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Thread: is б = бы ?

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    Старший оракул tohca's Avatar
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    is б = бы ?

    I wonder if the word бы can be freely swapped with б? Like in the proverb,
    Если б я знал! Было б болото, а черти найдутся. (oh BTW, what the meaning of this proverb?) OR
    Если б я знал...

    Is usage of бы tied to если, or can it be used with other conjunctions as well?
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    Завсегдатай it-ogo's Avatar
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    "б" is of colloquial style, in official it should be "бы" only. Otherwise no limitations.

    "бы" expresses the idea of potential or subjunctive. It can be used even without if. Normally "бы" is used where in English "would" is used.

    Я бы хотел стать звездой. - I would like to be a star.
    "Россия для русских" - это неправильно. Остальные-то чем лучше?

  3. #3
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    "б" is very colloquial

    if you use "бы" all the time you will make no mistake

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    Завсегдатай sperk's Avatar
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    I thought б was used to imitate speech wherein the ы vowel isn't pronounced.
    Кому - нары, кому - Канары.

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    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    The only other thing to add is that sometimes б must be used instead of бы for reasons of meter, in poetry and music. For example, there are these famous lyrics from the song "Подмосковные вечера":

    Если б знали вы
    Как мне дороги
    Подмосковные вечера!


    (If you only knew / How dear to me are / The nights in the outskirts of Moscow.)
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    Старший оракул tohca's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the wonderful answers. I'm now clear about б and бы.

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    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tohca View Post
    Is usage of бы tied to если, or can it be used with other conjunctions as well?
    Well, it can definitely be used with the conjunctions хоть and хотя -- in both cases, the general meaning is either "even if only" or "at least".

    Он считает, что человек должен попробовать ЛСД, хотя бы раз. (He thinks that a person ought to try LSD, even if only once.)
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    Завсегдатай it-ogo's Avatar
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    Other usage of бы is often phraseological.

    1)There are combinations of "где бы ни", "кто бы ни", "что бы ни" etc., which means "wherever", "whoever", "whatever"...

    2)"хотя бы" = "at least"

    3)"Как будто" = "как будто бы" = "будто бы" = (colloquial)"как бы" = "as if"

    ...

    There are more phrases I think.
    "Россия для русских" - это неправильно. Остальные-то чем лучше?

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    Властелин wanja's Avatar
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    "Если бы б меня б не трогали б, я б молчал бы".
    Откуда-то из Чехова.
    Семь бед, один Reset

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    Старший оракул tohca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wanja View Post
    "Если бы б меня б не трогали б, я б молчал бы".
    Откуда-то из Чехова.
    Hey, is that a riddle or something?

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    Завсегдатай it-ogo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tohca View Post
    Hey, is that a riddle or something?
    This is an illustration where in the sentence you can put "бы". Basically you can put it everywhere but putting too much of it is stylistically weird. Normally it should be one "бы" at each clause.
    "Россия для русских" - это неправильно. Остальные-то чем лучше?

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    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wanja View Post
    "Если бы б меня б не трогали б, я б молчал бы".
    Откуда-то из Чехова.
    This could be translated in two ways:

    "If they hadn't touched me, I would be quiet."

    OR

    "If only they hadn't touched me, I would be quiet!!!"

    I'm not totally sure (without more context) about which is the better translation. For Russians, note that the difference between "if XYZ had happened" and "if only XYZ had happened" is that "only" transforms a "neutral" contrary-to-fact statement into a strongly emotional wish. In other words, the difference is not simply stylistic in English. But as far as I know, "если бы" can have both meanings.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tohca View Post
    ... Было б болото, а черти найдутся. (oh BTW, what the meaning of this proverb?) ...
    First of all there is no literal translation for "чёрт" in English. Evil spirit or devil would be suitable but don't represent the exact meaning. You may read this (in Russian) Чёрт — Википедия. Nevertheless the meaning for черти is simple in this proverb - bad guys. Now we have a swamp. There is a belief among the eastern slavs that the favorite habitat of "chorts" -) is a swamp. Not very nice place, isn't it? In common we have bad place and bad guys. So the meaning is - if there is a bad buisness there always will be people willing to take part in it. The proverb is commonly used as a negative evaluation of a fact or phenomenon and the people having to do with it.

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    Старший оракул tohca's Avatar
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    Hi Zocus and welcome to the forum. Thanks for the excellent explanation of the proverb and the illustrations you gave.
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  15. #15
    Подающий надежды оратор
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    There's also a very famous proverb "В тихом омуте черти водятся" (something like "Devils live in a quiet slough"), which is often used for a person, who looks simple and quiet, but is actually very sly (or in similar cases).

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    Старший оракул tohca's Avatar
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    Thanks for the proverb, Oxygent. I think the proverb is similar to "Still water runs deep".
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    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    Another good expression with чёрт: Как чёрт (от) ладана. ("like an evil spirit from holy incense") -- it's similar to "avoid like the plague" in English.

    The masculine noun ладан specifically means "frankincense" (i.e., the dried resin of trees in the genus Boswellia). But in this context you could also translate it a little more loosely as the "holy incense" used in Orthodox and Catholic churches. The preposition от may or may not be necessary, depending on the verb construction in the main sentence. For example:

    Он боится труда, как чёрт ладана. He fears work like the devil [fears] the holy incense. (He avoids work like the plague.)
    Наша собака убегает от ванну, как чёрт от ладана.
    Our dog runs away from a bath, like an evil spirit [runs] from frankincense. (Our dog avoids baths like the plague.)


    The verb бояться (to fear) takes a genitive object without a preposition -- thus, for parallelism, ладан is in the genitive singular without от in the first sentence.

    P.S. I'm not sure what the custom is for the Russian Orthodox church, but the "holy incense" used in Roman Catholic churches is traditionally a mixture of ладан (frankincense) and мирра (myrrh), and not ладан alone. And incidentally, the special incense burner used in churches is called either a "censer" (note the -er spelling!) or a "thurible" in English (according to Wikipedia, the Russian name is кадило).

    P.P.S. The noun "plague" is чума -- "the bubonic plague" = бубонная чума.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Throbert McGee View Post
    ...Наша собака убегает от ванну, как чёрт от ладана. Our dog runs away from a bath, like an evil spirit [runs] from frankincense. (Our dog avoids baths like the plague.)


    The verb бояться (to fear) takes a genitive object without a preposition -- thus, for parallelism, ладан is in the genitive singular without от in the first sentence.
    Nice research -) Actually I don't know what are they burning in their rituals either.
    But you gave an example with very interesting russian word which even natives are getting confused with. Ванна/ванная.

    a. Ванна - 1. Bathtub
    2. Bath
    b. Ванная (комната) - Bathroom

    But in everyday speech you may use ванна instead of ванная and it won't be a mistake (unless you're on your exam in Russian

    You should say "Наша собака убегает от ваннЫ..." (I guess it was a misprint) or "Наша собака убегает из ванной (ванны)..."

  19. #19
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    Если бы б меня б не трогали б, я б молчал бы
    This phrase is grammatically incorrect, бы can be used only once in a simple sentence but Russians sometimes break this rule.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
    This phrase is grammatically incorrect, бы can be used only once in a simple sentence but Russians sometimes break this rule.
    This is not a simple sentence, and you may use бы twice here - Если бы меня не трогали, я бы молчал.
    This is the quote from Chekhov's humoresque "Язык до Киева доведет" (another proverb) - Это вы разговариваете и мешаете, а не я. Я молчу, брат... И вовсе молчал бы, ежели бы б меня б не трогали б.
    He lived in 19th century and the language has changed since those times... a little
    And, yes, you're right, you'll find no one nowadays who would say so.

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