Category: "Cherez"

Через (часть пятая)

October 27th, 2009 — posted by Don

Now here's where the preposition через gets really, really interesting. Observe the following interaction and its translation. The context is a conversation that occurs in a subway car between two subway stops.

— Мне нужен «Дом книги». Мне выйти на этой станции?
— Нет, Вам выходить через одну станцию.
“I need [to get to the store] ‘Book House’. Should I get off at this station?”
“No, you should get off at the second station.”

Despite the fact that the original contains the word одну “one,” and the translation contains the word “second,” the translation is not an error. The word через means “through,” so the idea is that you need to ride through the upcoming station and get off at the one that follows. Here's another example. The context is two acquaintances standing in front of a building.

— Саша живёт в этом доме?
— Нет, вон там, через два дома.
“Does Alexandra living in this building?”
“No, over there, the third building.”

«Через два дома», translated word for word, means “through two buildings.” Here the idea is that it's not the building in front of you where Alexandra lives. You need to pass by two buildings, and then you will find the right one. Not that first building, not the second one, but the one after that. And the most concise way to say that in English is with the phrase “the third building.”

This is one of those places where we see that not all languages say things the same way. If you want an English translation of this construction that is concise and sounds natural, then you have to add one to the number that was used in the Russian sentence.

I want to impress upon you how important this concept is. People with no foreign language experience, or language experience only in closely related languages, will assume things like, “If it says ‘five’ in the original, and it doesn't say ‘five’ in the translation, then the translation is wrong.” They may be mistaken. Sometimes a target language simply says things in a different way than the source language, even in such ways that require a change of numbers in the target language.

Let me summarize: if a source text does not correspond word for word with its translation into another language, that does not necessarily mean that the translation is wrong. This may even apply to sentences that contain words that at first glance seem to have an unchangeable meaning (like numbers). Sometimes the little functional words that coordinate everything else throw a wrench into the system and have to be taken into consideration.

Через (часть четвёртая)

October 22nd, 2009 — posted by Don

Here's where the preposition через starts to get interesting. It can be used in the context where in English we use the phrase “every other”:

— Вы каждый день бегаете утром?
— Нет, только через день
“Do you go running every morning?”
“No, only every other day.”
Если хочешь эффективно тренироваться, надо качаться через день, а на другой день надо отдыхать. If you want to train with good results, you have to pump iron every other day, and on the other days you should rest.
— Дома вы говорите по-русски или по-украински?
— Правду сказать, дома мы говорим через слово.
“Do you speak Russian or Ukrainian at home?”
“To tell the truth, at home we speak every other word [in one language, then the other].”

In this sense you can often say the same thing in Russian with a paraphrase starting with forms of the adjective каждый every:

В 1996-ом году мы все вели себя довольно глупо. Mы через день выпивали у Володи. In 1996 we all behaved rather stupidly. Every other day we would sit and drink at Vladimir's place.
В 1996-ом году мы все вели себя довольно глупо. Каждыe два дня мы выпивали у Володи.
В 1996-ом году мы все вели себя довольно глупо. Каждый второй день мы выпивали у Володи.
Нам платили через пятницу, и поэтому мы посылали домой деньги только два раза в месяц. They paid us every other Friday, so we sent money home only twice a month.
Нам платили каждые две пятницы, и поэтому мы посылали домой деньги только два раза в месяц.
Нам платили каждую вторую пятницу, и поэтому мы посылали домой деньги только два раза в месяц.

Через (часть третья)

October 19th, 2009 — posted by Don

Another meaning of через is “in” in the sense of “time period at the end of which something will happen.” In this sense it also takes the accusative case.

Добыча нефти начнётся через два дня. (adapted from this source) Petroleum extraction will begin in two days.
Через месяц женюсь! I'm getting married in a month!
Отель "Марко Поло" в Москве откроется через год. (source) The Marco Polo Hotel will open in Moscow in a year.
Через неделю будет устный экзамен. There will be an oral exam in a week.

This use of the word can also happen in the past tense, in which case it is best translated “later”:

Сначала в Москву прилетел я, а через два дня прилетела и моя сестра. First I came to Moscow, and two days later my sister also came.
Британские колонии в Северной Америке объявили независимость в 1776-ом году, а через тринадцать лет состоялась революция во Франции. The British colonies in North American declared independence in 1776, and thirteen years later a revolution took place in France.

Через (часть вторая)

October 16th, 2009 — posted by Don

Another basic meaning of the word через is “across.” Again it is complemented by the accusative case:

Миша с Таней перешли через улицу. Misha and Tanya went across the street.
Смотри! Ваня уже переплыл через реку. Look! Ivan has already swum across the river.
Я взял мальчика за руку и перевёл его через улицу.¹ I took the boy by the hand and led him across the street.
Мост через реку ещё не достроен. The bridge across the river is not yet completed.

¹ From “Verbs of motion in Russian” by L. Muravyova, Russky Yazyk Publishers, Moscow, 1995, p. 155. This is still my favorite reference textbook on Russian verbs of motion.

Через (часть первая)

October 14th, 2009 — posted by Don

The most basic meaning of the word через is “through” in the sense of physically going through something. It is a preposition that is complemented by the accusative case:

Грузинские зэки пытались уйти на свободу через тоннель. (source) Georgian prisoners attempted to escape to freedom through a tunnel.
Как поведёт себя желатиновый брусок, если через него навылет пройдёт пуля? (neat video) How will a block of gelatin behave if a bullet goes right through it?
Не смотрите через бинокль на солнце! Don't look at the sun through binoculars!
Маша пошла домой через лес. Mary went home through the forest.