by Don  

One of the verbs I really like in Russian is разбираться. It has several meanings, but the one I have in mind today is the equvialent of "to have insight into, to understand". In this sense the verb is only used in the imperfective. For instance,

На рынке:
— Девушка, я плохо разбираюсь в пельменях. Не объясните, какая разница?
— Это пельмени с мясом, а это не пельмени, а вареники с вишней, а это грузинские хинкали с мясом и бульоном.
At the market:
"Miss, I don't understand all the types of pelmeni. Could you explain the differences?"
"These are meat-filled pelmeni, whereas these aren't pelmeni, but rather vareniki with cherry filling, and these are Georgian khinkali that have meat and broth in them."
— Я не знаю, как решить это уравнение. Не поможешь?
— Саша наверно поможет. Он хорошо разбирается в математике, а я нет.
"I don't know how to solve this equation. Could you help me?"
"Aleksandr will probably help you. He understands math pretty well. I don't."
Люди с синдромом Аспергера плохо разбираются в людях и плохо понимают их мимику. People with Asperger's syndrome have difficulty understanding people and have trouble recognizing facial expressions.

As an imperfective/perfective pair the verb can mean "to sort out the details, to figure out what's going on, to clarify the situation":

Хаус удивительный врач. Он хорошо разбирается в самых сложных заболеваниях. House is an amazing doctor. He is quick to figure out the most incomprehensible cases.
Мы посылаем специалистов в Мексиканский залив. Как только они разберутся в ситуации там, они сообщат нам, какие меры надо применить. We are sending specialists to the Gulf of Mexico. As soon as they figure out the situation there, they will let us know what steps have to be taken.

Here is the conjugation of the verb for your convenience:

Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive разбираться разобраться
Past разбирался
Present разбираюсь
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду разбираться
будешь разбираться
будет разбираться
будем разбираться
будете разбираться
будут разбираться
Imperative разбирайся

Notes: "House" is amazingly popular in Russia. Everyone I talk to here has watched it.

The conversation about пельмени is based on one I had at the Чеховский рынок in Казань. The woman who ran the pelmeni stand was particular gracious and willing to have an extended conversation with a foreigner. It was she who introduced me to хинкали. She was selling mass-produced ones that were very good. I think regular khinkali actually have thinner dough. See this Wikipedia article for a picture.

1 comment

Comment from: Jen [Visitor]

Khinkali are delicious!! at one point I pretty much only ate these in georgia. :-)
thanks for the blog and the sentences. I use them for vocabulary training and its fun to learn a little bit context to the words and their meaning.

11/12/10 @ 07:37

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