Друг друга, друг дружку

by Don  

The Russian phrase for “each other” is formed by saying the word друг twice in a row. The second друг occurs in a case other than the nominative, i.e. you can find these five forms:

Accдруг друга
Genдруг друга
Preдруг о друге
Datдруг другу
Insдруг другом

The case of the second друг depends most often on the verb in question. If the verb requires a direct object, the second друг shows up in the accusative case; if the verb requires a dative object, the second друг shows up in the dative case. Likewise genitive — genitive, and instrumental — instrumental. Here are some examples:

Мы хорошо знаем друг друга. We know each other well.
Мы с женой часто покупаем друг другу подарки. My wife and I often buy each other gifts.
Американцы и русские раньше боялись друг друга. Americans and Russians used to be afraid of each other.
Несмотря на их взаимную подозрительность, русские и американцы интересовались друг другом. Despite their mutual suspicion, Russians and Americans were also very interested in each other.

If the verb requires a prepositional phrase as its complement, then the preposition comes between the two другs:

Мои сёстры постоянно сплетничают друг о друге. My sisters constantly gossip about each other.
Когда мы были детьми, мы с братом постоянно ссорились друг с другом. When we were boys, my brother and I constantly argued with each other.
Во время дуели противники стреляют друг в друга. During a duel the contenders shoot at each other.
Улитки медленно подползали друг к другу The snails slowly crawled toward each other.

Native English speakers, of course, will be tempted to write things like «Мои сёстры постоянно сплетничают о друг друге». And truth to tell, native Russians will say or write something like that, but it is not considered good written style.

Interestingly enough, sometimes the Russians substitute дружка for the second друг. Thus you get:

Accдруг дружку
Genдруг дружки
Preдруг о дружке
Datдруг дружке
Insдруг дружкой

That makes the phrase much more informal and conversational. For instance:

Солистки «ВИА Гры» ненавидят друг дружку лютой ненавистью. (source) The singers of [the pop group] “VIA Gra” hate each other bitterly.

I was interested to find the phrase as well in a site devoted to Russian folk magic. Here is a spell people use to help repair a family fracas:

Жгут ладан на сковороде
и обходят с ним дом.
Burn incense in a frying pan
and walk around the house with it.
Читают следующее:
Ночь с луной,
звезда с звездой,
я со своей семьёй.
Read the following:
Like the moon and the night,
like star with star,
so me and my family.
Как любит Христос свою мать, As Christ loves his mother,
так чтобы мы все друг дружку любили, so may we love each other
а не грызлись
и друг друга не били.
may we not squabble
nor beat each other.
Ладан, лад дай,
мир и клад. Аминь.
Incense, give us amity
peace and order. Amen.

You'll notice that жгут, обходят and читают are not command forms but third person plural verbs. In the translation they are rendered as imperatives to make the English flow better.

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