14.2 - Reflexive and reciprocal

As can be seen from page 14.1, verbs which have the suffix -ся in Ukrainian can be expressed in various ways in English. Given below is an attempt to list the different ways in which -ся is used with verbs in Ukrainian, the shades of meaning it can convey, and how best to express these in English.

1. Actions done to oneself:

помити to wash (something or somebody) Де тут можна помити машину? Is there anywhere one can wash the car?
помитися  to wash (oneself) Помитися в лазні відтепер коштує 5 гривень. Washing (yourself) in a public bath now costs 5 hryvnias.

2. Mutual or reciprocal actions:

зустріти to meet (someone), to encounter, to greet  Ми зустріли мандрівників в Карпатах. We met some hikers in the Carpathians.
зустрітися  to meet, to meet up Президент і прем'єр зустрілися в Одесі. The president and prime minister met in Odesa.

3. Actions performed (apparently) of one's own accord:

нариодти to give birth to, to bear «Народи мені, дівчино, сина ...» "Young woman, bear me a son ..." (from a 1970s poem by Oles Berdnyk)
народитися  to be born Вона народилася в Києві. She was born in Kyiv.

4. To add shades of meaning to the basic verb, usually "to the full extent" or "widely", with the prefixes на-, ви-, з-, за-, роз-:

їсти  eat наїстися eat one's fill
ходити walk (repeatedly) находитися walk a lot or to exhaustion
спати sleep виспатися have a good sleep
говорити speak виговоритися speak until there's no more to say
горіти burn розгорітися burn (more) strongly
кашляти cough закашлятися have a coughing fit

5. In impersonal phrases, usually indicating additional subjective shades of meaning, for example feeling, pain, emotion:

objective subjective (expressing state of mind)
він не хоче ...
he doesn't want to ...
йому не хочеться ...
he couldn't be bothered to ...
вона не спить
she's not asleep
їй не спиться
she can't sleep

6. A number of verbs denoting one's state of mind (and its outward expression) have the -ся ending. In some of these, the addition of -ся changes the basic meaning. Some common examples are:

дивуватися  wonder, be amazed
хвилюватися worry, be anxious
обурюватися be angry, annoyed
насолоджуватися be pleased with, enjoy
захоплюватися be very enthusiastic about
сердитися be angry, irritated
лаятися swear, quarrel, use bad language

7. A number of verbs (also frequently denoting state of mind or emotions) exist only with the -ся ending in modern Ukrainian, for example:

боятися  be afraid 
намагатися try
старатися make an effort, try
прокинутися wake up
сподіватися expect, hope
надіятися hope
сумніватися doubt
сміятися laugh
скаржитися complain

8. In Ukrainian the passive is frequently avoided by using verbs ending in -ся. For more about this see page 14.3.

N.B. For brevity, the particle -ся can be abbreviated to -сь, except before consonants which are phonetically similar, e.g. с, з, ц, ж, т, д, ч. This may also be done for stylistic reasons or in dialectal speech.

Exercise 14.2A | Exercise 14.2B

Part of the collection of resources at UkrainianLanguage.org.uk
© 2007 Marta Jenkala