Год (часть вторая)

by Don  

Thanks so much for all the warm expressions of sympathy yesterday from people about yesterday's misadventure. It is good to know that so many other people have been in similar situations. Falling in love with a Gypsy woman is an overwhelming experience, but after certain conversations today with Luludya's mother, father, grandmother and grandfather, I think it is an experience I can survive, with a judicious application of Bandaids and Neosporin. Even Luludya herself thinks so, which leaves me free to return to my topic of yesterday.

The Russian word for year is год, and, unsurprisingly, it is used to express age. But the age construction in Russian is rather different than the English construction. In English we say, “I am fifty years old”, whereas the Russian equivalent is “to me fifty years”.

The difficulty with the construction for us Yanks and Brits is that Russian numbers are more complex than English numbers. The number один is an adjective and agrees with its noun, so one year is один год. Numbers whose spoken form ends in два, две, три and четыре require the genitive singular of the noun they quantify, which gives us два/три/четыре года. Most nominative case numbers whose spoken form ends in something other than those just mentioned require the genitive plural of the noun they quantify, thus пять лет, шесть лет, etc. That's right: the genitive plural form of год after numbers is лет. Don't ask questions. Just believe. This brings us to the following grammatical analyses:

Of course, we can use years to express many other things than age. For instance, duration phrases use numbers. Most time/duration phrases are in the accusative case, which copies the nominative for inanimate phrases:

I have loved a Gypsy woman for six years. Я шесть лет люблю цыганку.
Four years ago a Gypsy woman gave me a second son. Четыре года назад цыганка мне родила второго сына.
Уже один год как какой-то тип пристаёт к моей девушке. For one year now a certain jerk has been hitting on my girl.

There is a bit more to say on this subject, but I see Luludya's number on my caller ID and I must attend to her immediately lest she become testy. More tomorrow!


Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

Говорят и “года” и “годы", но использование этих слов является ситуативным. Например, “летят года” или “все эти годы мы…".

02/07/14 @ 04:41
Comment from: Aleck [Visitor]

They were just polite, “сколько годов? пять годов” is absolutely incorrect. You should say “сколько лет? пять лет", but “один год, два-три-четыре года". Please take as it is, ‘cuz Russian is my native language.

03/04/12 @ 22:11
Comment from: Arseny [Visitor]

Let me to disagree. Genitive plural from год is not only лет but also годов - it’s completely regular form. So you can use it as I do. E.g. сколько годов? Пять годов - it sounds like redneck’s speech but I have never met anyone who says that’s wrong.

01/28/12 @ 08:25
Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

What would the genitive plural form of “год” be if it does NOT follow a number? For example, if I wanted to refer to an indeterminate number of years.

Don responds: Keep an eye on upcoming entries for more of an answer to this. In the meantime just note that even indefinite quantity words like много, несколько, сколько and мало use лет.

01/27/12 @ 15:47

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