1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Hungarian
  4. >
  5. "Semmi sincs a falon."

"Semmi sincs a falon."

Translation:There is nothing on the wall.

September 3, 2016

27 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Arcaeca

If it's sincs instead of nincs, shouldn't this be something more like "Nothing is on the wall either"?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vvsey

Not really, it is just how Hungarian says things. Double negative and such. And remember, "sincs" works the way "is" does. It refers to what stands in front of it. So here it belongs to "semmi" (nothing), not to the wall. You can think of "sincs" as "also nincs".
If you were trying to say something like "There is nothing on the floor, and there is nothing on the wall, either", then the wall part would be "a falon sincs semmi". Or "nincs semmi a falon sem" - where "sem" means "also nem".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Bastette54

But isn't "semmi nincs" also a double negative? Arcaeca asked why "sincs" instead of "nincs." I don't have an issue with double negatives, but I don't quite understand the difference - in the context of this sentence - between nincs and sincs, since the English translation doesn't contain a word like "either."


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vvsey

When it is paired with "semmi", there is really no difference. You don't need to try to understand this, this is just how it is.
"Semmi nincs" = "semmi sincs".

My guess is that "semmi sincs" is the more correct way, but it does not matter. You can use either one.

If you still want to understand the logic of this, try to list all the things in the world. All of them. And, for each one, say

"X sincs a falon" - "X is not on the wall, either".

Or, you could just say the one opposite of everything: "semmi", and be done with it:

"Semmi sincs a falon."


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Bastette54

OK, I don't need to understand it. I'll take your word for it. :) I just thought that there must be a difference, and I wanted to know what it was.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vvsey

Yes, as far as I can think, the difference is only grammatical, or correct vs slightly incorrect. We can rearrange this sentence to make it clearer what is happening.

"Semmi sincs a falon." = "Nincs a falon semmi sem."

All I did was I broke up "sincs" into "sem" and "nincs" so that I could use them separately. Not next to each other, of course! Now let's look at the result again:

"Nincs a falon semmi sem."

How easy it is to simply drop that "sem" at the end! It is all negative anyway, it makes no difference:

"Nincs a falon semmi".

Let's rearrange it:

"Semmi nincs a falon."

There you go. :)

Furthermore, you could ask me what I am doing:
"Mit csinálsz?" - What are you doing?

And I could say either of these:
"Semmit."
"Semmit sem."

They mean the same thing. But why should I bother adding "sem", when I am sooo lazy. :)

And the reason I am saying that "Semmi nincs a falon" may be considered slightly "incorrect" is because there is this interesting usage by Hungarians where logic would clearly dictate the "s" variant, yet sometimes the "n" variant is used. Let's see .... we organized this great event, but nobody came. That is, not a single person showed up:

"Egy ember sem jött el." - this is clear, not even one person came.
But some people would say the following, meaning the same thing:

"EGY EMBER nem jött el."
It could mean that there was one person who could not make it, everybody else did show up.
But more often than not, what is meant is that not even a single person came. That is, nobody came.

Now, when you do this with "senki", it makes no difference, because nobody came either way.
But if you do it with one person, then there is a high chance of misunderstanding. You have to clearly understand the context and the tone of the speaker. They will usually put a special emphasis on "egy ember" when they mean nobody. But sometimes the only thing that helps is asking back for clarification. If you know the person, you may learn their way of speaking and you will correctly guess what they mean.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Patricia460976

Spanish also uses double negatives iirc.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vvsey

Yes, I think so, too. "No tengo nada" - literally "I do not have nothing", but really "I have nothing" or "I do not have anything".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Imre565437

And in Slavic languages too


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LHortonUK

And in bad English: "I don't know nothing!". Totally wrong, but you hear it quite a lot.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jeliason

Why is "Nothing is on the wall" not accepted. It seems the same to me as the approved translation


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/joelp

I've always thought that the use of sincs instead of nincs added extra emphasis i.e. there is nothing "at all" on the wall. Am I correct in thinking that?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vvsey

No, I don't think there is a difference in emphasis. I think they are just variations of the same thing.

Update:
Literally, "nincs" means "there is not",
"sincs" means "also there is not".
For example:
"Péter nincs otthon, és Zsuzsa sincs otthon."
"Péter is not at home, and Zsuzsa is also not at home."

But when we are talking about "nothing", it doesn't really matter whether we use "nincs" or "sincs".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jason460177

I tend to agree that "s" is purely for emphasis in many instances. I think your average Hungarian would be hard pressed to know why they say things the way they do, because native speakers just know that "it sounds right". (The same is true for native speakers of any language.)

Sometimes "sem" and "sincs" literally mean "neither/either", such as "itt nincs, és ott sincs."

But sometimes the "neither" meaning is less clear, and instead it takes on the meaning of "at all" or "absolutely". This is mainly to add emphasis. I believe this is the case in this sentence. "There is absolutely nothing on the wall."

Hungarian is obsessed with harmony of vowel and consonant sounds, so often once one negative is used, others will follow after it in the sentence purely for the sake of consistency. It kind of depends which word come first in the sentence. "Nincs semmi a falon." is almost identical in meaning to "Semmi sincs a falon". Even if there is no context to indicate whether it means "neither/either", this would still be correct with semmi sincs, simply because it adds emphasis and sounds better to a Hungarian to follow semmi with another "s" negative. But i think it would be a little odd to hear someone say "Sincs semmi a falon." unless it was specifically meaning "neither/either" following another statement.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vvsey

Interesting. But there is a difference between "nincs" ("there is not") and "sincs" (something like "also there is not").
In other words,
"sincs" = "is nincs".
For that reason, you could never say
"Sincs semmi a falon",
becase the "is" part of "sincs" needs to follow something - as "is" refers to what is in front of it. For example:
"Itt sincs semmi a falon" - "Here, too, there is nothing on the wall."

Now, with "semmi" ("nothing"), we can say that

"Semmi sincs" = "semmi nincs".
After all, we are talking about "nothing". So, whether "there is nothing" or "there is not even nothing" (or "there is nothing, either"), it is pretty much the same thing, in our everyday sense.
One thing is for sure, it is not about the "s" sound that both "semmi" and "sincs" start with.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jason460177

I totally agree with you all the way until your last sentence. If any native speakers want to correct me, that's fine, but given that "semmi sincs" means the same as "semmi nincs", I think the reason that sincs is preferred most of the time is precisely because it starts with "s". The "s" additionally adds emphasis, which would only make sense if we knew the context of the conversation.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vvsey

Then we stand in disagreement, which is fine. I don't think the "s" in "sincs" adds any emphasis. In fact, "semmi nincs" may sound a tiny bit more emphasized to me. But that may be just my imagination. Anyway. In my opinion, "semmi sincs" is the normal, regular (according to the rules) way, but "semmi nincs" is spreading colloquially, primarily because it makes no difference in case of "semmi".

In fact, "nincs" is even often used today when "sincs" should be used. That is, in cases when it makes a difference. For example:
"Egy ember sincs itt." - There is not a single person here. Not even one person is here.
Now, if you replace "sincs" with "nincs":
"Egy ember nincs itt." - One person is not here, one person is missing.,
it would mean that everyone is here except one person.

Except the latter is frequently used in place of the former. And the way to stress that is that you emphasize the subject even more:
"EGY EMBER nincs itt." - There is not a single person here.
Again, this is colloquial, popular use today. The regular use would be "sincs", and it still does not have anything to do with the matching "s" sounds.

Finally, a word of caution. There are lots of source online for Hungarian grammar. One example, for "nincs" and "sincs":
http://www.hungarianreference.com/Misc_Grammar/negatives-nem-ne-sem-se.aspx
Please, DO NOT TRUST EVERYTHING YOU READ THERE. It is full of terrible errors and misinformation. I don't know who writes/edits it but it sounds like it comes from a non-native Hungarian speaker. If that is the case, impressive, but the work as a "reference" is still unacceptable.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fischerfs

How would you say 'There isn't nothing on the wall' (ie., you're wrong, there is something there)? Would it just be 'semmi nem van a falon'?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vvsey

No, you wouldn't really say it like that. "Semmi" is not a thing that is actually on the wall, is it?
Instead, you could just say:
"Van valami a falon." - There is something on the wall.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Bastette54

In English, I think that "nothing" is, if not a thing, then at least a concept, that could be on the wall. Say if someone says, "There's nothing in the refrigerator." You could say, "There isn't 'nothing' in the fridge, there's a jar of olives." It's not the most common phrasing, but it's not unheard-of. It's the kind of double negative that really means a positive. But maybe this doesn't work in Hungarian? Possibly because double negatives actually mean something negative? So the "two negatives negate each other to mean a positive" thing doesn't work.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fischerfs

Yeah that's what I was getting at. Regardless, thanks for the help!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vvsey

Yes, I think that is it exactly, thanks. Also, "We didn't come here for nothing" does not work like that in Hungarian, for the same reason.

Also "I am not doing nothing.", etc. These are all negatives in Hungarian.

For "There isn't 'nothing' in the fridge", we can say

"Nem igaz, hogy nincs semmi a hűtőben..." - It is not true that there is nothing in the fridge.

Or just a simple contradiction will do:

"De van!"
"De van (valami a hűtőben)."
"De van egy üveg olajbogyó."


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Lynn747214

Why can't you say semmi van a falon?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vvsey

You can say it but it sounds silly. You are applying English rules to the Hungarian language. Let me ask back: why can't you say there isn't nothing either on the wall?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Richard604037

I had the same question about sincs and either. Is this similar to senki sem? It's possible to say senki nem but Hungarians often prefer to use senki sem and it means exactly the same thing with sem not meaning neither as it often does. If that's right, presumably it's OK to say Semmi nincs a falon and have the same meaning.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vvsey

It works with both "senki sem" and "senki nem".
But please do note: you are talking about NOBODY. It is already nobody, so who cares if it is "nobody does" or "nobody does, either"?
But as soon as you have a subject that is not a nothing or a nobody, there is a real difference:
"Péter nincs itt." - "Péter is not here."
"Péter sincs itt." - "Péter is not here, either."

For nowhere, nobody, nothing, nowhy, nohowmuch, nohowmany, etc., the choice between "sem" and "nem" makes no real difference, so you can pretty much use whichever you want.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jason460177

Yep. This same principle applies for all of the "s" negative pronouns: soha, senki, semmi, sehol, etc. Remember that just like nincs = nem van, sincs = sem van. Anytime you would/could use "sem" instead of "nem" you would/could also use "sincs" instead of "nincs" if you were dealing with location or possession where "can" is needed.

Learn Hungarian in just 5 minutes a day. For free.