Same-Same but Different IV: Paronyms Posted by on Nov 17, 2010 in language


Quick grammar check: what’s the right way of saying this – “Девушки одели платья в горошек” or “Девушки надели платья в горошек”? If you’re not sure, then read on.

Sometimes I set out to write a post about one thing, but life gets in the way and I end up writing about something totally different. For example, I meant to write about a particular «мультик» [informal: cartoon] and went to watch it on YouTube.

Since it happens to be «любимый мультик моего сына» [my son’s favorite cartoon], at least for now, it reminded me to order some Russian-language «детские книги» [children’s books].

While browsing for and reviewing the books, I came across one from the «Нескучайка» series. The name of the series itself is quite interesting. «Не скучать» means “to not be bored”. «Не скучай» is «повелительное наклонение единственного числа» [imperative in singular] – “don’t be bored”.

«Нескучайка» is, however, a noun. It’s not just any noun, but the one that evaluates a person to whom it’s applied. It describes someone, typically a child, who «не скучает» [is not (ever) bored].

Other similarly constructed nouns include «знайка» [someone who knows a lot], «незнайка» [someone who doesn’t know much], «почемучка» [someone who asks a lot of “why” questions]. It is also a convenient way to make up words as you go along, and is frequently used in children’s stories – a little jackdaw «Хватайка» [someone who grabs everything he sees], a little bunny «Побегайка» [someone who runs a lot], etc.

Anyway, back to the book I was telling you about… One of the exercises got me scratching my head and doing some double-checking. It had to do with «паронимы» [paronyms] – words that sound the same and have the same root, but have different meanings.

Some most frequently confused and misused paronyms include

«Адресат» [recipient of a message] v. «адресант» [sender of a message] – personally, the only time I use «адресат» is when I sing this song. The rest of the time I get by with  «отправитель» [sender] and «получатель» [recipient] for years, except when humming the

«Абонент» [subscriber] v. «абонемент» [subscription] – if in doubt, use «подписчик» [subscriber] and «подписка» [subscription]. However, remember that a season’s ticket or a multi-use pass is always «абонемент» as in «абонемент в бассейн».

«Генеральский» [belonging to a General] v. «генеральный» [general] – can’t think of any good alternatives here.

«Поступок» [act, conduct] v. «проступок» [transgression]

It might serve as a consolation to learn that many Russians confuse their paronyms and use them incorrectly.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the word «невежа» applied to someone who doesn’t know subject matter. Even my school teachers would use «невежа» to shame their students for not preparing for class. Except, of course, «невежда» is the proper word for an uneducated, unlearned person (comes from «ведать» [to know]). «Невежа», on the other hand, describes someone rude, lacking proper manners (from «вежливый» [polite]).

Of course, I am also guilty as charged for similar mess-ups. I freely admit that a simple «одевать» [to dress someone or something] v. «надевать» [to put something on] question in the children’s book gave me a pause.

And while I’ve always known that «свыкнуться» [to get adjusted to something unpleasant] shouldn’t be confused with «привыкнуть» [to get used to something, whether positive, negative or neutral and/or form a habit], but I still get these two mixed up.

«Николаю было трудно свыкнуться с частыми приездами тёщи» [Nikolay had a hard time getting used to his mother-in-law’s frequent visits]

«Мы привыкли встречать Новый Год в семейном кругу» [We are used to greeting the New Year with the family]

Or as I saw it in a Russian-language ad for dentures:

«Трудно свыкнуться с присутствием инородного предмета во рту, но к нашим протезам вы привыкнете быстро и легко» [It’s difficult to get accustomed to the presence of a foreign object in one’s mouth, but you will quickly and easily get used to our dentures].

By the way, if you need to brush up on other same, but different words, then check out these posts:

Same-Same but Different I: Homonyms

Same-Same but Different II: Homophones

Same-Same but Different III: Homographs

P.S. One of our Facebook fans, Ellen Belle, suggested a simple mnemonic device to remember when to use «надеть» and when to use «одеть»«надеть одежду, одеть Надежду» [to put on clothing, to dress Nadezhda]. Thank you, Ellen!

Tags: , , ,
Keep learning Russian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it