Category: "A"

Минералка, часть первая

by Don  

One of the things that surprises Americans going to Russia is the Russians fondness for mineral water. In conversational Russian it can be called минера́лка, although of course the proper word for it is минера́льная вода. Минералка declines like this.


Dozens of types of mineral water have been sold in Russia since Soviet times, and among the most recognized names are Боржоми, Нарзан, Миргородская, Новотерская and Ессентуки. There are dozens more. Even big western firms are in the mineral water business in Russia. The Coca-Cola Company puts out БонАква, and PepsiCo puts out Аква Минерале. (See this link for a discussion of the Russian mineral water market.)

In short, you can find mineral water on every street corner in Russia, so you may hear things like this:

— Какую минералку ты xочешь?
— Боржо́ми.
“What kind of mineral water do you want?”
— Мама, так как мы в ресторане, можно мне водку?
— Тебе только шесть лет. Tы будешь пить минералку.
“Mom, since we are in a restaurant, can I have vodka?”
“You are only six years old. You are going to drink mineral water.”
— Я забегу в магазин. Что-нибудь хочешь?
— Да, принеси мне две бутылки минералки.
“I’m running to the store. Do you want anything?”
“Yes, bring me two bottles of mineral water.”
— Я не люблю тратить деньги на минералку, когда можно пить воду из-под крана почти бесплатно.
— Да что ты! Нельзя пить воду из-под крана. Вредно.
“I don’t like to waste money on mineral water when I can drink tap-water practically for free.”
“You’ve got to be kidding! You can’t drink tap-water. It’s bad for your health.”


by Don  

Sometimes when you study a foreign language, especially one as difficult as Russian, you just want to show off your new-found skills and knowledge, and for Russian one of the great words you can use for that purpose is достопримеча́тельности. It means ‘sights.’ That's right, sights. In English it’s one syllable. In Russian it’s eight syllables. Here is how it is pronounced:

When you are trying to learn to pronounce a polysyllabic monstrosity like that, there is a little trick that will help you get it right. If you would like to learn the trick, play this bit of audio:

In terms of declension достопримечательность is a standard third declension noun:


Although we usually translate it as ‘sights,’ you could also translate it as ‘attractions’ or ‘places of interest.’

Какие есть достопримечательности в Казани? What interestings sights are there in Kazan?
Самая интересная достопримечательность — мечеть Кул-Шариф. The most interesting sight is the Qol Sharif mosque.
В Норильске вообще нет достопримечательностей. Norilsk doesn't have any interesting sights.
— Какая самая интересная достопримечательность в Ванкувере?
— Около университета есть нудистский пляж.
— Разве это интересно?
— Да, там есть на что посмотреть.
“What’s the most interesting sight in Vancouver?”
“There’s a nude beach near the university.”
“You really think that’s interesting?”
“Yeah, there’s stuff worth looking at there.”


by Don  

Back in the seventies American television had a little spasm in which it thought that blurbs between TV shows on Saturday mornings should be educational. There was “Bicentennial Rock” as 1976 approached, and there was “Multiplication Rock” and even “Grammar Rock.” Grammar Rock rocked! And of all the songs none was better than “Conjunction Junction”:

♪ Conjunction Junction, what's your function? ♫
♫ “Hookin' up words and phrases and clauses.” ♪

Of course, that was before “hooking up” acquired a different meaning... If you haven't ever watched the video, do it immediately or end up a grammatical imbecile.

In Russian there are three conjunctions that give us Americans fits, and they are но, а and и. The reason they give us fits is that in American English we mostly use two conjunctions in their stead, ‘and’ and ‘but,’ but they don't line up quite the way we Americans might expect. Today we will talk about «а». The conjuction «а» can be translated as ‘but,’ ‘and’ or ‘whereas.’ Probably the first rule of thumb for us AmE-speаkers is that if you are contrasting subjects in a sentence, you want to use «а» not «и»:

Мама пошла на рынок, а папа пошёл в аптеку. Mom went to the market, and Dad went to the pharmacy.
Мой брат работает в больнице, а моя сестра работает в бизнесе. My brother works at a hospital, and my sister works in a business.
Саша любит сладкое, а Дима любит острое. Sasha likes sweet food, and Dima likes spicy food.
В отпуск Люба летала на Гавайи, а Ира ездила в Норильск. Lyuba flew to Hawaii for vacation, and Ira went to Norilsk.

I don't mean to say that the only time you use «а» is when subjects are contrasted, but this is a good idea to start with.

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