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Translating the imperative
Thread poster: zabrowa
zabrowa
Local time: 20:00
Jan 8, 2009

So, in English we don't have a complete imperative paradigm. I wonder if anyone out there has an interesting way to express for example the first person imperative (as in Spanish 'Que yo vaya!') - of course it is possible to say 'May I go!', but this doesn't seem ideal. Also, for the first person subject and second/third person complement: 'May I give you a book!' and 'May I give him a book!' seem semantically ok, but not perfect. Does anyone have any better suggestions of how to do this in English?

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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:00
English to Arabic
+ ...
Context-dependent? Jan 8, 2009

I only vaguely understand Spanish, but perhaps you could explain in what context you would say "que yo vaya". To me, it sounds very much like the French subjonctif, which isn't really the same as the imperative, or is it?
I can also think of an Arabic form (fa-li followed by the conjugated verb) which may express the same thing (e.g. fa-li yadhab ilal jahim = May he go to hell).
In English, the "May he/May they" might work best, although it can sound a bit archaic, or like a prayer for/ curse against someone ("May they live happily ever after/ May he rot in prison").
I agree that it's a bit harder to express in the first form "May I". Perhaps something like "Let me" can work in some contexts (Let me explain this to you).

[Edited at 2009-01-08 11:08 GMT]


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Jim Tucker  Identity Verified
United States
Hungarian to English
+ ...
An imperative: Let (me...) Jan 8, 2009

...not in the sense of "release me," but, e.g. "If you don't have time, let me go there and ask her myself."

"Let them come and see for themselves."

(The Spanish example you adduce is elliptical anyway: there is a verb understood before "que" - like "haga" - another "let")


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 20:00
English to Croatian
+ ...
Nesrin is right Jan 8, 2009

Matt Coler wrote:

So, in English we don't have a complete imperative paradigm. I wonder if anyone out there has an interesting way to express for example the first person imperative (as in Spanish 'Que yo vaya!') - of course it is possible to say 'May I go!', but this doesn't seem ideal. Also, for the first person subject and second/third person complement: 'May I give you a book!' and 'May I give him a book!' seem semantically ok, but not perfect. Does anyone have any better suggestions of how to do this in English?


" May " in this context is not an English imperative per se ! "May "here means the expression of wishes, which is a grammatical subjunctive !

" Let + object " is a typical English imperative. So, in your case, it would be :

Let me give you a book.

Let me give him a book.

" May I give him a book ? / ! " practically has two meanings :

1) Do I have a permission to give him a book?

2) I pray to be able to give him a book, or "God help me give him the book" ( this sentence is a mutant, semantically ) , or alike.

So, use let + object + verb infinitive




[Edited at 2009-01-08 11:34 GMT]


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xxxsusanb
Local time: 15:00
English to Spanish
+ ...
The Imperative in Spanish Jan 8, 2009

Well, I think the problem is one of misconception. 'Que yo vaya!' (¡Qué yo vaya!) is not an imperative in Spanish. It is long to explain, but to make it short and sweet I will give you some hints for you to carry on with a research on the subject.
First: In Spanish, an imperative is an order, so you can order somebody to do something, and it doesn´t have the first person singular. "Vé tu", "Vaya él".
Second: If you say "yo vaya" you are using the subjunctive in Spanish, which generally implies a point of view from the speaker in time subordinated to another action.
Third: The use of the word "que" in spanish has a lot of meanings, but basically it is used to subordinate a phrase. An imperative, as I have said cannot be in the first person (because it is an order that you cannot give it to yourself and in this respect cannot be subordinated to anything else)
Fourth: If this "que" is what in Spanish is called "anunciativo" or a wish, it should have been said "¡Qué se vaya!" and that is similar to an imperative because it resembels an order (probably an "Off you go" in English)
fifth: Now comes the most dificult part, how to translate this, because it is not an imperative. I think that here, more than ever, it is important the CONTEXT, because as a subjunctive in Spanish, and as a subordinate phrase, it is difucult to translate without the context. (Probably "That I may go", but I insist, it is imposible without context)
Well, I hope all this helps a bit.
Good Luck!


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 20:00
English to Croatian
+ ...
... Jan 8, 2009

susanb wrote:
An imperative, as I have said cannot be in the first person (because it is an order that you cannot give it to yourself and in this respect cannot be subordinated to anything else)


Exactly, that's why I said this kind of structure is a semantic mutant. However, it is possible formally and theoretically :

May I give him a book.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:00
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Reading the unsaid Jan 9, 2009

Matt Coler wrote:

So, in English we don't have a complete imperative paradigm. I wonder if anyone out there has an interesting way to express for example the first person imperative (as in Spanish 'Que yo vaya!') - of course it is possible to say 'May I go!', but this doesn't seem ideal. Also, for the first person subject and second/third person complement: 'May I give you a book!' and 'May I give him a book!' seem semantically ok, but not perfect. Does anyone have any better suggestions of how to do this in English?


or, "highly context-dependent" (part 2).

'Que yo...' may imply indirect speech. (S/he asked me to go/said I should [must] go).

'!' implies a certain surprise/disbelief/disagreement. (Are you/is s/he ordering me to.../Do you dare tell me to... S/he actually asked me to...)

The option with 'let' would be more applicable to the third person. (As in "Let them eat cake"). Another comparable form to the subjonctif Nesrin mentions is Konjunktiv I in German, with different implications.

But in a nutshell, such dialogues usually present themselves as part of a longer discourse that is sine qua non in understanding and subsequently communicating their meaning and intent. In Spanish, these are among the more complicated ellipses (omissions of words). In order to "translate" (or better said, render) their meaning, you may have to reconstruct the missing parts, since no words are there to be "translated", and yet they retain a "ghost" of the preceding discourse. This is part of the expressiveness of the original.

Hope it helps...


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