Category: "Poka"

Пока (наречие)

February 19th, 2009 — posted by Don

The word пока can also be used as an adverb that means “in the meantime, for the moment, for now.”

— Значит, ты вёл себя совсем по-идиотски, правда?
— Пока не буду говорить об этом, ладно?
“So, you acted like a complete idiot, right?”
“I'm not going to talk about that for now, okay?”
Превью музыки на майспейсе впечатлило, но скачивать пока не буду, лучше закажу диск и подожду дней эдак 10!!!! The preview of the music on My Space made an impression, but in the meantime I'm not going to download it. I'd rather order the disk and wait the roughly ten days!!!!
Дима Билан сказал: «Ребёнка хочу, а жениться пока не буду.» (source | mirror) Dima Bilan said, “I want a child, but I'm not going to get married for the moment.”

Пока (прощание)

February 18th, 2009 — posted by Don

Another meaning of пока is "see you later":

Ой, уже поздно. Я пойду. Пока! Oh, no, it's getting late. I'm out of here. See you later!

If you count the syllables of that dialog, you see that Russian only takes 10 syllables to say what English says in 15 syllables. See how much more efficient Russian is than the decaying languages of the West? Aren't you glad you are studying Russian? Other examples:

Спасибо за бабки, братан! Я сейчас пойду в казино. Пока!¹ Тhanks for the dough, dude! I'm heading to the casino. See you later!
Господи, больше спиртного не могу пить. Я поеду к Пете. У него всегда есть пиво. Пока! Lord, I can't drink any more hard liquor. I'll head to Pete's place. He's always got beer. Later!

¹ Бабки and братан are slang. Don't use them in front of your Russian teachers unless you want them to think you are a complete hoodlum.

Пока не (союз)

February 17th, 2009 — posted by Don

Yesterday we discussed one of the uses of пока in sentences where it means “while.” Sometimes you may encounter a clause that contains both пока and the negative particle не. The first time you see such a thing, you might produce a first-guess translation like this:

Original First-guess translation
Таня спала, пока не зазвонил будильник. Tanya slept while the alarm clock didn't start ringing.

What the devil? Let's see. If she slept while something didn't happen, that means she stopped sleeping when it did happen... in other words, she slept until the alarmclock started rining! That's right: often the proper translation for пока in combination with не is “until”:

Original Proper translation
Таня спала, пока не зазвонил будильник. Tanya slept until the alarm clock started ringing.

This use of «пока…не» to mean “until” can happen in any tense: past, present, or future. The clause in which «пока…не» occurs is called a subjoined clause. For the most part you find the perfective past or perfective future in subjoined пока clauses:

Мой дядя жил в Одессе, пока он не закончил учёбу. My uncle lived in Odessa until he finished his studies.
Тётя стояла на балконе и курила, пока не пошёл дождик. My aunt stood on the balcony and smoked until it started to sprinkle.
Не уходите, пока я не вернусь. Don't leave until I get back.
Не включай телевизор, пока не напишешь домашнее задание, а то тебе будет плохо. Don't turn on the TV until you finish doing your homework, or else you're in for it.

It is also possible for an imperfective verb to appear in the “until” clause if you have to habitually wait for it:

Дети каждый день ждали у двери, пока не приходил почтальон. Every day the children waited at the door until the postman came.
Каждый вечер после работы мы с Сашей сидим на остановке и болтаем, пока не подходит автобус. Every evening after work Sasha and I sit at the bus stop and chat until the bus comes.

Notice that in the first example, both clauses had an imperfective past tense; in the second — an imperfective present tense. It would be logical to assume that you could also put together a sentence like this with both clauses in the imperfective future. In other words something like:

Theoretically ok sentence Intended meaning
Не забывай, что в следующем месяце днём не будет воды. Нельзя будет нормально купаться пока не будут давать воду около семи вечера. Don't forget that next month there won't be any water in the daytime. You won't be able to wash up properly until they turn on the water around seven in the evening.

But when Russians hear such sentences, they tend not to like the imperfective future in the subjoined clause. Instead the perfective future sounds better to them:

Better sentence Meaning
Не забывай, что в следующем месяце днём не будет воды. Нельзя будет нормально купаться пока не дадут воду около семи вечера. Don't forget that next month there won't be any water in the daytime. You won't be able to clean up properly until they turn on the water around seven in the evening.

This is one of those instances where aspect doesn't work quite like we would expect from our beginning textbooks. Frankly, aspect is one of the most consistently tricky parts of the Russian language.

I wish I could say that пока in composition with не should always be translated “until,” but that is simply not the case. Crud. That means I may have to write about two more meanings of пока.

Пока (союз)

February 16th, 2009 — posted by Don

The word пока is a conjunction that means “while.” It can be used with verbs in the past, present, or future:

Папа готовил ужин, пока мама убирала в гостиной. Dad made dinner while Mom cleaned up the living room.
Каждое утро, пока я одеваюсь, брат принимает душ. Every morning, while I get dressed, my brother takes a shower.
Пока я буду в Москве, я буду ходить на занятия йоги два-три раза в неделю. While I am in Moscow, I will go to yoga classes two or three times a week.

When пока means “while,” it is essentially synonomous with когда followed by an imperfective verb, although sometimes the пока version sounds a bit better than the когда version, and sometimes it's the other way around. But on the whole all three of the sentences we just saw can be rewritten with когда and mean essentially the same thing:

  • Папа готовил ужин, когда мама убирала в гостиной.
  • Каждое утро, когда я одеваюсь, брат принимает душ.
  • Когда я буду в Москве, я буду ходить на занятия йоги два-три раза в неделю.

In grammatical terms the clause that contains пока is called a subjoined clause. The other clause is called a main clause. A subjoined clause that begins with пока in the “while” meaning must always contain an imperfective verb as its primary verb. The main clause can have either a perfective verb or an imperfective verb.

Perfective main clause Imperfective main clause
Я взяла водку, пока Женя искал сигареты. Я разговаривала с мамой, пока Женя искал сигареты.
I got the vodka while Gene looked for the cigarettes. I chatted with Mom while Gene looked for the cigarettes.

The verb in the main clause simply follows the standard rules for the imperfective/perfective distinction.

What we've written here probably seems way too basic to warrant a blog entry. So why bother? There's a method to this madness. Tomorrow's entry discuss the word пока when it combines with the negative particle не, and that combination often throws people for a loop. You may want to refer back to this entry once you've read the next one to see the contrast.