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of L'viv Polytechnic National University

"Problems of Ukrainian Terminology"

№ 817

Ginzburg M. Ukrainian construction with verbal forms in -no, -to against the background of the neighboring Slavic languages //  Website of TC STTS: Herald of L'viv Polynechnic National University "Problems of Ukrainian Terminology". – 2015. – # 817.


Mykhajlo Ginzburg

R&D Institute for Gas Transportation, Kharkiv




© Ginzburg M. D., 2015


The article deals with the appearance of impersonal constructions with verbal forms in -no, -to and the comparison of their usage in the four Slavic languages: Polish, Czech, Russian and Ukrainian. It is shown that from the studied languages only in Polish and Ukrainian, these forms, differing from passive participles, became the exclusive morphological phenomenon, while in the Czech and Russian languages they are within participle paradigm. With the assistance of the grammatical experience of other languages the problem questions on the usage of Ukrainian form in -no, -to are considered.

Keywords: Ukrainian language, Slavic languages, verbal forms in -no, -to, activity, passivity, subjectlessness, impersonality.


The widespread usage of verb forms in -no, -to as the principal member of impersonal sentences is one of the syntactic features of the Ukrainian language distinguishing it from cognate and distant languages. Therefore, the grammatical and usage features of these forms are actively investigated and described in the 20–30s of the XX century by Vasyl Simovych, Olena Kurylo, Serhii Dlozhevskyi, Mykola Nakonechnyi, Mykola Sulyma, Petro Horetskyi, Oleksa Syniavskyi, Serhii Smerechynskyi and Oleksandr Matvienko, and later by Panteleimon Kovaliv, Yurii Shevelov, Vitalii Rusanivskyi, Kateryna Horodenska and other linguists. Despite such attention of researchers, there is a certain number of problems associated with the usage of Ukrainian verb forms in -no, -to, about which there is some controversy for almost a century. One of the ways to solve these problems is to scrutinise these grammatical forms through the grammatical experience of the neighbouring Slavic languages having the similar forms in -no, -to.

Until today we have a number of works comparing the properties of verb forms in -no, -to in several Slavic languages, for example: in Ukrainian and Russian, in Polish and Russian, in Czech and Ukrainian, in Czech and Russian.

The grammatical features of mononuclear sentences with verbal forms in -no, -to in the several Slavic languages (Polish, Czech, Ukrainian, Belorussian and Russian) are studied in the article of Veronika Horodetska, who tried to compare constructions with this forms by eight criteria in tabular form, but several of her conclusions contradict the grammar and text books of certain languages, the works of other authors, including Yurii Shevelov. The said above caused the need for a new detailed comparison.

The purpose of this article is to determine the origin and common grammatical properties of verb forms in -no, -to in the Polish, Czech, Russian and Ukrainian languages basing on the works of the above mentioned and other linguists and on the base of this comparison to consider the problems of usage of Ukrainian forms in -no, -to.

The article deals with the appearance of impersonal constructions with verbal forms in -no, -to and their usage is compared in four Slavic languages: Polish, Czech, Russian and Ukrainian. The results of comparison of these forms in the mentioned languages by 12 parameters are shown in the table. The consequence of these results is the following conclusions:

1. Impersonal sentences with verbal forms in -no, -to that convey action of indefinite person(s) is a common Slavic linguistic phenomenon, but in modern Slavic languages there are significant differences as to these sentences, in particular they are most essential between Polish and Russian.

2. In Polish and Ukrainian verb forms in -no (-но), -to (-то) are different from the passive participles neuter not only from their usage point of view, but morphologically, while in Czech and Russian the same passive participles in -no, -to are used both in passive two-member sentences with the subject neuter and in impersonal sentences.

3. In Polish and Ukrainian sentences with verbal forms in no, ‑to convey only actions of indefinite living beings (usually persons) and through such their meanings they can not contain an actor, and moreover in the ablative. However, in the ablative they may be tools, means, methods, reasons.

4. Ukrainian verb forms in -no, -to unlike the Polish ones lost preterite meaning, but retained the effectiveness (one-time for perfective aspect forms and repeated for imperfective aspect forms). Because of these, they are mainly used with zero link-copula. However, copula bulo or bude is possible, if it is necessary to emphasize the past perfect or future meaning.

5. Polish and Ukrainian verb forms in -no, -to from the right-transitive verbs are commonly used with direct object in the accusative without preposition and, therefore, constructions with such forms are active, whereas in the modern Czech and Russian languages such constructions are rare exceptions. Therefore the Czech and Russian linguistics consider the constructions with forms in -no, -to as impersonal and “lazy” passive voice, respectively.



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