James - Jan 6th, 2015

Подарувати – present, gift, or…. none of the above!

Now that the season of gift-giving is upon us, I hear more and more often one of the most common mistakes in English made by speakers of Slavic languages: “he/she presented me a….” meaning  ‘він подарував мені….”  Which, unfortunately, do not mean the same thing. And so with ABC English blog’s inaugural post I want to wish everyone in Ukraine a Happy New Year and Merry Christmas.

Constructions involving “present” do not refer in common usage to gift-giving. When we say “I presented her a car” we are saying, quite unequivocally, “я представив ій машину” and not “я ій подарував машину” !

This oft-repeated direct translation of the very “подарувати” is in fact what linguists call a false friend (фальшивий друг перекладача) – it seems correct, but in fact distorts the speaker’s intended message. And to make matters worse it seems to be taught this way in many older English texts!

It is important to remember: if we want to say “я подарував/ла щось комусь” we say “I gave somebody something (as a gift/present).” The text in parentheses is optional if the context isn’t clear.

An example: “Вона подарувала мені нотбук на день народження” – “She gave me a laptop for my birthday.”

What about gift, you ask? Now we’re really getting down to nuances. When “gift” is used as a verb, as in “I gifted her a car” it either sounds archaic or legal, meaning a voluntary grant of property, without compensation, from one party to another, often documented and sometimes under contract – and with particular legal implications.

So when you want to tell your English-speaking friends what you’re going to get that special person or family member for New Years or their birthday, remember that you are “giving them a present/gift,” not “presenting them” with something.


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