"Jag äter före honom."
Translation:I am eating before him.
54 CommentsThis discussion is locked.
Okay, in English the sentence is not grammatically correct if you use "him." Not unless the sentence means "I eat in front of him," and from the discussion below, it's clear that it doesn't.) So, I tried "I eat before he does." (But my version wasn't accepted. Can I ask that it be added to the list of acceptable translations?
This makes little sense to me if it is true that "före" means "before" in the time sense only and not in the English way of being in front of him. If you are eating before he eats, then should it not be, "Jag äter före han?" Because "he" is also a subject pronoun? Honom is only an object pronoun, right?
It's still a preposition so it needs to be followed by an object form. You presumably wouldn't say I eat before he in English either. If you want to change it into a conjunction, you should switch to innan: Jag äter innan han äter which would be I eat before he eats in English – clauses on both sides.
in front of would be framför
Technically, Arnauti, antibozo is right: the word "before" is part of an invisible dependent clause: "before he DOES/EATS." The dependent clause functions as an adverb. So the rule that a preposition must take the objective case does not apply here. But you are right that in present-day English we would be unlikely to say "I eat before he," because it sounds incomplete and silly. So we either utter the whole dependent clause "before he eats," or we just say "before HIM." But "him" is still technically wrong in English, unless you mean "I ate in front of him."
Consequently, I also agree that we need some new translation options for this sentence.
I'd never use "before him" here myself, but it's not inherently wrong. The prepositional usage can trigger in two ways, and you're accounting well for one but disregarding the second.
Besides, we need to find a balance between prescriptivism and actual modern usage. I find that "[it's] still technically wrong" is usually a pretty good argument for the latter - and conversely, we accept quite a lot of colloquialisms in the Swedish we're teaching here as well.
I do appreciate that you're writing out a well-thought argument, though. Most of the time when we get similar complaints, they're worded far less nicely.
- "before he does" -> "before" takes an independent verb phrase, which needs to follow standard rules for those (which is why "before him does" is obviously incorrect)
- "before him" -> "before" takes a dependent pronoun and triggers the dative case (which is why "before he" sounds horrible to most native speakers)
I might note that this exact discussion appears in several other languages as well, and it always boils down to prescriptivism vs how people actually use the language. While I can appreciate the stance of wanting to maintain a language, at some point I need to accept that it's changed and move on. Frankly, this topic is one where I think, based on prevalence in natural speech, that a move-on has been in order for a very long time.
They're rival interpretations, in a sense, but you do have a point. The conjunctional interpretation is the traditional one. The point I was making to Rakhelii was regarding "before him", though.
Obviously, you're right about making observations not being a prescriptivist action. However, you do appear to let those observations guide what you perceive should be the correct options - which would just about be the definition of prescriptivism. If I've misunderstood you, I apologise.
There's also the approach of my teacher in computational syntax: "People should keep changing the rules of grammar all the time, it increases my job security." :)
Finally, Duolingo as a platform doesn't quite allow us to teach the finer points of Swedish grammar (nor those of English) efficiently - and it was consciously built that way. So there's not much to do about that. Luckily, though, the sentence discussion threads frequently contain a lot of useful information such as what we've been discussing here.
To the extent that an answer that is correct was being marked wrong, i did allow the interpretation as conjunction to guide my judgment, but i don't think that is a prescriptivist attitude—i was asking for correct answers not to be scored wrong, which Arnauti has taken care of, i believe (thanks!). I did not request that "before him" be rejected as an answer, which would be prescriptivist; it is a form that many people would use, even if i myself would not, and that answer would indicate that the reader understood the sentence.
lol re the computational syntax comment. :^)
I see. But as has been observed elsewhere, in "before he [does]", "before" is a conjunction, not a preposition, hence my curiosity when you mentioned two prepositional usages.
In the prepositional case, although some people seem to dispute this, the actual meaning of the words "before him" is other than what is intended. This is okay in most contexts, inasmuch as it is usually understood as intended, but that does not make it "correct" in any strict sense; at the very least it requires contextually resolving an unnecessary ambiguity. I am not disregarding the usage, i am observing that it technically means something other than what is intended, even if it the intent is usually understood.
Again, as i've mentioned elsewhere, it isn't prescriptivism to take note of semantic distinctions between the words used and their intended meaning. Whether prescriptivism itself is viable in the modern world is a larger question that i doubt we can fully address here. :^) I shall say only that a completely laissez-faire approach to syntax is perhaps more suitable in conversation than in language learning, where we are presumably expected to learn and understand rules, even if they are relaxed in practice. Certainly we should learn that Swedes are as relaxed about constructions using "before" as speakers of English are, but i think we should learn this explicitly, not be left to infer it accidentally.
One would, in fact, say "I eat before he" (as it is elliptical for "I eat before he does/eats"), if one is being careful. "I eat before him" technically means that I am eating in front of him, and does not mean that I eat before he eats, even if it is a commonly used construction for the latter.
Prepositions do indeed require objective case in their complements, but the complement here is not "he" or "him"—it is the sentence "he [does/eats]", at least in English. "Before", in this construction, is not even a preposition; it is actually a conjunction.
Unfortunately, "I eat before he" is incorrectly scored wrong here.
I cannot believe I was so naïve as to forget about the strong prescriptivist trend in English. Do note though that my answer here was about the Swedish sentence and not about why 'before he' was not an accepted answer in English, no one had asked about that.
We do have the same tired old issue in Swedish grammar, typically centered around sentences like Han är längre än jag/mig 'He is taller than I/me'. (where both work, just like in English). But while in English, I eat before he is stilted and unnatural but can be considered acceptable [I've added it now], and would be preferred by prescriptivists, the corresponding kind of people would not say or accept "Jag äter före han" in Swedish. This is because före can only be a preposition (or adverb) in Swedish, but not a conjunction. innan though can be either a preposition or a conjunction (or an adverb for that matter). So you can only say Jag äter före honom, but both Jag äter innan honom and Jag äter innan han work in Swedish. Prescriptivists here would tell you that only Jag äter innan han works in that case, using the same arguments you would. But, to reiterate, they would not accept före han:
To clarify: i was not calling for "före han"; i was merely saying that i suspect that in precise language, a nominative pronoun, not an objective one, would be required, for the reasons you stated—"innan han" would be the appropriate wording.
I do not think it is prescriptivist to be precise in one's own language, nor to observe what words say at a more technical level. I can observe that "before him" is technically incorrect if one intends to mean "before he does" without refusing to accept it for its intended, if imprecise, meaning, or using it myself. Sometimes it actually matters and sometimes it does not—someone who is to meet a monarch, and who misinterprets guidance reading, "Arise as she enters, and then sit before her" as an instruction to sit before the monarch sits risks offense. But people are free to speak, write, miscommunicate, or offend as they choose. I only care here inasmuch as i am falsely scored incorrect, which is, in a sense, prescriptivism asserting falsehood.
It isn't technically incorrect in English though, but I'll leave this discussion since it's nothing to do with Swedish. My point was that my first comment answered a question about Swedish, not English. And I've added your preferred answer so it will be accepted in the future.
If it were a preposition, it would mean "in front of [i.e. 'before'] him". The sentence is intended to mean "before he [eats]". That makes "före" a conjunction, not a preposition, and the correct form would in fact be "han", but just as in English, loose, informal verbalization leads to "him" or "honom".
See the discussion elsewhere. This has been thoroughly explored.