How To Be Courteous When Speaking Lithuanian

In anticipation of a coming trip to Lithuania this fall, I wanted to learn a little about the language. I decided this would be a good opportunity for me to put my list of the 10 most important things to know, to get by in any language to the test.

Last week, we learned some Lithuanian greetings. This week we'll take a look at common courtesies.

2. Common courtesies

When I use the term common courtesies here, I am referring to the basic courtesy phrases we all learn as children. These are things like please, thank you, excuse me, bless you, and so on.

Atsiprašau. : Excuse me.

Atleiskite. : Excuse me.

Dovanokite. : Excuse me.

Labai atsiprašau. : I am very sorry.

Prašau. : Please.

Ačiū. : Thank you.

Laba ačiū. : Thank you very much.

Nėra už ką. : You are welcome.

Jokių problemų. : No problem.

Į sveikatą! : Cheers! or Bless you! (lit: to your health)

Mano vardas ... : My name is ...

Malonu susipažinti. : Pleased to meet you.

Ir man malonu. : It's my pleasure.

Geros dienos : Hava a nice day!

Gero vakaro : Have a nice evening!

If you were paying attention, you'll notice that I found three different expressions, all meaning "excuse me". I wish I could elaborate, but I'm brand new. My expectation is that probably one is archaic and unused... and maybe one is more formal and one more casual... but that's all just a guess. Perhaps a Lithuanian-speaker could clear things up.

More familiar words

Just as I did last week, I am able to look at some of these expressions and recognize similarities with Slavic terms I already know. Prašau reminds me of the Polish word proszę, which also means "please". With a little creativity, I can relate nėra už ką to the Russian phrase не за что, which is almost word-for-word the same. And man/mano bears quite a resemblance to mine, so I have no doubt they share similar Latin roots.

What's more, though... I can recognize the -ti ending on susipažinti and know that it's a verb. And I can recognize the su- prefix which means "with". A quick look in my dictionary reveals that pažinti is the verb "to know". So I could gamble and assume the si in the middle indicates "you" in some way (as it would in Italian), and infer that su-si-pažinti literally builds the ideas of "to be acquainted with you".

See that? Learning is easy!


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  • Enjoy your trip to Lithuania. I'd like to go someday and learn a small bit of the language. It sounds very beautiful and I prefer it to Latvian.

  • Well, "si" is reflexsive thus your assumption is not correct.Susipažinti is just the form used but it comes from the intended form "susipažįstame" which is "su" + "pažįstame" (we acquaint) + "si" which is reflexive and directs the action to the subject ("we" in this case") thus it means "we acquaint ourselves" or "we get acquainted".In Italian you have five reflexive pronouns for example: mi, ti, si, ci, vi while Lithuanian has only one: si.

  • In that respect, it seems to mirror the -ся ending in Russian. Even sounds similar... though apparently it's not restricted to use as an ending. Interesting!

  • Hi Randy,I wish I was good at all this language stuff like you are, but what the hell, I'm a jealous old fart and I'm honest only in drunken moments like this one...

  • Hi Steve.I can't figure out what your motivation was in writing this - it comes across as a bit sarcastic, but leaves me guessing at the end. Since I'm not interested in any petty arguments with anyone, I'm going to respond under the assumption that your remarks are sincere... whether that's right or wrong, at least my comments might be useful to someone else who visits. :)The first thing I would say is that I'm not "good at all this language stuff" any more than I'm good at driving a car, or flipping an omelet, or anything else. The sheer fact of doing something a lot will naturally increase a person's ability to do it. If you've messed up a few dozen omelets, you'll eventually figure out how to get 'em to flip... and if you've conjugated enough verbs or deconstructed enough compound words, eventually you develop a pretty solid skill for doing those things. I have no doubt that as an accomplished polyglot (who knows more languages fluenty than I do) you don't need to be told this.The only natural characteristic that I have, which some others perhaps might not, is a natural curiosity... an utter fascination with the way languages work. You might say that this is the thing that causes me to like grammar when other people hate it. For me, it's not a bunch of painful rules, it's a fascinating puzzle that I want to understand. I'm sure we can all relate to this on some level, even if it's not language for everyone. Maybe it's a magic trick, or maybe it's the internal combustion engine, or maybe it's a 3-on-2 fast break hockey play, but whatever the case, I'm sure we can all relate to some utterly fascinating thing... something which you won't be able to sleep until you understand how it works. For me, that's language.My one true desire for this web site, above and beyond anything else, is that I can find a way to convey even the tiniest portion of my enthusiasm, and have that help someone else to get over the slump and start enjoying whatever language they are learning.

  • First off, great explanation of your blog. And of your and your aims. If only more of us had that kind of focus and humility.I don't think that was the real SK -- probably just someone pretending to be him to stir up crap. I'm not his biggest fan, but he can troll a little better than that!And if I'm wrong (it's a distinct possibility) then SK has really sunk beyond pathetic in his desire to get attention.

  • Thanks!And about whether this is the real SK or not, the nice thing about taking the high road is that I don't have to eat any words if it turns out to be a fake. :)(I wonder if he'd have taken the high road...)

  • Agreed. The high road is nowadays definitely the road less taken. I doubt if you-know-who would have even set one foot on that road. There would be a stream of tweets and at least two blog posts complaining.

  • In my year in Lithuania, the only "excuse me" I used was atsiprašau. I can't comment on the others because I was comfortable with that one, because it is far and away the most common (or perhaps they only taught us one so that we wouldn't get confused).Prašau is "please" in the broad sense (I think of it as please in the Russian sense, but I am not sure if that is correct or just a weird thought pattern of mine), it means please, give me, here you are, etc.Those two words will gain you a lot of ground. :) Enjoying reading about Lithuanian, keep it up!

  • I think of prašau in the same sense as the Polish proszę, which also means please, thanks, you're welcome, here you go, can I help you, etc.

  • You are correct in thinking of "prašau" in that way.
    "Atsiprašau" means something like "I please myself (away) from (the situation)" although it is not perceived in that way by Lithuanians.
    Then "atleiskite" is a formal imperative form of "atleisti" which consists of "at" and "leisti" which is "let away". The infinitive is "atleisti", thus the informal imperative, easy as it is, has "ti" changed to "ki" thus it becomes "atleiski" which actually gets shortened in speech (and now also in writing) all the time to "atleisk" and the formal imperative is "atleiski" as it was plus the plural (formal) ending used everywhere in a lot of languages (including Italian and Russian) "te" thus we get "atleiskite" as it is.
    "Dovanokite" is an imperative of "dovanoti" which means "to give (as a gift)". You can see how the imperative is formed in the same way. "Dovanokite" thus implies asking for forgiveness or grace as a gift despite having done something bad. This form is, however, used less rarely although is sometimes encountered.
    Young Lithuanians often just simply say "sorry" and I also heard "pardon" although rendered as "pardom" but that was only during a small period of my childhood.

  • yeah, it's kinda the same thing. it should be easy for you to get it since you're familiar with this ending in russian.in lithuanian "si" is used as an ending (it's always shortened to -s in some forms, e.g. infinitive praustis /wash oneself/ or imperative prauskis! /wash yourself!/; in colloquial speech it gets shortened in other forms as well) when verbs have no prefix and no negation. however, when a verb is either prefixed or negated, the "si" thingy jumps just in front of the stem (but after the negation and/or preffix). using the same example word: ne-si-prausti /inf. to not wash oneself/, nu-si-prausk! /imper. get yourself washed/ (nu- is a prefix used, for example, to describe a finished/finite action).uh, sorry if i spared too many details here :D

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