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Unnecessary **-e**

A report on a sentence similar to Six robots repair six ships, showed "my answer should be correct" for jav Dujmey tI' jav qoqmey'e'. The person is not wrong. That is a possible translation of the sentence, but there's nothing in the English to imply that the robots should be emphasized. The English sentence isn't Six robots repair six ships, or It is the six robots who will repair the six ships. They're just robots. There's no reason to assume there's any more emphasis on them than on the ships.

Sentences like this will not be added to the correct answers for two reasons.

  1. It would unreasonably expand the inventory of correct answers to have to make an entry for every possible topicalized noun.

  2. If there's a chance that a user for some reason believes that -'e' is required in this sentence, they should have it marked wrong, so they know it's not.

I might have put this on the discussion for that sentence, but new discussions can only be opened from inside the unit, and I spent a good fifteen minutes on that unit without getting that sentence.

Does anyone have questions about when -'e' is required?

September 22, 2019



I'm still confused. In practice mode, I thought that the sentence "The body armor is very heavy!" would be translated as 'ughqu' may' Sut'e' but I was incorrect. I was thinking that the -'e' was necessary to indicate that body armor is topical. Do you know where I'm going wrong?


It's easy to imagine the subject of every sentence is the topic of the sentence. In fact, the Japanese almost never use the subject marker and just mark the subject as the topic in almost every sentence. So I can see where that kind of thinking is logical, but it is not correct for Klingon.

Subjects are subjects, topics are topics, and the -'e' suffix is sometimes used like a focus marker and sometimes used like a topic marker so it gets really confusing! The sentence you have offered means something like, "The battle armor, and not something else, is very heavy."

I like to break the use of -'e' into 4 different purposes. I suppose officially, they are all just variations of the same thing, but there are slightly different rules in each of the situations, so I think it's easier for beginners to think of them as separate.

1) -'e' marks the explicit subject (when present) of sentences which use a pronoun in place of the verb to represent "to be". Since the subject is already part of the pronoun, we might say that this is really marking a topic which is duplicated in the subject pronoun, but since the word marked with -'e' doesn't go in the normal topic location, but instead goes in the subject location, I like to say it's the subject. The -'e' suffix is required for such use and in this usage it has no translation and doesn't even really effect the meaning of the sentence. Sentences are completely understandable without it and would be translated exactly the same without it, but they are incorrect without it.

2) In a relative clause using the verb suffix -bogh, the -'e' suffix can be used to mark the head noun. The noun phrase targh leghbogh be' can be interpreted as either "The woman who saw the targ" or "The targ that the woman saw". In both phrases, it was the woman who saw and the targ that was seen, but one is about the woman and the other is about the targ. English makes this clear by word order and there is no way to make it unclear. In Klingon the head noun is unclear and that is fine sometimes. If you want to make it clear and explicit, you can mark the head noun with -'e' as in targh'e' leghbogh be' ("The targ that the woman saw.") This is not required by the grammar - the use is completely optional - but it would sometimes be a good idea if you want it to be clear.

3) A topic separate from the subject or object can be added to the front of the sentence and marked with -'e'. This is when the -'e' suffix is clearly acting as a topic marker and if you're going to add a true topic separate from the subject or object, it would have to have the topic marker on it.

4) -'e' may be placed on a subject or object to emphasize it. Usually the subject or object marked in such a way would stay in the normal location for a subject or object, though objects with the -'e' suffix have been known to occur before any adverbs for additional emphasis. This addition of the -'e' suffix can often be difficult to translate. It might be similar to stressing the word strongly in spoken English or using all caps on the noun in written English, like "BATTLE ARMOR is very heavy." Klingonists often indicate this stress by adding the phrase, "and not someone/something else".

Let's evaluate the sentence, "The battle armor is very heavy!" for each of these uses. 1) does not apply because there is no pronoun acting as verb. 2) does not apply because there is no -bogh suffix being used. 3) does not apply because the battel armor is the normal subject, not a separate topic. 4) does not apply because there is no indication in the English sentence that any sort of stress or focus is being applied to the battle armor.

Thus, while the use of -'e' as you offered does create a legitimate sentence very similar to the English one you were given, it is not a correct translation of the exact English sentence you were given.


Thank you! I'm not sure I've ever thought about the difference between topic and subject before, but that's definitely the mistake I was making. And double thanks for your thorough explanation of the various uses of -'e'. That's one I've been struggling with and the breakdown is very helpful.


Qov, if you look just above the sentence in the incubator there should be a little speech balloon which will allow you to open an existing sentence discussion or start one up if none exists.


I can only use the bubble if someone else has started the discussion. Otherwise it just gives me a page with a message saying that there is no discussion for that sentence. Must be because I'm just a contributor. Also I put this here as it was more general in nature, and it successfully found one person who needed more information on -'e' so I count it as a win.

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