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The Curious Case of Russian Words Тоже and Также Posted by on Oct 13, 2011 in language, Russian for beginners

I got to learn something new about rats thanks to your comments. Now it’s pay-back time. Plus I loved this movie when it came out. Rats can be so cute!

When it comes to grammar, being a native speaker of a language is a double-edged sword. Sure, native speakers tend to automatically select just the right way of saying things. However, they might not be able to adequately explain the intricacies of grammar behind their selections.

So bear with me as I try to make my way through this most recent grammar question that came up in the comments to the recent post.

HISTORY

In this post about the Russian words that describe animal sounds, I mentioned that there’s not a word for the sound that rats make:

“Interestingly, «крысы» [rats] stay quiet”

To which one of our long-time readers and contributors, Rob, responded with

“Не только в русском языке, а тоже в действительности, крысы чаще всего молчат.» [Not only in the Russian language, but also in reality, rats are most often silent.]

To which another long-time reader and a native speaker of Russian who goes by screen name Minority added a correction, changing «тоже» to «также»:

 «Не только в русском языке, а ТАКЖЕ в действительности, крысы чаще всего молчат.»

However, she also admitted that she didn’t know why «также» had to be used in this case instead of «тоже».

Now, I know for a fact that Minority’s knowledge of Russian grammar is far superior to mine. So if she doesn’t know for sure, I’m definitely in over my head. But curiosity got the better of me.

BASIC STUFF

Let’s start with some basics. «Тоже» and «также» can both be translated into English as also, both, too, as well. In fact, they are listed as each other’s synonyms in their respective Wiktionary entries.

Furthermore, Wikitionary has this to say about when to use which of these conjunctives:

The word «тоже» can only be used when two different subjects share the same verb… If there is only one subject, or if the subjects use different verbs, then use «также».

Kudos to yet another reader, Sarah, for remembering the rule!

In Rob’s sentence there is just one subject – «крысы» [rats], so clearly the correct word to use here would be «также».

Here’s another example to illustrate the above rule:

«В действительности, крысы чаще всего молчат, да и мыши тоже» [In reality, rats are mostly silent and so are mice]

In this sentence there are two different subjects – mice and rats, but only one verb «молчать» [to be silent].

DIGGING DEEPER

Rob’s sentence is «сложносочинённое предложение» [compound sentence]. But what if we break it into two simple sentences instead:

«В русском языке крысы чаще всего молчат. Крысы чаще всего молчат в действительности тоже/также.” [In Russian language rats are usually silent. In real life rates are also usually silent.]

Would Rob’s initial choice of «тоже» remain incorrect? Not at all! It would be perfectly ok to use «тоже» in this case. In fact, using «также» in this case would sound a bit strange to the native ear.

Let’s look at these two sentences:

«Я хорошо говорю по-русски, а также и по-английски»

«Я хорошо говорю по-русски и по-английски тоже»

They both mean the same – “I speak good Russian as well as English”, but have slightly different structure.

How about this pair:

«У меня аллергия на рыбок, а также и на кошек»

«У меня аллергия на рыбок и на кошек тоже»

Again, both sentences mean the same – “I am allergic to pet fish and cats”. Yet «тоже» and «также» aren’t interchangeable between the sentences.

So the rule is you cannot use the same exact sentence structure with «тоже» that you use with «также». «Тоже» is added after the new piece of information, while «также» precedes it.

Before it gets too out of hand, let’s look at these sentences just one more time. Do you notice something? Yes, you can totally get by without either of these bothersome words using just «и»:

«У меня аллергия на рыбок и на кошек.»

One more example:

«У Маши хороший голос. У меня – тоже.» [Masha has a nice voice. So do I.]

«У Маши хороший голос, а также и у меня [In addition to Masha, I too have a nice voice.]

Notice that in this case I translated «также» as “in addition to”, something that cannot be done with «тоже».

REVIEW

So, let’s review the rules of using «также» and «тоже»:

RULE 1 – Two subjects and one verb – use «тоже»; otherwise use «также»

RULE 2 – When in doubt, simplify – replace with «и» [and]

RULE 3 – When Rule 2 is not an option, remember that «также» can also be translated as “in addition to” («тоже» can’t)

 

Are you more confused now than when you started reading this post? Let me know!

Got an intractable «тоже/также» situation you’re struggling with? Let me know!

So you think you’ve got it now?! Excellent! Then here’s a question for you:

What’s wrong with grammar in this sentence «Я люблю грамматику также, как математику» [I love grammar just as I love mathematics]?

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Comments:

  1. Robin:

    I suppose your question at the end is leading up to a post on также versus так же? Which is what I would have suggested otherwise. 😉

    • yelena:

      @Robin Excellent, Robin! But whether there is going to be a post on также vs так же remains to be seen. depends on how much interest is expressed in this particular issue 🙂

  2. Oritsema:

    From what I read here it seems like также has a meaning that can be compared with “likewise” – the also seems to refer to the verb, whereas тоже more to the nouns.

    Like:
    У меня аллергия на рыбок, а также и на кошек»
    I have an allergy to fish, and I also have an allergy to cats.

    У меня аллергия на рыбок и на кошек тоже
    I have an allergy to fish and also to cats.

    In the first sentence the also refers to having an allergy whereas in the second it refers to the cats.

  3. Minority:

    Yelena, yes, you were right, it’s not a trick for me 🙂
    «Я люблю грамматику так же, как математику».

    And I’m glad you wrote this post, ’cause this subject is really hard to explain.)

  4. Macdonald:

    Finally,I get to understand when to use these words! Thanks a million Yelena! Hope you can write a post on the use of так же .

    • yelena:

      @Macdonald Great, so I’m going to start thinking about то же and так же.

  5. David Roberts:

    I thought I understood it before: now, although I feel I’ve learned more, I’m less certain!

    In the sentence «У меня аллергия на рыбок, а также и на кошек», why can’t it be тоже? My reasoning goes like this. We have one verb, есть (not written but understood) and two subjects: аллергия на рыбок and аллергия на кошек (the second “аллергия” being understood). So what’s wrong with «У меня аллергия на рыбок, а на кошек тоже»?

    My grammar book (by Derek Offord) says: …тоже may be used if an additional subject is performing the same action. также must be used if a single subject is performing an additional action or performing an action that affects an additional object. If we apply the last part strictly, the conversation “Я радуюсь видеть тебя” – “я тоже” would be wrong, but rules rarely apply 100%. Offord also says that you can often use также in place of тоже, but not vice versa.

    isn’t really what any native english speaker would ever say or write. I think we would always say “Masha has a nice voice. So do I” or “Masha has a nice voice. and I do too” or something like that

    • yelena:

      @David Roberts David, the conjunction “а” is not used with “тоже”, however it is used with “также”. So you either have to say “у меня аллергия на рыбок, а также на кошек” or “у меня аллергия на рыбок и на кошек тоже”.

      But this sentence doesn’t have two subjects, just one – “аллергия”; “на кошек” and “на рыбок” are not parts of the subject (or two subjects), but instead “дополнение” [an object] since “аллергия (на кого?) на рыбок и на кошек” [allergic (to whom?) to pet fish and to cats].

      In the example of “я рад видеть тебя. я тоже. ” [I’m glad to see you. Me too.], use of “тоже” is correct since this is a dialogue between two people and “я” represents two different subjects – person 1 and person 2. So you actually have to apply the first part of your textbook’s explanation – “to use тоже if an additional subject is performing the same action”. However, just like your textbook points out, you can use “также” instead of “тоже” here 🙂

  6. David Roberts:

    Correction. My last paragraph should be:

    “In addition to Masha, I too have a nice voice.” isn’t really what any native english speaker would ever say or write. I think we would always say “Masha has a nice voice. So do I” or “Masha has a nice voice. and I do too” or something like that.

  7. Rob McGee:

    Thanks for the very clear explanation, Yelena! I also checked a couple of grammar references from my bookshelf, and one of them made an additional point about тоже v. также: In speech, тоже tends to be heavily stressed, but также does not — instead, the stress goes on the second item that is linked by также. Thus using all-caps for the stressed word:

    Крысы избегали отравленного корма, и мыши ТОЖЕ. (По-видимому, они чувствовали какой-то неприятный запах от яда.)
    “The rats avoided the poisoned food, and so did the mice. (Evidently, they sensed some kind of disagreeable smell from the poison.)”

    Крыса грызёт резиновую игрушку, а также МОЁТСЯ.
    “The rat is gnawing a rubber toy, and also washing itself.”

    Крыса грызёт резиновую игрушку, а также КОСТОЧКУ.
    “The rat is gnawing a rubber toy, and also a small bone.”

    Does this point about the different stress-patterns sound correct to native speakers?

  8. Rob McGee:

    By the way, I learned something new from the “tagline” at the top of the Рататуи image:

    Он до смерти хочет стать шеф-поваром.

    I know that дО смерти is generally the same as English “to death”, in the sense of “to an extreme degree” — e.g., Детям было скучно до смерти, “the children were bored to death.” However, it never would have occurred to me to use it with хотеть, because — well, because we don’t say in English “He wants it to death.” (But we can say “He wants it so badly he could die”.)

    P.S. Or… come to think of it, maybe I’m totally misinterpreting the phrase and here it means “before he dies (of old age)”? Can you use до смерти in that sense?

    • yelena:

      @Rob McGee Rob, you’re very observant! And the tagline can be read both ways depending on whether you emphasize “до” or “смерти”.

      If the emphasis is on “до” here, then the meaning is “He is dying to become a chef”
      If the emphasis is on “смерти”, then the meaning changes to “Before he dies, he’d like to be a chef” or, rephrased in Russian, “Перед смертью он хочет стать шеф-поваром”.

      Ha, this little word play definitely makes the tagline a lot more interesting and amusing.

  9. David:

    Brilliant of you to spot this Rob, in such small print. Another related English idiom is “dying to”, so “Я до смерти хочу читать ответ Елени” (or would Я до смерти хду ответ Елени be better?) might be a good way of translating “I’m dying to read Yelena’s answer.

    • yelena:

      @David David, I agree, Rob’s observation is very keen. I’m going to think of a rules-based answer, but for now I’ll just use the specific examples you and Rob gave me:

      “Я до смерти хочу читать ответ Елены” (with stress on “до”) means “I’m dying to read Yelena’s answer”, but
      “Я хочу еще до смерти прочитать ответ Елены” (with stress on “смерти”) would mean “I’d like to read Yelena’s answer before I die”