На (часть пятая)

by Don  

Seven-year old Mariana walked into the living room where her father, Alyosha, and I were sitting. She placed an ashtray in front of us and said «Нате». I looked at the two of them in confusion and Alyosha said:

Она думала, что вы тоже будете курить. She thought that you were going to smoke, too.

Alyosha had totally misunderstood the source of my confusion. He thought I was surprised that she thought I would smoke, but really I was confused because I didn't have the foggiest idea of what «нате» meant. It was my first trip to Russia, having had five years of college Russian. It would not have surprised me for someone to say, “Oh, you don't know the difference between ОВИР and УВИР is? The latter is the department where you process the special form that gives foreigners the right to use a public toilet, and the former is the office where that toilet is located. Be sure to bring some small gift to УВИР or they won't put the right stamp on the form, and when you go to ОВИР, be sure to put the seat down when you are done or the babushka who monitors the sinks will yell at you.” That wouldn't have surprised me at all. But to have a little nine-year old Russian girl flummox me with two syllables was downright demoralizing.

It turns out that «на» and «нате» mean “Here you go.” It's used when you are handing something to someone. «На» is used when you are talking with someone in ты form, and «нате» is used when speaking to someone in вы form. That's right. The Russkis have added -те to something that's not a verb. Makes me want to study an easier language, like Pashto or Thai...

«На» and «нате» are very informal words. You will hear them used in homes and among friends. Don't use them in formal circumstances. I once flashed my hotel pass to a doorman in Russia and said «на». He had annoyed me, and my use of «на» really ticked him off. He caused me continual grief for the rest of my stay at that hotel. (It really was rude of me, and I should not have done it. Just because someone is a jerk to you does not mean you should be a jerk to him.)

And here are a couple examples of how it can be used:

— Мам, передай соль.
— На.
“Mom, pass the salt.”
“Here you go.”
Ребята, у меня для вас сюрприз. Я принесла конфеты. Нате, ешьте на здоровье! Kids, I have a surprise for you. I brought some candy. Here you go. Enjoy!


Comment from: Elise [Visitor]

This is so crazy - I was just telling a friend about a situation I was in recently where a friend’s daughter said “нате” to me. I had trouble understanding her baby-talk Russian anyway and later asked a colleague. She said “It’s the same as when I give you something and I say ‘на’. The little girl didn’t know you, so she said ‘нате.’” Then I checked this website and Вот! Объяснение.

02/21/10 @ 13:18
Comment from: vio [Visitor]

Can add, that “нате", since it’s plural, is more polite word. you can achieve politeness with “на” only using strong intonation

02/17/10 @ 09:18
Comment from: Edgar [Visitor]

Thanks, Don. I wasn’t sure about “te” because in rapid, conversational speech tebye oftentimes shortens to te. I still think of Nina’s aunt to this day. Cripes, she didn’t stop cooking all kinds of treats for me during the whole time and then come to me, saying “na"-How could I ever forget.

02/16/10 @ 10:49
Comment from: Bryan [Visitor]

This is precisely why I love this site. I mean, I like it for many, many reasons, but I love it for things like this. Nowhere in any textbook have I seen even a mention of this little irregularity.

02/16/10 @ 08:10

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