Category: "Big, bigger, biggest"


by Don  

English is interesting in terms of comparatives. Sometimes you can use a comparative with -er, but you can't use a comparative with “more.” Thus “cuter” is okay, but “more cute” is not. We call the -er form the simple comparative. Sometimes the “more” form is okay, but the “-er” form is not. Thus “My life is more interesting than yours” is okay, but “My life is interestinger than yours” is not. When you use “more” with an adjective, we call that the compound comparative. Russian also has both simple and compound comparatives. The word used for compound comparatives is более. The более form is almost always acceptable in Russian:

Так как ты решил эту задачу, тебе сейчас придётся решить более сложную задачу. Since you solved this equation, now you have to solve a more complicated equation.
Ford Fiesta станет более спортивной. (source) The Ford Fiesta will become sportier.
Окситоцин делает людей более чуткими к добрым словам. (source) Oxytocin makes people more sensitive to kind words.
Дюссельдорф становится всё более русским. (source) Düsseldorf is becoming ever more Russian.

Note: Задача really means assignment or taks, but in certain contexts like арифметическаая задача it can mean the equivalent of equation. The normal word for equation is уравнение.


by Don  

Another word that means bigger is больше. In this meaning it is what we call a comparative adjective:

Какая страна больше: Казахстан или Молдавия? Which country is bigger: Kazakhstan or Moldova?
Казахстан больше, чем Молдавия. Kazakhstan is bigger than Moldоvа.
Моя машина больше, чем твоя. My car is bigger than yours.
Хотя Соединённый Штаты Америки — большая страна, Россия ещё больше. Although the United States of America is a large country, Russia is even bigger.

Just as with other comparative sentences, if чем is followed by a simple noun phrase in the nominative case, you can make an equivalent phrase without чем by putting the noun in the genitive. Thus the second and third sentences from above can be rephrased as:

Казахстан больше Молдавии.
Моя машина больше твоей.

One thing you can't do with больше is to make a sentence like “John lives in a bigger house than Victor.” When “bigger” directly modifies a noun, Russians have to use either «больший» or «более большой», thus:

Иван живёт в большем доме, чем Виктор. or
Иван живёт в более большом доме, чем Виктор.

Больше has other meanings as well. We will explore them over the next couple weekds.


by Don  

Now here's a subtle detail of the Russian language. It's one that will trip you up at first when you start reading Russian if you aren't paying attention. Although большой means big, there is another word больший that means bigger, greater, or larger. Since Russians don't usually write stress marks, the presence of о or е after the ш is often the only written indication of which meaning is implied. Больший declines like this:

Masc Neut Fem Pl
Nom больший большее большая большие
Acc * большую *
Gen большего большей больших
Pre большем
Dat большему большим
Ins большим большими

Sample sentences:

Получение займа от Москвы приведет к ещё большей дестабилизации. (source) Receiving a loan from Moscow will lead to even greater destabilization.
Евро может столкнуться с ещё большими проблемами, чем американская валюта. (source) The euro may encounter even greater problems than American currency.

As part of your Russian reading strategy in your early years, you might want to pause when you come across большой and больший. If you spot a е after the ш, then remind yourself that it means “bigger.” That helps in the singular of most forms. Alas, only context can tell you which one the author had in mind in the plural.


by Don  

The most common word for big or large in Russian is большой. Notice that it is an end-stressed adjective: end-stressed adjectives always end in -ой in the masculine nominative singular. It declines like this:

Masc Neut Fem Pl
Nom большой большое большая большие
Acc * большую *
Gen большого большой больших
Pre большом
Dat большому большим
Ins большим большими

Sample sentences:

Большой бриллиант был найден в 1905 году. A large diamond was found in 1905.
Я купил дочке куклу с большими глазами. I bought my daughter a doll with big eyes.

One phrase that the Russians use often is большие деньги, which word for word means “big money,” although it is often better translated as “a lot of money”:

Моя сестра зарабатывает большие деньги. My sister earns a lot of money.
Наших футболистов стимулируют большими деньгами. (source) Our soccer players are being motivated with big money.

One of the fun words that has developed in English over the last decade or two is “gynormous,” a combination of gigantic and enormous… in other words, really, really big. Russian has a similar word большущий, a combination of большой “big” and могущий “powerful,” which also means really, really big:

Всем большущий привет! (source) A gynormous “hello” to everyone!
Красивый кот по кличке Флинт жил на море на большущем корабле. (adapted from this source) A handsome cat by the name of Flint lived at sea on a gynormous ship.

One last thing: it is easy to confuse the word большой with the word больший. They mean different things. We'll address the latter word tomorrow.