Introduction to Lithuanian Basics:
Lesson 17

By Linas

Here is the golden rule for you:

Whatever you want to emphasize, you move to the back of the sentence.

This sometimes contradicts what we have learned before. However, the truth is, Lithuanian is pretty free about word order.

When I had some classes in psychology I heard about some research which tells that if there is a line of data people would usually tend to remember the first and the last elements best. Lithuanians probably have figured this out because they like to put the words they feel are the most important in the sentence at the end. It’s no mistake if you don’t, it just feels more natural if you do.

For example, say:

I am doing it.

Answer: Aš tai darau.
Not correct. Please try again.

That is the general way. Now, look at this sentence. What if you wanted to say that I am doing IT and not some other thing. Well, you would simply put IT at the end. Say it:

I am doing IT.

Answer: Aš darau tai.
Not correct. Please try again.

You could apply that to:

I am not doing IT.

Answer: Aš nedarau to.
Not correct. Please try again.

This is not the word order we have learnt but it works as well if you want to emphasize it. You can also emphasize yourself. You could say:

YOU (informal) are doing it.

Answer: Tai darai tu.
Not correct. Please try again.

Tu goes to the end just because you want to emphasize it. This happens.

If you don’t care about emphasizing anything, you just say it like you usually do with tai in the middle.

This rule works for short and long sentences as well. Try it with formal you:

You don’t understand English but you DO UNDERSTAND Lithuanian.

Answer: Jūs nesuprantate angliškai bet jūs lietuviškai suprantate.
Not correct. Please try again.

This also becomes interesting when you have, say, tai and taip in the same sentence.

Tai and taip can be in relation to each other.

You can say tai taip or tai taip or tai šitaip or šitaip tai and it makes no difference whatsoever.

Try a phrase:

I understand it like this.|Aš šitaip tai suprantu. OR Aš tai šitaip suprantu.

However, in these sentences you are usually emphasizing something. For example, in the last sentece you would probably be emphasizing LIKE THIS because if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be saying the setence at all. The meaning of the sentence is that you understand something LIKE THIS so this LIKE THIS part is the most important.

That’s why when I write the sentence, it feels most natural for me to put the Lithuanian word for like this at the end. See how it feels:

I understand it LIKE THIS.

Answer: Aš tai suprantu šitaip.
Not correct. Please try again.

The whole point of this is to tell you that there are no rigorous rules about word order in Lithuanian and you simply put what’s more important at the end but you don’t even have to. You just do it naturally. In this course, we will be ordering things like we usually do when there is no emphasis intended but keep in mind that whenever you want to emphasize something, you change the order.