"Bojíme se, abychom o ten strom nepřišli."

Translation:We are afraid of losing that tree.

July 18, 2018

This discussion is locked.


Would someone please explain why the verb in this sentence is negative? A literal translation, even if it's weird, might help me understand what's going on with this one. Thanks!


It is probably a special kind of phrase. Literally: "so that we wouldn't lose the tree." Bát se and equivalents (mít strach, ...) just uses this with abychom.

Compare with: "Bojíme se, že přijdeme o ten strom.", which has the same or almost the same meaning.

Normally, abychom is used to express a purpose, but with these verbs it serves a different purpose.

Děláme to, abychom o ten strom nepřišli. We do that, so that we don't lose the tree.


Maybe that could be compared to the (archaic, I believe) use of “lest” after the English “to be afraid.” (“…to be afraid lest we should sin.”)

Thanks to BrianSille2 for pointing out that “lest” is not archaic. Maybe it's a bit recherché?


I don't think it is archaic. My Shorter Oxford (1987) dose't either. I still hear it said.


This is still not resonating for me. VladaFu, your example with "děláme to" makes total sense to me because it is very cause-and-effect, but i cannot connect this to the exercise using "bojíme se" which, using your example, would essentially be, "We are afraid, so that we don't lose the tree," which doesn't make sense.

When you say, "with these verbs, [abychom] serves a different purpose," are you talking about with "přišel" or "bojíme se" in this context (or the combination)?


VladaFu will hopefully also share his further insights, but in the meantime:

We can also say: "Bojíme se, že o ten strom přijdeme." (also accepted) -- I hope this is a more approachable formulation, it's literally "We are afraid that we will lose that tree."

When I think of it extremely literally, it's true that "Bojíme se, abychom o ten strom nepřišli" sounds like the fear is supposed to help somehow -- that by being afraid, we are going to avoid losing the tree. And perhaps we are, because the fear will lead us to do some protective measures or to treat the tree, thus saving it. It's definitely a way of saying it, even if the underlying logic is hard to grasp (our native speakers' brains don't parse it that way, so we don't struggle with the logic).

There's a common construction that begins with "jen aby..." which also expresses fear, worry, apprehension that something might go wrong and hope that it won't. It has the same meaning even without any verb:

  • Jen abychom o ten strom nepřišli!
  • Jen aby zítra nepršelo! -- It had better not rain tomorrow! I'm worried it will rain tomorrow and I hope it won't!
  • Jen abys na to nezapomněl! -- You'd better not forget it! I'm afraid you'll forget, please make sure you don't!

Hope this helps.


This is one wild dialogue! What IS the infinitive of "(ne)prisli'? I thought possibly "prijat" or "prisit" but came up with bupkis. OR is the verb NOT in the negative but starts with "ne"? Conceptually, this is a very tough lesson.


As you known, the past tense of "jít" is "šel / šla / šlo / šli / šly" depending on the gender and number. This remains true even if you add any prefixes to it, such as "při-" and "ne-".


Thanks Agnus. What I've taken from this is, instead of trying to logicize it, just learn the formula and use it. From what I'm gathering it's--

Bát se + aby... + The thing that, if it was certain it would not happen, would prevent me from worrying.

Examples: - Bojím se, aby na mne nezačala mluvit (I'm afraid she would start talking to me / I'm worried, and the only thing that would stop me from worrying is knowing that she will not start talking to me.)

  • Bojí se, aby mužili spát (They are afraid they wouldn't be able to sleep / They are worried, and the only thing that would stop them from worrying is knowing that they will be able to sleep.)


Apparently in the original Indo-European, if you were afraid of something happening, that “something” would be expressed negatively. You find it in Greek, Latin, and the Slavic languages. Even in English, “lest” is a “negative particle of intention,” although we mostly drop it nowadays. See the etymonline.com entry on “lest” for more.


I'm not sure why this is a conditional sentence especially as "we are afraid we would lose that tree" was not accepted


"We are afraid we would lose that tree" would be "Bojíme se, že bychom o ten strom přišli." - that's a very different sentence with a different meaning.

Also read VladaFu's comment above.


I feel like I may have mentioned this is previous posts, but afraid and scared in English are interchangeable.


→ nici95:

So would you really say “I am scared there are no seats left” instead of “I am afraid there are no seats left”?


Not really sure what context you are meaning that sentence in, because I can't think of any situation when I would ever be afraid or scared of no seats being left! If I was about to get on a train or something, I would say - I am worried that there won't be any seats left. But in a situation where I am genuinely scared of something, then I would use either eg I am scared of heights/ I am afraid of heights. I am scared of losing all my money/ I am afraid that I might lose all my money. To be honest, in most situations I would use 'worried' because both afraid/ scared are pretty strong. Hope that helps!


I am afraid you are missing the point. This may only be BrE usage where "I am afraid" is used as a somewhat negative "I believe".


This has now become a more interesting discussion!

I (AmE), would interpret "We are afraid of losing that tree" as "We are worried that we may lose that tree." (We might, of course, actually be fearful that it could fall on our house in the process of being "lost."}

The BrE usage that you suggest makes more sense to me in something like, "We [tree guys] are afraid you [tree owners] may lose that tree."

But it is early in the day for me, and I am afraid [I believe] my head is not working right yet. And I am afraid [I am worried] that my comment may be confusing rather than helpful.


@AgnusOinas, I snorted my coffee at

perceived to have the same degree of emotional intensity by all native speakers

One of the laws around here seems to be that "For every native speaker, there is an equal and opposite native speaker."


Lol :) I believe/I'm afraid the BrE usage that I suggested works with a simple side clause (similar to all those "I presume", "I guess", "I reckon"...). As soon as we add "...of something", it only has the "scared of something" meaning, too.

The question is whether "afraid of..." and "scared of..." are perceived to have the same degree of emotional intensity by all native speakers.


@nueby, @AgnusOinas, you will perhaps have noticed that I (wisely) declined to engage on that one! :-) (No Reply button for either of you ATM.)


Yeah I was deliberately missing the point, because that other meaning of "I am afraid" has nothing to do with fear or bat se. And in relation to your comment further down (that it won't let me reply to) about emotional intensity - that's the thing, isn't it? And as @neuby says, you will never get all native speakers agreeing on anything! But I am holding fast to my original statement that I think afraid/ scared are synonyms, and I would say that which one you use is more dependent on your age, cultural background, dialect and geography than because one is more intense than the other - but maybe that's all a bit deep for a Wednesday lunchtime!


Afraid and scared can be synonymous in many contexts, but not in this. To put it as simply as I can; The loss of the tree would be a big disappointment, but not frightening. Scared implies a fear of danger. Again language continues to evolve and often incorrect usage can in time become acceptable once it becomes established in common speech. You may be afraid of giving the wrong answer here, but in my school days, when corporal punishment was in vogue, I would have been scared of giving the wrong answer.


@Brian - I agree completely -- "scared" should always be about actual fear, while "afraid" can be about fear, but it can also just be about worry or general slightly unhappy feelings, as in "I'm afraid you're wrong" (certainly not scared or frightened!)


I am afraid that this is wrong. I am scared that this is wrong. Huh, which one is correct now?

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