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Word of the Week: «Герой» [hero] Posted by on Nov 18, 2008 in language

«Жить в России – быть героем» [‘To live in Russia is to be a hero’].

Once upon a time, back in the time of the turbulent 90’s, there was a political party called «Народная партия» [‘The People’s Party’] in Russia. I do not know anything about this party, all I know is that it no longer exists, except for on the sticker on the picture above. It’s on one of the doors in my dormitory, and I’ve walked past it every day for over two years, always nodding and agreeing with the message written on there. But let’s take a look at the word «герой» [hero]. It ends on the letter «й» which can cause some trouble for the foreigner when putting it through the rough reality of six Russian cases. The key is to remember that the vowel «е» is in Russian actually not just an ‘e’ but «йе», thus making it two letters in one. The same also goes for the following vowels in Russian language: «я» which is really «йа», «ю» which is «йу», and «ё» which stands for the sound «йо». Now that kind of massive information may make your head spin – it’s happened to the best of us! – so let’s take a look at what the j+vowel rule does to the word «герой» and hope it’ll clear some things up.

Nominative: «Мой дедушка – герой Социалистического труда» [My grandfather is a Hero of Socialist Labor.]

Accusative: «В прошлом году я на дне Победы увидела настоящего героя битвы в Сталинграде» [Last year I saw a real hero of the battle of Stalingrad on Victory Day.]

Dative: «Трудно честному герою в наше время» [It is difficult for an honest hero in our time.]

Genitive: «Но в наше время же нет ни одного истинного героя!» [But there isn’t even one true hero in our time!]

Locative: «Что вы думаете об отрицательном герое этого романа?» [What do you think about the villain (lit. ‘negative hero’) of this novel?]

Instrumental: «Быть героем можно и помаленьку и потихоньку – по будням и во всех возможных условиях!» [One can be a hero both little by little and quietly – on weekdays and in all kinds of possible conditions!]

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