Translating humor, part II »

1 comment

Comment from: Sabi [Visitor]

“??????” etc => “???????”

Don responds: Thanks! Typo fixed!

06/22/14 @ 00:25


Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

Hm, this was tougher than I thought it would be.

“After the welcoming home of Crimea by Russia a new state arose - Ratropolis.
The citizens will be known as ’squealers’…”

Any critiques more than welcome!

04/30/14 @ 18:18
Comment from: Marc [Visitor]

After the integration of Dombass in the Russian federation a new state was created: Dombassia.
The citizens are now called “dumbasses”

It’s the next step after all :p

05/31/14 @ 04:19


Comment from: Shady_arc [Visitor]

I wonder if you could use “How is your (thesis) proposal?” here? Will anyone make the connection and even understand what the ambiguity is?

Don responds: Ah, now that is clever! But it might take a subtle reader to riddle it out.

03/31/14 @ 03:23
Comment from: Richard [Visitor]


An interesting post!

Of course humour relies on more than just linguistics. It also relies on culture. People who have a shared cultural history and cultural values are able to create humour using this cultural subtext. The comedian and his audience share an implicit understanding of what is funny and what the boundaries of humour are.
Some cultures joke about sex, some about religion, some about drinking, some about none of the above.

Human beings are united by our love of humour but are divided by our cultural definitions of humour.

“Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake.”
~ W.C. Fields

03/31/14 @ 16:26


Comment from: Richard [Visitor]


Since Russian has different words for male and female cats, is this also the case for rats?

03/31/14 @ 16:33
Comment from: Natasha [Member]  


What an intriguing question! I did some research and talked to a few native speakers, and it appears as though this is not the case for rats in Russian. The word крыса is used for both male and female rats. A small or baby rat would be called крысёнок. Hope this helps! Thanks so much for the comment!


04/07/14 @ 12:48

1 comment

Comment from: Alex [Visitor]

>In Russian if you mention the place you are leaving, you must *always* use the ‘from’ word with its noun. For this verb you use the typical ‘from’ equivalents. For example:

But if you use “покинула” instead of “ушла", you never use “from".
Таня ушла из университета
Таня покинула университет

The latter is close to “left forever” though, but not always.

05/11/14 @ 02:16

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Comment from: Richard [Visitor]


It’s always good to learn some idiomatic phrases. Also, as a political junkie I really enjoyed this post!

Никсон: “И это типичная капиталистическая кухня!”

Хрущёв: “Но где же серебро??”

Никсон: “Я не мошенник!”

Хрущёв: “Я покажу тебе Кузькину мать!!!”

Sorry, couldn’t resist, I love political humour! :-D

Anyway, I have a question re the sentence “Ты всегда будешь неучадчником!” Literally, this would translate as “You’ll always be an ignoramus!”
I found “неуч” in my dictionary with the English translation “ignoramus", however I wasn’t able to find “неучадник". Is it safe to assume that the meaning is the same as “неуч” or is there a slightly different connotation due to the ending “-адник"?

Don responds: Typo corrected. Неудачник is the intended word.

03/12/14 @ 18:36
Comment from: David Taylor [Visitor]
David Taylor

неучадчником should be неудачником!

Don responds: Thanks! Typo corrected.

03/20/14 @ 08:13

1 comment

Comment from: Mark Sowul [Visitor]
Mark Sowul

I know this verb is an oddball, but они “ведвелут"?

Don responds: Oops, thanks! Typo corrected.

03/11/14 @ 06:26

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1 comment

Comment from: Simo Vihinen [Visitor]
Simo Vihinen

I had to pop by and leave another comment! Great article about the word ассортимент! I think you have a small typo: “сухофркуты в ассортименте".

Don responds: Thanks! Typo corrected.

03/05/14 @ 17:14

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1 comment

Comment from: Sahyd_arc [Visitor]

“Я вчера водил своих девушек на престижную дискотеку. Ахти, как им там понравилось!” → “Ахти” should not be used here. First, it has a negative connotation “alas". Second, it is downright archaic and used only in “не ахти как"(~"not really good").

“И как им там понравилось!” would work just fine.

Don responds: Sahyd, thanks for your comment. I’ve decided to change the ахти to вау, which I’ve heard from the lips of a 22-year old kid who always seems to have beautiful girls around him. He originally inspired the sentence. Like many twenty-somethings (and thousands of Muscovites) he occasionally throws in anglicisms. BTW, I enjoyed the discusion of вау and other interjections here.

02/28/14 @ 02:12


Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

An interesting post, Natasha!

A couple of questions come to mind:

1.) Could “мусор” be used in a broader figurative sense, i.e., apart from referring to the local constabulary?
In Canada we often say that something we don’t like is “garbage". For example: “There’s nothing but garbage on TV!”
На русском языке, может быт: “Есть только мусор по телевидению!” Is that a correct usage of “мусор"?

2.) You mentioned that “едь” is substandard Russian. Is “едь” simply incorrect grammatically or is it slang? If it is slang is it considered profane in any way? Is it used by a certain age group or social group? Sorry for all the questions, I’m just curious.

Don responds: Hi, Richard. This is Don, responding for Natasha.

  1. Although it would be perfectly grammatical in Russian to say that someone is watching garbage on TV, it is not a common thing to say. If you google the phrase “мусор по телевидению” (with quotes), you will find very few hits. Compare that with the results for the corresponding English phrase.
  2. «Едь» is non-literary, uneducated Russian, not slang and not profane. Absolutely everyone understands it immediately when they hear it. If you know your imperative formation rules very well, then in fact you would predict that едь is the imperative form. But sometimes the expected form in a language is replaced entirely by an unexpected form; then we say that form is suppletive. Thus in English we would expect the past tense of “go” to be be “goed,” but instead we get the suppletive form “went.” In the Russian literary language the verb ехать and all its prefixed derivatives use suppletive variations of езжай for the imperative. Occasionally one will also hear «ехай». The Russians themselves sometimes have questions on this issue. See the discussions on and for a bit of amusement.
02/20/14 @ 12:50
Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

Hi Don,

Thanks for your response.

Re the use of мусор, I was just curious about how the word is used in the purely figurative sense. I chose TV as an example because it’s so annoying; I can only hope that Russian TV shows are of better quality than what we have here! LOL

Thanks for the links about едь. From what I read, it seems that the consensus of opinion is that it’s a vulgarism which should be avoided by educated people. I guess Natasha stated it best when she called it substandard Russian.

02/24/14 @ 21:13
Comment from: Shady_arc [Visitor]

“мусорный ящик” is not a common expression in Russian, just like “trash box"/ “garbage crate". Letterbox for trash comes to mind :).

A real term is “мусорное ведро” (at home) or “урна” (on the streets: often next to benches or building entrances).

As for garbage on TV, I would use “бред", “шлак", “чушь", “всякую гадость” and so on, depending on the meaning implied.

02/28/14 @ 02:18
Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

Hi Shady_arc,

Those are some great words to apply to TV programs! Они - слова, которые я не знал! Спасибо!

Может быть слово хлам могло использоваться в этом контексте?

It’s amazing how many different ways human beings can talk trash! ;-)

02/28/14 @ 15:22
Comment from: David Taylor [Visitor]  
David Taylor

In Moscow I heard the word «мильтон» used for ‘cop’ or ‘fuz’ and they could fine you on the spot for using it. Is this still the case?

Don responds: Oof, I have no idea. Perhaps one of our readers from Russia could respond?

03/02/14 @ 04:10

1 comment

Comment from: Richard [Visitor]


1.) How does the perfective prefix “по-” change the meaning of this verb? Knowing Russian verbs of motion I have a feeling the answer won’t be a simple one! :-)

2.) Just an observation. It looks like “путешествовать” comes from the noun “путь” meaning “path” or “way".

Don responds: Richard, the по- here simply adds the idea of ‘for a while.’ On this occasion there is no complex directional meeting.

BTW, good observation. Пут- does indeed mean path/way, and the root of the second part is шед- ‘go’, which we see in the past tense of идти, which is шёл. (The connection between ид-/шед-/ход- is actually quite interesting, but would take too much time to go into here.)

02/17/14 @ 08:21

1 comment

Comment from: Sergey [Visitor]  

“Мне ни нравятся суеверия” is incorrect.
In this sentence “не” should be used instead of “ни".
Please note that though it would be absolutely gramatically correct to say “Мне не нравятся суеверия", this phrase ia a little awkward. A more natural-sounding variant is “Я не люблю суеверия".

Don responds: Typo corrected!

Although I agree with you that the sentence is awkward, I’m still proud of Janell for producing it, even with a typo. Homonyms sometimes trip us up. We English speakers often confuse there, their and they’re, even though we know perfectly well which one to write.

Hm… I think Janell is currently abroad… I’ll have to see if she is in Russia.

01/02/14 @ 08:28

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Comment from: Simo Vihinen [Visitor]
Simo Vihinen

So these entries are nice, but I don’t get why you have to go to such lengths to explain what a “slacker” is for instance. Is it not a blog for English-speakers? Instead would appreciate some background on the Russian word if possible or just more examples if there’s actually interesting ones. Sometimes you also leave obvious secondary meanings out which means you’re probably going to get comments pointing them out. Should you make a mention of there being more meanings that you haven’t covered yet? Like with кисть or глухой.

Anyway I’ve learned some interesting words from the blog… Maybe you should focus on typically or idiomatically Russian words and concepts to keep it interesting. Like I didn’t realize шоколадная картошка was a thing.

Всех благ!

Don responds: Hi, Simo. Although my original target audience for the blog was first- and second-year American students of Russian, it turns out quite a few Russians read it, too, so when a guest blogger offers a detailed explanation of an English word, I have no objection, knowing that the Russians may enjoy it. Plus we may find instances where our English readers differ over the meaning of words, which should also provoke interesting discussion.

The blog is mostly written in the spare moments that I and a few acquaintances have; some day we do hope to get to things like кисть and глухой. All the best, Don.

10/25/13 @ 06:20
Comment from: Clifton Bancroft [Visitor]
Clifton Bancroft

The suffix -ник creates a masculine noun, not a pronoun.

10/25/13 @ 17:39
Comment from: Doubleabsenty [Visitor]  

Привет, Дон! Я очень рада, что блог снова работает!
Однако соглашусь с Simo Vihinen- новые посты про бездельника и глухих мне тоже читать совершенно неинтересно, хотя я русскоговорящий читатель. У меня возникло ощущение, что я просматриваю какие-то куцие пересказы статей из википедии на специально упрощенном английском. Как в плохих учебниках.
И не понимаю, как это соотносится с russian word of the day.
Не сочтите за грубость, Дон! Это просто мое субъективное мнение.

01/06/14 @ 15:45

1 comment

Comment from: katya [Visitor]

They are Chinese girls.

01/25/14 @ 17:32


Comment from: Liz Wild [Visitor]
Liz Wild

Two negative comments (which you don’t have to publish!). I find this bloggers entries disapointing because they do not deal with the language but in general are simply observations that almost anyone could make.

Second, I think credit should be given for artwork such as appears in this post. I don’t object to using someone else’s Creation as long as it is properly acknowledged.

That said, always enjoy reading your entries. A great resource for a stifling student like myself!

Don responds: Hi, Liz. Negative comments are also welcome.

Occasionally I have guest bloggers, some of whom are just learning how to write about language. Sometimes the fledgling efforts are more successful than others. I’m just proud when a foreigner has the courage to make any comment about the Russian at all. Over the Spring 2014 semester I expect we will have more entries in the old vein. Those ones might be more to your taste.

Peace, joy and light to you, Don.

10/07/13 @ 10:33
Comment from: Simo Vihinen [Visitor]
Simo Vihinen

The word емоция is used also.

10/17/13 @ 05:23
Comment from: Simo Vihinen [Visitor]
Simo Vihinen

whoops… that’s эмоция

10/17/13 @ 05:25


Comment from: Andrey [Visitor]  

Please note: “при помощи” is used on inanimate objects only. So “починил унитаз при помощи молотка” is ok, but “при помощи брата” is not entirely correct. I guess it’s somewhat equal to English “make smth with smth", like “I fixed the toilet with a hammer", “I fixed the toilet with my brother” (correct me if I’m wrong with that analogy)

Don responds: Андрей, thanks so much for your thought. Here’s the scoop. Although I agree with you that the phrase при помощи is used with an inanimate complement for best style in Russian, I found when writing the blog entry that in fact in conversational Russian people do use the phrase with people sometimes. At the moment I consider the use of «при помощи брата» to be one of those things that is an exceedingly minor error, so minor in fact as to now be part of the standard conversational language. If I were to make a comparison, I suppose it is about equivalent to saying “Did you eat lunch?” instead of “Have you eaten lunch?” The former nowadays is extremely common in American English, so common as to not sound wrong to most people in casual conversation, although some of us still try to maintain the distinction. (I believe the distinction may still have more force in Britain, though I am not sure.)

To my ear “I fixed the toilet with a plunger” and “I fixed the toilet with my brother” are both perfectly fine sentences, so I think I didn’t quite follow your point on that one.

Peace, joy and light to you, Don.

09/30/13 @ 00:42
Comment from: Richard [Visitor]


1.) I noticed that you used the feminine form “нужна” in all of your examples. Does this mean that “нужен” must always agree in gender and number with the noun to which it is referring?

2.) I found a couple of handy phrases related to “помощь” in my dictionary:
-"машина скорой помощи” –> “ambulance” (literally “car of quick aid” which is kinda cool, I like the literal definition better! :)
-"первая помощь” –> “first aid”

Don responds: Richard, yes, indeed, it is the thing needed that determines the ending of нужен, not the person who needs it.

10/02/13 @ 08:18
Comment from: Andrey [Visitor]

Don, I guess I was just happy about I’ve got something to say and haven’t noticed being a nuisance :) Anyway, your Russian is a way better than my English!

10/09/13 @ 21:38
Comment from: David Emerling [Visitor]  
David Emerling

Is there any difference in saying “Мне надо помощь” and “Мне нужна помощь"? I know the topical word is помощь, but the above sentences got me thinking about надо/нужно.

Don responds: What an excellent question. Although in terms of meaning they are basically the same, grammatically they are different. In «Мне надо помощь» the word помощь is in the accusative case, and there is some implied infinitive (although I’m not at the moment sure which verb, perhaps получить?). It is an impersonal sentence with надо as the predicative. In «Мне нужна помощь» we have a personal sentence with помощь as the nominative subject and the short form adjective agreeing with it. Interesting, eh?

11/11/13 @ 16:21
Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

You can say “Мне нужно/надо получить помощь” or “Мне нужно/надо помочь". But the last example also can be used when help is needed for someone else, like “Мне нужно помочь ему".

02/06/14 @ 10:09

1 comment

Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

“Кисть” also means “hand".

02/06/14 @ 10:11

1 comment

Comment from: Gerda [Visitor]

This is a brilliant blog, thank you for helping me with my Russian studies- such a beautiful language!

09/24/13 @ 08:03


Comment from: olimo [Visitor]

There is a curious thing. One of the ways to say, for example, “There is nobody in the room” in Russian is “В комнате ни души". “No soul” instead of “no body” :-)

Don responds: Indeed. In these contexts душа merely means ‘person.’

09/18/13 @ 17:05
Comment from: Roberta [Visitor]  

Surely “душа” in Russian has much more resonance culturally than “soul” does in English. I want a dissertation on “the Russian душа", please.

Don responds: Alas, time does not permit me to write a dissertation on душа this semester… nor probably next. However I welcome guest writers on occasion, so if anyone would like to do a little writing…

09/18/13 @ 17:41
Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

Another very interesting post. Thanks!

In English we say “a cat has nine lives". Would the Russians say “у котá есть дéвять душ?

Don responds: Richard, alas, no, not as far as I know. I’ve been told that «живуч как кошка» is a near equivalent, but so far I don’t think I believe it.

09/19/13 @ 12:55
Comment from: Brittany [Visitor]

Thank you so much for these posts! These posts are extremely helpful and I love the multiple examples to show how the word can be used in a variety of different ways. I do have a quick question, in the last example (эта книга была мне не по душе) why is по used? Thanks!

Don responds: «По» has a thousand uses, and one of them is a kind of measuring meaning. Thus «Машина мне не по карману» means “The car is too expensive for me” (~The car is not according to my pocket) or «Сухое вино мне не по вкусу» mean “I don’t care for dry wine” (~White wine is not according to my taste). If you want a bit of amusement, look up the phrase «не по зубам».

09/21/13 @ 14:57
Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

In English we say “a cat has nine lives". Would the Russians say “у котá есть дéвять душ?
No, cats have nine lives in Russian too. “У кошек девять жизней".

02/06/14 @ 10:16

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Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

Thanks for the post, Don. It’s great to learn not just Russian grammar and vocabulary but also about the little cultural things that make up everyday life for the Russians.

Кажется, что ласточки вкусно! Конфеты, не птицы!!! :))

I have two questions:

1.) In the chart above showing the Acc/Gen plural, is the “e” inserted simply to make pronunciation easier? (i.e., drop the “a” from the nominative singular and insert an “e"?)

2.) Are all plural accusative nouns governed by the “animate accusative” rule regardless of gender?

One typo: “Ты любишль ласточек?” I don’t think you need the “л” in “любишль".

Don responds: Richard, thanks for your comment. Regarding them…

1. You asked whether the insert vowel was to make pronunciation easier. It’s a bit more complex than that. For the most part those insert vowels appear in places where historically there used to be ‘reduced vowels’ that in certain contexts vanished and in others did not. The general concept is described as “the fall of the yers” in Slavic languages, where the yers were vowels that might have been short or relaxed. While sometimes some people say those vowels are “to make pronunciation easier,” it’s really part of a much more complex historical process.

2. Yes, all plural accusative nouns are governed by the ‘animate accusative’ rule.

3. Thanks! Typo corrected.

09/02/13 @ 15:12
Comment from: Richard [Visitor]


Thanks for the explanation. I was aware that Russian orthography had changed in 1918, but I guess I still have a lot to learn about the evolution of the language. The evolution of any language is fascinating and I’ll definitely look into this aspect of the Slavic languages.

09/03/13 @ 16:59
Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  


“Кажется, что ласточки вкусно! Конфеты, не птицы!!! :))”

You can’t say such phrase. Maybe “Оказывается, ласточки вкусные!".

02/06/14 @ 10:22


Comment from: Bill Dixon [Visitor]
Bill Dixon

The text shows Он рисует акварелью,
Научи меня писать акварелью as examples but the table shows акварель as the accusative. Is the table correct?

Don responds: Bill, here’s the trick. In Russian you paint by means of water colors, so the noun must go in the instrumental case. Sneaky, that, eh?

08/28/13 @ 09:18
Comment from: ALEX [Visitor]


Don responds: Thanks! Typo fixed. (Alas, sometimes we get carried away with cut and paste…)

09/03/13 @ 13:03

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Comment from: Ernie [Visitor]

Great blog!

> В искусстве нет больше ничего оригального. There is no original art anymore.


Don responds: Thanks! Typo corrected.

08/21/13 @ 00:33
Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

The painting that is posted above is by the painter Ilya Yefimovich Repin (Илья Ефимович Репин) and is entitled “Barge haulers on the Volga". Repin also did a truly terrifying painting of Ivan IV and his dying son. Ivan had struck his son with a large, heavy staff in an argument. The look in Ivan’s eyes defines insanity!
Another great painting of Ivan IV was done by Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov (Виктор Михайлович Васнецов). Another great late-19th century Russian painter that I love.

This is the sort of information that you can include on your résumé if you want to remain unemployed. ;-)

08/24/13 @ 16:05


Comment from: Mark Sowul [Visitor]  
Mark Sowul

С возвращением!

08/20/13 @ 01:44
Comment from: Clifton [Visitor]  

What a nice surprise to see a new entry here! I had resigned myself to seeing chocolate potatoes whenever I checked back. I spent the last year in Astana, and шоколадная картошка was often available in our cafeteria.

08/20/13 @ 10:40
Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

Great to see you posting again! This is easily one of the best online resources for learning Russian!

08/21/13 @ 08:29
Comment from: alex spain [Visitor]
alex spain

it’s great this blogsite works again….one of my favourites to practise my russian)))

08/21/13 @ 23:25
Comment from: Doubleabsenty [Visitor]

Дон, какая радость снова читать Ваш блог! С возвращением.

01/06/14 @ 16:06


Comment from: Joka [Visitor]

I think you forgot the word ‘eat’ in the translation of the third sentence.

Don responds: Fixed!

07/18/12 @ 00:52
Comment from: Dmitri [Visitor]

They are often decorated with tiny pieces of buttercream, which is supposed to make them look like sprouting potatoes. Try googling images for “шоколадная картошка".

07/18/12 @ 23:11
Comment from: jimmy [Visitor]

In English you don’t “simply put the two nouns together in a row". The ‘chocolate’ in ‘chocolate potato’ is still an adjective, it just doesn’t need to agree with the noun as in Russian.

Don responds: I will allow myself to disagree with you here. There are some teachers in the US who inform their students that when a first noun modifies a second noun, that first noun is an adjective. Although the difference between nouns and adjectives is pretty thin in English, I would argue that the first noun remains a noun. Among the reasons that cross my mind off the top of my head are:

  • Nouns cannot add the suffix -er for comparison as easily as qualitative adjectives, whereas adjectives can. Thus one can take an adj-noun sequence like “a tall man” and modify it to “a taller man,” whereas noun-noun sequences sound funny that way, thus “a chocolate bar” doesn’t sound good if changed to “a chocolater bar.”
  • Adjectives do not add the plural suffix -(e)s as easily as nouns do. Thus one can say “the tall students,” but it sounds odd to say “the talls students” or just “I like the talls.”

Such reasons, among others, have lead grammarians to conclude that there are in fact noun-noun modification patterns in English. Among the most prestigious of those grammarians are Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech and Svartik in “A Grammar of Contemporary English.” I link a very bad copy of a couple of pages of their monumental work here.

08/10/12 @ 09:56
Comment from: Stan [Visitor]

Unfortunately шоколадная картошка is very often used to recycle old pastry. Probably 99% of all картошка you can buy in supermarkets and confectioner’s shops are made from expired cakes and old cookies..

08/13/12 @ 09:39
Comment from: Маша [Visitor]

More common name is
Пирожное «Картошка»

08/14/12 @ 00:47
Comment from: Yana [Visitor]

It’s never called “chocolate potato", it’s just “potato". And you figure out it’s a pastry because you buy it in the pastry shop

Don responds: Well, if you look at recipe websites, they label the item as шоколадная картошка, so I chose that for the title. I didn’t actually buy it at a pastry shop. It was a little convenience store down the street that sold a little of everything.

09/15/12 @ 06:48
Comment from: Cristina [Visitor]

we have the same in Italy and it is really a way to recicle old pastry even if not expired ones.
My grandpa (who was a confectioner) made the same ones, only they were round and not potato-like.
Anyway they are fab as far as I remember. :)

10/09/12 @ 06:39
Comment from: TEVEN [Visitor]  

I escpecially love the yeti testicles!

01/25/13 @ 01:48
Comment from: masssimino [Visitor]  

“Картошка” is a type of cake. Thats why картошка and Картошка - is not correctly. Сorrect spelling is “Картошка” (in quotes).

06/29/13 @ 12:40
Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

В жизни бы не догадалась, что статья о пирожном, а не о какой-то странной породе картофеля.

02/06/14 @ 10:27


Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

You’re really going about this the wrong way, Don. Eyebrows should be sauteed in bacon fat with garlic and onions and served with parsley. Sheesh! LOL

Как сказать по-русски “pilot light"?

Don responds: My dictionary says запальник, but I don’t think I’ve seen one here. I’ve seen stoves with electrical ignition devices. My own stove has to be light with a match.

07/17/12 @ 20:05
Comment from: Arseny [Visitor]

Of course singular accusative of конфорка is коннфорку. Edit pls.

Don responds: Fixed!

07/18/12 @ 10:45
Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

The word you gave me for pilot light, “запальник", wasn’t in my dictionary, so thank you for that. I did find “запал” which can be defined as “fuse” or “primer” which makes sense.

I also consulted a larger dictionary I have which is Russian-English only and found a colloquial phrase “под запал” which translates as “in the heat of the moment".

07/20/12 @ 08:58
Comment from: Oleg [Visitor]

Pilot light - малая горелка.

By the way, i wanted to recommend a great free online russian-english dictionary

I use it for several years already ind find it to be the most informative resource online.

08/21/12 @ 09:13
Comment from: Наталья [Visitor]

Включи, not Вклочи

Thank you for the site, Don. It’s fun. I’m enjoying :)

Don responds: Thanks, Natalya! I’m always grateful when people point out errors.

I actually think there is a difference here between Russian and American cultures. Americans get pissed off, generally, when you point out errors. Russians take it plainly. I like the Russian way better.

09/18/12 @ 03:52


Comment from: Simo Vihinen [Visitor]  
Simo Vihinen

How about a post comparing this with следить or other verbs that mean something similar?

Don responds: That’s a good idea. I’m currently putting in 70 hours a week, so it may take a while, but giving a thorough accounting of the ‘follow’ ideas is on my list of things to do.

10/10/12 @ 03:32
Comment from: Adrien [Visitor]  

как следует means “as it should (be)", “in the proper way".

10/28/12 @ 12:38
Comment from: Sergio [Visitor]

Hello there! :) You can use also the dative in some constructions with “следовать".
Следовать моде.
Я последую вашему совету.

Best regards

01/31/13 @ 12:04

1 comment

Comment from: Andrey [Visitor]

In fact “огород", “город” and “garden", all has the same root which means something surrounded by a fence.

08/23/12 @ 15:45


Comment from: Андрей [Visitor]  

I would rather say “их трудно убить” instead of “их тяжело убивать". Because when I hear “их тяжело убивать” I imagine a strong and crafty creature, which you kind of you kill every day and find it hard to do.

Don responds: Hm. How interesting. I actually originally wrote их трудно убивать, and my local native speaker suggested I change it to их тяжело убивать. Apparently I’m going to have to ask for some more input. Thanks for the feedback!

07/12/12 @ 01:14
Comment from: Маша [Visitor]

I’m native speaker, and… за “тяжело убивать” моментально зацепился глаз. Во-первыx, точно “убить", а не “убивать", т.к. речь о разовой ошибке, а не регулярном действии.
Но если “They are hard to kill", возможно, за недостаточным знанием языка, читается мной в полу-шуточном значении, то “иx тяжело убить” всё равно воспринимается слишком буквально. Надо как-то дополнительно смягчить, вроде “иx трудноватo убить".

Но всё равно глагол, в таком контексте подразумевающий преднамеренное лишение жизни, всерьёз так использоваться не будет. О более пододящиx по смыслу. Есть “погубить” (однокоренной с “губительно") он изредка используется, но вообще устаревший. Его модификация “загубить” - например, “Ты загубил все мои цветы! Я же просила поливать иx!”
С тем же значением современное сленговое “угробить” (от “гроб").

И всё же скорее скажут просто “иx легко содержать", “они очень живучие". И только если обращаются к приятелю, известному своей рассеянностью и безответственностью, и уверены, что он не обидится, могут выдать нечто вроде “эти твари чертовски живучие, иx даже тебе трудновато будет загубить".

08/13/12 @ 23:55
Comment from: Юрий Бурма [Visitor]
Юрий Бурма

Excuse me for my English but I would like to say that there is no right choise between “их трудно убить” and “их тяжело убивать". Of cource the second one better fits. It is because adjective “трудно” take place from “труд” which means “work” and better world would be “тяжело” wich better fits with hard in that example, also there is one more better adjective - “сложно” which translate not only as “complicated” but “hard” too.

But there is an only ‘mechanical’ translation, nthere is no such people who would say that. I would say “Они достаточно живучие.” - “Theay are pretty viable”

And excuse me for my English again

08/18/12 @ 16:15
Comment from: Shady_arc [Visitor]

Strangely, I think “тяжело убивать” doesn’t fit at all. Sounds as if it is morally diffucult for you to get yourself kill such creatures. Must be due to imperfective focusing on the process.

As for тяжело/трудно - they are the same in this context. There are many ways to say “difficult” in English as well: heavy, hard, tough. I feel that “тяжелый” is the same as “hard” in English, a metaphorical extension of a physical quality ("hard” to crack, “heavy” to lift) to how difficult it is to achieve some result.

08/25/12 @ 01:54
Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

“Их тяжело убивать.”
Лучше сказать, что этих рыбок сложно заморить.

02/06/14 @ 10:32
Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

“Их тяжело убивать.”
Лучше сказать, что этих рыбок сложно заморить.

02/06/14 @ 10:33

1 comment

Comment from: masssimino [Visitor]  

If you do not mind, I will correct your examples. Not “расчёсывается” but “причёсывается". Phrases “передай мне” and “не стоит входить” sounds formal and does not fit well with the word “хрень". Word “хрень” is very frequent in modern colloquial speech. The closest synonyms to this word are: “фигня” (informal) or “штука” (more formal).

Don responds: расчёсываться is used in conversational Russia. Причёсываться is the more literary version.

06/29/13 @ 13:09


Comment from: Mikhail [Visitor]

Funny thing - in your last example you didn’t change masculine forms (созрел, его). In most slavic languages mozol has masculine gender indeed, in Russian use of masculine gender with it is considered dialect form and is used for comic effect (first thing to come to mind - scene from the 60’s movie “Wedding in Malinovka")

Don responds: Sloppy of me. I had cut and pasted and adpated it from a source that discussed волдырь (masculine), and did do a proper edit. Thanks! The text is corrected.

07/10/12 @ 02:09
Comment from: Sergh [Visitor]

You missed л in dative and instrumental: мозоЛям, мозоЛью, мозоЛями

Don responds: Спасибо! Текст поправлен.

07/10/12 @ 03:17
Comment from: Mia Keith-Schwartz [Visitor]
Mia Keith-Schwartz

When I was at field training, they would carefully inspect out feet for blisters every night. Troublesome, painful little things! This is very useful, thank you.

10/23/12 @ 11:56


Comment from: Moscow Expat [Visitor]
Moscow Expat

I like this post, because it’s really amazing for me to read in cyrillic, so many English phonetic words. Usually, it takes me same time to realize that it’s an English word written in its phonetic form which may differ from place to place and time to time.
The more commun is ‘house’ (хоус) ….
At the sport club I’m using to go, they also use this фреш adjectif to qualify juice, not always squeezed …

Nota Bene: Just to mention that in French, “crème fraîche” is written with an “î” and “frais” (the masculin form) with a normal “i” … ;) It’s just a detail.

Don responds: Thanks for the correction!

I often find it bizarre that a word in Russian will trip me up because it is borrowed from English and I’m not expecting it. For instance, someone two years ago used the word пияр. I asked what it meant. She looked at me in surprise and said, “But I thought it was an English word.” “No,” I replied, “we don’t have any world like that in English.” Then two days later I realized it was “P.R.” public relations.

Which brings me to Dunkel’s law: “That which you don’t know, you already know.” One of my Russian profs used to jokingly say this in Russian… hm… how did he put it? «То, чего не знаешь, уже знаешь». Something like that.

07/09/12 @ 02:10
Comment from: Jay [Visitor]

Is the р in фреш hard or soft? (And for that matter, do you know a place where I can look up foreign loanwords with е to see how the preceeding consonant is pronounced? I know sometimes it’s hard, but I presume that with older or more assimilated loanwords things might be different.)

Don responds: My most recent informant tells me it is hard.

07/09/12 @ 08:15
Comment from: Newtry [Visitor]

“Я встретилась с подругой в кафе, по привычке заказала фреш яблочный. “

немного коряво, скорее прилагательное будет перед существительным, “яблочный фреш”

мелочь, но глаз режет)

08/18/12 @ 08:56
Comment from: Simo Vihinen [Visitor]
Simo Vihinen

newtry, а разве в разговорной речи не происходит часто и так, там “яблочный” уточняет какой именно. да и это является на меню точно в этом порядке по той же причине. но я не знаю, я не русский.

if you want to know, there’s a typo in the last paragraph, “brich” instead of “birch". btw your blog is great!

10/22/12 @ 14:53
Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

Прилагательное вне официально-деловой или научной речи ставится перед существительным, так что следует говорить “яблочный фреш".

02/06/14 @ 10:41


Comment from: Paul Baxter [Visitor]
Paul Baxter

Nice to see you blogging again, Don.

07/06/12 @ 13:22
Comment from: Simo Vihinen [Visitor]
Simo Vihinen

haha where’s that Lovecraft thing from?

10/22/12 @ 16:33
Comment from: Question [Visitor]

Are you sure about “Мама *любить почитывать стишки перед сном"?

Don responds: Typo corrected. Thanks!

12/09/13 @ 04:04
Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

В последнем примере слово “почитывать” звучит совсем не к месту. Если мальчик так серьёзно относится к указанному произведению, то он явно его не почитывает, а читает и даже вчитывается (данная тавтология даже к месту).

02/06/14 @ 10:45


Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

Very neat and very helpful! The building blocks aspect of Russian is really cool!

Question: you used “наконец-то” rather than just “наконец", what purpose does the suffix “-то” serve in this context?

All in all, good summer reading! ;-)

Don responds: In this context the -то just makes the наконец slightly more emphatic.

07/05/12 @ 10:19
Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

Thanks for the answer Don. If we could pursue this a bit further, can you add “-то” to any word to give that word more emphasis? For example, I came across a sentence recently that used “денег-то". Are there any hard and fast rules for the use of “-то"? Rules regarding which part of speech it can be appended to, etc.?

Don responds: I’m afraid I have to claim ignorance here; I’ve never done a proper study of when -то is used and when not. I have heard it quite a bit in «Я-то?» when a speaker is clarifying whether the preceding statement applied to him/her. My general impression is that it is used for mild emphasis.

07/09/12 @ 14:53
Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

The use of the suffix “-то” seems to be ambiguous. I found this discussion which hopefully will prove helpful:

07/21/12 @ 12:11


Comment from: Друг [Visitor]

Вы прочитали все…

asks whether on has read and finished reading the object already.

Вы читали…

aks whether at some point the subject started reading but it does not care whether the subject finished.

The issue becomes more complicated when one says:

Я хотел бы, чтобы Вы читали «Войну и мир»

This refers to the future. “I would like that you will read …”

I think you oversimplifying things to the point that the language is distorted. Is that what you are looking for? :)

Don responds: The audience I have in mind for this blog is 1st- and 2nd-year students of the Russian language, so the simplifying of explanations is deliberate. When one gives too much information to a beginner, it simply confuses them or they become frustrated. That’s also why the entries are fairly short. As we advance in our skills, we eventually have to fine tune our earlier gross generalizations.

I’m always grateful for criticism. This blog is written in my spare time, so very often it takes me a while to read the feedback and respond. I do wish that weren’t the case, but sometimes it can’t be helped.

I’m also grateful to the many Russians who read the blog. It was something I never expected, and it pleases me no end.

P.S. I think it would be good you posting the responses of your readers. It shows willingness to accept criticism and engage in a dialog.

07/04/12 @ 07:05
Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

“Вы кодга-нибудь читали Достоевского?”

Don responds: Спасибо! Текст поправлен.

02/06/14 @ 10:49

1 comment

Comment from: Alex [Visitor]

If you mean “почитать” as a perfective verb form of “читать", because it also means “уважать", why can’t you use it as a perfective present?

Don responds: The verb почитать of course is perfective. When you add the suffix -ыв-, it makes почитывать, which is a derived imperfective verb. In Russian the perfective never forms present tense.

08/14/12 @ 09:02

No feedback yet


Comment from: Onno [Visitor]

коро́в should be also genitive plural, right? and not коровы as you wrote in the table?
Or do the verbs love and eat take a genitive object?

Don responds: Oops, got my “rowspan” attribute in the wrong place. Thanks! It’s been fixed.

03/10/12 @ 01:11
Comment from: Clifton [Visitor]

In the Anthony Burgess novel ‘A Clockwork Orange’ the young punks use a lot of Russian language-based slang.

The story opens in the ‘Korova Milk Bar’, a kind of club which sells drug-laced milk drinks.

03/15/12 @ 22:30
Comment from: S. [Visitor]


“It declines like this.” Once upon a time I lived in a country where this would never be said. At that time in that country I even learned Latin. This country is no more, but the expression would have been “It is declined like this.” Or even, “It is declined thusly.”

Yes, one can wax ad nauseam about the life of a language, but really, this rapid, thoughtless deterioration is why I would prefer to never speak English again.

Don responds: Ach, Oliphant, you make me smile!

I, too, have my linguistic pet peeves. Moi, I hate it when people use ‘disrespect’ as a verb or pronounce ‘realtor’ as ree-luh-ter. Or when people unnecessarily throw in French words.

01/23/13 @ 07:37


Comment from: it-ogo [Visitor]

I feel like word “dull” does not work here in a proper way (as well as “depressing"). Its complex of meanings is too common and too obvious. It cuts off some dimensions. “Pale” would work better IMHO.

03/09/12 @ 01:42
Comment from: Jenny [Visitor]  

Please check out another translation of this poem:

Night. Street. Lantern. Drugstore.
A meaningless and dim faint light.
Live on for twenty years or more
It will remain. There’s no way out.

You’ll die and start to live all over,
And things will be just as before:
A night, a channel’s icy pother,
A street. A lantern. A drugstore.

Taken from here:

It has some flaws, but whatever)

08/15/12 @ 10:16

No feedback yet


Comment from: Shady_arc [Visitor]

Hm, I am more used to “пробить” in that sense, though dictionary says “выбить” is also the word. “Пробить", probably is linked to the idea of “printing symbols from beginning to the end; letting it through".

10. *Разг. Отпечатать на ленте кассового аппарата стоимость покупки; оплатив, получить кассовый чек с указанием стоимости.===
Now that I think of it, it may be logical… after all, the stores let the goods “out", so using “вы + бить” makes some sense, too. “stamping symbols instantaneously, at once” also works (I think, it’s the primary meaning)
Still, where I live “выбить” is usually for stamping some solid materials (metal/coin etc.), smashing glass ("beating it out of its frame"). Even more often used for beating the dust out of carpets, furniture, pillows… Are you sure it’s the word you heard?

Don responds: To the best of my memory she said выбей. I noted it because it was so unexpected for me.

03/05/12 @ 06:05
Comment from: Alexy [Visitor]

Of course she said “выбить". It is very common at old shops where still exist cashiers.

04/05/12 @ 04:39


Comment from: Андрей [Visitor]  

There are also зубцы and зубчики, you can also use this for gears and combs, but there is a subtle difference. You can use зубцы for crowns (зубцы короны) and зубчики for garlic (зубчики чеснока)

03/02/12 @ 02:38
Comment from: Arseny [Visitor]

Зуб in case of comb sounds too odd for me. Only зубик. Proofjoke:
- Мам, дай денег на новую расческу!
- Зачем тебе новая расческа?
- На старой сломался зубик.
- И ты собрался покупать новую расческу из-за одного зубика?
- Это был последний зубик.

Don responds:

03/06/12 @ 04:42

No feedback yet


Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

So is there a specific word for a student who is not yet in university? Also, is there a Russian equivalent to “high school” in the Canadian/American sense? “Gymnasium” maybe?

Don responds: There is a word for someone who has applied but not yet been admitted to to a university, which is абитуриент and абитуриентка. There is no straight-forward equivalent to high school.

02/29/12 @ 15:34
Comment from: Karina [Visitor]

Старшеклассник/старшеклассница- this word you can use for a hidh scool student.

04/15/12 @ 05:06
Comment from: Bobcat [Visitor]

Russian makes more distinctions here than English in normal American usage does…

Ученик/ученица: primary/secondary school students, appx ages 6-17. “Pupil” is a close translation, however awkward it sounds in American English.

Студент/студентка: college students.

Аспирант/аспирантка: grad students.

I wouldn’t call “student” and студент cognates, though–that word is usually reserved for words that come from the same reconstructed word in a proto-language, which does not apply here, since both English and Russian borrowed the words from Latin… Possibly a better term would be “false friends".

Don responds: The word ‘cognate’ is used two different ways in the States. The first way is the way you mention, and professional linguists use it that way. The other way is in foreign language classrooms, where it is often used more loosely to mean ‘words which sound the same in two languages and have similar meanings.’ The phrase ‘false cognates’ is very common in foreign language classrooms and is based on the second meaning.

06/30/12 @ 13:08
Comment from: Simo Vihinen [Visitor]
Simo Vihinen

The last example, presented on a yellow background, is missing a word at the end.

Don responds: Thanks! I’ve corrected the error.

10/22/12 @ 19:16

No feedback yet

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Comment from: Paul [Visitor]

And ‘можно договориться’ can be a useful phrase when you are stopped in customs at a Russian airport, because you have some product samples in your suitcase.

Don responds:

02/24/12 @ 00:18
Comment from: Karina [Visitor]

Давай точно договоримся, где ВСТРЕТИМСЯ завтра.

04/15/12 @ 05:10


Comment from: Joke [Visitor]

Shouldn’t the acc be лекцию? This form is in the second sample sentence, but not in the scheme.

And is the case difference between the first and the second sentence because of ‘location’ vs ‘direction’?

Don responds: Thanks! Typo and formatting corrected. And yes, the location/motion distinction is precisely the issue.

02/23/12 @ 00:54
Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

Since this is a feminine noun, shouldn’t the singular accusative end in -ю?

Don responds: Thanks! Typo and formatting corrected.

02/23/12 @ 11:04

No feedback yet


Comment from: Вадим [Visitor]

With no present perfective, is there no simple way to say “I am falling in love with you"?

Don responds: None that I know of. Tomorrow we will discuss the verb влюбляться/влюбиться, which means ‘to fall in love’ as well, but even with that verb I think a Russian would more likely use a simple past perfective, i.e., ‘I have fallen in love with you.’ The perfective in Russian indicates a result already achieved. A switch in emotion is such a result. Now that I think about it, your question may inspire a part two to the discussion of that verb.

02/21/12 @ 08:08
Comment from: Shady_arc [Visitor]

Well,if you are really going for present, you may use “Похоже, я начинаю влюбляться” for “I guess, I’m falling in love with you", emphasizing the start of the process. Still, not the way a Russian is likely to word his/her ideas.
Though, it would be much easier if you undestoodd “полюбить” as “to come to love". “I’m coming to love you” doesn’t sound that good in English, does it?

02/21/12 @ 16:00
Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

You can say “Я в тебя влюбляюсь".

02/07/14 @ 03:29


Comment from: Kaz [Visitor]  

There is a common mistake in the example “… Жду, не дождусь …". If it is used in the meaning of being eager for something to happen, then the comma is not needed. Sure, punctuation rules say otherwise, but it is an idiom.

P.S. I hope you don’t mind me messing with your old posts, posting comments and correcting mistakes.

Don responds: Kaz, thanks! I appreciate all constructive feedback. This blog is something I put together in a rush in spare moments. Anytime someone corrects a typo or punctuation I am very grateful. I don’t mind people pointing out mistakes at all.

03/07/12 @ 20:02
Comment from: Kira [Visitor]

Hi Don! Your blog is very interesting and I appreciate your talent for explanation!
Hoewever here you did a mistake with the plural forms. There are: любови, любовей, любовям, любовями, о любовях.
I wish you good luck!

Don responds: Kira, thanks much for the comment. Oddly enough, all the standard references I can find so far leave the о out of the plural forms, so I’m sticking with that for now, but a quick Google search finds many examples as you have them, although of course the search also includes the plural of the woman’s proper name Любовь, which makes the numbers difficult to interpret. This may be one of the places where dictionaries have fallen behind modern useage.

04/25/12 @ 10:27
Comment from: прохожий [Visitor]

Привет! я очень извиняюсь,что пишу не по-английски,но надеюсь,что автор блога меня поймет;)
В примере: “Мы с Таней поженились сорок лет назад, и она ещё моя любовь",- я бы написала, что “она всё еще моя любовь". “Всё еще” и “еще” несколько различаются по смыслу.

08/14/12 @ 21:46


Comment from: Gabriela [Visitor]

At least they are nice! LOL They kinda remind me of Faberge eggs a bit.

10/23/12 @ 10:10
Comment from: Artyom [Visitor]  

Knocking on wood works in Russia, too. (Постучи по деревяшке).
One could use one’s head as a symbol of said wood, actually; it’s both funny and effective, you know)))

01/21/13 @ 06:53

No feedback yet

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Comment from: Joke [Visitor]

If Luludya leaves you alone for a moment, maybe you can correct the little typo in the word neighbor. ;)

Don responds: Done!

02/13/12 @ 00:11
Comment from: Shirley Z [Visitor]
Shirley Z

It is so nice to hear the spoken word. It makes a big difference.

02/15/12 @ 10:47
Comment from: claudia [Visitor]

more audio please! and a photo of Luludya

04/23/12 @ 11:28


Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

So is there a slang term for lesbians?

Keep throwing in slang terms on your posts, slang adds colour to a language! No pun intended! LOL

Don responds: I’m behind on my lesbian vocabulary, I’m afraid. Hopefully some reader will give us some insight.

02/10/12 @ 14:15
Comment from: it-ogo [Visitor]

Lesbians in colloquial Russian are “розовые” - pink.

02/11/12 @ 23:06
Comment from: Dmitry_rus [Visitor]

голубой in this sense can only be applied to men, not to women.
Sometimes you may hear “розовая” in this case (women).

11/16/13 @ 19:42
Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

Лесбиянки, лесби. Нужно быть одной из них, чтобы знать другие слова.

02/07/14 @ 03:39

1 comment

Comment from: Andrey [Visitor]

“I have nothing against smth” has a nice literal translation: “Ничего не имею против чего-либо". Anyway, at first I thought these “Ничего не имею против” and “Мне все равно” have slightly different meaning but after some consideration I think they are the same.

02/07/12 @ 20:15

1 comment

Comment from: Тэйлор [Visitor]

Ooh, more on intonation, if you please! I often barrel right through Russian phrases with no thought for it whatsoever… and shouldn’t. The way you display it is quite easy to follow, too.

Don responds: more to come shortly!

02/07/12 @ 18:44


Comment from: Kaz [Visitor]  

To download something from Internet is Скачивать ИЗ Интернета, not с Интернета.

Don responds: I do agree that «из Интернета» is better than «с Интернета», but my Russian acquaintances tell me that people actually say both. All the best, Don.

03/07/12 @ 20:25
Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

Люди часто говорят “самый лучший", но я не думаю, что этому нужно учить. Стоит уделять больше внимания правильным вариантам.

02/07/14 @ 03:44

1 comment

Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

Правильно будет — год от года.

Don responds: Among older Russian speakers you will occasionally find the version with году. It’s old fashioned, of course.

02/07/14 @ 04:31

1 comment

Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

Говорят “тех лет", а не “тех годов".

02/07/14 @ 04:32

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1 comment

Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

“Мы женаты уже один год.”
Как в английском “one” заменяют на “а", так и в русском принято опускать слово “один” и говорить просто: “Мы женаты уже год".

02/07/14 @ 04:36


Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

You know, if I had had a prof like you when I was in university, I’d be speaking flawless Russian right now! LOL Keep ‘em coming! Um…I don’t suppose Luludya has a sister, does she? I’ve always preferred a woman who knows what she wants…

01/27/12 @ 15:08
Comment from: ray2718 [Visitor]

I think that Russian numerals are the jagged rocks on which many a poor, hapless learner of the great Russian language comes to grief!
Well, the “speaking” part anyway…. at least when you’re reading the blasted things you’ve got time to have a think.

01/30/12 @ 05:54


Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

What would the genitive plural form of “год” be if it does NOT follow a number? For example, if I wanted to refer to an indeterminate number of years.

Don responds: Keep an eye on upcoming entries for more of an answer to this. In the meantime just note that even indefinite quantity words like много, несколько, сколько and мало use лет.

01/27/12 @ 15:47
Comment from: Arseny [Visitor]

Let me to disagree. Genitive plural from год is not only лет but also годов - it’s completely regular form. So you can use it as I do. E.g. сколько годов? Пять годов - it sounds like redneck’s speech but I have never met anyone who says that’s wrong.

01/28/12 @ 08:25
Comment from: Aleck [Visitor]

They were just polite, “сколько годов? пять годов” is absolutely incorrect. You should say “сколько лет? пять лет", but “один год, два-три-четыре года". Please take as it is, ‘cuz Russian is my native language.

03/04/12 @ 22:11
Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

Говорят и “года” и “годы", но использование этих слов является ситуативным. Например, “летят года” или “все эти годы мы…".

02/07/14 @ 04:41


Comment from: Palo [Visitor]

You have a mistake in transcription of year 2012: две тысячи девятьсот девяносто четвёртый год

Don responds: Thanks! Cut and paste error corrected.

01/26/12 @ 05:13
Comment from: Russian Dinosaur [Visitor]
Russian Dinosaur

Great to see you back, Don, and thanks for this clear and entertaining discussion of ordinals. Isn’t your tied-up-and-robbed scenario Polish rather than Russian - didn’t I read about it in Potocki’s ‘The Manuscript Found in Saragossa’? Does this mean we can look forward to PWOTD in future?

01/26/12 @ 13:45
Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

Hangovers are a bitch, aren’t they? LOL Especially when you have a really powerful hangover that actually distorts time itself!

-Какой сейчас год???
-Две тысячи девятьсот девяносто четвёртый год…
-2994??? Боже мой!!

I suppose the plus side is that Luludya can’t use your credit card since it expired almost a thousand years ago. The downside is that Earth is now a radioactive wasteland populated by giant hyper-intelligent scorpions wearing multi-coloured tutus who want to get you drunk again so that they can use your hangovers to learn about time travel!

Love your posts, keep ‘em coming from the future! :^D

01/26/12 @ 15:43


Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

My life is complete! :^D

11/24/11 @ 17:55
Comment from: stranger [Visitor]

“заразилось вымя” - для меня странно звучит. “Вымя заражено” будет лучше.

11/28/11 @ 01:33
Comment from: Vitaly Repin [Visitor]
Vitaly Repin

I have never heard the plural form for the word “вымя". I’m not sure it can be used in plural form.

Don responds: I must agree that the plural is quite uncommon. The standard references all include plural forms, so I have included them here for completeness.

12/22/11 @ 05:58
Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

Заражается коза, а не её вымя.

02/07/14 @ 04:46

No feedback yet


Comment from: stranger [Visitor]

A good example from Russian classic -
Из фильма “Кавказская пленница":

- Мой прадед говорит: имею желание купить дом, но не имею возможности. Имею возможность купить козу, но не имею желания. Так выпьем за то, чтобы наши желания совпадали с нашими возможностями.


11/26/11 @ 19:20
Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

“По-моему, завтра у нас будет возможность сходить в Третьяковску галерею.”

Don responds: Спасибо! Текст поправлен.

02/07/14 @ 04:50


Comment from: Don [Member]  

Thanks to Andrey and Olimo who pointed out that геморрой is always singular in Russian. In English the condition is generically discussed in the plural. And thanks to Mike for pointing out a formatting issue that previously hid some of the plural endings.

11/21/11 @ 06:29
Comment from: Daniel [Visitor]

Welcome back!

11/28/11 @ 01:23
Comment from: Arseny [Visitor]

What? Проблема is FIRST declension noun and has auxiliary form of plural instrumental case - проблемою.

Don responds: Thanks! Error corrected.

12/02/11 @ 23:08
Comment from: Clifton [Visitor]

Surely the accusative singular is проблему, not проблема?

Don responds: Thanks! Error corrected.

12/09/11 @ 00:11

1 comment

Comment from: Bruce [Visitor]

Actually I did attend a school №8.

11/03/11 @ 21:51


Comment from: Shady_arc [Visitor]

Я целое лето кормил и скот и кур и свиней. –> In Russian when you use “и” repeatedly to add more and more stuff, you typically add a comma before each new thing (after the first, of course). It works both for long lists ("и думал, и спал, и ел, и сидел") and for structures that would be “both .. and …” in English ("Ел там и суп, и кашу.” = “I ate both soup and porridge there").

Note that “скот” is, actually “cattle” or, more precisely, four-legged animals used in farming - like sheep, cow, goat, pig, donkey, horse… Yak and buffalo in other places (though, poultry, cats and dogs ARE NOT “скот")

Такая работа в радость мне. –> Words put in this specific order seem way too lofty, unless it is quotation from some book. “Такая работа мне в радость.” sounds more natural. “Такая работа мне нравится” is even more natural. ^_^

Анна ребёнка ещё кормит грудью.–> I would say “Анна ещё кормит ребёнка грудью".

Don responds: Thanks! Changes made.

10/05/11 @ 06:47
Comment from: David Emerling [Visitor]
David Emerling

In the example sentence: “Я кормлю скот два раза в день", I’m curious about the usage of the word “скот". Shouldn’t it be in the genitive case (an animate noun) I would expect it to be either “скота” (genitive singular) or “скотов” (genitive plural). I don’t see how the nominative singular works.

Don responds: Скот is a singular collective noun that means “cattle.” Such nouns, oddly enough, are treated as inanimate in the accusative. Another such word is народ ‘people’ or ‘ethnic group.’ You can see it sometimes in phrases like this quote from Putin: «Я люблю Украину. Люблю ее народ.» “I love the Ukraine. I love its people.” (source).

11/13/11 @ 11:42
Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

“Я целое лето кормил и скот и кур и свиней.”
Вы забыли про запятые.

02/07/14 @ 04:55


Comment from: Lara [Visitor]

Здравствуй! Это правильно говорить: “я чувствую себя лучше переживаю"? здесь не лишний “себя” и ли что-то такое?

всего хорошего!


Don responds: Ой! Cut and paste error. Thanks! It has been corrected.

09/30/11 @ 04:27
Comment from: Roman [Visitor]

What „переживаю“ for? )

Don responds: Cut and paste error. Thanks! It has been corrected.

09/30/11 @ 07:38


Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

Shouldn’t the past and future perfective use the prefix “вы"? Typo?

Don responds: Aargh! This is what I get for having rushed this week’s entries. Thanks! They have been corrected.

09/29/11 @ 15:47
Comment from: Joke [Visitor]

Are you sure the past perfective in the scheme is correct? It differs a lot from the forms used in the examples and it doesn’t look ‘perfectly regular’ to me.

Don responds: Thanks! They have been corrected.

09/30/11 @ 05:14
Comment from: Shady_arc [Visitor]

Я сегодня должна выучить наизусть квадратное уравнение. –> I am not sure whether the sentence is supposed to make sense, even in English. Probably, you can say such a thing in English, but in Russian the statement is explicitly about memorizing the equation (and not about learning how to solve it or, maybe, learning the paragraph “Quadratic Equations” in textbook by heart).
It is grammatical, though. My only concern is the meaning, as in Russian school you rarely learn by heart something other than poems or citites/rivers/regions (for geography classes). Actually, “учить наизусть” is an expression primarily associated with memorizing poems at school.

Don responds: Interesting. When I first thought up the sentence, I was remembering junior high school. We had to memorize the quadratic equation to find the X-axis intersections of a parabola and then apply it during exams. The form we had to memorize was not the simple

ax2 + bx + c = 0

but rather

So that was what I had in mind.

It’s really valuable for us Americans to know, though, what contexts a phrase is used in in Russia, so the fact that it sounds odd in regards to the equation but fine in regard to lists of words or geographical locations is a marvelous thing for me learn. Thanks, Shady!

10/05/11 @ 06:26
Comment from: stranger [Visitor]

“Советского Союза.” First letters are capitals. Typo.

Don responds: Thanks! Error corrected.

11/27/11 @ 10:09
Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

Следует написать, что наизусть нужно выучить решение (ну или вид, смотря, что именно нужно учить) квадратного уравнения.

02/07/14 @ 05:01


Comment from: Shady_arc [Visitor]

This system has its reasons in the history of the language. The words for numbers like 5,6.10,11..20,30 behave as feminine nouns (you may even compare their declension pattern to the one of “дверь” or “кровать"), and in fact were such in the past.

In nominative or accusative phrases the word for the number takes command. The word for the object being counted becomes its subordinate, similar to how it happens in “a lot of cars", “an owner of cars". Thus the genitive case.

09/27/11 @ 14:34
Comment from: Dan [Visitor]

There are 3 different ending depending on last digit of number. That’s drive software developers and translators really crazy.
Rule is pretty simple, look at last digit (10..19 are exceptions). There are tree groups:
0,5,6,7,8,9 (and 10 to 19)

1 машина
2, 3, 4 машины
0, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 машин
11 машин
15 машин
21 машина
23 машины
25 машин
30 машин
31 машина


10/03/11 @ 11:17

1 comment

Comment from: Jakob [Visitor]

For the short form masculine, the last letter is voiced, correct? In that regard, is it only voiceless when followed by a soft sign? So it would be voiced in all forms of this word.

Don responds: In Russian any time voiced obstruents (б, в, г, д, ж, з) occur at word end before a pause, they become devoiced; that is, they are pronounced as п, ф, к, т, ш, с. This applies to нов. The pedantic sentence «Университет нов» is pronounced [u’n'iv’irs’it’et nof].

09/28/11 @ 14:03


Comment from: canapé design [Visitor]
canapé design

Thank you,very helpful

10/02/11 @ 18:44
Comment from: Dan [Visitor]

Друг is not always mean friend.
Друг друга means each other, i.e.

Они убили друг друга - They killed each other

Of course, that doesn’t mean they were friends )

Also, sometimes друг means pal, buddy even when addressed to unfamiliar or little known person.

Эй, друг, закурить не найдётся? - Hey, pal, would you give a cigarette?

10/03/11 @ 10:47
Comment from: Vitaly Repin [Visitor]
Vitaly Repin

Don’t forget about the word “приятель". It is something between “друг” and “знакомый".

12/22/11 @ 06:05


Comment from: Olivier [Visitor]

Спасибо за этот интересный блог но я хотел заметить что православные носят обручальные кольца на правой руке. Не Европейцы.
Salutations de France!

Don responds: Thanks, Olivier! It turns out the wedding ring issue is more complex than I realized. A quick internet search suggests that Americans, the English, the French and the Swedes wear the rings on their left hands. (That was a great surprise to me. I had thought all Europeans who were not of English descent wore them on their left.) Germans, Norwegians and Spaniards (who are not typically Russian Orthodox) seem to wear them on the right. All the Russians I know wear them on the right. If I remember right, Tatars in Kazan (definitely not Orthodox) wear them on the right.

09/24/11 @ 06:14
Comment from: Olivier [Visitor]

You’re right. I just had a discussion with my wife which is czech. Czech people wear their ring on the left hand while the Poles on the right hand.
She wears it on the left hand because it prevents the ring from wearing (typical czech explanation :-)

Anyway, keep up the good job.

09/24/11 @ 13:49

No feedback yet

1 comment

Comment from: Artyom [Visitor]

Do not forget that спать also means “to have (more or less continuous) sexual relations with someone, like – - Петя спит с Катей
– Petya is dating Katya and they have sex sometimes.

- А кто ещё с ней спит?
- Не знаю, я свечку не держал.

- Who also does have sex with her?
– No idea, I do not have full report of her sexual life.

01/21/13 @ 07:39

No feedback yet

1 comment

Comment from: Graeme Macdonald [Visitor]
Graeme Macdonald

It’s scary to “sea” it die like that.

You know, my progress in learning Russian is so slow, my only fun in life in spotting other people’s typos… ;)

Seriously, site is a joy to read, thank you.

Don responds: Hm. Wish I had done that on purpose. That would have almost been amusing. Typo fixed. Thanks!

09/09/11 @ 08:18

No feedback yet


Comment from: Denis [Visitor]

Господь с Вами! К щам ТОЛЬКО БЕЛЫЙ!!!

09/18/11 @ 04:33
Comment from: Dan [Visitor]

There’s a slang phrase надавать по щам which means to kick someone’s ass (or punch the face several times). I don’t know how this phrase originated, but i think that in this case щи substitutes щёки (cheeks).

Don responds: Thanks! I didn’t know that one. I bet you’re right that щам is just an abbreviated form of щекам here.

10/03/11 @ 11:03
Comment from: Yana [Visitor]

Щи means “face” in colloquial speech; mostly used by young people, it’s not offensive but VERY informal, almost slang, I think.

08/20/12 @ 04:37
Comment from: katya kats [Visitor]
katya kats

Do you know that people in Ukraine do not eat schi or care for it. It’s a common knowledge that Russians cannot cook, Ukrainians can. To some degree it’s true. Ukraine always had bigger assoertment of fruits and vegetables and used an international cuisine even in 15 century. Turkish, Romanian, Bolgarian, etc.

12/10/12 @ 16:26


Comment from: Kalan [Visitor]

Your information about current state of Russian banking system is somewhat outdated. Transferring money to employees’ bank accounts from employers is pretty common nowadays; however, taxes to be paid from this money are enormous, so many employers choose to process only a small fraction of each payment through bank, illegally giving the rest in cash. This practice is called “деньги в конверте”.

08/24/11 @ 07:58
Comment from: Iryna [Visitor]

I think this is a hard way to learn russian, I mean the Cyrillic writing and comparing. The chances of picking anything up from that would take a lot of focus. Otherwise I think the words and sentences you have chosen are unique and fun!

08/31/11 @ 17:58


Comment from: Sean [Visitor]

A Russian friend of mine told me that капуста is slang for cash, similar to how cabbage is slang for cash in the UK.

08/22/11 @ 08:11
Comment from: Leonid [Visitor]

Yes, капуста is slang for cash. However, it is just one of the slang words for money. Russians use a lot of other names. The exact choice of a word depends on the social background of the speaker and on a situation too.

09/08/11 @ 19:32
Comment from: David Emerling [Visitor]  
David Emerling

I found the following construction odd:
— С чем пирожки?
— С капустой.

Doesn’t this mean something closer to “What are you having with the pirozhki?”

Does this sentence make sense: “Какие это пирожки?” That’s how I would have said it, but then again - I’m a Russian speaking neophyte. :)

Don responds: «С чем пирожки?» normally means “What kind of filling do the pirozhki have?” It’s grammatically possible to say «Какие это пирожки?», but the other phrase is more common.

09/08/11 @ 21:00
Comment from: katya [Visitor]

Kapusta didn’t mean just money, it meant dollars 10-15 years ago. Dollars is green, kapusta is green. For many years just $, now when the “iron curtain” is open, any kind of money.

12/10/12 @ 16:31
Comment from: Artyom [Visitor]

Never did капуста mean dollars; only money in general.

Dollars were referred to as зелёные, баксы, and in cash smugglers spheres as “первый номер” – Number One, as the most widely spread and most important currency; also, German MArk was called Второй номер – Number Two.

01/21/13 @ 07:49
Comment from: Original [Visitor]

Капуста, in Russia, nowadays, means money, in 90% of the situation cash. This term in it’s figurative sense - money, is used also, in a lot of post soviet countries such as Moldova.

05/31/13 @ 02:42


Comment from: louis lebee [Visitor]  
louis lebee

Hi , i’m i huge french fan ot “R.W.O.T.D”

i really appreciate when teach about verbs such as “zabrats” wich is very usfull” …
Could you do more of them please , cause i like milk but it might not be quite “paliezna” ;)

thnx for for doing such a great job and excuse my frogy arrogance :)

07/01/11 @ 02:47
Comment from: dimmik [Visitor]


I am quite sure that you are native English speaker. Correct me if I am wrong.

So I have a question (not regarding the post).
Question is about construction “I am going to do smth".

My native is Russian and for me it is surprisingly intuitive to use this construction in lieu of “I plan to do smth” or “I will do smth", but not exactly with sense of these two. Something between them. “I plan, I will do, but plan MAY be broken and future is changing, so I am going to do.” Like “90% I will, but 10% if just luck (if I have bad luck I won’t).”
Quite long description, well…

Some long time ago I was in Berlin and was talking to German native speaker. And she wasn’t able to understand what “I am going to do” is for. Questions like “so, why not ‘I plan to do’ if I really plan” made me stuck.

So, the question.
How would you describe meaning of this construction to, say, German-speaking (or russian-speaking) guy?

Don responds: As far as I can tell, the phrase “I am going to” can mean most everything from “I am planning to do smth” and “I will definitely do smth”. It often carries a very generic future tense meaning.

07/10/11 @ 23:20
Comment from: John33317 [Visitor]

Dear Don: please let people in Kazan know the prayers and good wishes of many, many Americans are with them this week at this time of loss and grief.

07/12/11 @ 09:47
Comment from: s [Visitor]

Thank you for this website.
Enjoy the ‘funny’ stories of mispronunciations and
Very helpful.

09/19/11 @ 12:12
Comment from: Alexander [Visitor]

to collect - СОбрать not ЗАбрать

Don responds:Alexander, thanks for your note. Here is picky detail about English: one of the minor uses of the verb ‘collect’ is ‘to pick up someone somewhere.’ For instance, it is possible to say, “John went to school to collect his son.” It means the same thing as “John went to school to pick up his son.” It’s not the most common use of that verb, but it is used occasionally. In that sense забирать/забрать is the equivalent of ‘collect.’ In the sense of “to collect stamps,” of course, one must use собирать.

09/21/11 @ 06:44
Comment from: Kaarlo Voionmaa [Visitor]
Kaarlo Voionmaa

It struck me that, perhaps, it would be good if you also could give us the reflexive derivations of verbs like “zabirat’". In this case, particularly, it would be interesting, since semantically the “plain” and reflexivbe form are quite apart from each other. “Zabiratsja” ‘enter’ or ‘climb up’. Or am I totally wrong?

Don responds: You are entirely correct. I’ll try to write such an entry some day… just have to wait for the appropriate inspiration. I usually write these entries when a word has proved problematic for my 1st or 2nd-year students… or when I suddenly become interested in a word. So we may have to wait a bit… All the best, Don.

11/15/11 @ 03:59


Comment from: Shady_arc [Visitor]

Я люблю чай с сгущёнкой –> чай со сгущёнкой. That’s what “со” exists for. I cannot recall the exact rule, but you may be pretty sure that whenever a noun starts with a consonant cluster beginning with С/З, the preposition used is “со".

Don responds: a good point. The rule is actually more complicated than that, and one finds that not all Russians agree when to use со vs. с. In fact the one that I ran that sentence by didn’t bat at eyelash at «с сгущенкой». Still, «со сгущенкой» is vastly more common, and I have updated the entry to that effect. Thanks!

06/30/11 @ 06:58
Comment from: Yegor [Visitor]

Please note the label design of the Russian “Eagle Brand". Although there are many different producers, the pattern is always the same. Try to google some images for the keyword “сгущёнка” ;)

07/01/11 @ 03:03
Comment from: Dm [Visitor]

BTW Russian “сгущёнка” has a pure American pedigree, having been turned into a mass-culture phenomenon during WWII by the US food assistance / lend-lease

(special thanks to for linking here)

01/12/12 @ 09:35
Comment from: rendra wardhani [Visitor]
rendra wardhani

“сгущёнка” This is probably one of the best milk in Russia, I have not, in my country like this name Indomilk

05/21/13 @ 02:02
Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

Вот вполне приемлемая формулировка правила употребления предлогов с/со: “Предлог “со” фонетически закономерен перед словами, начинающимися с сочетаний [с, з, ш, ж] + согласная или с согласной [щ]: со ста, со славой, со звездой, со шкафа, со жгутом, со щами, со зверем, но с зайцем. Перед словами, начинающимися сочетанием “сс", употребляется предлог “с".
Также предлог “со” употребляется перед формами с начальными сочетаниями [л, ль, р, м] + согласная: со лба, со мной, со льдом, со ртом; также перед сочетаниями [в] + согласная: со вторника, со всеми, со второго.”

Не советую вам так опираться на мнение носителей языка. Мы допускаем слишком много ошибок, о которых сами не знаем.

Don responds: Melodi, thanks for the comment! Your rule is generally good for foreigners.

02/08/14 @ 10:50

1 comment

Comment from: Clifton [Visitor]

I love kefir and always had some in the refrigerator when I was in Russia.
In Novosibirsk, in May, 2011 one litre cost around 35 roubles; say, $1.20.

I bought some in Vancouver in June 2011 and had to pay $5.00 for one litre. Ouch!

06/29/11 @ 14:22


Comment from: Joke [Visitor]

I think the little 2 should be behind Calories, not Carbohydrates.

Don responds: Thanks! Fixed.

06/28/11 @ 00:33
Comment from: Тайга [Visitor]  

On the calories note, I believe the US version is capitalized (Calories) to indicate kcal. It takes some adjusting when you go to almost any other country and initially marvel at the number of [what you think are] calories they pack into their groceries. That seems to only the case with food… in thermodynamics energy would be measured in kcal - at least, I don’t recall ever seeing capital Calories to indicate 1000 cal in that context.

(On a semi-related note, one of the words in my Captcha image is “Food.")

06/28/11 @ 07:32
Comment from: Sean [Visitor]

Just went down to the продукты near the apartment I’m staying at this summer and bought a packet of ряженка. Looking forward to trying it out at breakfast tomorrow.

06/28/11 @ 07:42
Comment from: Rachel [Visitor]

I’m studying abroad in Russia for the summer and I have a question about tvorog. I’ve always seen it translated as ‘cottage cheese’, but I hate cottage cheese and love tvorog. Do you know how close it is to ‘farmer’s cheese’?

Don responds: I’ve actually never bought farmer’s cheese in the US, but Russians who have moved to the States tell me it the closest equivalent we have to творог.

06/28/11 @ 10:13
Comment from: Губерт [Visitor]

Hey, hello and just one question, proly someone asked it before but I did not follow this blog back bafore - WHY do you provide, in declination, cases in this order: nom/acc/gen/pre/dat/ins? In slavic languages, it is mostly taught this way: nom/gen/dat/acc/ins/pre or loc(ativus). I am Polish and all Polish kids are taught this way, from what I know, other Slavic language speakers as well. Hmm. Just curious (maybe in Russia it is different, I ain’t no fluent Russian speaker or never was in any elementary Russian school, sorry). I am also alsking, becauses the order you provde is really strange (at least for all Poles), and I think the one I suggest - would make no difference to Westeners (since the very idea of cases is hard for them , anyway) :) best regards, H.

Don responds: for a comparison of the two systems for presenting case, see this page. The short version of my answer is this: the textbook/dictionary order used in most Slavic countries does not display the syncretism of case forms as well as the linguistic order does. I myself was trained under the old system and have taught both the old and new systems. The new system is superior for presenting case endings to foreigners. It is pedagogically better and more logical. It would be pedagogically superior in the Slavic countries as well, but it continues to be used there due to simple inertia.

06/28/11 @ 11:06
Comment from: Lazyboa [Visitor]  

Nice to see the Вамин production on your blog :-)
Btw, have you tried other ряженка brands, like Для всей семьи or Простоквашино? They have better taste in my opinion.

06/28/11 @ 11:13
Comment from: Oleg [Visitor]

> You take milk, mix it with a bacterial culture, let it ferment for
> six to eight hours, then bring the process to a close.

This will get you good old yogurt, not ряженка. If you want to make
ряженка, you’ll need to use “baked milk” instead of regular milk. To
make baked milk, either simmer milk for 2-3 hours on low heat until it
turns light beige, or bake milk in an open jar/pot in the oven at
350F, again until it turns light beige (might be longer than 3 hours).
The milk can form a brownish crust on top, that’s normal, the crust is

When the baked milk is done, cool it to about 110F (that’s when it
feels very warm but not hot), add 2-3 Tbsp of yogurt or sour cream,
mix it all up well, place the jar/pot in a warm place and cover with a
towel. Ряженка will be ready in 6-8 hours.

Don adds: Thanks, Oleg! For American readers I should add that you want live culture yogurt and sour cream, not the typical stuff you find in an American store. Those yogurts and sour creams have a good chance of having very little active culture remaining in them.

04/10/12 @ 11:26
Comment from: Oleg [Visitor]

> ‘m studying abroad in Russia for the summer and I have a question
> about tvorog. I’ve always seen it translated as ‘cottage cheese’,
> but I hate cottage cheese and love tvorog. Do you know how close it
> is to ‘farmer’s cheese’?

In Germany they call it “quark” and I’ve actually seen quark being
sold in the US (at New Seasons Market in Portland, OR) and in
Vancouver, Canada. However, it was nothing like real tvorog, it was a
thick liquid which tasted a bit bitter.

You can make tvorog yourself pretty easily. Just heat up some yogurt
to about 200F, until it curdles. You’ll see greenish-yellow whey
separate, with white curds floating in it. Don’t mix it up unless or
you want to end up with very fine-grained tvorog. Cool this mixture
down, put some cheese cloth in a strainer (several layers if the
cheese cloth is not fine-mesh), pour the mixture in and let the whey
drain out, for a couple hours or longer. That’s all.

You can discard whey, but it’s very good for you so just drink it. It
doesn’t taste that great but it has a ton of minerals. It’s really
good at restoring mineral balance after sweating at a workout. Also,
whey is fantastic when used for bread or pizza dough in place of
water–try it!

If you make your own yogurt, tvorog will turn out considerably cheaper
(2-3 times) than when using store-bought yogurt.

04/10/12 @ 11:39


Comment from: Andrey [Visitor]

“Наоборот здравому смыслу” sounds very odd. Googling shows that it is used by Dostoevsky, but you get ~1000 results on that phrase vs ~2 million on “Вопреки здравому смыслу".

06/27/11 @ 02:02
Comment from: Shady_arc [Visitor]

Of course. “Наоборот” is an adverb with no government, as far as I know. It may be used as a translation for “contrary” in phrases like “quite the contrary” or as an introduction phrase “On the contrary, …". It is also used in “… и наоборот” ("… and vice versa.")

“Вопреки” (technically, a preposition) is the correct Russian counterpart for your sentence, which has a “contrary to” in it.

06/28/11 @ 09:51
Comment from: Christine [Visitor]

I just came upon this site. It is very interesting, but:

“Women don’t make use of common sense.” Really? Come on … This the XXI century and this kind of sexist statement has no place in a quality educational endeavor.

Christine, thanks for your comment. I will allow myself to disagree with you. If you look over the sample sentences on this site, you will find that some are sensible, some are silly, some are old fashioned, some reflect various subcultures of the former Soviet Union, and some are made to be grammatical but simultaneously to trigger one’s sense of the absurd; some are meant to trigger one’s sense of pity or one’s sense of humor or one’s sense of revulsion. This is due to my observation that good language teaching always engages the emotions. Those emotions do not always have to be rational. And when one deals with Russia in particular, many sentiments that are considered backwards by progressive Americans are still entirely common in Russia. That particular sentiment that you mentioned is very common among a certain subset of Russian males, and if it succeeded in arousing emotion in you when you read it, then it met my goal of engaging emotions. The sample sentences are never meant to be an expression of the attitudes of any of the blog’s authors.

Peace, joy and light to you, Don Livingston.

09/01/13 @ 07:23


Comment from: Sean Ray [Visitor]
Sean Ray

I’m also in Kazan this summer with the Critical Language Scholarship program. It’s interesting to know that there are other groups of Americans studying here this summer!

06/24/11 @ 07:43
Comment from: John33317 [Visitor]

Isn’t this also the verb used when a criminal case is opened? Or maybe I’m not pronouncing things right!

Don responds: Yes, I think there is a usage of “to instigate proceedings against,” but I’m not sure whether it’s a current usage or not.

06/24/11 @ 10:23
Comment from: Shady_arc [Visitor]

2 John33317> It is, indeed! “В Киеве возбуждено уголовное дело по факту приготовления яичницы на Вечном огне”

Though, this use is for written language, mostly in news. Come to think of it, people rarely discuss procedings instigated against somebody in colloquial terms :)

06/24/11 @ 12:48
Comment from: Amanda [Visitor]

If you could do a post on how to properly say “I’m excited about/looking forward to… ” that would be very much appreciated. :) Thanks!

Don responds: Alas, I can’t seem to get such a post written, so here is a brief thought. I’d say the rough equivalent of “looking forward to” is «очень жду» or «с нетерпением жду», thus «Я очень жду нашу встречу» ~ “I’m really looking forward to seeing you”.

06/25/11 @ 23:10
Comment from: Stuart [Visitor]

What is the correct word for to excite as opposed to arouse.

Don responds: It depends upon the context, of course, but if you are in someone’s presence at the moment of speaking and you want to say “I’m excited to see you”, then probably the best equivalent is something like «Я очень рад(а) тебя видеть».

07/18/11 @ 12:06

1 comment

Comment from: Andrey [Visitor]

I should point the slight difference in Russian punctuation. When you mention a company name or something similar (band name, brand etc), you should enclose it in quotes. For example,

The Beatles were an English rock band, formed in Liverpool in 1960.


“Битлз” - британская рок-группа, основанная в Ливерпуле в 1960 году.

When a brand name becomes popular, it loses these quotes (I guess the same happens with English capital letter): героин, аспирин, ксерокс, фломастер.

06/22/11 @ 00:46

1 comment

Comment from: Andrey [Visitor]

Another good example:

- От чего он умер?
- Читай на венках. “От любящей жены", “От друзей", “От детей", “От соседей", “От профкома"…

06/21/11 @ 01:11

1 comment

Comment from: Shady_arc [Visitor]

It seems, whenever you use “к” to mean “to", you also use “от” to express the idea “from".

06/21/11 @ 06:04

1 comment

Comment from: Robert Mion [Visitor]
Robert Mion

Great stuff but always try to make the English as close to the russian as possible:

So “How I love that book!” rather than “I love that book so much”

Don responds: Robert, thanks much for your comment. Nowadays in translations for this blog I prefer to avoid word for word translations if the resulting English is rather more marked. In the case of that particular translation, I went back and forth on which to use. The word for word translation, of course, makes the Russian equivalent structurally clearer to a beginning student. On the other hand, my current impression—not yet confirmed by native speakers—is that the как version of such sentences is used significantly more often than the так version. In American English the ‘so’ version is much more common than the ‘how’ version, and seems to require a rather more marked environment. Since the Russian как version and the English ‘so’ version seemed to me more neutral in style, I ended up going with the ‘so’ version.

I note your e-mail address has a UK domain. I have no instinct for the niceties of British English, so perhaps in the UK the как version is more common?

In either case, your suggestion has merit. For now I’m keeping the ‘so’ translation until I can investigate the matter a bit more.

Warmest wishes, Don.

06/21/11 @ 10:11