Category: "Chtoby"

Чтобы (часть четвёртая)

February 10th, 2011 — posted by Don

We previously noted the use of the word чтобы in sentences like this where someone in the first clause wants someone else in the second clause to do something.

I want my daughter to write a letter to her grandmother.

The translation of such sentences into English is fairly straightforward. But sometimes a person in the first clause wants someone else in the first clause to get a third person in the second clause to do something. Hm. That was not the clearest statement, was it? An example is in order:

Пётр говорит Тане, чтобы её подруга позвонила вечером.

Here Pyotr is talking to Tanya with the purpose of getting Tanya's friend to call in the evening. Now just how are we supposed to translate that? We are going to have to add some words in the English translation to get it to flow better. After some reflection I have decided that you need either a “to have” construction or a “should” construction:

Pyotr is telling Tanya to have her friend call in the evening.
Pyotr is telling Tanya that her friend should call in the evening.

Here are five more examples:

Декан сказал Марии Андреевне, чтобы её дочь не волновалась. The dean told Maria Andreevna that her daughter shouldn't worry.
Таня говорит родителям, чтобы соседи подарили ей на свадьбу машину. Tanya is telling her parents to have the neighbors give her a car as a wedding present.
Tanya is telling her parents that the neighbors should give her a car as a wedding present.
Миша сказал Петру, чтобы Аркадий позвонил ему. Misha told Pyotr to have Arkadi give him a call.
Misha told Pyotr that Arkadi should give him a call.
Таня сказала Мише, чтобы ребята подождали её у клуба. Tanya told Misha to have the guys wait for her at the club.
Tanya told Misha that the guys should wait for her at the club.
Кевин сказал Оле, чтобы Миша и Таня прислали ему приглашение на свадьбу. Kevin told Olya to have Misha and Tanya send him a wedding invitation.
Kevin told Olya that Misha and Tanya should send him a wedding invitation.

On the whole I like the “to have” translations better than the “should” translations. In either case there is a bit of ambiguity. The “to have” construction in such contexts can express either a suggestion or a command. In other words “Misha told Pyotr to have Arkadi give him a call” can mean either that Misha is making a suggestion for Pyotr to call Arkdai, or it can be taken as a command, i.e., Misha is telling Pyotr to do it.

The “should” construction in such contexts can express either a suggestion or a statement of moral obligation. In other words “Misha told Pyotr that Arkadi should give him a call” can mean either that Misha is making a suggestion or that Misha is saying Arkadi has a moral obligation to call.

The Russian чтобы clauses in these context better match the “to have” range of meaning than the “should” range of meaning.


All the Russian examples here are from p. 140 of “Russian Stage 2: Welcome Back!” by Irina Dolgova and Cynthia Martin. The suggestions for English translations are my own, so any errors must be blamed on me, not them.

Чтобы (часть третья)

February 8th, 2011 — posted by Don

We previously noted the use of the word чтобы in sentences like:

I want my daughter to write a letter to her grandmother.

In the Russian version of that sentence the чтобы clause contains a perfective verb to express a one-time action with result to the point of discourse:

Я хочу, чтобы моя дочка написала письмо бабушке.

That's all well and good, but what happens if the opposite is the case? In other words, we want to say:

I don't want my daughter to write a letter to her grandmother.

In this case the verb in the чтобы clause must be expressed in the imperfective:

Я не хочу, чтобы моя дочка писала письмо бабушке.

Alternatively, one could put the не right in front of писала instead of in front of хочу:

Я хочу, чтобы моя дочка не писала письмо бабушке.

For beginners the rule of thumb is this: a negated verb will be expressed in the imperfective. In these sentences the scope of negation seems to include not only хочу but also the complement of хочу, i.e. the чтобы clause. Here are some other examples. Notice all the sentences in blue have a perfective чтобы clause. All the sentences in yellow are negative and thus must have an imperfective чтобы clause:

Папа хочет, чтобы Вера вышла замуж за Петра. Dad wants Vera to marry Peter.
Мама не хочет, чтобы Вера выходила замуж за Петра. Mom doesn't want Vera to marry Peter.
Моя жена хочет, чтобы я купил новую машину. My wife wants me to buy a new car.
Моя жена не хочет, чтобы я покупал новую машину. My wife doesn't want me to buy a new car.
Мой брат хочет, чтобы его девушка поступила на работу в больницу. My brother wants his girlfriend to get a job at the hospital.
Мой брат не хочет, чтобы его девушка поступала на работу в больницу. My brother doesn't want his girlfriend to get a job at the hospital.
Наши соседи хотят, чтобы мы переехали в другой город. Our neighbors want us to move to another city.
Бабушка и дедушка не хотят, чтобы мы переезжали в другой город. Grandma and Grandpa don't want us to move to another city.

Чтобы (часть вторая)

February 4th, 2011 — posted by Don

Consider the following two sentences in English:

1. I want to attend the university.
2. I want my daughter to attend the university.

Both sentences use an infinitive construction in the second part of the sentence. If the implied subject in the second part is the same as the subject in the first part, the subject is not repeated in the second part. If the subject in the second part is different from the subject in the first part, it is specified in the second part. Russian uses an infinitive construction for sentences like #1, but it uses чтобы + past tense for sentences like #2:

3. Я хочу учиться в университете.
4. Я хочу, чтобы моя дочка училась в университете.

This чтобы + past tense construction is sometimes referred to as the “subjunctive mood” because it is equivalent to similar subjunctive uses in Spanish, French, German, and some other languages. It is used not only with the verb хотеть “to want,” but also with many other verbs where one person asks/tells/orders another person to do something, especially просить/попросить to request/ask, говорить/сказать to tell, приказывать/приказать to order, and предлагать/предложить to suggest.

Учительница постоянно говорит, чтобы школьники вовремя сдавали домашние задания. The teacher is constantly telling her students to turn in the homework assignments on time.
Генерал приказал, чтобы солдаты окружили врага. The general order the soldiers to surround the enemy.
Милиционер попросил, чтобы иностранцы предъявили документы. The policemen asked the foreigners to present their documents.
Бабушка и дедушка предложили, чтобы мы съездили к ним на дачу. Grandma and Grandpa suggested that we come see them at the dacha.

Чтобы (часть первая)

February 3rd, 2011 — posted by Don

One of the uses of the word чтобы is to indicate the purpose for which an object or action is designated. It is often translated into English as “to” or “so that”:

Я купил словарь, чтобы лучше делать домашнюю работу. I bought a dictionary to do better on my homework.
Она позвонила брату, чтобы узнать, когда он придёт. She called her brother to find out when he would arrive.

Notice that in those sentences чтобы was followed by an infinitive phrase. That's not always the case:

Я купил словарь, чтобы моя дочка лучше делала домашнюю работу. I bought a dictionary so that my daughter could do bettter on her homework.
Она позвонила брату, чтобы он принёс сметану. She called her brother so that he would bring some sour cream.

So what's the difference? The difference is who the “doer” is in the чтобы portion of the sentence. If the doer implied by the чтобы portion is the same as the doer in the main clause, then it is followed by an infinitive. If the doer is different, then you use чтобы to introduce a clause with a past tense verb. Note, however, that even though the form of the verb is past tense, the meaning is not necessarily past tense. It's just indicating the purpose of the action. Here are a couple more examples.

Антон Павлович дал взятку директору школы, чтобы получить там работу. Anton Pavlovich gave a bribe to the director of the school so that he could get a job there.
Антон Павлович дал взятку директору школы, чтобы он принял его сына. Anton Pavlovich gave a bribe to the director of the school so that they would accept his sone.
Машенька взяла иголку, чтобы пришить пуговицу. Mary got a needle to sew the button on.
Машенька взяла иголку, чтобы мама пришила пуговицу. Mary got a need so that her mother could sew the button on.