I understand that verb Є can either be written, omitted, or replaced with an em-dash(—). I know that there are no semantic differences between these, but are there any circumstances in which one would be more acceptable than the other? For example in casual vs formal conversation.

Also, is there any connotation that goes along with using a specific option? Finally, when reading aloud, is the em-dash(—) ever pronounced?


TL/DR Maybe the most important rule to know: em-dash is used if Predicate is a Noun/Nominative. The rest of cases are really rare.

The verb "to be" has several essentially different meanings:

  1. be in existence: є країна, де…, there is a country where…
  2. be an identity (object x belongs to a class X): яблуко є фрукт or яблуко є фруктом¹, apple is a fruit
  3. be (object x has an attribute y): яблуко [є] зелене or яблуко є зеленим¹, the apple is green
  4. be in someone's possession: [це] яблуко є моїм or [це] яблуко [є] моє, [this] apple is mine
  5. be at location: яблуко [є] на столі, apple is on the table; я [є] удома, I am at home
  6. be (to mean): життя є кохання, to live is to love

These are all different, so it is important to understand the function of є in each case.

«Український правопис» lists the following cases where em-dash should be used instead of є:

  1. Between the Subject and Predicate, if Predicate is expressed by a Noun/Numeral³ in Nom.case, and there's no other verb
    Між підметом і присудком, коли останній виражений іменником або кількісним числівником у називному відмінку³, а дієслова-зв'язки немає. При цьому присудок буває як непоширеним, так і поширеним:

    • яблуко — фрукт, apple — [is a] fruit
    • Київ — столиця України, Kyiv — [is the] capital of Ukraine
  2. Between the Subject and Predicate, if one or both are infinitives²
    Між підметом і присудком, коли один із цих членів речення (або обидва) є інфінітивом

    • говорити — річ нудна, talking — a boring thing
  3. Before це (це є), оце, то, ось (це) значить if Predicate is a Noun/Nom or Verb/Inf. are linked by these words
    Перед це (це є), оце, то, ось (це) значить, якщо присудок виражений іменником у називному відмінку або неозначеною формою дієслова, приєднується за допомогою цих слів до підмета:

    • Сміле слово — то наші гармати, Світлі вчинки — то наші мечі
      (brave word — is our cannons, bright deeds — are our swords)

¹) it is not Instrumental case, but a relic of the ancient Translative case
²) I would say, it's just a functional equivalent of Gerund
³) obviously, they missed the bare Adjective, as in яблуко — зелене

when reading aloud, is the em-dash(—) ever pronounced?

Well, by a pause. The duration is just like in the phrase “Well, by a pause”. :-)

is there any connotation that goes along with using a specific option?

No lexical meaning, but still, there is a very subtle difference. The pause adds some dramatic effect, either excitement or a pathetic connotation.

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