Categories: "Body parts"

Рука, часть третья

by Don  

As mentioned before, рука can be translated 'hand' and 'arm.' Sometimes that distinction will be reflected in the choice of за and под: use with за usually indicates 'hand,' and под 'arm.' For instance:

Она взяла меня за руку и повела в церковь.She took me by the hand and led me to church.
Я почти не мог ходить. Папа взял меня под руку и отвёл меня к медсестре.I could barely walk. Dad took me by the arm [supported me under the arm] and took me to the nurse.
Мы пошли домой, держась за руки.We headed home hand in hand.
Мы пошли домой под руку.We headed home arm in arm.

Hand in hand, arm in arm… Russians are not nearly as freaked out about physical contact as we Gringos are. Male friends can walk arm in arm without any connotation of romantic involvement. Female friends often walk hand in hand without anyone thinking twice about it.

I remember the first time I was in Russia, 1986, I was interested in the fate of the баптисты. Баптист at the time was the closest equivalent to "Evangelical Christian." At church one Sunday I passed a Bible off to a Russian guy. (They were still not all that easily available then.) We ended up talking; I was invited to his home. After dinner he escorted me back to the subway station, and then eventually all the way back to the university. As we sat in the subway car, he threaded his arm through my arm; that by itself was odd for me as an American man. But when he got to a sensitive part of the conversation, he leaned over to whisper; as he whispered I could feel his lips moving inside my ear. Fortunately I had been taught that Russians have very different perceptions of personal space and contact, so I didn't overreact. I should say that this was not typical. None of my other Russian acquaintances have ever been quite that touchy-feely. The important thing is to give people the benefit of the doubt when you first experience a new culture first hand.

There are other entries about the word рука in this blog. Click on the 'ruka' category to find them.

Рука, часть вторая

by Don  

Since рука means both 'arm' and 'hand,' the Russians use other means to distinguish which part of the arm/hand is involved, and often this involves a distinction between the prepositions в and на. If the preposition в is involved, it usually correlates to 'hand' in English; if на, then 'arm.' For instance:

В руке она держала ключ от новой машины.In her hand she held the key to a new car.
На руках он держала сына брата.She held her brother's son in her arms.

You'll notice that those sentences used the prepositional case; that's because they expressed the location of the thing being held. Russian usually distinguishes motion phrases and location phrases. So if you want to take things into your hands/arms, you end up using the accusative case:

Она взяла котёнка в руки, и котёнок лизнул её в нос.She picked up the kitten [and held it in her hands], and the kitten licked her nose.
Она взяла котёнка на руки, и котёнок лизнул её в щёку.She picked up the kitten [and held it in her arms], and the kitten licked her cheek.
Я взял племянника на руки, и он срыгнул на мою рубашку.I picked up my nephew [and held him in my arms], and he spit up on my shirt.

More importantly, if you want to take someone in your arms, the best way to say it is with the verb обнимать/обнять 'to embrace, hug' which you can use without even mentioning руки: «Я её обнял» “I hugged/embraced her.”

For other entries about the word рука, click on the 'ruka' category.

Рука, часть первая

by Don  

Why does it seem like all the simplest Russian words are complicated? The Russian word рука is usually used in the contexts when English speakers would use the word hand, but it doesn't really mean hand. It means both the hand and the lower and the upper arm. Some other languages do that as well, Ancient Greek, for instance. When Doubting Thomas said

Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

he used the word χείρ for hand which also means both hand and lower arm. Christ's nail wounds might well have been in the forearms or wrists, not the hands.

The stress shifts quite a bit in the forms of this word, depending on case:


Very often when рука combines with a short preposition, the stress shifts to the preposition itself: за руку , на руку, рука об руку, под руку.

Since the word means more than "hand," English equivalents of Russian sentences may have either "hand" or "arm" in their translations. Join me again over the next few days for more detail about рука in phrases.

Other entries about the word рука will be forthcoming. Click on the 'ruka' category to find them as they appear.

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