Category: "Na"


by Don  

The word море means sea. It's one of the few nouns in Russian that ends in -е and has a soft consonant before it. Many two-syllable neuter nouns in Russian have a stress shift in the plural. In this case, the noun is stem-stressed in the singular, and end-stressed in the plural. It declines like this:


The seas closest to Russia are:

Балтийское море The Baltic Sea
Каспийское море The Caspian Sea
Азовское море The Azov Sea
Чёрное море The Black Sea
Японское море The Sea of Japan

Notice that the «море» part in Russian is not capitalized.

Russians love to go to the sea of vacation, especially to a sea that is warm and has palm trees. Back in the Soviet period, one of their favorite places was Ялта, a city on the Black Sea that had, relative to Moscow, a warm climate. (By Arizona standards the place is refreshingly cool, but of course this blog is not entitled “Arizona Word of the Day,” so the Moscow viewpoint must predominate.) Море is a на word. In otherwords, when you talk about going to the sea or being at the seashore, you must use the preposition на, not в.

Я люблю Чёрное море. I love the Black Sea.
Ты когда-нибудь был на Каспийском море? Have you ever been at/on the Caspian Sea?
В выходные мы съездили на Аральское море. Страшно видеть, как оно умирает. Last weekend we went to the Aral Sea. It's scary to see it die like that.
Огромное нефтяное пятно движется к Балтийскому морю. (source) A huge oil spill is moving toward the Baltic Sea.

In Modern American English we mostly talk about going “to the beach” in these contexts, so “sea” will often not appear in such translations.

— Что ты делал на выходных?
— Я ездил на море.
“What did you do on the weekend?”
“I went to the beach.”
— Что ты хочешь делать на выходные?
— Давай поедем на море.
“What do you want to do for the weekend?”
“Let's go to the beach.”

На (часть пятая)

by Don  

Seven-year old Mariana walked into the living room where her father, Alyosha, and I were sitting. She placed an ashtray in front of us and said «Нате». I looked at the two of them in confusion and Alyosha said:

Она думала, что вы тоже будете курить. She thought that you were going to smoke, too.

Alyosha had totally misunderstood the source of my confusion. He thought I was surprised that she thought I would smoke, but really I was confused because I didn't have the foggiest idea of what «нате» meant. It was my first trip to Russia, having had five years of college Russian. It would not have surprised me for someone to say, “Oh, you don't know the difference between ОВИР and УВИР is? The latter is the department where you process the special form that gives foreigners the right to use a public toilet, and the former is the office where that toilet is located. Be sure to bring some small gift to УВИР or they won't put the right stamp on the form, and when you go to ОВИР, be sure to put the seat down when you are done or the babushka who monitors the sinks will yell at you.” That wouldn't have surprised me at all. But to have a little nine-year old Russian girl flummox me with two syllables was downright demoralizing.

It turns out that «на» and «нате» mean “Here you go.” It's used when you are handing something to someone. «На» is used when you are talking with someone in ты form, and «нате» is used when speaking to someone in вы form. That's right. The Russkis have added -те to something that's not a verb. Makes me want to study an easier language, like Pashto or Thai...

«На» and «нате» are very informal words. You will hear them used in homes and among friends. Don't use them in formal circumstances. I once flashed my hotel pass to a doorman in Russia and said «на». He had annoyed me, and my use of «на» really ticked him off. He caused me continual grief for the rest of my stay at that hotel. (It really was rude of me, and I should not have done it. Just because someone is a jerk to you does not mean you should be a jerk to him.)

And here are a couple examples of how it can be used:

— Мам, передай соль.
— На.
“Mom, pass the salt.”
“Here you go.”
Ребята, у меня для вас сюрприз. Я принесла конфеты. Нате, ешьте на здоровье! Kids, I have a surprise for you. I brought some candy. Here you go. Enjoy!

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.

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