Categories: "Prepositions"


by Don  

The word он is a personal pronoun that declines like this:


The «н» versions of the pronoun occur when the pronoun is the object of a preposition.

Он refers to masculine singular nouns, which can be either people or things, so sometimes it is translated as he/him, and sometimes it is translated as it. In other words, if you are refering to a врач doctor, then the sentence must be translated with he/him, and if you are refering to a грузовик truck, the same sentence must be translated with it:

Где он? Where is he/it?
Я вижу его. I see him/it.
Дети танцевали вокруг него. The children were dancing around him/it.
Мы поговорили о нём. We had a chat about him/it.
Я подошёл к нему. I walked up to him/it.
Перед ним стоял иностранец. A foreigner stood in front of him/it.

In casual conversation it's common in America to say things like “Me and John went to the store,” especially when we are children. Schoolteachers then try to beat us out of that habit and make us say “He and I went to the store.” Because of that influence, English speakers may be tempted to say things like «Он и я ездили в магазин» in Russian. While theoretically one can say that in Russian, no one ever does. Instead it gets rephrased as “we with him” «мы с ним». Of course, it would be ridiculous to translate that as “we with him” in English; you still want “he and I” or just plain old ‘we.’

Мы с ним ходили в кино. He and I went to the movies.
Мы с ним поспорили с вышибалой, и нас выгнали из клуба. He and I argued with the bouncer, and they threw us out of the club.

На (часть четвёртая)

by Don  

The next use of the word на with the accusative case is equivalent to the English word “by” in contexts where you are comparing one thing to another.

Моему брату сорок три года, а мне сорок восемь лет. Значит, я старше его на пять лет. My brother is 43 years old. I'm 48. That means I'm older than him by five years. ¹
Ростом я сто восемьдесят три сантиметра. Мой брат сто семьдесят восемь сантиметров. То есть, я выше его на пять сантиметров. I'm 183 centimeters tall. My brother is 178 centimeters. That is, I'm taller than him by 5 centimeters.
Новгород находится в четырёхстах девяноста километрах от Москвы, а Санкт-Петербург на сто сорок километров дальше. Novgorod is 490 kilometers from Moscow, and St. Petersburg is 140 kilometers farther.
У Бригама Янга было пятьдесят пять жён, а у Джозефа Смита было лишь сорок четыре. Значит, у Смита было на одиннадцать жён меньше, чем у Янга. Brigham Young had fifty-five wives, whereas Joseph Smith had only forty-four. That means that Smith had eleven wives less than Young. ²

That last example brings us to an interesting point. When you are counting differences in numbers of people, you get the following quirk with the numbers two, three, and four:

Детей у Смирновых пятеро, а у Ивановых только трое. Значит, у Ивановых на два ребёнка меньше, чем у Смирновых. There are five children in the Smirnovs' family, but there are only three in the Ivanovs'. That means the Ivanovs have two kids less in their family than the Smirnovs.

If this were the true accusative after на in this meaning, we would expect «на двух человек» or «на двоих людей», not «на два человека». Other examples:

Ежеминутно в США прибывает на два человека больше, чем эмигрирует. (source) Every minute two more people arrive in the US than emigrate from it.
Нижегородцев-миллиардеров в 2008 году стало на три человека меньше. (source) In 2008 there were three billionaires less in Nizhni Novgorod [than in the previous year].
Небоевые потери российской армии в июне 2009г. составили 23 человека, что на четыре человека меньше, чем в мае с.г.
Russian Army noncombat losses in June 2009 were 23, which is four people less than in May of this year.

This shows us one of two things: either a) the accusative case is not entirely stable in modern Russian, or b) на in this meaning actually uses a separate case that is minimally distinct from the accusative. I argued for the latter in my doctoral dissertation, although the former is probably true as well.

¹ Yes, I know that the “correct” way to say it is “I'm older than he,” but any normal American is going to say “I'm older than him.” It's time for the pedants to catch up to the living language: “than” has become a preposition in such contexts.
² Yes, I know that the “correct” way to say it is “eleven wives fewer,” but normal people don't talk that way. It's time for the pedants to catch up to the living language: “less” is perfectly normal these days when dealing with count nouns.

На (часть третья)

by Don  

The next use of the word на with the accusative case is equivalent to the English word “for” in some contexts. For instance, when you are talking about what you ate for a particular meal:

На завтрак я ел овсяную кашу. I ate oatmeаl for breakfast.
На обед мы ели печень. For lunch we ate liver.
— На свадьбе что будет на закуску?
— Ну, бутерброды с икрой, солёные огурцы, кабачковая икра, бутерброды с колбасой, сало, маринованные грибы, салат столичный, грибная икра, холодец, шпроты, бутерброды с сыром, винегрет, тёртая морковь, и квашенная капуста.
— Гм. Мало. Хочешь, я тебе помогу?
“What appetizers will there be at the wedding?”
“Well, caviar canapés, pickles, squash pâté, sausage canapés, fatback, marinated mushrooms, Capital salad, mushroom pâté, aspic, sardines, cheese canapés, beet salad, shredded carrot salad, and sauerkraut.”
“Hm. That's not very much. Want me to help you?”

When you put aside money for a particular purpose, на plus accusative also works:

Я сберёг шестьсот рублей на покупку породистой кошки. I have saved up 600 rubles for the purchase of a pedigreed cat.
Вот тебе деньги на цветы. Купи маме что-нибудь красивое. Here's some money for flowers. Buy Mama some nice ones.
Какой ты плохой отец! Не кормишь своих детей, но у тебя всегдя есть деньги на водку. What a bad father you are! You don't feed your own children, but you always have money for vodka.
Каждый день я откладываю мелочь на новое платье Every day I put aside some change for a new dress.

На (часть вторая)

by Don  

The second meaning of the preposition на is “on” in the sense of “onto.” In this meaning it is complemented by the accusative case.

Поставь вазу на подоконник. Put the vase on the windowsill.
Грузовик въехал на пристань, грузчики начали выгружать его. The truck drove onto the dock, and the stevedores began to unload it.
Кошка запрыгнула на стол и опрокинула чайник на пол. The cat jumped up on the table and knocked the teapot onto the floor.
Серёга, я привязал пару верёвок к папиной машине. Мы будем держаться за верёвки, запрыгнем на скейтборды, a мой брат будет нас тянуть за собой по двору! Sergei, I attached a couple of ropes to Dad's car. We'll hold onto the ropes and hop on our skateboards, and my brother will pull us all over the neighborhood!¹

¹ Двор and neighborhood are not really the same thing, but for this example it should work.

На (часть первая)

by Don  

The first meaning of the preposition на is “on.” In this meaning it is complemented by the prepositional case.

Книга на столе. The book is on the table.
Я забыл свой бумажник на полке. I left my wallet on the shelf.
Вова спокойно наблюдал, как комар на его руке пил его кровь. Он удивился, что не больно. Vladimir quietly observed the mosquito on his hand drink his blood. He was surprised that it didn't hurt.
На крыше больницы стоит вертолёт, готовый к спасению жертв несчастных случаев. On the roof of the hospital there is a helicopter ready to rescue accident victims.

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