Ночь (часть вторая)

by Don  

We previously discussed the word ночь, which means night in the sense of the time between midnight and roughly fourin the morning. To say something happens during that period, you put ночь into the instrumental case.

Ночами лучше не пить. Мудрые люди ночью спят. You shouldn't stay up late drinking. Wise people sleep at night.
Ночью все кошки серы. At night all cats are grey. (Russian proverb)

Since in English we usually call that period of time “early morning,” that leads to some curious translations. Notice how «поздно ночью», which literally means “late at night,” is best translated as “early in the morning”:

Наши соседи часто шумят поздно ночью. Я это ненавижу. Our neighbors often make noise early in the morning. I hate that.
Когда я был ребёнком, я каждый день вставал в три часа ночи и на велосипеде развозил газеты по району. When I was a little boy, I got up every morning at three and delivered newspapers all over the neighborhood.


Comment from: lgoering [Visitor]

This post was very timely, as the question came up today in my beginning Russian class. Спасибо!

I would disagree, though, with translating поздно ночью as “early in the morning.” Even though I would definitely say “3:00 in the morning” (never “3:00 at night"), for me “early in the morning” implies that the noise-makers have already been asleep and are making noise getting up. I would say instead “in the wee hours” or “in the middle of the night.”

05/12/10 @ 13:49
Comment from: dimmik [Visitor]

1. What do you (I mean native english speakers) mean by “early in the morning"?
Usually in Russia by “поздно ночью” we mean ~ 23:00 - 02:00
How would you address 23:00-02:00 period?

Don responds: There is quite a bit of variation in how English speakers use night and morning, and some of it depends on what mental picture the speaker has in his mind at the moment of speaking. I think most everyone in the US will refer to 23:00 - 00:00 as “late night” (although most of us would not write the numbers that way unless we had previous military service). Sometimes I call the period from 00:00 - 02:00 “late night” and sometimes I call it “early morning.” If I have to get up tomorrow at 03:00, I will say “I have to get up really early tomorrow morning.” 01:00 I usually call “one o’clock in the morning”; “one o’clock at night” sounds odd to me. 02:00 I call “two o’clock in the morning.” A quick Google search suggests to me that the “in the morning” phrases for those times outnumber the “at night” phrases by ten to one. (Always take such fast-and-dirty Google searches with a grain of salt for linguistic conclusions since it is impossible to tell how many of the hits are hitting on the same material that has been quoted in many places.)

2. “Когда я был ребёнком, я каждый день вставал в четыре часа ночи”
I would say “Когда я был ребёнком, я каждый день вставал в четыре часа утра”
And, moreover, “в три часа утра". But, “в час ночи” или “в два ночи".

Another fast-and-dirty Google search suggests that the phrase «четыре часа утра» is used more than four times as often as «четыре часа ночи». I’m actually a bit surprised, because I had been taught differently, IIRC, and I had run these blog entries by native speakers of Russian before they were posted. I’ll be updating all my pedagogical materials over the next day or two. Henceforth my official pedagogical advice to foreigners is to say «час ночи», «два часа ночи» and «три часа ночи», but «четыре часа утра» and «пять часов утра».

Dimmik, thanks for you comment (and for Andrei’s comment previously). By doing so, you have actually contributed to the improvement of teaching Russian in America.

05/12/10 @ 08:40

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