When to use Plural instead of Dual in Slovenian

Slovenian is one of the rare languages that has the grammatical number dual – it is used specifically for two objects or persons. But there are, ironically, also exceptions where we use plural instead of dual for two things. These are even body parts, biological functions, things like parents, pieces of clothing and footwear (pairs), and some other objects, such as earrings, ‘uhani’. Nevertheless, we can still use dual for pairs, but only when we want to emphasise two things.

Gender Singular Dual – used only when emphasized Plural – used for pairs English
                                              EVEN BODY PARTS
F noga nogi noge legs
F roka roki roke arms
N uho ušesi ušesa ears
N oko očesi oči eyes
F rama rami rame shoulders
N lice lici lica cheeks
M uhan uhana uhani earrings
                                         BIOLOGICAL FUNCTIONS
M starš starša starši parents
                                PIECES OF CLOTHES OR FOOTWEAR
F rokavica rokavici rokavice gloves
F nogavica nogavici nogavice socks
M rokav rokava rokavi sleeves
M čevelj čevlja čevlji shoes

F = feminine, N = neuter, M = masculine



Examples of use:

OČI (eyes)

Plural: Maja ima lepe oči. – Maja has beautiful eyes.

Emphasized:  Naprezal je obe očesi. – He strained both eyes.

ROKE (arms)

Plural: Kako nežne roke imaš! – What soft hands you have!

Emphasized: Luka si je poškodoval obe roki. – Luka injured both his arms.

UŠESA (ears)

Plural: Bolijo me ušesa. – My ears hurt.

Emphasized: Bolita me obe ušesi. – Both my ears hurt.

LICA (cheeks)

Plural: Sonja ima rdeča lica. – Sonja has red cheeks.

Emphasized: Sonja ima obe lici rdeči. – Sonja has both cheeks red.

UHANI (earrings)

Plural: Kako lepi uhani! – What beautiful earrings!

Emphasized: Izgubila sem oba uhana. – I lost both earrings.

ROKAVICE (gloves)

Plural: Zebe me v roke. Potrebujem rokavice. – My hands are freezing. I need gloves.

Emphasized: Obe rokavici sta raztrgani. – Both gloves are ragged.

ROKAVI (sleeves)

Plural: Rokavi so predolgi. – Sleeves are too long.

Emphasized: Oba rokava sta predolga. – Both sleeves are too long.

STARŠI (parents)

Plural: Moji starši so doma. – My parents are home.

Emphasized: Oba starša sta doma. – Both parents are home.

ČEVLJI (shoes)

Plural: To so zimski čevlji. – These are winter shoes.

Emphasized: Oba čevlja je vrgel proč. – He threw away both shoes.

When we use a dual to emphasise two things, we usually use the word ‘obe’ (F, N) or ‘oba’ (M), meaning ‘both’. Number two can also be used for emphasizing two things (dve očesi, dve nogi, dva uhana). We also need to conjugate verbs in dual and adapt adjectival or pronominal endings to the number of a noun:

Plural: Copati so topli. – Slippers are warm.

Dual: Oba copata sta topla. – Both slippers are warm.

Published on December 26, 2015