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Summary Details

Query:   Verbs "to have" and "to be"
Author:  Pavol Stekauer
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   General Linguistics

Summary:   Dear colleagues:

I would like to appreciate your help in collecting the relevant information
about languages without the verbs to be/to have. Below please find a brief
summary of your data.

Yours sincerely

Pavol Stekauer
Department of British and American Studies
Faculty of Arts
Presov University

EXISTENTIAL VERBS ''TO BE'' AND ''TO HAVE'' in different languages

The general typological guess is that roughly 50% of world?Euro(tm)s
languages do not use verb TO HAVE ?Euro'' instead, they make use of various
kinds of syntactic constructions, often involving a locative associated with
the possesor. (e.g with /at /over /in... me is a book)

More specifically about some languages:


Yossi {hu} more. Yossi a teacher. = Yossi is a teacher
Yossi nexmad. Yossi nice. = Yossi is nice.

TO HAVE '''' this language do not use it; together with other languages e.g.
Welsch, possession is expressed as: to me / you / him as e.g. to be to

STANDARD ARABIC: has not such verbs (word :''malaka'' corresponds more to
''own'' than to ''have'')

''be'' verb is only for the past and present, no present indicative copula
(the same for Russian language)

TO HAVE: no TO HAVE verb
- expressed with preposition ''li''- for (written together with the
following word; before pronouns it appears as ''la'') :
La-naa al-qudrat-u
For-us definite-power-nominative
We have the power.

- expressed using: is to / with: e.g. l-ii qualamun = to-me a pen (I have a

JAPANESE: has BE and EXIST, but strictly speaking not HAVE

e.g. watashi (ni) wa ga aru
me (to) topic possessed (pen) '''' subject exist.
I have a pen.

No verb ''to have'', use constructions like: Tha cat agam.
Is cat at me.
I have a cat.

HUNGARIAN: and other Ugrofinian languages, e. g Finnish

-has form TO BE, but in usage in copulative meaning it frequently dispenses
with it
e.g. A macska (cat) fekete (black). (Rather than A macska fekete van)
A k??nyv z??ld. '''' The book green.
But verb ''be'' is needed in locative meaning. E.g. The book is on the table.
A k??nyv az asztalon van.
The book the table on is.

TO HAVE: does not have a verb for TO HAVE, uses TO BE for TO HAVE:
I have my passport.
Nekem (to, for me) van (is) az utvelem. (my passport)
I do not have''?
Nekem nincs az''?

TURKISH: does not really have either

TO BE: O ??grenci (dir) Araba mavi (dir)
He/she student (3. pers.) Car blue. (3. pers.)
He/she is a student. The car is blue.

TO HAVE: Benim - arabam - var
My car - 1.pers. poss. '''' exists
I have a car.

a verb TO HAVE. Instead, the existence of possession is marked by a
possessive construction and the verb TO EXIST. E.g. nakulit t-uhnung
dog poss.-1st 3sg- realis. exist.

QUECHUA '''' spoken in the Andes of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia has the verb TO BE,
but not a separate verb TO HAVE. This is expressed with a derived BE form, e
.g. house exists for me (I have a house).

MUSKOGEAN languages (southeastern NAmerica, Native American languages,
Amerindian languages) lack these verbs

MAORI probably counts as a language with no verb TO BE

CHINESE: TO BE is not always needed: e.g. Wo hen hao. I very well.

Special rules apply also to languages in Africa, East Caucasian languages,
Jaqi languages (Jaquru, Kawki, Aymara) and many others.

LL Issue: 13.1392
Date Posted: 17-May-2002
Original Query: Read original query


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