Russian Language Blog

Summer – Perfect Time for Russian Grammar Posted by on Jun 29, 2010 in language


Do you play lottery? I don’t. But I love imagining would it’d be like if I did play and, most importantly, if I won big. My dreams always include extensive travel although destinations vary depending on the day, time of the year, and the mood I’m in. Right now with the outside temperature in here, in Raleigh, NC, hitting low triple digits, I’m day-dreaming mostly about «холодный-прехолодный» [very very cold] locales.

I find it very interesting that such opposites as «жара» [hot weather] and «холод» [cold weather] have the same effect on me; both slow down my «движения» [movements] and «мысли» [thoughts]. «Когда жарко, хочется просто прилечь и поспать» [when it’s hot, I just want to lie down and take a nap]. How about you?

I guess that’s why I never had much luck with summer classes in college. I didn’t feel that a combination of mind-melting subjects such as differential equations or statistics combined with the heat «закончится хорошо» [would turn out well].

Of course, learning Russian is different. It’s fun and enjoyable, right? It’s a great opener for «культурные» [cultured] and «интеллигентные» [brainy] conversations.. «Я читаю Мастера и Маргариту… на русском» [I’m reading the Master and Margarita novel… in Russian] can be a great pick-up line (caution: we haven’t tested this in practice, but would like to hear from you re: your experience).

So, where am I going with all this… Ah, right, unlike some other subjects, learning Russian can be safely carried out even in extreme climatic conditions. This being said, let’s carry on with something not too mind-boggling. How about some «наречия» [adverbs]?

Turns out «наречие – часть речи, вокруг которой на протяжении последних трехсот лет идут споры» [adverb is the part of speech that, for the last three hundred years, has been a source of unending discussions]. This is perfect, isn’t it? After all, when it’s too hot to do something, we can now stay indoors, sip cold lemonade or «квас» [kvass] and discuss «наречия» [adverbs] until winter comes.

Ok, I understand, some of us have to work and do other important things. So, let’s narrow it down to a very particular class of adverbs, «очень-очень интересные» [very-very interesting ones], at least to me personally.

I’m talking about the ones «написаные через дефис» [hyphenated] because they are formed by repeating words that look the same or nearly the same twice. Let’s take a closer look.

Playing Doubles

Some of these hyphenated adverbs are formed by repeating the same adverb more than once.

It’s summer time and «пляжная пора» [time for the beach]. Unless you’ve been working out diligently since January (I haven’t), you might be really interested in how to get in shape «быстро-быстро» [very fast]. Yes, one «быстро» [fast] would’d been sufficient in April or even in May. But now you must double-time.

It so happens that I am at the beach today (I wrote this post yesterday). Going to the beach means a long drive for us and we have to pack «купальники, зонтик от солнца, крем от загара, бутерброды, воду, мяч, ведерки для песка и много-много других вещей» [swimsuits, sunshade, sun block, sandwiches, water to drink, ball, buckets for sand play and many-many other things].

«Очень-очень» [very-very] is one of my personal favorite hyphenated adverbs since it’s so versatile.

«Не трогай! Это очень-очень горячее» [Don’t touch! It’s very-very hot]

«Мы очень-очень скоро приедем» [We’re going to get there very-very soon]

«Я очень-очень занята» [I’m very-very busy]

«Это очень-очень интересное кино» [This movie is very-very interesting]

As you can see, the possibilities are endless.

Spot the Difference

Other hyphenated adverbs are made of two words that are almost the same (in meaning and spelling), but not quite.

If you have a cat (I do), then you buy kitty litter in «большая упаковка» [big package]. But if you shop at one of the “shopping clubs” – Costco, Sam’s Club, etc – you likely buy the same litter in «большая-пребольшая упаковка» [very large package].

Are you tired of reading this longish post? Then it’s time for «физкультпауза» [break for physical exercise]. Do some push-ups and then «скрести» [cross] your arms on your chest and admire your biceps. If you are skipping push-ups, at least cross your arms so you have a visual example of another adverb – «крест-накрест» [crosswise]. That’s how your arms are folded now. That’s also how you supposed to stack Lincoln Logs and Jenga.

It Gets Better (or Worse)

If you think you got a good grip on the hyphenated adverbs formed by word repetition, relax – there’s more to them. But before you start throwing the season’s first rotten tomatoes at me, let’s solve it «тихо-мирно» [quietly and peacefully]. Yes, that’s another adverb, the one formed by repeating two words that are synonymous.

At this point, you might be thinking that it was, borrowing from the poet, «опрометчиво-безумно» [reckless and insane] to spend hot summer days and nights learning Russian. But like our Facebook page says, even though «русский язык это сложно» [Russian is difficult] once you get going it becomes «такое наслаждение» [such a pleasure]. «Точно-точно» [precisely precisely].

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  1. Sam Coulbourn:

    I’d like to offer a “guest blog” commentary entitled “Summer in Russia” about my experience as US Naval Attaché there in the early 1980s.
    If you’d like to consider it, tell me how I can send it to you.

    Best wishes,

  2. barry:


    I live in winston salem, date a russian woman from raleigh. Lived in Ukraine and have studied russian EVERYDAY for over 3 years. How did a good russian girl get to Raleigh? I was often asked in Ukraine “Why are you HERE in Dnepropetrovsk? They were astonished. Love the grammar and cultural blogs!!!

    • yelena:

      @barry Barry, it’s great to “meet” someone else from NC here. I luv Raleigh and NC in general. We (my hubby and I) moved here from Daytona Beach, FL and the only regret we have is that we hadn’t moved sooner.

  3. saint:

    That was one of your funniest blogs yet.

    As for speaking Russian, it probably works better picking up the boys than the girls. Girls seem to prefer languages that are synonymous with “beach” and not “Siberia”.

    • yelena:

      @saint saint, thanks for the nice words about this post 🙂 dunno about girls v guys though… My hubby made a lasting impression on me partly because he mentioned reading Brothers Karamazov (albeit in English). Plus what kinda Russian girl won’t swoon at the mention of Doctor Zhivago, Anna Karenina or War and Peace?

  4. artmax:

    I’m from Russia, Moscow.
    Did you forget about the swear words in Russian! =)

  5. Ксения:

    [русский язык это сложно]

    Это очень легко, а вот ваш английский это очень-оче-преочень сложно!! 🙂