by Evgeny  

The Russian word Сила means ‘strength’, ‘force’ or ‘power’. It declines like so:


The word Сила is used quite often in Russia since it can be used in many contexts. For example, there is a popular saying in Russia: «Сила есть - ума не надо», which means roughly, “If you have strength, you don’t need a brain.” It is usually used sarcastically when describing somebody big and stupid, or when somebody tries to achieve something by using brute force. A good example of that is Mike Tyson joining the Union of Russian Writers. Even though he is a legendary boxer known for the power of his knockouts, some people find this absurd and think that he does not deserve to be on the same . His membership was officially announced October 27th, 2014, when his memoir book “Undisputed Truth” was presented in Moscow. He is by far not the most intelligent guy, but his strength and commitment to what he does best got him here.

Here are a few sample sentences:

Сила в знаниях. Power is in knowledge.
У каждого своя сила. Each has their own strength.
Он бежал изо всех сил. He ran as fast as he could.
У моей машины триста лошадиных сил My car has three hundred horsepower.
Он обладал великой силой воли. He had great will power.


by Natasha  

The Russian word for 'wallet' is бумажник. It declines like so:


Here are a few sample sentences:

Он потерял свой бумажник. He lost his wallet.
Милиционер нашёл мой бумажник в парке. The police officer found my wallet in the park.
Его бумажник был пуст. His wallet was empty.
Почему у тебя нет бужажника? Why don't you have a wallet?.
В бумажнике находились его водительские права, деньги и кусок засохшей жвачки. The wallet had his driver's license, some money and a piece of dried-up gum.

Кирпич, часть вторая

by Don  

Previously we discussed the endings and common uses of кирпич ‘brick.’ There is a Russian idiom that uses this word, «морда просит кирпича», which literally means “his face is asking for a brick.” It means someone whose face is really ugly, and it’s often accompanied by the idea that the person’s behavior is vulgar as well. The word for ‘face’ in these contexts is often «рожа, морда», which don't really have equivalents in current American English, although previously “mug, puss” were mild versions of them. Sometimes the phrase is associated with the very vulgar ебало, a word for face that is derived from the Russian eff word, which generally foreigners should avoid using. English has a few idioms to express the idea of someone being exceedingly ugly. Among them are:

Here is an example of how the кирпич idiom is used in Russian.

Сегодня ко мне на собеседование очередной кандидат заявился. Тот ещё кадр: все руки в наколках, морда кирпича просит, и перегаром прёт за три метра. Пришлось вежливо отказать. (source) Our next applicant came to see me today. What a great co-worker he’d be: tatoos all over his arms, ugly as a baboon’s ass, and reeking of alcohol from ten feet away. We had to politely reject his application.
— Ты вчера познакомился с другом Светы?
— К сожалению, да. Он такой урод!
— Что ты имеешь ввиду?
— Такой роже и кирпич не поможет.
— Да ты что! Наверно переувеличиваешь.
— Сама посмотри! Я не удержался, перешлось сфотографировать.
“Did you meet Sveta's friend yesterday?”
“Unfortunately, I did. He is so freakin’ ugly.”
“What do you mean?”
“If you hit him in the face with a brick, it would be an improvement.”
“Oh, come on. You must be exaggerating.”
“You should look for yourself. I couln’t help myself. I had to take a picture.”

Although the phrase is mostly used of physical ugliness, it can be used metaphorically as well. There is a well-known piece of WWII bilingual Nazi propaganda that uses the phrase:

Бей жида-политрука, рожа просит кирпича (source) Kill the Jewish political officer; he’s as ugly as sin.

Y’know, most of the time I'm delighted to present a Russian idiom, but on this occasion it makes me sad. The idea that those who are ugly deserve a brick in the face is a horrible one. There is, I think, evolutionarily in many human beings an idea that those who are weak, ugly, less fit for the wolves-vs-sheep existence decreed by pure materialism, an idea that such people are less fit to live, to be happy, to survive to wisdom and maturity... that idea is simply awful. Instead we should dedicate ourselves to a life where not only the strong-vicious-dominant survive. It is one of the reasons that I think religion is still significant in the scientific age: religion teaches that we will be judged in the same way that we treat the least of our brethren. Let us live in such a way that we do not have to throw a brick in the face of those who are different from us, those who are odd, those whom we don't yet understand. That way we can all enter the next millenium knowing that we have done the best we can to pursue kindness, wisdom and diversity in the best sense. And if you think you don't like the idea of diversity, then you need to rethink that right now.


by Natasha  

The Russian word вишня means 'cherry'. It declines like so:


Photo credit: Spurzem at de.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-2.0-d], from Wikimedia Commons

In English we usually discuss cherries in the plural, but in Russia one usually discusses them with a singular noun that indicates a mass of berries, so in the following examples you will notice that the English plural always corresponds to a Russian singular.

— Ты любишь вишню?
— А кто её не любит??
“Do you like cherries?”
“Who doesn’t??”
— Сколько вишни ты купила?
— Полтора кило.
“How many kilos of cherries did you buy?”
“A kilo and a half.”
Фу, вишня протухла! Yuck, the cherries have gone bad.
— Что ты делаешь?
— Варю компот из вишни.
— Правда? Я обожаю вишнёвый компот!
“What are you doing?”
“I’m making fresh cherry punch.”
“Really? I love cherry punch!”

In the last example we saw two ways of saying ‘cherry punch.’ The first way used a noun followed by a prepositional phrase: компот из вишни. The second turns the word вишня into the adjective вишнёвый, thus we get «вишнёвый компот».

Interestingly enough, the New Russians were known for sometimes wearing maroon-colored suits with lots of gold chains. To describe those suits the Russians often used the phrase вишнёвый костюм ‘a maroon-colored suit.’ For instance, you might hear something like this:

— Что у тебя с лицом?
— Меня вчера избил какой-то «новый русский» в вишнёвом костюме и золотых цепях.
— А я думал что «новые русские» остались в девяностых, но, судя по твоему описанию, это был типичный новый русский.
“What happened to your face?”
“I got beat up by some New Russian in a maroon-suit and a bunch of gold chains.”
“I had thought that the New Russians were a 90s thing, but judging by your description, that was a typical New Russian.”

By the way, if you would like a little introduction to the generaly style of the New Russians, I recommended this page and this page.

Don's addition: Those suits were often called малиновые костюмы ‘raspberry-colored suits’ as well.

Который, часть первая

by Don  

The word can be translated as who, whom, whose, that or which, depending on the context. Grammatically we call it a relative pronoun. In first- and second-year Russian the use of который seems quite complex, but after a year or two of practice, you look book and think, “Why did I ever think that it was difficult?” Because the use of the word is complex for beginning students of Russian, we will break up the discussion of the word over several days. Here are its endings.

* copies nom. if inan.; copies gen. if anim.

The rule for using который is this:

  • Который takes its number, gender and animacy from the noun it refers to in the main clause; and
  • Который takes its case according to the grammatical rule it plays in its own clause.

Let's take a look at a sentence that means, “I know a woman who lives in Tula.”

Notice that который takes its gender and number from the word it refers to in the other clause, but that it has a different case from девушку. That's because который always takes its case from the grammatical role (in this case, the subject) that it fills in its own clause. Let's take a look at a few more sample sentences.

Я знаю парня, который покупает новую машину каждый год. I know a guy who buys a new car every year.
Мы поговорили о девушке, которая была здесь вчера вечером. We chatted about the girl who was here yesterday evening.
Чьи это деньги, которые лежат на подоконнике? Whose money is that which is lying on the windowsill?
Кто выпил вино, которое было в холодильнике? Who drank the wine that was in the refrigerator?

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