Finding the mot juste to translate a tense

Talking with my Urdu-speaking friend, I showed him a sentence that used what we would call a preterit form. The sentence read in my first take as The wise man rode in the boat, which I felt would be ‘was riding’ in narrative English. But that calls for an imperfect. So I was puzzled.
My friend at first extracted the phrase (it is a noun + verb combo “do a ride”) and said ‘rode’. I asked, why not ‘was riding’ b/c the narrative seemed to call for that. He said that would be OK but a bit different. So I asked him to expound. He said it would be “he was going in the boat” for what I was looking for but this means something like ‘he got into the boat’ which fits perfectly the aspectual purpose of preterits as focusing on the beginning (or end) of an action. Problem solved.
For Urdu-interested types the phrase is savaar hona and the sentence had savaar hwa.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *