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Archive for the ‘grammar’ Category

Don from the Russian Word of the Day site has written an excellent post regarding some of the subtleties of the use of чтобы, and really, his explanations and examples are among the best I’ve ever read.   In the first part, he explains why sometimes you use an infinitive in the send clause after чтобы, and why sometimes you use past tense.  In the second part, Don explains the use of чтобы with the “subjunctive mood” following certain verbs.  And in the third part, Don examines how using the negative affects the use of чтобы.

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Josefina has another excellent post where she discusses the appropriate use of the possessive pronoun свой. It’s a tricky one, as she points out, for speakers of languages whose possessive pronouns don’t change.   But it’s very cool in that it eliminates some grammatical ambiguities of English.

The quick answer:  use свой when the object refers to the subject of the sentence.

She likes her  (someone else’s) blog.     Она любит её блог.

She likes her (her own) blog.  Она любит свой блог.

Josefina rightfully points out that Russians don’t always follow this grammatical rule when speaking conversationally.

Read her post!

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который – friend or foe?

Который is one of those Russian things that I find often trips me up when used as a relative pronoun.    For the uninitiated, который declines like an adjective and must agree in gender and number with the noun or pronoun to which it refers, but (and this is a really big but) it’s case is determined by its function within the subordinate clause in which it appears.

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Don’t be so negative!

Leon Trotsky and Diego Rivera

Negation can do some unexpected things in Russian grammar.   This isn’t a complete list, because I don’t know everything. :-)  But if you have some more examples, please send them to me or leave a comment and I’ll add them.

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Modal particles

In Using Russian by Offord and Gogolitsyna (which I describe and provide an Amazon link for here), there is an excellent description of that various and sundry particles that appear in Russian.   These are tricky for students of Russian.  They provide a nuance to the language that English can only do by tone of voice or intonation.  Most of these examples are from that fine book, which include many more examples.

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Барак Обама

Josefina writes in her wonderful Russian blog:

But within Barack Obama’s name there is a strange task for the Russian system of cases – his first name is masculine, ending as it does on a consonant, while his last name is feminine, ending on the vowel a. In Russian thus Барак Обама. According to the rules of Russian grammar, we must decline his first name as a masculine noun, but his last name as a feminine one.

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Short-form adjectives

I was reading through one of the Russian books that I used when first teaching myself Russian: Russian: A Self-Teaching Guide (Wiley Self-Teaching Guides). It’s very good actually. It got me to the point where, after five months of study, I could say to a gentleman in Vishki (the little town in Latvia where my grandfather was born), “Мой дедушка родился здесь.”, and he understood me and I could sort of understand what he said.  Anyway, I came across a section of the book that I remember not understanding at the time — and I still didn’t completely understand it.  I had to get a little help from my wife, a proud member of the Professional Organization of English Majors, because the section opens, “Short adjectives must be used predicatively.”   I had no idea what that meant, so I asked her and she said a bunch of stuff that I still don’t understand, but I think I get why and when I’d want to use a short form adjective.

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