the most common, neutral one. You're just stating that you aren't familiar with any soldiers. (Parallelly to the other options, with the right emphasis you could also say "It's not knowing what I do with soldiers, I just acknowledge their existence", but that's a bit more out there.)

The other two options can work on their own, but they need good context or additional information to make proper sense.

Now, let's go for the "nem ismerek" variant. What can we do with the other two words? Well, almost anything. The above sentence is the most likely one, with an emphasised subject:

  • Én nem ismerek kantonákat. - I do not know soldiers. Do you?
  • Katonákat nem ismerek én. - Soldiers? I don't know any.
  • Nem ismerek kantonákat (én). - I don't know any soldiers.
  • Katonákat én nem ismerek. - Since we're talking about soldiers, I need to say that I don't know any.

The baseline is: the farther in front something is in the sentence, the more important a piece of information it is.


I really wanted to thank you for taking the time to give such a thorough explanation.


the farther in front something is in the sentence, the more important a piece of information it is

I'm not sure this isn't a kind of "double-edged sword" statement that may describe some fortunate sentences but it's not really accurate conceptually. I wish we pushed the topic-focus-verb-rest explanation more since that seems to be the most accurate one.

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