by Don  

The word но means but. In grammatical terms it is a conjunction which usually introduces a clause that is contrary to previously established expectiations. For instance:

Большинство американцев говорят только на одном языке, но Кетлин хорошо говорит на трёх языках. The majority of Americans speak only one language, but Kathleen speaks three languages well.

The word но rarely produces confusion for English speakers. Bummer. That means I have to think of some clever example sentences.

Ваня не хотел писать сочинение, но его мама заставила его. Vanya didn't want to do his composition, but his mother forced him.
Я всегда голосовал за республиканских президентов, но в 2007-ом году я голосовал за Обаму. I have always voted for Republican Presidents, but in 2007 I voted for Obama.
Покупать пирожки на улице Вишневского дешевле, но я всегда хожу в киоск на улицу Калинина. It's cheaper to buy pirozhki on Vishnevsky Street, but I always go to a stand on Kalinin Street.
Вера не хотела идти к зубному врачу, но зуб так болел, что она пошла. Vera didn't want to go to the dentist, but her tooth hurt so much that she went.

Crud. I guess my sentences weren't so clever after all.


Comment from: Dennis [Visitor]

My understanding is that you always use “A” in the Russian subordinate clause if either “but” or “and” would work in English. For example, “I’m going to the bank, (but/and) Jane is going to the rodeo” compels the use of “A” in the Russian translation. Whereas, “I’m going to the bank, but not until this afternoon” can only work with “HO.”

Don responds: That’s an okay rule of thumb for beginners. The situation is rather more complicated, though. As you progress in your Russian studies, you will find examples that don’t quite fit the rule, and you’ll find yourself needing a more complex analysis.

07/19/11 @ 15:34
Comment from: Judith [Visitor]

For many students, the real issue with “HO” is when to use it and when to use “A.” How about some examples illustrating that?

Don responds: For a start one can look here. Coming up with some decent examples that can be explained in a couple paragraphs is tricky. If you come across any student errors with но/а, e-mail them to me and I’ll see if I can put something together. Or if you would like to write a guest entry in the blog on the subject, let me know.

01/27/11 @ 07:48

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