Impersonal constructions

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The sentence, clause or verb are called impersonal when the subject or agent of action is absent. Indefinite pronoun and omitted “you” in imperatives are not considered as absent subject. In English subject of such expressions must be specified by dummy pronoun “it” (or less often “one”: “One does not simply walk into Mordor”), but in Nûrlâm it is not necessary, or even ungrammatical. Impersonal sentences may have objects or patients. Typical situations when impersonal clauses are used include:

  • Action is being done by force of nature or supernatural being: “He was blown away” ⇒ “Thûthuzâtan (bo)”1);
  • Verb expresses the state of being (or it's transformation) of person or animal: “I feel cold” = “It's cold for me” ⇒ “Grazarz dazûr”2), compare with personal “I'm cold” ⇒ “Dakul graz” = “I'm (always) cold (to the touch of others)”
  • Verb expresses the state of weather (“to be” = “kul” may be omitted in present tense): “It's sunny” ⇒ “Dîlarz”; “It's getting darker” ⇒ “Thôlâ bûrzarzar”;
  • General possibility or allowance to do (or not to do) an action, often used with various directive modalities: “It's not allowed to make fire here” ⇒ “Narkulâ dabhuga kramput ghâsh zin”3) = “Nardabhâ fizûr kramput ghâsh zin”4); “On holidays one may sleep (for) long” = “Ilfâ lorut rodharz irg birtârsh”5);
  • “Do-er” of action (agent) is unknown and not specified by indefinite pronoun: “I was told that…” = “Gashnuzâ dazûr zamash …”6);

The action of impersonal construction is usually expressed by:

  • The verb in 3rd person singular (but 3rd person plural is possible if it's known that action was done by group of people or animals);
  • Compound predicate: the verb “to be” (“kul” usually omitted), “to get” or “to become” (thôl) in required tense and 3rd person singular + adverb or adverbial phrase;
  • Word “no” with some description, usually in dependent clauses: “No way!” ⇒ “Nararz”, “He runs like there is no tomorrow” ⇒ “Takhîg oth nar ârshabob”. Usually it means that verb “to be” is omitted. Object of such sentences should be in genitive case, but this rule is often ignored in colloquial speech;
  • Infinitive or Gerundive: “Nothing to see here” ⇒ “Narash honut zin” = “Narash honat zin” ⇒ “Nothing for seeing here”, “(it's) Time to go” ⇒ “Il ukhut” = “Il ukhat” ⇒ “Time for going”, “It's not possible to not drink now” ⇒ “Narfalgarz narshogat zil” (lit. “Not possible for not drinking at this time”, may be transformed into personal with subject expressed by infinitive: “To not drink now is impossible” ⇒ “Narshogut zil kulâ narfalgarz”);
  • Modal verb with infinitive: “(One) may go” ⇒ “Ilfâ ukhut” = “It's allowed to go” ⇒ “Dabhuga ukhut”7) ;
  • Passive past participle (verb “to be” may be omitted, but it's not recommended): “It's shitted here” ⇒ “Zin (kulâ) bagaga”, “It's not finished yet at my side” = “(kulâ) Nargorzaga rad rambdabir”;

Impersonal clauses often have a shade of passivity and often used instead of passive voice when agent of action is not specified: “He was blown away”, “I was told that …” (not impersonal in English but impersonal in Nûrlâm). Sometimes it vice versa, impersonal clauses of English like “it rains” may be translated in Black Speech with personal constructions “rain goes/falls/pours” (“miz ukhâ/lûmpâ/sûrbâ”), “there is rain” (“Miz (kulâ) zîgin”) which usually occurs when corresponding verbs are missing in dictionary. Another example of translating of English impersonal sentence into personal in Nûrlâm are phrases like “It's not he who …”, which are translated into something like “Not-he (did something)”.

English expressions “There is/are/was/were/will …” do not count as impersonal constructions in Nûrlâm. See Existential clause article for further information.

You can notice that famous “Uglúk u bagronk...” phrase is also impersonal, moreover it has no verb too! “Uglúk” here is direct object and “u bagronk” is indirect object. However with less strict approach one may say that preposition “u” took verbal meaning “go to” (and that is probably why it was used standalone), then “Uglúk” is subject.

Grammatical case of objects in impersonal sentences

Patient of impersonal verb is often expressed by noun in Dative case, like in German “Mir ist kalt” (literally “to me it's cold”) instead of “Ich bin kalt” (“I'm cold”). Similar expressions are used in Russian (but usually with 3rd person plural or 3rd person neuter singular). This is especially true for sentences describing state of being and verbs requiring object in dative case.

The grammatical case of object of impersonal sentences depends on context. Genitive case is used with expressions of absence (started with “no”). Dative case is used with verbs that usually require this case (“give”, “tell”, etc.) or with verbs expressing state (may be omitted) or transformation and following adverbial phrases.

blow-PST-3SG=3SG.OBJ off
cold.ADV I.DAT
NEG-be-3SG allow-PTCP.PST make-INF fire here
NEG-allow-3SG you-DAT make-INF fire here = lit. “Don't allow you to make fire here”
may-3SG sleep.INF long.ADV on feast=day
tell-PST-3SG.OBJ I-DAT that …
see next point
syntax_impersonal.txt · Last modified: 2023/09/07 19:38 by