Ноль, нуль (часть первая)

by Don  

Russian has two words for zero, and they are ноль and нуль. For most purposes they are completely interchangeable and decline like this:


You will most encounter these words is when reading phone numbers out loud. In the US one usually reads phone numbers out loud digit by digit:

The number is pronounced
792-0390 seven nine two oh three nine oh

In Russia they usually break up a seven-digit number into groups of 3-2-2, and you say ноль only when the zero is the first unit in a group of two or three digits, thus:

The number is pronounced
792-03-90 семьсот девяносто два, ноль три, девяносто

(The first zero is pronounced as ноль, and the second zero is understood as part of девяносто.)

In the US most people do not refer to the time of day using the twenty-four hour clock (“military time”) unless they have served in the military or are engaged in precise time-keeping functions, but in Russia all official schedules are posted in twenty-four time, so the phrase «ноль часов ноль минут», which means literally “zero hours zero minutes” and can be translated “oh zero hundred” in military parlance, sounds perfectly normal to an average Russian. You can even hear the phrase in the song «В ноль часов и ноль минут» “At midnight,” which is a cute little tune about how hard it is as a child to stay awake all the way till midnight on New Year's Eve. Click the title of the song just above to hear it. Do listen to it. It's charming.

Picture of Santa reviewing his list plus phrase 'Happy New Year' in Russian

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