Мама, мать

by Don  

There are two standard words in Russian for mother: мама, мать. The former is perfectly regular, and the latter is one of the most ancient words in the language and retains old quirks to it:


Although these words mean basically the same thing, they are stylistically different. A child would never say «Мать приготовила ужин» “Mother prepared dinner.” A child will only say «Мама приготовила ужин». Roughly speaking, children, young adults, and adults still living with their parents will usually refer to their parents as мама and папа. As they grow into later adulthood, people in their thirties and forties will refer to their parents as мать and отец. It just sounds more grown up.

Тhese are not hard and fast rules. Emotional closeness and gender influence things as well. A forty year old woman with a really close relationship to her mother may well call her мама. It is less probable that a forty year old man would do so, but it is still possible. And a twenty year old woman whose mother is a shrew may well refer to her as мать.

Sample sentences:

— Доченька, не надо шоколада есть. Если потолстеешь, никак не найдёшь мужа.
— Мама, перестань меня критиковать. Шоколад по крайней мере никогда не изменит мне.
“Sweetie, don't eat chocolate. If you get fat, you'll never find a husband.”
“Mama, stop criticizing. Chocolate at least will never cheat on me.”
Папа, ты не забыл купить маме торт на день рождения? Papa, did you remember to buy Mom a cake for her birthday?
Мать в четвёртый раз собирается выйти замуж. Она уже пережила первых трёх мужей. My mother is getting ready to marry for the fourth time. She has already outlived her first three husbands.
У нас с матерью всё время споры. Не люблю с ней общаться. My mother and I constantly argue. I don't like communicating with her.


Comment from: Dmitry [Visitor]

— Доченька, не надо шоколада есть. Если потолстеешь, никак не найдёшь мужа.
— Мама, перестань меня критиковать. На весь товар есть свой купец!

11/29/09 @ 08:00
Comment from: George [Visitor]

This blog is great! The level of detail, grammatical and otherwise, is fantastic. In just the first page of entries I’ve cleared up misconceptions about words I had been using for “salad” and “lemonade".

Keep up the great work!

06/06/09 @ 18:54

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