Crystallising Mongolian Grammar
Монгол хэлний хэлзүй
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"That's because" in Mongolian: "Genitive + х"

21 April 2017

In a utopian world where language was precise and methodical, stating a reason would require nothing more than a clause with "because", e.g., "I like her because she's friendly".

But real language is not so cut and dried. In order to express afterthoughts, add focus or impact, or vary their style, people speaking English say things like: "I like her. That's because she's friendly" or "The reason I like her is because she's friendly".

In spoken Mongolian, one way of explaining an earlier statement is to add the possessive suffix + х to the past tense of the verb that is doing the explaining. This is usually the verb at the end of the sentence.

For example, it might be used to explain why a person is sleepy in the afternoon:

Одоо түүний нойр нь хүрч байна. Яагаад гэвэл шөнөжингөө кино үзсэнийх.
That person is sleepy now. That's because he watched movies all night.

The two can be condensed into a single sentence. The first part gives the situation and is followed by нь. The second part is the explanation and ends in "past tense + genitive + х":

Одоо түүний нойр нь хүрч байгаа нь шөнөжингөө кино үзсэнийх.
That that person is sleepy now is because he watched movies all night.

The genitive + х can also be added to the negative -аагүй:

Одоо тэр хүний нойр хүрч байгаа нь шөнө сайн унтаагүйнх.
That that person is sleepy now is because he didn't sleep well at night.

What is most useful about this pattern is that it reverses the normal Mongolian order of clauses, which puts the reason clause first:

Шөнөжингөө кино үзсэн учраас одоо түүний нойр нь хүрч байна.
That person is sleepy now because he watched movies all night.

A few more examples of genitive + х are:

Тэр хүн баян болсон нь их хөдөлмөрлөснийх.
That that person became wealthy is because he worked.
Тэр хүн ажилтай болсон нь их сургуулиа сайн төгссөнийх.
That that person got a good job is because he graduated from university with a good result.

Using a non-verbal (adjectival) + байна:

That you did well in the exam is because your teacher was good.
Тэр хүн баян болсон нь их азтай байсных.
That that person became wealthy is because he was lucky.

The form can be used in answering questions:

-Тэр хүн яагаад баян болсон бэ?
- Их хөдөлмөрлсөнийх.
- How did that person become wealthy?
- It's because he worked hard.

It can be quoted, as in this sentence (which uses чинь for the situation, recapitulated with энэ нь):

Нүдэн дээр нь өвдөг гарсан чинь багш нар энэ нь ядарсных гэнээ.
When she got the sore above her eye the teachers said that was because she was tired.

In the following sentence it is followed by юм байна, meaning that the content of the sentence is something suddenly realised by the speaker:

Даанч би ерөөсөө хоол хийж амжихгүй байсан нь төрд зүтгээд түмэн завгүй байсаных юм байна.
I realised that the fact that I always had no time to cook meals was because I was so horribly busy working for the government.

The following examples come from a story about two counsellors advising the khan. Both are nonsensical answers by a counsellor attempting to ingratiate himself with the sovereign:

- ᠮᠠᠨ ᠦ ᠬᠠᠲᠤᠨ ᠦ ᠨᠢᠳᠦ ᠶᠠᠭᠠᠬᠢᠭᠠᠳ ᠡᠢᠮᠦ ᠶᠡᠬᠡ ᠡᠪᠡᠳᠳᠡᠭ ᠪᠣᠯᠣᠭ᠎ᠠ ᠪᠦᠢ?
- ᠠ ᠬᠦᠭᠡᠷᠦᠬᠦᠢ ᠣᠯᠠᠨ ᠬᠡᠦᠬᠡᠳ ᠲᠥᠷᠦᠭᠦᠯᠦᠭᠰᠡᠨ ᠦ ᠬᠢ᠃
- Манай хатны нүд яагаад ийм их өвддөг болоо вэ?
- А хөөрхий олон хүүхэд төрүүлснийх.
-Why have the queen's eyes become so bad?
- It's because she bore so many children.
- ᠮᠢᠨᠤ ᠡᠨᠡ ᠰᠠᠬᠠᠯ ᠶᠠᠭᠠᠬᠢᠭᠠᠳ ᠡᠢᠮᠦ ᠶᠡᠬᠡ ᠤᠷᠭᠤᠭ᠎ᠠ ᠪᠣᠢ?
- ᠬᠠᠭᠠᠨ ᠲᠠ ᠪᠣᠣᠪᠤ ᠶᠡᠬᠡ ᠵᠣᠭᠣᠭᠯᠠᠭᠰᠠᠨ ᠦ ᠬᠢ᠃
- Миний энэ сахал яагаад ийм их ургаа вэ?
- Хаан та боов их зооглосных.
- Why does my beard grow so much?
- Khan, it's because you dined on a lot of cakes.