Category: "Predicatives"

Жаль (часть первая)

October 18th, 2010 — posted by Don

Sometimes in life you're just bummed out about something, and one of the words that expresses that idea in Russian is жаль. Жаль expresses an idea of sadness or regret or irritation; it can form an entire sentence unto itself:

Жаль. That's a shame. or
That's a bummer. or

If want to add the “what a” idea to it, you use как:

Как жаль. What a shame. or
What a bummer. or

Very often жаль is followed by a clause beginning with что:

Жаль, что она не пришла.
It's a shame that she didn't come. or

It's a pity that she didn't come.
Жаль, что ты так мало зарабатываешь.
It's a pity that you earn so little. or

It's a shame that you earn so little.

If you want to incorporate the idea of who is experiencing the pity, then the person goes into the dative case. Once the person is added, though, it flows best if you don't use the words pity and shame in Engish translation. Instead other versions sound better:

Мне жаль, что она не пришла.
I'm disappointed that she didn't come. or
I'm sad that she didn't come. or

I'm bummed that she didn't come. or

I feel bad that she didn't come.
Лене жаль, что ты так мало зарабатываешь.
Lena's sad that you earn so little. or
Lena's disappointed that you earn so little. or

Lena's bummed that you earn so little. or

Lena feels bad that you earn so little.

To put the жаль phrase into the past or future tense, use было and будет respectively:

Мне было жаль, что она не пришла. I was disappointed that she didn't come.
Мне будет жаль, если она не придёт. I will be disappointed if she doesn't come.
Лене было жаль, что она не смогла встретиться с тобой. Lena was disappointed that she couldn't get together with you.
Лене будет жаль, если ты ей не позвонишь. Lena will be disappointed if you don't call her.

Надо (часть вторая)

June 22nd, 2010 — posted by Don

We mentioned previously that one of the words in Russian that is translated as need is надо. Sometimes you will run across sentences like this:

Мне надо книгу. I need а book.
Вите надо гаечный ключ. Viktor needs a wrench.

Such sentences are conversational, and they really have an implied verb in them. Thus the first sentence probably implies something like «Мне надо купить книгу» "I need to buy a book," and the second probably implies something like «Вите надо взять гаечный ключ» "Viktor needs to get a wrench."

People often use these phrases to ask you what you need:

Что тебе надо?
Что вам надо?
What do you need?

That reminds me... the phrase is used in a wonderful children's poem by Корней Чуковский called «Телефон». Read it out loud to yourself in Russian. The rhymes are delightful:

У меня зазвонил телефон. My phone started ringing.
— Кто говорит? "Who is calling?"
— Слон. "It's me, Elephant."
— Откуда? "Where are you calling from?"
— От верблюда. "From Camel's place"
— Что вам надо? "What do you need?"
— Шоколада. ¹ "Some chocolate."
— Для кого? "For who?"
— Для сына моего. "For my son."
— А много ли прислать? "Do I need to send a lot?"
— Да пудов этак пять
Или шесть:
Больше ему не съесть,
Он у меня ещё маленький!
"Oh, just 180 pounds' worth,
Maybe 200.
He won't be able to eat much more.
He's still pretty small."

You can find the complete text of the poem here.


¹ Шоколада here is in the genitive case, not the accusative. The genitive adds the 'some' idea.

Надо (часть первая)

June 16th, 2010 — posted by Don

One of the words in Russian that is translated as need is надо. It is used in impersonal sentences. Impersonal sentences are those which do not have a grammatical subject in the nominative case. The verb used with надо appears in the infinitive form, and the person who needs to do the action appears in the dative case. If you need to do something only once, then usually the verb appears in the perfective:

Мне надо купить аспирин. Болит голова. I need to buy aspirin. I have a headache.
Вике надо зайти в магазин за туалетной бумагой. Victoria needs to go to the store to get toilet paper.
Игорю надо найти новую работу. Igor needs to find a new job.

To put the sentence into the past or future, you add the words было or будет:

Мне надо было купить аспирин, так как болела голова. I needed to buy aspirin because I had a headache.
Вике надо будет зайти в магазин за туалетной бумагой. Victoria will need to go to the store to get toilet paper.

If you need to do something regularly, then the infinitive shows up in the imperfective:

Ты постоянно опаздываешь. Тебе надо вставать пораньше. You are always late. You need to get up earlier.
Какой Дима неряха. Ему надо почаще убирать в квартире. Dima is such a slob. Needs to clean his apartment more often.

Now here is a subtle point. If you use надо 'need' as a rough equivalent for 'it is time to,' then the infinitive appears in the imperfective, even if you are talking about a one time action:

Ваня, чего ты всё ещё лежишь в постели? Надо сейчас же вставать. Ivan, why are you still lying in bed? You need to get up right now.
Я больше не могу ждать. Мне надо идти. I can't wait any longer. I have to go.