Sentence as object

The expression sentence as object (abbreviated as SAO) refers to the use of a topic pronoun – either 'e' or net – to refer to the previous sentence. 'e' and net are only used as objects of a verb, thus the effect is as if the previous sentence itself were the object of the verb(1). These phrases are usually constructed with verbs of thinking and observation, such as see, hear, know etc. The English translation usually uses the word "that": "I see that you do something."

Basic rules

Sentence structure

A SAO follows the standard Klingon word order object-verb-subject. To create such a sentence, the translation of "subject [verb] that [sentence]" (as in "I see that you learn" ) is [sentence] 'e' [verb] subject.

Suffixes on the first verb

The sentence as object can have nearly all suffixes, as long as it remains a real sentence that can stand alone. Adding a type 9 suffix to the first verb turns the verb into a dependent clause, a sentence fragment, so the verb is no longer a sentence, so it cannot function as a "sentence as object."

Suffixes on the second verb

Basically all suffixes can be used on the second verb of an SAO construction, as long as they make sense. Aspect suffixes do not go on verbs with 'e' or net as object(2).

This restriction has been violated only twice by Okrand. Both events happened on the SkyBox cards, which have some other strange constructions, so these should only be reagarded as errors and not as a good canon example.
  • yejquv DevwI' moj ghawran 'e' wuqta' cho' 'oDwI' Dapu'bogh janluq pIqarD HoD (Skybox card S25)
  • DuraS tuq tlhIngan yejquv patlh luDub 'e' reH lunIDtaH DuraS be'nI'pu' lurSa' be'etor je. (Skybox card S26)

The meaning of net

net VERB is formally equivalent to 'e' VERBlu' (➞ verb suffix -lu'), but there is a slight difference. The exact difference is hard to recognize, because TKD is not so clear on it. In some examples, using net is explained as implying that the phrase is a common knowledge, or generally accepted, bu TKD does not clearly say that it's always the case.
  • qama'pu' DIHoH net Sov. It is known that we kill prisoners. (TKD, p. 66)

Using the suffix -lu' implies that the subject is not defined, while TKD somehow says the same thing about net as well, saying it is used when the meaning is "one" or "someone". This could be interpreted like the same meaning of the indefinite subject, but it does not clearly say that net must be used, nor that 'e' VERBlu' is not allowed. Several canon examples show that it's possible.

In a message to the Facebook group, David Yonge-Mallo wrote a quite interesting interpretation of this:(3)
I'm sort of on the fence. I agree that it does not say anywhere that 'e' -lu' is not allowed, but OTOH there's no clear explanation for how it might differ from net. TKD says that -lu' is used when the subject is "unknown, indefinite, and/or general", while net is used when the intended subject of the second sentence of a SAO construction is "one" or "someone". It's possible to interpret this in a way that net and 'e' -lu' don't quite overlap, and that both are permitted and have slightly different meanings or emphasis.

We have several examples of 'e' -lu' from canon (besides the already-mentioned 'e' 'aqlu':
  • yInlu'taH 'e' bajnISlu'. Survival must be earned. (TKW p. 125)
  • yay chavlu' 'e' bajnISlu'. Victory must be earned. (TKW p. 125)
  • DIvI' rojmab qep ghanglu' 'e' nIDlu', 'ach taH qep. (Monopoly)
  • Qang QanmeH yan 'ISletlh Damuv 'e' wIvlu'. (Monopoly)

The last two are from Klingon Monopoly, which also has an example of net: Duj ghajchugh pagh, beylI'vo' 'oH Daje' net chaw'.

Based on the examples - and I emphasise this is only conjecture - my impression is that 'e' -lu' can be used when the subject of the second sentence is unstated but refers to someone/something previously mentioned. For example, "Survival must be earned" is yInlu'taH 'e' bajnISlu' because the indefinite subject of bajnISlu' is the same as the indefinite subject of yInlu'taH. That is, in "one must earn one's survival", both "one"s refer to the same person. yInlu'taH net bajnIS would mean "it must be earned that one survives", i.e., someone (anyone) has to do something so that one (not necessarily the same person) survives. The same reasoning applies to yay chavlu' 'e' bajnISlu' and Qang QanmeH yan 'ISletlh Damuv 'e' wIvlu'. Using net would allow that someone achieves a victory earned by someone else, or that someone tries to get someone (else) to halt the peace talks with the Federation. Finally, in Qang QanmeH yan 'ISletlh Damuv 'e' wIvlu', it is implied that the yan 'ISletlh or the Qang is who chooses you to join. Using net would leave this vague.

In the net example from Klingon Monopoly, it is not "nobody" or "the bank" which allows you to make the purchase. It's just allowed, i.e., "one allows that you buy the ship". Using 'e' -lu' would imply some particular (though unspecified) person or thing is giving the permission.

I don't know that the above is what differentiates net and 'e' -lu', but yInlu'taH 'e' bajnISlu' suggests to me that yInlu' 'e' toblu' [from The Little Prince] has a reasonable interpretation: "one proves that one (the same one) lives". Obviously net is allowed here, but yInlu' net tob leaves open the interpretation that "one proves that one (possibly a different one) lives", i.e., the one doing the proving isn't the one doing the living.

Of course, Marc Okrand could contradict this at any time, but I don't think Lieven's usage is actually contradicted by any canon, and could reasonably be supported by examples from canon.

The verb neH

When the second verb is neH want, 'e' is not used:

jIjatlh vIneH
I want to speak.

On example used in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country seems to break that rule, when Azetbur said: 'e' neHbe' vavwI' "That's not what my father wanted". It's long been speculated that 'e' is used with neH if the speaker is referring to a sentence spoken by someone else. So we don't know that she's violating the rules. She might be following a rule we don't know about.

Multiple sentences as object

Each SAO used in a phrase creates a new sentence which can be used again as a SAO. It's absolutely correct to say:

targh DaSop 'e' vIlegh ['e'] DaneH 'e' vISov
I know that you want me to see that you eat the targ.

info The 'e' in brackets is added to show the basic structure of the sentence. It is usually not used in combination with the verb neH want .


bIHoS 'e' vISov
I know that you are strong.

qaSpu' wanI' potlh 'e' maq ta'
The emperor proclaimed that something important had taken place.

Direct Quotes

Direct quotes are not regarded as sentence as object, so the above rules do not apply: They don't use the pronouns, and having an aspect suffix is also permitted.

The literal translation of a quote like blabla jatlh is not "He said that blahblah" but it's "He said: blahblah"

Sentence as subject

There is no sentence as subject ("It bothers me that it's raining"). Although many English-speaking Klingonists are at first distressed by the lack of a means to construce a sentence as a subject, they soon learn that such a construction is unnecessary, and that alternatives are available, many of them involving the verb suffix -meH. (See also Today is a good day to die.)

See also


1 : The Klingon Dictionary 6.2.5. p. 65

2 : The Klingon Dictionary 6.2.5. p. 66

3 : Message in "Learn Klingon" of January 19, 2020

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