Armenian Language Corner

Please, Bear in Mind

We have spoken in the past about the risks of thinking in English and speaking in Armenian. Sometimes this creates impossible situations. For instance, when you try to use a very plain sentence like, “Please, sit down.”

We have to always remember that English has only ONE pronoun for the second person: you, both for singular and for plural. When we read the sentence “You’re right,” we cannot be sure whether the “you” in question is one person or a dozen, a family member or a complete stranger, and, therefore, how that “you” applies. However, in other languages, like French, Spanish, or Armenian, there is no such problem. They have TWO pronouns for the second person, and then it is very easy to understand to whom one is addressing. In the case of Armenian, we have tun (դուն) in singular and tuk (դուք) in plural, and each has a totally different way of conjugation.

To give only one example, if you want to say “please”:

  1. When you address your friend, you say hajis (հաճիս);
    b. When you address a stranger or a crowd, you say hajetsek (հաճեցէք).

This also means that you cannot mix the singular to address a friend with the plural to tell him what to do. For example, if you intend to say, “Please, sit down,” you HAVE to say Hajis, nsdeh! (Հաճիս, նստէ՛), you can NEVER say Hajis, nsdetsek, which is a very common mistake among American-born Armenian speakers. (Of course, you can also say Khntrem, nsdeh [Խնդրեմ, նստէ՛]).

Otherwise, if you want to address a stranger or a crowd, you HAVE to say Hajetsek nsdil (Հաճեցէք նստիլ), where instead of the imperative nsdeh we use the infinitive nsdil. Why? It is a matter of style. If you were to say Hajetsek nsdetsek (Հաճեցէք նստեցէ՛ք), it would sound utterly ridiculous. (Otherwise, you can say Khntrem, nsedetsek [Խնդրեմ, նստեցէ՛ք], which sounds perfectly normal).

Language is communication, but the better you speak a language, the better it reflects on you.