You don’t have to know a single word in Russian – or know the first thing about Russian grammar for that matter – to find this picture rather scary… I found it on an old circus wagon that had been left to its own fate in a far corner of a public park here in Yekaterinburg. I understand that what they wanted to portray was an old and kind «дедушка» [grandfather] telling a fairy tale to his «внучка» [fem. dim. grandchild].But I can’t help thinking it looks like he’s about to slap her with that thing in his hand… And the look of his face makes me not trust him!
Among what I love the most in life I can count at least «четыре большие страсти» [four big passions]: «Россия» [Russia], «литература» [literature], «обувь» [shoes] and «пирожные» [pastries]. Here on the blog I can relish freely and at length in these two first passions. I don’t get to speak that much on the two other passions of mine here – and that’s probably a good thing (for you, because if I start talking shoes or pastry then there’s no knowing when or even IF I’ll stop). But I have also another passion – or maybe the proper word would be simply «любовь» [fem. love] here – in my life: «грамматика» [grammar]. When I was in school I loved grammar more than anything else and always got a big bright A on all the tests and exams in the subject. During my last years of «шведский язык» [Swedish language] in school I was so good at grammar that I didn’t have to take tests or exams anymore – my teacher ‘took my word for it’, as he expressed himself. But because I was a very «шаловливая школьница» [playful, naughty, mischievous school girl] I would turn up on the tests anyway just to show off. And yes, I had straight A’s in everything except for «поведение» [behavior]… That’s why it is no surprise that I late in life would come to find a home in the complex structure that constitutes «русская грамматика» [Russian grammar]! Some people are afraid of grammar. Don’t be. If you are afraid of it, then it will become afraid of you and that’s not a positive situation at all. Russian grammar is interesting in many ways, but one of the most interesting things about it is that all the «части речи» [parts of speech] have their own RUSSIAN names! Most languages use Latin grammatical terms and this makes it very easy to learn a new language because it is all old and familiar stuff to the eye. But that’s not the case with Russian. And this can be difficult. Though it shouldn’t be! It should be fun! That’s why I have decided to dedicate this post today to translating these Russian terms, both into Latin terms as well as putting them in a ‘Russian’ context. I hope you enjoy it!
Is made from the noun «существо» [essence; thing; entity, being; existence] and the verb «существовать» [be, exist, live; prevail; obtain]. That’s why it is correct to state: «Существительное – это то, что существует» [Substantive is that which exists; is].
This grammatical category takes it name from the imperfect verb «прилагать» [apply; enclose; append, annex]. Its imperfect ‘friend’ is «приложить» and that’s why it is hardly difficult to see that the word «приложение» [application; enclosure; enlargement; supplement, appendage; appendix, adjunct; addendum; apposition] is made from just this verb. And about this category we say: «Прилагательное – это то, что прилагаем к существительному» [Adjective is what we apply to the substantive].
Though it might not be so easy in this case to see from what exact ‘word’ or ‘verb’ this category is made, let’s try this: the first part of it is the preposition «на» [here: on, in; to] and the second is made from the noun «речь» [speech; accent, language; discourse; oration]. «Наречие» [adverb] means literally what is ‘on speech’ or ‘in language’. We could also sum this up in one sentence, but then we’d have to change the preposition from «на» to «в» «Наречие – это то, что в речи» [Adverb is what is in language]. But that doesn’t make much sense, now does it? Anyway, in Russian an adverb can often be used without any other words, you can say just: «Холодно!» and that would be alright and you don’t need a verb nor a substantive like in the English translation of this phrase: “It is cold!”
This one is an almost obvious one! If we translate this term into modern day Russian it ends up looking like this: «вместо имени» [lit. instead of name]. The first part of it comes from the adverb «вместо» [instead, in place of, vice] and the second one from the genitive «имени» of the noun «имя» [name]. Thus we conclude: «Местоимения – это то, что используемся вместо имени» [Pronoun is what we use instead of a name].
Also this category is made from a verb: the imperfect «числить» [count, enumerate] and the noun «число» [number, mathematical value or its symbol; date, day month and year according to the calendar; tally, reckoning]. I don’t think any more explanation is needed; this is a pretty easy term to understand. «Числительное обозначает число» [Numbers define numbers]. Even in English it sounds easy!
Once upon a time in Russian language there was another verb from ‘to speak’ than the one we use today: impfv. «говорить» and pfv. «сказать». This verb (I might be mistaken in my spelling of it, but I’m sure it existed – I study Old Church Slavonic once upon a time!) was «глаголить». That’s why «глагол» [verb] is what ‘speaks’ the most about a sentence. And I think we’d all agree that sentences without verbs are very boring and don’t have as much information as sentences with verbs, right?
This term shouldn’t cause any trouble for anyone with a language where this grammatical category is also known by the noun «предлог» which means: pretext, excuse; alibi; cloak, disguise; preposition, part of speech that serves to express the relationship between two words (the last part of this translation is what concerns its function in grammar). Note the difference of usage of one and the same word in the following two sentences:
«Нужно найти правильный предлог, чтобы пригласить её сюда» [It is necessary to find the correct pretext to invite her here].
«Нужно найти правильный предлог, чтобы русские поняли, что ты имеешь в виду» [It is necessary to find the correct preposition so that Russians will understand what you mean].
Here we have another noun with plenty of different meanings: «союз» [coalition, union; confederation, alliance, league] means ‘union’ in the very famous word «Советский союз» [Soviet Union]. But «союз» can also be used in other unions such as «брачный союз» [marital union] and «дружеский союз» [friendly union] or «деловой союз» [business union]. But here we have the grammatical meaning of «союз» which is ‘conjunction’ or a ‘connecting word’. How about this for an explanation: «Союз составляет союз между словами в предложении» [The conjunction makes up a union between the words in a sentence].