by Don  

Ходить is the most generic word in Russian that means “to go.”

to go
Infinitive ходить
Past ходил
Present хожу
Future буду ходить
будешь ходить
будет ходить
будем ходить
будете ходить
будут ходить
Imperative ходи(те)

Because it implies travelling under one's own power (that is, not using some device or animal for transportation), we often translate it “to walk”:

Моей дочке лишь восемь месяцев, а она уже ходит! My daughter is only eight months old, and she is already walking!
Я начал ходить в три года. Это было очень поздно. I started walking when I was three. That was pretty late.
Люди ходят, змеи ползают, а птицы летают. Я хочу быть птицей! People walk. Snakes slither. Birds fly. I want to be a bird!

The verb is also used in sentences where someone regularly goes somewhere.

Дима набожный парень. Он ходит в церковь каждый день. Dima is a pious guy. He goes to church every day.
Два раза в неделю я хожу на рынок за овощами. Twice a week I go to the farmers market for vegetables.

The verb is also used to describe the motion of someone walking around a place with no set goal or direction, e.g. walking around a park for pleasure, walking around the city, or going here and there among shops:

Мы два часа ходили по парку. Воздух был так чист, и солнце так красиво светило, и на душе у нас было легко. We walked around the park for two hours. The air was clean and the sunshine was so pretty that everything in the world seemed right.
— Что вы делали вчера?
— Мы ходили по магазинам на Арбате.
“What did you do yesterday?”
“We shopped on the Arbat.”

Last but not least, the verb is used to indicate a single round-trip in the past. In this usage it implies that the person is no longer at the place mentioned.

Папа ходил в аптеку. Dad went to the pharmacy (and then came back).
— Ты был в библиотеке?
— Нет, я ходил к бабушке.
“Were you at the library?”
“No, I went to Grandma's.”
— Что вы делали вчера?
— Мы ходили в кино.
“What did you do yesterday?”
“We went to the movies.”
— Ты вчера ходила в мавзолей Ленина?
— Ходила.
“Did you go to Lenin's Tomb yesterday?”
“I did.”

Russian verbs of motion have the reputation of being quite difficult. Certainly they take some practice, but if you just calmly, slowly, and methodically work on them, particularly identifying what contexts they are used in as we did here, then you can certainly master them.

Here is a list of the fifteen verbs of motion. They are usually taught in verb triplets, not pairs. If you want to work on these verbs, I suggest Muravyova's “Verbs of Motion in Russian” if you can still get it, and also William Mahota's “Russian Motion Verbs for Intermediate Students.”


by Timur  

The word xлеб is translated as bread. In Russia, the two most popular types of bread that can be found at any real supermarket or bakery are the regular white bread and the dark rye bread.

When you’re buying bread at a store or a kiosk, a courteous clerk is likely to ask you if you would like a буханка (loaf), полбуханки (half a loaf), a батон (long loaf of bread) or полбатона. To a foreigner, the shape of the xлеб might not be such a big deal, but to some Russians, батон and буханка make all the difference. Don’t know why, it’s just one of those random things that have been embedded into the culture since before Ivan the Terrible.

Russian bread tastes delicious, especially the dark rye bread. Rye bread is usually very filling, like zucchini bread or a bagel, and has a strong, distinct aroma about it that often reminds people of pines. But even though the bread is tasty, it’s not always fresh; Russians aren’t exactly like the French. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays fresh-baked bread was a guarantee, as for other days of the week... only if you lived next to a bakery. Fortunately now, many big-chain supermarket stores deliver their own bread every day, although they charge significantly more. Maybe that is one of the reasons many Russians keep a xлебница (breadbox) in the kitchen.


Photo of four loaves of breadImage from ru.wikipedia.org

Буханка, полбуханки и два батона lying on a table.

Some example sentences with the word xлеб:

Hекоторые люди вообще не едят хлеб, потому что у них аллергия. Some people don't eat any bread because they are allergic to it.
Завтра oни привезут свежевыпеченный хлеб, так что сходи в магазин утром. Tomorrow they’ll bring fresh-baked bred, so go to the store in the morning.
Я купил два французских батона и полбуханки темного бородинского хлеба на обед. I bought two French loaves and half a loaf of dark Borodinsky bread for dinner.
Печь хороший хлеб сложнее, чем сперва кажется. Baking quality bread is harder than it might seem at first.

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.

Автобус (часть первая)

by Don  

The word for bus in Russian is автобус. Public transport is well developed in major Russian cities, much better than its counterpart in the sprawling cities of the American West. Russians regularly ride buses all over the country, and Russians visiting the US expect the same services to be available here. After all, a bus is fairly low-tech, so the Americans must have them all over the place, right? Imagine the surprise of my acquaintance Natasha, then, when she wanted help getting from Los Angeles to Denver. She figured that buses were cheap, so she could probably make the trip quickly and cheaply. Alas, that was cross-cultural ignorance. The trip from LA to Denver would have taken twenty-two hours, and it would have been more expensive than a plane ticket. I told her to grab a plane flight. Sure enough, for -less than- a bus ticket, she got to Denver by plane.

In America people smile to indicate that they are not currently hostile toward the person they are talking to. So a cashier in a grocery store smiles at the customer she talks to. A security guard smiles at a person he doesn't intend to be rude to. An IRS agent smiles when you walk up to him to ask a question because he is trying to make you feel comfortable.

Russia is not like that. Former students of mine have gotten on the bus in Russia, laughing and chatting, only to have one of the бабушки old ladies say:

В автобусе не улыбаются. You shouldn't smile on the bus.¹

Despite the lack of smiles the buses in Russia are überconvenient. They, along with the streetcars, electric buses, and subway, will take you wherever you need to go. You simply don't need a car to get around in Russia. So what are the phrases you need to describe your bus activity? Here we go:

Я сел в автобус. I got on the bus.
Я вышел из автобуса. I got off the bus.
Я поцеловал двух девушек в автобусе. I kissed two girls on the bus.
Я поехал с Воробьёвых гор до Красной площади на сто одиннадцатом автобусе. I rode from Sparrow Hills to Red Square on bus number one eleven.

¹ In this context the они form of the verb is used without the actual pronoun они to be functionally equivalent to a “you shouldn't” sentence.


by Don  

Two words that I continually confuse in Russian are пыль dust and пыл heat/passion. Time to blog about them so I can get them straight! Пыль is a third declension feminine noun used only in the singular:

Preо пыли
в пыли

В комнате мебель была вся в пыли, и я боялся, что никак не приведу её в порядок. The furniture in the room was all covered with dust, and I was afraid that I would never be able to get it into decent condition.
Напиши твоё имя в пыли на столе, и заключим пари на то, сколько времени потребуется, пока папа не заметит. Write your name in the dust on the table. Then we'll make a bet about how long it takes Dad to notice.
Во время пыльных бурь в Ираке ветер может достичь скорости до ста пятидесяти километров в час. В такой буре ветер проникает в здания через мельчайшие отверстия и оставляет за собой невообразимый слой пыли. During dust storms in Iraq the wind may reach speeds of one hundred fifty kilometers per hour. In such a storm the wind penetrates buildings through the smallest openings and leaves behind an unimaginable layer of dust.
— Ах, декабрь! Как я в декабре наслаждаюсь рождественской пылью!
— Ты серьёзно? Как можно пылью наслаждаться?
— Ведь у нас в Финиксе не бывает снега. Надо наслаждаться тем, что есть, а не тем, чего нет, и у нас вполне хватает пыли.
— У тебя тараканы в голове.
“Ah, December! I so enjoy the Christmas dust in December!”
“Are you serious? How can you enjoy dust?”
“Well, we don't usually have snow in Phoenix. You have to enjoy what you do have, not what you don't have, and we have plenty of dust.”
“You are really strange.”¹

¹ The phrase “you are really strange” literally means “you have cockroaches in your head.”

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