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Pridané: 03.12.2012
Autor: Andy BILLINGHAM
Kategória: 24/2012

Tricky Words in this week's OVI

Wristwatch. In Slovak this is "náramkové hodinky", but literally it would be "zápästné hodinky". The main point I want to make though, of course, is that in Slovak "hodinky idú" but in English "a watch goes". The Slovak idea is of the hours that are shown by this device, whereas the English idea is of a device that we keep an eye on, to be aware of the time. In either case it is one device, but while the English word is singular, the Slovak noun is "pomnožné" - always in the plural form, even though it refers to a single thing.
In English grammar a Latin expression is used to denote this feature: plurale tantum, meaning "plural only" - "clothes" for example, and quite a lot of specific clothes too: trousers, jeans, tights, also glasses or spectacles. You can understand these as "two identical pieces joined together", otherwise known as "a pair" - but shoes, socks and gloves are not plurale tantum, because you can talk about them singly (how come there's always one odd sock left in the washing machine?)

Andy's Wordshop

Going on with plurale tantum, if you do wrong, you should make amends (náprava škody), if you make a bet, you need to know the odds (stavkový kurz), and if you want to cut something, you probably use scissors. There are English words which look like plurals, but they are used in the singular - a large steelworks is located south of the city - or as uncountable (mass) nouns - the news was good.
Back to "pomnožné" words in Slovak, you might say "noviny", but in English that's a newspaper. Then there are the typical traps (chytáky) to remember: peniaze sú, but money is; informácie sú, but information is; vedomosti sú, but knowledge is; skúsenosti sú, but experience is. These are not singular, but uncountable (mass) nouns, and they are usually not used in the plural (but nota bene: experiences are zážitky).

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