July 17th, 2012

Here's a picture of my stove here in Казань.

It's a gаs stove. A gas stove is a good stove. An electric stove is a bad stove. You can NOT properly warm a tortilla on an electric stove. Oh sure, you can sort of warm it up, but it just isn't the same. I'm an Arizona boy, and I can tell you this for sure. Of course, I'm in Russia and there aren't any tortillas here. But a gas stove is still a good stove. But before today I didn't know the word for a stove's burner, which is конфорка. It's fairly regular and has the fill vowel you would expect in a word ending in -ка.


Very often people pronounce the word комфорка, though it's considered a mistake. Myself, I don't consider it a mistake since the word was borrowed from Dutch komfoor. Still, you mustn't spell it that way.

Я включил переднюю левую конфорку и поставил на неё кастрюлю. I turned on the front left burner and set a pot there.
На задней левой конфорке стояла сковородка с котлетами. A frying pan with meat patties was on the back left burner.
Включи конфорку и поставь чайник. Turn on the burner and put the tea kettle on.
Когда я зажёг конфорку, из неё пошло такое пламя, что у меня обгорели брови. When I turned on the stove, a flame shot out of the burner and I burned my eyebrows.
Выключи конфорку. Turn the burner off.
Turn off the burner.

Следовать (часть первая)

July 16th, 2012

One of the verbs that means ‘to follow’ in Russian is

Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive следовать последовать
Past следовал
Present следую
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду следовать
будешь следовать
будет следовать
будем следовать
будете следовать
будут следовать
Imperative следуй(те) последуй(те)

In English the verb takes a direct object. In Russian it requires a prepositional phrase of за + instrumental.

За зимой следует весна. Spring follows winter.
В комнату вошла Ира, и за ней сразу последовал её пятилетний сын. Ira walked into the room, and she was immediately followed by her five-year old son.
Мой младший брат всюду следует за мной. My little brother follows me around everywhere.
Первыми в космосе побывали русские, а за ними последовали и американцы. The Russians were the first in space, and they were followed by the Americans.


July 13th, 2012

The word огород means a chunk of land near your house where you grow vegetables, in other words a vegetable garden, although in English we usually just say garden. It might also have berries and apples, but it's essential to have either vegetables or greens. It's a perfectly regular 1st declension noun.


Omigosh, but the Russians love their gardens. If they have a дача, then in the summer months they get out of town and raise as much food as they possibly can. If you'd like to see some pictures of a real Russian garden, take a look here.

— Где Даня?
— Он поливает огород.
“Where is Danny?”
“He is watering the garden.”
Флюра привезла мне огурцы и кабачки из своего огорода. Flura brought me cucumbers and squash from her garden.
За нашим огородом есть речка, на которую мы ходим ловить рыбу. Behind our garden is a stream where we go fishing.
— Что ты делал сегодня утром?
— Я полол сорняки в огороде.
“What did you do this morning?”
“I pulled weeds in the garden.”


July 12th, 2012

My language partner, Alan, and I went to an exhibition of exotic fish at one of the museums on ул. Кремлёвская. That set me thinking about aquariums. The word is fairly straight forward in Russian.


Of course the first thing I wanted to do was discuss the difference between fresh-water aquariums and salt-water aquariums, and I translated those phrases word for word into Russian. Wrong. You can't literally say ‘fresh-water aquarium’ in Russian; instead you have to say ‘an aquarium with fresh-water fish’ or ‘an aquarium with salt-water fish.’

— Я хочу завести аквариум с пресноводными рыбами.
— Начни с золотых рыбок. Их тяжело убивать.
“I want to set up a fresh-water aquarium.”
“Start with goldfish. They are hard to kill.”
— Я хочу завести аквариум с морскими рыбами.
— Это очень сложно, требует много времени и заботы.
“I want to set up a saltwater aquarium.”
“That's very complicated and takes a lot of time and effort.”
В моём аквариуме живут тетры и меченосцы. My aquarium has tetras and swordtails.
У нас золотая рыбка выпрыгнула из аквариума и умерла на полу, из-за этого наша дочка весь день ходит в слезах. Our goldfish jumped out of the aquarium and died on the floor, so our daughter has been walking around crying all day.

This article would not be complete without mentioning the legendary rock band «Аквариум». Of their music I especially love the song “Rock and roll's dead, but I'm not... yet.” You can listen to it and read the words and translation here.

Хрень: Lower that horseradish!

July 11th, 2012

My language partner and I went to see «Президент Линкольн: охотник на вампиров» together, and when we sat down I thought he said to me, «Спусти этот хрен», which literally means “Lower that horseradish.” I was confused. I had misheard him. He actually said, «Спусти эту хрень» “Lower that thingamabob,” by which he meant the armrest between the seats. Here's how the word declines.


The word is what we might call substandard speech. It's very conversational, not suitable for academic reading. It's probably also a euphemism for the vulgar meaning of хрен. But the version with the soft sign you can use in front of your mom and grandma without them getting too upset. Take a look at the entry on the phrase «вот это самое» for a synonym. Here are some examples.

Передай мне эту хрень. Pass me that thingamabob.
Возьми эту хрень, что оставил папа на столе. Get the thing that dad left on the table.

The word is also used to mean a useless thing or junk or worthless comment.

— Что продают в этом магазине?
— Всякую хрень для туристов. Не стоит входить.
“What do they sell in that store?”
“All sorts of junk for tourists. It's not worth going in.”
— Паша сказал, что у него девушка-супермодель.
— Что за хрень он несёт?! Паша даже не расчёсывается, как у него может быть девушка-супермодель?
“Pasha said that he had a supermodel for a girlfriend.”
“What nonsense. Pasha doesn't even comb his hair. How could he have a supermodel for a girlfriend?”