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The use of 'sobie' in Poland's language


BumSkillet 10 | 11
3 Oct 2017  #1
How does one use 'sobie?' I once read a very different grammar site on Polish active and passive voice, and in that was a section about 'sobie.' It mentioned something to the effect of that you are able to use sobie after most statements and it would change the meaning just slightly. I cannot remember the site so maybe I can find it soon.

Np. Czytam sobie książkę v. Czytam książkę

I once asked about the above two sentences and people tend to say they mean the same exact thing, but what do you think? Does it ever change the meaning of the sentence/verb? Thanks!
Ziemowit 12 | 3,492
3 Oct 2017  #2
In most cases it doesn't as is the case in your example. In some cases it does in that it stresses one does something for oneself only and with no attention to or no cooperation with others as in the proverb: każdy sobie rzepkę skrobie.
DominicB - | 2,672
3 Oct 2017  #3
Does it ever change the meaning of the sentence/verb?

It also gives the idea of taking one's time and doing something at leisure, without an immediate goal in mind. It's hard to translate into English.
Ziutek 9 | 160
3 Oct 2017  #4
I always think of it as meaning "having a read of ..." but I'm not a native speaker, so maybe I've not caught the nuance exactly.
mafketis 20 | 7,182
3 Oct 2017  #5
Np. Czytam sobie książkę v. Czytam książkę

Czytam książkę = I'm reading a book (neutral statement)

Czytam sobie książkę = I'm reading a book (for no particular reason and/or having a nice time doing so)

The exact semantics of sobie can be hard to pin down and be difficult to translate but often does have an idea something done for its own sake.

In the southern US (po)czytać sobie might be something like 'have myself a nice little read"
Ziemowit 12 | 3,492
3 Oct 2017  #6
It may also translate into 'once upon a time'.

Na Wojtusia z popielnika
Iskiereczka mruga
Choć opowiem CI bajeczkę
bajka będzie długa.

Była sobie Baba-Jaga
Miała chatkę z masła
A w tej chatce same dziwy
Cyt iskierka zgasła.

Była sobie raz królewna
pokochała grajka
Król wyprawił im wesele
I skończona bajka.

Ziutek 9 | 160
3 Oct 2017  #7
@mafketis
Are perfectives other than the po- form allowed? eg przeczytać sobie?
Lyzko 22 | 6,543
3 Oct 2017  #8
I too still often have doubts as to when I should use "sobie" vs. "sie" in a purely reflexive construction. After so many years, certain structure simply have begun to "sound right", such as "Ach, wyobrazisz SOBIE!" etc., yet I will frequently consult a grammar just to be certain:-)

Just ordered "Polnisch fuer Fortgeschrittene: Lehrbuch mit Uebungen" by Stanislaw Karolak and Danuta Wasilewska, so this ought to clear things up a little.
German, after all, like Polish, has rich use of the reflexive in daily conversation, whereas English doesn't to anywhere near the same degree.
OP BumSkillet 10 | 11
3 Oct 2017  #9
Can you guys provide me with some more examples? Thanks...
terri 1 | 1,621
3 Oct 2017  #10
1. Robie sobie herbate. - I'm making myself some tea.
2. Ucz sie! - Learn.....
In these 2 examples the sobie/sie are not interchangeable.
Lyzko 22 | 6,543
3 Oct 2017  #11
Thanks, Terri! Will have to simply continue my monastic immersion through native speaker examples in context until their usage becomes as clear to me as my mother tongue(s). Lord knows how long that'll take:-))
OP BumSkillet 10 | 11
4 Oct 2017  #12
What about his sentence?
"Jechała autobusem i robiła sobie makijaż. Gdy kontroler poprosił ją o bilet, wpadła w szał (Gazeta.pl)"
DominicB - | 2,672
4 Oct 2017  #13
@BumSkillet

With that example, you're bumping up against a tendency in Polish to use the dative where, in English, you would use a possessive. Here, "sobie" can be translated as "her": "she was putting on her makeup".

In this case, it's a bit ambiguous because it can also give the idea that she was unhurried, self-absorbed and unbothered by, and even oblivious too, anything else around her. The ambiguity was undoubtedly intended by the writer.

Other similar examples that are not ambiguous:

"Robił sobie zdjęcie codziennie przez 9 lat" from this article:

joy.pl/galeria/lifestyle/21717/szok-robil-sobie-zdjecie-codziennie-przez-9-lat-nie-zgadniesz-co-wydarzylo-sie-podczas-ostatniego-zdjecia

Here, it is clear with he was taking a picture of himself, so the possessive idea is the only possible meaning.

"Robił sobie zdjęcia w muzeum. Kiedy się cofał, wpadł na 300-letnią rzeźbę" from this article:

deser.gazeta.pl/deser/7,111858,20951920,robil-sobie-zdjecia-w-muzeum-kiedy-sie-cofal-wpadl-na-300-letnia.html

Here it is clear that the unhurried, self-absorbed, unbothered meaning is intended. He was not taking a picture of himself, but of another sculpture, so the possessive use is not a possible meaning.

You have to rely on context to determine which meaning is intended.
Ziemowit 12 | 3,492
4 Oct 2017  #14
"Robił sobie zdjęcia w muzeum. Kiedy się cofał, wpadł na 300-letnią rzeźbę"

Here it is clear that the unhurried, self-absorbed, unbothered meaning is intended.

Wyrywał sobie włosy z głowy.

Does an "unhurried, self-absorbed and unbothered" meaning is intended here also?
DominicB - | 2,672
4 Oct 2017  #15
It can, if the context suggests that the person in question suffers from trichotillomania. Otherwise, like the first example I gave, it is just the possessive use: "He was pulling HIS hair out".
DominicB - | 2,672
4 Oct 2017  #16
@DominicB

To get a feeling for the "unhurried, self-absorbed, unbothered, leisurely without a distinct and immediate goal, just for fun" sense of "sobie", it's best to concentrate on purely intransitive verbs that never take a direct or indirect object, like "iść". The sentences with translations on this page give will help you understand the many ways this can be expressed in English:

context.reverso.net/t%C5%82umaczenie/polski-angielski/idzie+sobie


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