by Don  

The verb pair писать/написать means “to write.” Sample sentences:

Я стихи пишу, только когда мне грустно. I only write poetry when I'm sad.
Вова, не будет мороженого, пока не напишешь бабушке. Vova, you can't have any ice cream until you write to your grandmother.
Мама любит переписываться. Она каждый день пишет одно-два письма. Mom loves to correspond [with people]. Every day she writes one or two letters.
Таня два часа сидела и писала упражнения. Tanya sat down for two hours and worked on her exercises.

Note carefully that the с becomes ш when you conjugate the verb in non-past forms; that's called a consonant mutation. Notice also that the а drops out in the present, imperative, and perfective future forms:

to write
Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive писать написать
Past писал
Present пишу
No such thing
as perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду писать
будешь писать
будет писать
будем писать
будете писать
будут писать
Imperative пиши(те) напиши(те)

For some verbs it doesn't matter too much if you get the stress wrong, but it's important to get this one right on the infinitive because if you put the stress on wrong syllable you end up with писать, which means “to pee.” This of course reminds me of a classic joke:

Столкнулись как-то в туалете студент Оксфорда и студент Кембриджа. Once an Oxford student and a Cambridge student ran into each other in a bathroom.
Оксфордец собрался было выйти, не помыв руки, а кембриджец его спрашивает: «Вас что, в Оксфорде не учили руки мыть?» The Oxford man was about to leave without washing his hands, and the Cambridge man asks him, “What, didn't they teach you to wash your hands at Oxford?”
«Нет, нас в Оксфорде учили не писать на руки». “No, at Oxford they taught us not to pee on our hands.”

In Russian the joke is funny not just because of the one-upmanship, but also because писать is a word you expect to hear out of a child, not out of a grown man with an education from one of the world's best schools.


Comment from: Edgar [Visitor]

When I was a student at Boston College we liked to tell this joke so that Harvard was where they pissed on their hands. I think that was almost 50 years ago, so you can see that it’s an old joke in many languages.

05/06/09 @ 14:17
Comment from: Zubr [Visitor]

Amazing blog dude ! I’m glad I found it :)

01/19/09 @ 04:13

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