"He broke his own glasses."

Translation:Li rompis siajn okulvitrojn.

June 4, 2015

This discussion is locked.


Okulo = eye vitro = glass okulvitro = monocle Okulvitroj = eyeglasses


Would it be redundant to use "propran", as in "Li rompis siajn proprajn okulvitrojn"?


I believe that would provide emphasis


To answer Benja's two year old question (for anybody reading along - since I'm sure Benja knows by now)... yes it would be redundant - but only as redundant as the word "own" does in the original sentence. It's not needed.

  • Karlo rompis siajn okulvitrojn - Karlo broke his glasses.

Adding "proprajn" clarifies that it was his personal set of glasses. It implies a context where someone was asking WHOSE glasses got broken. We don't normally say "Karlo broke his OWN glasses" in English unless there's a special reason to.


Why "Li rompis siajn okulvitrojn" and not "Li rompis liajn okulvitrojn"?


Why is it siajn and okulvitrojn when a pair of eyeglasses is a single entity? Are things that sound plural (pants, scissors, etc.) treated as plurals in Esperanto?

[deactivated user]

    Not sure why nobody has replied before, but I have just noticed your question. In both English and Esperanto, it's plural - glasses and okulvitroj. There are some words though, that are plural in English, but singular in Esperanto. Examples are scissors (tondilo) and trousers, or if you're American, pants (pantalono). Then there are pairs which are the other way round. "Fruit" in English can be used whether we mean one piece of fruit, or several. But in Esperanto, if there is more than one piece, then it's "fruktoj".


    As a side note, there are two plurals of "Fruit" in English. The first, "Fruit", would be referring to multiple pieces of fruit, and the other, "Fruits", is referring to multiple types of fruit (or products/outcomes, such as in the phrase "fruits of his labor").


    Could you say: 'Li rompis liajn proprajn okulvitrojn'?

    [deactivated user]

      You could, but it would mean that he broke someone else's own glasses.


      Not really. Reflexive personal pronouns are more properly integrated into Esperanto grammar than is the case in English grammar. They must be used when appropriate. That is, if you use another personal pronoun instead of a reflexive one, a different person is always meant. This reduces the potential for ambiguity.

      The only reason this is confusing for you is that English uses a work-around involving normal personal pronouns plus the word "own" instead of proper reflexive pronouns. This makes it impossible to distinguish the following two meanings:

      • A strange criminal case: Peter stole his [= Peter's] own car.
      • Paul tried to trick Peter into stealing a police car, but that went wrong. Spectacularly. Peter stole his [=Paul's] own car.

      In the second case, we would normally rephrase to make it less confusing. But this is only necessary because English has overloaded "his own" with the function of a reflexive pronoun. Languages such as French, Spanish, Esperanto etc. that don't have this problem needn't avoid this construction.


      Thanks. What seems strange is that you can't use a construction with 'propra' to achieve the same meaning without recourse to the reflexive pronoun.


      I can't speak to what seems weird to you - but "sia" and "lia" are different words. If I broke my own glasses, I would say:

      • Mi rompis miajn okulvitrojn.

      If I were to say instead:

      • Mi rompis liajn okulvitrojn

      No use of "propra" would change this to mean that they were my glasses.

      In the same way, if someone were talking about me and that I broke my glasses, they would say:

      • Li rompis siajn okulvitrojn.

      If that someone were to say instead:

      • Li rompis liajn okulvitrojn

      the meaning would change the same way as it would with the first substitution above.


      Thank you for the response. My question is still: does the sentence, 'Li rompis liajn proprajn okulvitrojn' mean 'He broke his own glasses', or not.


      I thought several people already said "not." To be clear - no, it does not meant that. It means "he broke the other guy's personal glasses."

      [deactivated user]

        I would say no. As I said earlier, it would mean that he broke someone else's own glasses. Yes, granted, the "own" would be somewhat redundant, but that would be the meaning of such an Esperanto sentence.


        OK, I'll try to be clearer this time. English uses own as a workaround to form reflexive pronouns. This restricts how you can use the word own. Esperanto, having proper reflexive pronouns, doesn't need this workaround, doesn't use it, and therefore doesn't have these restrictions on the use of own.

        1. Jane tried to break Paul's mother's glasses. But she made a mistake. She broke her own glasses. - Ŝi rompis siajn [not: ŝiajn] proprajn okulvitrojn.
        2. Jane tried to break Paul's mother's glasses. But she made a mistake. She broke his [= Paul's] own glasses. - Ŝi rompis liajn proprajn okulvitrojn.
        3. Peter tried to break Paul's mother's glasses. But he made a mistake. He broke his [= Paul's] own glasses. - Li rompis liajn proprajn okulvitrojn.
        4. Peter tried to break Paul's mother's glasses. But he made a mistake. He broke his own glasses. - Li rompis siajn proprajn okulvitrojn.

        Because of the workaround that English uses to get reflexive pronouns, the English sentences in 1 and 2 are identical, and the English sentences in 3 and 4 are identical. In English, when the phrase "his own" or "her own" appears, it is always expected to be the workaround for a reflexive pronoun rather than a random combination of his/her and own. This is why only the meanings in 1 and 4 are standard for the respective English sentence.

        The meaning in 3 would be logical if English did not use this workaround. But since English does use the workaround, it is not allowed. Otherwise every single use of the reflexive pronouns would be ambiguous. An ambiguity that reflexive pronouns are precisely intended to prevent.

        The meaning in 2 has no such ambiguity problem because his cannot refer to the referent of she. But the prohibition of the construction in 3 is generally extended to the construction in 2 anyway. Nevertheless, if someone uses it, you know precisely what is meant.

        Only the English sentences in 2 and 3 are problematic, because of the deficiency of English in the reflexive pronoun department. All of the Esperanto sentences are perfectly fine and unambiguous.

        • "My question is still: does the sentence, 'Li rompis liajn proprajn okulvitrojn' mean 'He broke his own glasses', or not."

        The answer depends on whether you consider the meanings in 2 and, in particular, in 3 legitimate or not. The English sentence "He broke his own glasses" appears in 3 and in 4. But normally it would only be used as in 4, and in that case "Li rompis liajn proprajn okulvitrojn" is not a correct translation to Esperanto because use of the reflexive pronoun is mandatory where applicable. It's only correct as a translation for the same English sentence in 3.

        PS: The irregularity in English is this: Normally you should always be allowed to replace "Paul's" by "his" after Paul has been referred to. But you cannot replace "Paul's own" by "his own" if Paul is not the subject of the sentence, and especially not if the subject of the sentence is another male person. This restriction only exists because it's needed. And it's only needed because "my own" functions as a reflexive pronoun in English. But "liajn proprajn" is not a reflexive pronoun in Esperanto. The corresponding reflexive pronoun in Esperanto is "siajn".

        [deactivated user]

          Excellent explanation and far fuller than my meagre offering! Have a Lingot!

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