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Thread: " Мысль гуляла вольной птицей по лицу " (cases)

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    Подающий надежды оратор rouloubole's Avatar
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    " Мысль гуляла вольной птицей по лицу " (cases)

    Hello everyone. In order to practice, I am currently starting to read a book ( Обломов ). I read very slowly and try to understand everything, especially the use of cases, since, some of you may know, it is somthing hard for me at the moment

    so I encountered this sentence :
    " Мысль гуляла вольной птицей по лицу "
    which, i know, roughly translates to " thought, like a bird, walk freely on his face " ( something like this, sorry, I have the french translation of the book, so I am translating this too, I hope you understand )

    What I don't understand is the use of the cases.

    вольной и птицей are in instrumental form ; and

    лицу is in accusative form ( If i'm not mistaking )

    anyone could explain me why they are used like this ? thank you in advance

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    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rouloubole View Post
    Hello everyone. In order to practice, I am currently starting to read a book ( Обломов ). I read very slowly and try to understand everything, especially the use of cases, since, some of you may know, it is somthing hard for me at the moment

    so I encountered this sentence :


    which, i know, roughly translates to " thought, like a bird, walk freely on his face " ( something like this, sorry, I have the french translation of the book, so I am translating this too, I hope you understand )

    What I don't understand is the use of the cases.

    вольной и птицей are in instrumental form ; and

    лицу is in accusative form ( If i'm not mistaking )

    anyone could explain me why they are used like this ? thank you in advance
    You're right that вольная птица ("a free bird", or perhaps "a free-spirited bird" would be better) is in the instrumental here. The instrumental has multiple functions -- among other things, it can translate English "like" or "as". (I assume the French would be something like comme un oiseau libre, but I don't actually speak French.)

    The Russian instrumental can also show "agency" after passive verbs ("Oblomov was written by Goncharov."), or "instrument" ("He wrote it with a pen.") or "accompaniment" ("I went to the beach with my family."), and there are other important uses besides -- it's one of the most grammatically versatile noun-cases.

    As for лицу, the nominative is лицо (neuter). You're correct that -у/-ю marks the accusative singular of feminine nouns with a nominative singular that ends in -а/-я, but it marks the dative singular of neuter and masculine nouns. And it's dative simply because the preposition по requires the dative when the meaning is "across, along, over." So, по лицу means "across/over his face."
    You're
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    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    P.S. Did you pick Oblomov because you loved the book in translation? That's a good motivation to practice with the Russian!
    Говорит Бегемот: "Dear citizens of MR -- please correct my Russian mistakes!"

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    Подающий надежды оратор rouloubole's Avatar
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    Thank you for this explanation, it is more clear now.
    I never had the occasion to finish Oblomov so I take the opportunity now , I guess. It helps to read the russian with the translation of the book too ( if the translation is close to the original )
    I try to understand everytime why this case is used, with my book, or, just if I know. I'm sure it will help me understand, even if it takes lot of time

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    Подающий надежды оратор rouloubole's Avatar
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    I'm sorry, I have a problem again with Instrumental

    ( I know I ask a lot of question about cases, but I really need to understand this )

    Движения его, когда он был даже встревожен, сдерживались также мягкостью и не лишенною своего рода грации ленью
    мягкостью и лишенною ; ленью

    I've been thinking a lot, but can't find why it is in instrumental. Maybe it is passive form ? But I can't distinguish it. Someone can explain me again ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by rouloubole View Post
    Maybe it is passive form ?
    Bull’s-eye.

    The ‘reflexive’ postfix -ся marks passive here. So the patient of the sentence «движения» becomes the subject (in nominative), and the agents «мягкость и лень» go instrumental.

    Active: мягкость и лень (nom) сдерживали движения (acc).
    Passive: движения (nom) сдерживались мягкостью и ленью (instr).
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    Подающий надежды оратор rouloubole's Avatar
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    Thank you very much.
    Just, for now, with my lack of vocabulary, it is hard to find things like passive

    -ся always means passive ?

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    Почтенный гражданин Soft sign's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rouloubole View Post
    -ся always means passive ?
    Unfortunately, no.

    The main function of -ся/-сь is reflexiveness:
    Он моет пол. — “He is washing the floor.” (non-reflexive)
    Он моется. — literally, “He is washing himself.” (reflexive)

    It also can be used for passive:
    Пол моется каждый день. — “The floor is washed every day.”

    With some other words, it also mean reciprocal:
    Они целуются. — They are kissing each other.

    With some words it is used for no evident reason:
    Эта собака не кусается. — “That dog doesn’t bite”.

    Some words are just not used without -ся:
    Он смеётся. — “He is laughing.”
    Он боится. — “He is afraid.”
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    Подающий надежды оратор rouloubole's Avatar
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    Thank you, you have been a great help. I understand now.

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