The pre-radical vowel plays an important role in expressing indirect relations, a concept which itself is much broader in Georgian than in English. The following sentence makes no reference to an indirect relation, and is thus sometimes said to have ‘neutral version’.
კაცი სახლს აშენებს.
k'ats-i sakhl-s a-shen-eb-s.
man (nom sg) house (dat sg) X-builds-Y (pres 3s 3s)
The man is building a house.
If we change the pre-radical vowel from ა- a- to ი- i- , the meaning of the verb is changed. The pre-radical vowel (or ‘version vowel’) now indicates that the builder himself is the beneficiary of the action. The verb is now said to have ‘subjective version’.
კაცი სახლს იშენებს.
k'ats-i sakhl-s i-shen-eb-s.
man (nom sg) house (dat sg) X-builds-Y-for-self (pres 3s 3s)
The man is building a house for himself.
The pre-radical vowel უ- u- refers to a third person indirect relation. The verb is said to have ‘objective version’.
კაცი ძმას სახლს უშენებს.
k'ats-i dzma-s sakhl-s u-shen-eb-s.
man (nom sg) brother (dat sg) house (dat sg) X-builds-Y-for-Z (pres 3s 3s 3s)
The man is building a house for [his] brother.
The pre-radical vowel ა- a- is used to mark an indirect relationship, indicating that the action of the verb takes place 'on' a surface, as in this example.
სურათს კედელს ახატავს.