Сварить or заварить

by Don  

If A Russian has made soup, he might describe that by saying я сварил суп “I boiled up some soup.” Using that as a starting point, a foreigner might try to use that same verb when making tea. If you do that, the Russians will understand you, but they'll tell you it's better to say я заварил чай. The verbs are actually a bit different in meaning. The pair варить/сварить can mean 'to boil something,' i.e., to actually put something on the stove or over a camp fire or heat source in a smelter. The pair заваривать/заварить can mean 'to pour boiling water over something in order to cook/prepare it.' Russians don't usually make tea by actually boiling the leaves in a pot on the stove; instead they pour boiling water into a tea pot over the tea leaves to make a strong infusion, and then they poor some of the infusion from the teapot into a cup and then add boiling hot water and drink the result.

I was curious to know just how much more common it was to say заварить чай as opposed to сварить чай, so I did a Google search and came up with these results.


Search phraseHitsGrouped by genderGrouped by verb
сварил чай4795541867
чай сварил75
сварила чай322391
чай сварила69
сварили чай824922
чай сварили98


Search phraseHitsGrouped by genderGrouped by verb
заварил чай12,30013,91029,793
чай заварил1,610
заварила чай10,30011,750
чай заварила1,450
заварили чай3,3204,133
чай заварили813

As you can see the заварить versions outnumber the сварить versions by a factor of 15. When there is that big a difference, you can teach your beginning students that the заварить version is right and the сварить version is wrong.

1 comment

Comment from: Маша [Visitor]

“Сварил чай” seems wrong and very funny to me.
But I checked how is it used in google, and it’s mostly used by tourists. They don’t have kettle or teapot, so they boil tea. В котелке над костром.

08/14/12 @ 00:36

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