Lesson 1: I am …

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In the previous dialog, I introduced few simple sentence constructs. Let’s go over these in bit more detail. Slovak, just like English, has six categories of pronouns. There are the three singular ones (I, you, he/she/it) and the three plural ones (we, you, they). In Slovak, these are: (singular) ja, ty and on/ona/ono. The plural pronouns are: my, vy and oni/ony. What’s going on with those two forms of they, oni/ony? This is one of the many peculiarities of Slovak language. The first form, oni, is used only when referring to living, masculine nouns, such as “men”. In all other cases, you use ony.

Now that you learned the pronouns, let’s add the verb to be:
ja som (i am)
ty si (you are)
on/ona/ono je (he/she/it is)
my sme (we are)
vy ste (you are)
oni/ony sú (they are)

You can now make simple sentences:
ja som Slovák (I am Slovak)
ty si Američan (you are an American)
ty si Američan? (are you an American?)
ona je Američanka (she is an American)
my sme Slováci (we are Slovaks)
vy ste Američania (you are Americans)
ony sú hladný (they are hungry)

So what about those word endings, you may ask. Slovak is a conjugated language, and the word endings change based on factors such as the gender of the noun. This gender may not correspond to the physical gender (a lamp is female in Slovak, but a girl is neuter). But in this example, they do, since we are referring to people directly. An American guy is Američan, but an American girl is Američanka. If I were to introduce myself, I would say “ja som Američan“. But my mom would introduce herself with “ja som Američanka“. Similarly, the plural form is Američania or Američanky. The masculine form is always used, unless the group consists solely of females (sorry ladies!). So a group of 4 girls and one guy will introduce themselves as “my sme Američania“. If the guy were to leave, the group would say “my sme Američanky“.

If you compare this lesson with the previous dialog, you may notice that Mišo was referring to Michael using the plural you form, vy ste Američan?. This is the polite, formal way of addressing someone you just met, or somebody who is older than you. It’s just like the Sie form used in German. You would use this form if you for instance met a nice lady in a bar. After a bit of chit chat, and perhaps few drinks, you may ask potykáme si? (shall we “ty” each other?). Hopefully she says yes!

Go ahead and practice these basic sentences. Ask your friends if they are American. Here are few more vocabulary words for you to play with:
Nemec (male German), Nemka (female German)
Nemci (Germans), Nemky (female Germans)
Poliak (male Pole), Poľka (female Pole)
Poliaci (Poles), Poľky (female Poles)
hladný (hungry male), hladná (hungry female)
smädný (thirsty male), smädná (thirsty female)