Category: "V"

В (degree of comparison)

by Don  

English and Russian both have special comparison forms for adjectives and adverbs, which makes them seem sort of similar. In English the comparative form often ends in -er, and in Russian it often ends in -е or -ее:

The Ferrari is faster than the Toyota. Феррари быстрее, чем Тойота.
Bill Gates is richer than Eike Batista. Билл Гейтс богаче, чем Айке Батиста.
This building is taller than that building. Это здание выше, чем то здание.
Joan Collins is older than Keira Knightley. Джон Кaлинз старше, чем Кира Найтли.¹

But here is a curious thing: if you want to say how many times someone or something is faster, richer, taller or older, then in English there are two constructions you can use. One of them uses an “” phrase without a comparative form, and one of them uses a comparative form with a ‘than’ phrase.

The Ferrari is twice as fast as the Toyota.
The Ferrari is two times faster than the Toyota.

Joan Collins is three times as old as Keira Knightley.
Joan Collins is three times older than Keira Knightley.

This building is five times as tall as that building.
This building is five times taller than that building.

In Russian you always use the comparative form. The word for ‘time’ in this context is раз, which has an irregular genitive plural ‘раз’, and the number must be preceded by the preposition в, which in this context works with the accusative case of the number:

Феррари в два раза быстрее, чем Тойота.
Джон Калинз в три раза старше, чем Кира Найтли.
Это здание в пять раз выше, чем то здание.

Oh, let's try a few more.

Население Москвы в двадцать два раза больше, чем население Тулы. The population of Moscow is twenty two times larger than the population of Tula.
У моей двоюродной сестры в три раза больше зубов, чем у меня. У неё такая красивая улыбка. My cousin has three times as many teeth as I do. She has such a pretty smile.
Бриллианты в сорок раз дороже, чем муассанит. Diamonds are forty times more expensive than moissanite.

¹ If you look at the Wikipedia article on Joan Collins, you will see her name transliterated as Джоан Коллинз, which has an unpronounced ‘а’ and an unpronounced extra ‘л’, which have been added under the influence of English spelling. That is a *bad thing*. Dear Russian Wikipedia authors, please do not fall under the terrible influence of English spelling. You have a marvelous tradition in Russian of spelling things much more closely to their pronunciation. It is why the Russian application of Cyrillic is superior to the English application of the Latin alphabet. Notice that the author of the Kira Knightley article didn't make that mistake. Please maintain your excellent and sensible tradition, and, eight hundred years from now, when we English speakers finally have a sensible spelling reform, you can taunt us with an alphabetic “I told you so!”

В (frequency)

by Don  

In English when you want to say how often something happens and the period over which it occurs, you can use two constructions. The first uses no preposition, and the second uses the preposition ‘per’:

We meet in Prague two times a year.
We meet in Prague two times per year.

In English the ‘per’ version sounds more formal and stilted, and the prepositionless version sounds normal. In Russian the prepositionless version is not an option; you must use the preposition в:

Мы встречаемся в Праге два раза в год. We meet in Prague two times a year.

At first glance it might seem that год is in the nominative case, but that is because it is a masculine inanimate noun. If we see a feminine noun in that context it is clearly accusative:

Я всё ещё читаю газету в печатном виде пять раз в неделю. I still read a hardcopy newspaper five times a week.

If you want to ask how often something happens, then the phrase to use is как часто:

— Как часто ты получаешь критику от читателей?
— Наверно два раза в день.
“How often do your receive criticism from readers?”
“Probably twice a day.”
— Как часто ты меняешь мобильный телефон?
— Раз в год. Мне вседга нужна новейшая техника.
“How often do you change your mobile phone?”
“Once a year. I always need the latest technology.”
Этот сотовый телефон определяет своё местонахождение пять раз в секунду. This cell phone checks its [geographical] position five times a second.
На мобильник сына я скачал софт, который сообщает мне его местонахождение четыре раза в час. Он больше не будет пропускать уроки. I downloaded an app to my son's cell phone that tells me his location four times an hour. He's not going to skip class any more.

That last example is interesting because you could rephrase it with minutes and skip the preposition:

На мобильник сына я скачал софт, который сообщает мне его местонахождение каждые пятнадцать минут. I downloaded an app to my son's cell phone that tells me his location every fifteen minutes.

Note the interesting use of the plural form of каждый before a number greater than one.

В (motion)

by Don  

The most common word for “to” in Russian is “в” followed by the accusative case. This is tricky for Gringos because “в” followed by prepositional means “at.” Observe the contrast:

Mама в магазине. “Mom is at the store.”
Mама пошла в магазин. “Mom has gone to the store.”
Лена занимается в библотеке. “Lena is studying at the library.”
Лена пошла в библотеку. “Lena has gone to the library.”

“В” can also indicate motion and be translated as “into”:

Машина въехала в туннель. The car drove into the tunnel.
Учительница вошла в комнату. The teacher walked into the room.

В (location)

by Don  

The most common word for “at” in Russian is в followed by the prepositional case:

— Где мама?
— Она в магазине.
“Where's Mom?”
“She is at the store.”
— Где Лена?
— Она занимается в библотеке.
“Where is Lena?”
“She is studying at the library.”
Дети любят играть в парке. Children love to play at the park
Давай встретимся в бассейне. Let's meet at the pool.

But в can often be translated as “in”:

Молоко в холодильнике. The milk is in the refrigerator.
— В чём живёт улитка?
— В ракушке.
“What does a snail live in?”
“In its shell.”
Летучие мыши спят днём в пещерах. Bats sleep in caves during the day.
Почему в моём пупочке столько пуха? Why is there so much fuzz in my bellybutton?

If you are an English speaker, your intuition will be a good guide as to when to translate в as in and when as at. Pity the poor Russian speaker, though, who has to figure out the difference in English.

В can also be used to indicate emotional states:

Он это сказал в гневе. Не принимай его слова всерьёз. He said that in anger. Don't take his words seriously.
Я весь день бегал в панике, то туда, то сюда. I ran around here and there all day long in a panic.
Я был в полном шоке, когда меня уволили. I was in complete shock when they fired me.
Когда загораю на пляже, я чувствую себя в полном блаженстве. When I'm soaking up the sun on the beach, I am in complete bliss.