by Don  

The most common verb pair for “to close” in Russian is закрывать/закрыть:

Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive закрывать закрыть
Past закрывал
Present закрываю
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду закрывать
будешь закрывать
будет закрывать
будем закрывать
будете закрывать
будут закрывать
Imperative закрывай(те) закрой(те)

The person who closes something goes in the nominative case, and the thing closed goes in the accusative:

Нина закрыла дверь. Nina closed the door.
Не закроешь окно? Could you close the window?
Игорь закрыл за собой дверь Igor closed the door behind him.
Когда выйдешь из дома, не забудь закрыть дверь на ключ. When you leave the house, don't forget to lock the door.

This very common verb can be used to illustrate some of the amazing flexibility of Russian grammar. Let's say I was supposed to buy bread at the store, but I got there too late. I might explain the situation like this:

1. Магазин уже был закрыт.
2. Магазин уже закрыли.
3. Магазин уже закрылся.
The store was already closed.

All three sentences are grammatically correct and communicate essentially the same idea, but they are syntactically very different. Sentence 1 is a passive sentence where магазин is the subject and закрыт is a short-form past passive participle. Word for word it could be represented as “Store already was closed.”

In sentence 2 магазин is in the accusative case as the direct object of the verb закрыли. The verb is in the plural past tense with an implied “they” as the subject. Word for word it can be represented as “Store already (they) had closed.” Sentences with an unexpressed “they” are very common in Russian, and they are called indefinite personal sentences. They are used when they actual doer of the sentence is not particularly important in the context in which the sentence is uttered.

In sentence 3 магазин is in the nominative case as the subject of the reflexive verb закрылся. We call this use of a reflexive verb the medio-passive meaning, where the subject of the verb undergoes a change of state but the people who cause the change are not significant to the context. Word for word the sentence can be represented as “Store already had closed.”

The medio-passive use of the reflexive is common in other verbs like октрываться-открыться, начинаться-начаться, заканчиваться-закончиться, and пролжаться-продолжиться. We will discuss the medio-passive use of закрываться/закрыться in the near future.


Comment from: Eray ÖZGÜR [Visitor]  

I could not understand,which structure is correct.

“…закрыть дверь на ключ.” OR
“…закрыть дверь с ключом.”

Don responds: Interestingly enough, the Russians use the на + accusative phrase to indicate how you lock a door. You can also say «закрыть на засов» “to bolt the door” and «закрыть на цепочку» “to close the door and set the chain.” Unfortunately «с ключом» means “in the accompaniment of a key” (sort of), so that won’t work for locking a door.

11/06/11 @ 13:00
Comment from: meathive [Visitor]

I’m NEVER going to learn this language, am I!

Don responds: I know the feeling! But of course Russian, like most other subjects, will yield its secrets to any reasonably intelligent person who is willing to take the time. “Slow and steady wins the race” is entirely true in Russian. When you get frustrated or overwhelmed, take a step back, breathe deeply, and remember some bit of Russian vocab or grammar that you know that someone else doesn’t. See? By comparison you are making progress! :) Then just return your attention to the bit you are working with at the moment. It will all come.

I recently started studying Pashto. I’ve never had to master Arabic script before; it was intimidating. And worse yet, Pashto organizes its cases differently than any other Indo-European language I’ve encountered. (The case of the subject of the verb is partially dependent on the TENSE of the verb. How’s that for freaky?) But the script is coming along, and the case concepts are slowly becoming familiar.

So keep at it, MH. If five-year old Russian kids can speak Russian, then, by heaven, the adult you can learn Russian, too!

03/11/10 @ 15:03

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