March 26th, 2014 — posted by Natasha

The Russian word крыса means 'rat,' as in the animal. It declines as such:


Photo Credit: vadim.tk (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Here are a few sample sentences:

Крыса грызла туфли. The rat gnawed the shoes.
В доме есть крысы! There are rats in the house!
Я был вчера на мусорной свалке и увидел много больших крыс! I was at the dump yesterday, and I saw a lot of big rats!
Меня укусила крыса, пришлось сделать укол от бешенства. A rat bit me, and I had to get a rabies shot.
Мой лучший друг — телепатическая крыса, которая защищает меня от забияк. My best friend is a telepathic rat who protects me from bullies.

That last sentence is the plot to the movie Ben. The movie had a famous theme song which was sung by Michael Jackson... Michael himself had a very odd life with friends few and far between, more comfortable with animals than people. Somehow his singing this song seems oddly fitting.


March 24th, 2014 — posted by Don

The verb pair уходить/уйти is usually translated as “to leave, depart” or in some contexts just “to go.” Notice that there is an й in the perfective infinitive:

Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive уходить уйти
Past уходил
Present ухожу
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду уходить
будешь уходить
будет уходить
будем уходить
будете уходить
будут уходить
Imperative уходи(те) уди(те)

Here are a couple of examples:

Папа, не уходи!. Daddy, don’t go away!
Во сколько ты уйдёшь? What time will you leave?
Она всегда уходит так рано! She always leaves so early!
Нина ушла от Миши в 2003-ем году. Nina left Misha in 2003.

In English the verbs leave and depart mean roughly the same thing, but they have a grammatical difference. We don't use the preposition from with leave, but we usually use from with depart. Thus we have:

She left the university at 8.
She departed from the university at 8.

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:

Таня ушла из университета в пять часов. Tanya left the university at 5. or
Tanya departed from the university at 5.
Мы обычно уходим с работы в 5. We usually leave work at 5. or
We usually depart from work at 5.
Я уйду от бабушки в 5. I will leave Grandma’s at 5.
I will depart from Grandma’s at 5.

When you depart a place, you are usually heading somewhere specific; that is, you are going *to* a place. For that reason the typical Russian prepositions of motion will work, e.g. в/на + accusative or with к + dative:

— Где папа?
— Он ушёл в лабораторию.

“Where is dad?”

“He has gone to the laboratory”. or
“He has left for the laboratory.”

— Где мама?
— Она уже ушла на работу.

“Where is Mom?”

“She has already gone to work.” or
“She has already left for work.”

— Где Таня?
— Она ушла к Ире.

“Where is Tanya”

“She has gone to Ira’s place.” or
“She has gone to see Ira.”


March 19th, 2014 — posted by Natasha

The Russian word гадюка means 'viper' or 'adder'. It declines like so:


There are a few species of vipers that live in Russia, not very many though. When it's starts to get really cold in Russia, the snakes start migrating indoors, especially in rural towns. Waking up to find a snake in your living room doesn't sound very fun. Warnings are usually issued during the colder parts of the year regarding snake home invasions. That's not the kind of viper I'd like to be surprised with in my driveway.

Photo Credit: Piet Spaans, CC-BY-SA-2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Here are some example sentences:

Не ходите туда! В унитазе гадюка! Don't go in there! There's a viper in the toilet!
Меня укусила гадюка! Высоси яд! The viper bit me! Suck out the venom!
Идиот! Нет гадюки в гостиной! Ты выпил, что ли? You idiot! There's no viper in the living room! Have you been drinking or what?
Не волнуйтесь, это была не гадюка, a шланг просто. Don't worry, it wasn't a viper, it was just a hose.


March 17th, 2014 — posted by Don

Russian distinguishes two words for ‘now,’ one of which means ‘nowadays,’ and the other means ‘at this moment.’ The one that means ‘now, at this moment’ is сейчас. Beginning Russian students in the US often have а disgustingly limited knowledge of grammar, so for them I have this piece of advice: if your instructor asks you to what part of speech a particular word belongs and if you have absolutely no idea, then guess ‘adverb.’ Consider this dialog:

Glorious instructor: “What part of speech is сейчас?”
Vapid student: “It's an adverb.”
Glorious instructor: “Correct!”

You see? By taking RWOTD's sage advice the vapid student now has curried the instructor's favor and will doubtless eventually enter grad school.

Here are a few example sentences:

Мама сейчас на работе. Mom is at work now.
— Хочешь пойти со мной в кино?
— Извини, но я сейчас занята.
“Do you want to go to the movies with me?”
“Sorry, but I'm busy now.”
— Почему ты сейчас здесь?
— Потому что не хочу идти домой.
“Why are you here now?”
“Because I don't want to go home.”

Interestingly enough, сейчас can also mean “right away”:

— Ваня, где ты? Приди домой поскорей, а то тебя накажут.
— Я сейчас буду!
“Vanya, where are you? Come home right away or you'll be in trouble.”
“I will be right there!”
Я сейчас приготовлю ужин, а потом мы пойдём в кино. I'll make dinner right away, then we will go to the movie.

«Я покажу тебе Кузькину мать!»

March 12th, 2014 — posted by Natasha

«Я покажу тебе Кузькину мать!» is a Russian idiom that is very hard to translate. It is often used as a threat. In essence it means: "I'll show you what's what!" It can also mean "to give somebody a hard time." It literally translates to: "I'll show you Kuzka's mother!", but that doesn't really make sense in English. Who the heck is Kuzka? And why are we bringing his mother into this? There have been many theories about the origin of the phrase. Some are more farfetched than others. One idea is that Kuzka was a ghost mother that lived behind stoves, and would scare away anyone that saw her. Another theory is that Kuzka was a kind of crop eating beetle that would destroy farmers' harvests, so the sight of the beetles' eggs, or "mother" would indicate that the crop was in jeopardy. There is also a theory that the phrase refers to a riding whip, called a kuzka, that a groom would keep in his boot during the wedding, signifying his dominance over his fiancee.

Whatever the origin, the phrase was popularized by former Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev. He liked using the phrase because of it's ambiguity. He enjoyed stumping his interpreters, who would often times try to translate the phrase literally, which would lead to very puzzled looks on the faces of his American counterparts. For a time in the Cold War the phrase was used as a metaphor for the Atomic Bomb. Nowadays, though, it is used more humorously, and is used to do comical impersonations of Khruschev. It is not as common anymore, but it can still be used in a threatening manner.

Photo Credit: NARA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Here are some examples:

— Я не уверен, что вы выиграете завтра.
— Мы покажем тебе Кузькину мать!
“I don't think you'll win the game tomorrow.”
“We’ll show you!”
— Ты всегда будешь неудачником!
— Я покажу тебе Кузькину мать!
“You'll never be a success.”
“I'll prove you wrong!”