"Směl jsem říct jen málo."

Translation:I could only say a little.

February 5, 2018

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The translation is either ungrammatical or extremely strange, depending on dialect. "I could only say a little" is normal, but is not accepted...


This is not a topic in which I am too strong, and I am not completely sure about this particular sentence, but I can say that we generally distinguish:

little - málo (uncountable)

few - málo (countable)

a little, a bit - trochu (eventually něco málo?)

a few - několik

It gets more complicated with "něco málo" (somewhat?) and similar.

So "a little" may sound better here but the meaning may be slightly different.


To me, "I could only say little" means "I could only say the word 'little'", whereas "I could only say a little" means "I could only say a few words."


The above is my interpretation from an ESL speaker point of view. It could well be wrong. But I do not feel "a little" ais really the most literal or direct translation.


In that case, I think "a little" would be more natural than "little" alone on the English side.


I'm puzzling over this. If you can you give a little context for the sentence, it might help to figure out what the best English translation is.


VladaFu, there was no Reply button for your answer. I would suggest, in the context you describe, that "There was little I could say" sounds most natural. But I don't know how well that works with the CZ original. If it doesn't work, then at least the translation shown above is a pretty direct translation.


I was so ashamed or surprised or caught off guard that I was only able to say very few words or sentences to defend myself or to console somebody or something like that.


Now I realized that there is "směl". My explanation suits "mohl" instead. With směl it is that I was only allowed to say some incomplete information or only some hint or only some general description that someone authorized for public release.


I just read all the comments and I feel that "I could only say a little" is better than "I could only say little" which is very awkward in English unless it means that the person could only say the word "little".


It seems that SMEL is sometimes translated as allowed to and sometimes as able to. I'm a bit confused.


From what I understand, the basic meaning of "smět" is "to be allowed to." So I think that when it's being translated as "could," it's in the sense of being ALLOWED to do something, rather than in the sense of being ABLE to do something.


At present "I was only allowed to say a little" isn't accepted... maybe it should be?


"a little" is different from "little" and means more like "a bit" "little bit", in Czech "trochu" "něco málo"

But if English speakers feel little is the same as a little in this context, it could be considered.


No, I think your explanation makes sense! I buy that they are different and that I should not use "a" little.


What about "i could say but little"? It is archaic/snooty but it follows the Czech it has a perfectly clear meaning in English


I think it works nicely on the English side, but I don't know if it's close enough to the Czech sentence. We'll need one of the CZ natives on the team to decide on that.


I think it can be added, I will do that.


Having just landed here again in a practice session, and after reviewing all of the comments currently posted (30 Jan 2019), I've added translations using "A little." Because I don't know if changing the "main" translation (shown at the top of the page) could create a problem for the reverse exercise, I've left the main one as-is.


As a native English speaker, I vote for "a little" in this case as opposed to just "little".


"I was allowed to say just a little" is not possible?


It would be fine on the English side; I will add if if the Czech members of the team don't see a problem with it.


Please, is it really wrong/weird? "I was allowed to say only little."

Re-reported on 2021-11-12 , please see if this report is there. Thank You.


There's some confusion here; your report seems to be: "I was allowed to say just a little." That's probably acceptable, although it seems a little off as a translation of "jen málo" and I would like others' opinions before adding it.

On the other hand, "I was allowed to say only little." is not accepted and doesn't quite work. https://www.usingenglish.com/forum/threads/41782-only-(a)-little-only-(a)-few


If you're interested in AmE-native opinions, mine is that "I was [allowed to/could] say JUST A little" and "I was [allowed to/could] say ONLY A little" are, on the EN side, much better than "I was [allowed to/could] say little." How suitable either is as a translation here, of course, depends on what the Czech sentence can support.

To me, "I was [allowed to/could] say little" would be fine if it were followed by something else: for example, "I was [allowed to/could] say little ABOUT... what I really thought / why I liked that book so much / the fact that Czech is a real 'medvěd' of a language to learn / etc. But as a standalone sentence, it really strikes my AmE ear as weird. Might be a good sentence to think about dropping in in new tree... :-(


Yup, okay, thank you. I'll add "just a little" then. "Only a little" is already accepted. Do you agree that "to say only little" is less acceptable than "to only say little"?

The problem here is that "málo" really corresponds more with "little", as in "not enough", rather than "a little", as in "a small amount". But then there's actual language use...



The problem for me is that both "I was allowed to say only little" and "I was allowed to only say little" are weird unless they are followed by something that adds more information, and we have no additional information here.

On their own, both "to say only little" and "to only say little" are cringe-worthy in a big way. But if you were offering piškoty only on the condition that I choose one or the other as being somewhat less cringe-worthy, I would choose "I was allowed to only say little" as the better one. Could I say why? Nope.


Interesting, thanks. I've changed the BT to include "a", FWIW, it will take a few days for the change to become visible.


Thank you both very much.

I'm sure I reported both:

I was allowed to say only little.

I was allowed to say just a little.

It was from Firefox on 2021-11-12 in the evening. And also a few months ago from Chrome.


Can I just toss my contribution in? As "Smět" means "to be allowed" that should be the main translation. "...could...." is ambiguous, it "could" (see what I am doing here!) also be used in exactly the same English sentence in a situation such as I have lost my voice due to an infection.

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