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Thread: Что мне делать?

  1. #1
    Завсегдатай Antonio1986's Avatar
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    Что мне делать?

    After million years learning russian I think I understood the structure behind this phrase.
    The original phrase is: Что мне (надо) (с-)делать! (Other way: Что я сделаю?)
    But because you are bored you prefer this shorter version!
    Со щитом или на щите

    Для бешеной собаки семь вёрст не крюк

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    Почтенный гражданин
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    "The original phrase is: Что мне (надо) (с-)делать!"

    "Что делать?" can be 1-to-1 translated as "What to do?".
    By it's logic it is the same as "What should/must I/he/they do?" if you add "me/he/they", so you are not wrong.

    But "Other way: Что я сделаю?" is not correct. "Что я сделаю?" = "What will I do?"

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    Почтенный гражданин xXHoax's Avatar
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    I always thought of it as "What (is) (for) me to do?", where the dative is either translated "to someone" or "for someone". i.e. "открыть кому-либо дверь"

    Similarly "What am I to do?". If you stop to think of this phrase... There's strangely little driving it.

    It's interesting to ponder why such phrases manage to form in languages so commonly... Shortening down more fleshed out constructions is a possibility... But perhaps we are striving to create some sort of phrase that uses an altogether different mood/tense/aspect (hence the unconjugated verbs in both Russian and English, since neither language necessarily has a true ending to represent this theoretical mood). Perhaps this is "the Obligatory Mood".

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    Властелин iCake's Avatar
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    @Antonio1986

    If this makes it easier for you to make sense of the phrase, then sure, think of it as a cut off from "что мне (надо) (с-)делать". I personally don't see anything missing in just "что мне делать". It's a fully sell-sufficient construction. Where мне just indicates the recipient of the action делать, that's what the dative is for after all, to indicate who's given something and that doesn't just mean an object, it can very well mean an action. This construction is impersonal, so it's very natural to use this to ask, say, your boss, what he wants you to do.

    On a side note, I find it very curious that English speakers, for instance, prefer the use of "how do I do something" over "how to do something". E.g. A google query: "how do I install Windows" - 160 million, "how to install Windows" - just 34. From my Russian point of you:

    How do YOU do something is your business, you're asking how others did that or rather for (a) successful way(s) of doing that, which others have already worked out. So an impersonal structure that should be.
    fortheether and Antonio1986 like this.
    I do not claim that my opinion is absolutely true.
    If you've spotted any mistake in my English, please, correct it. I want to be aware of any mistakes to efficiently eliminate them before they become a habit.

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    Почтенный гражданин xXHoax's Avatar
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    That's an especially interesting difference in numbers since, I would think, people don't necessarily speak the way they ought to google. When googling, people are supposed to be googling what they imagine the title of what they're trying to find would be, not just asking a question to google as if it is an A.I.

    Anyway, you're definitely right. English lacks a good impersonal construction so it comes out with "How do I..." or even "How do you..."

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    Завсегдатай Antonio1986's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iCake View Post
    @Antonio1986

    If this makes it easier for you to make sense of the phrase, then sure, think of it as a cut off from "что мне (надо) (с-)делать". I personally don't see anything missing in just "что мне делать". It's a fully sell-sufficient construction. Where мне just indicates the recipient of the action делать, that's what the dative is for after all, to indicate who's given something and that doesn't just mean an object, it can very well mean an action. This construction is impersonal, so it's very natural to use this to ask, say, your boss, what he wants you to do.

    On a side note, I find it very curious that English speakers, for instance, prefer the use of "how do I do something" over "how to do something". E.g. A google query: "how do I install Windows" - 160 million, "how to install Windows" - just 34. From my Russian point of you:

    How do YOU do something is your business, you're asking how others did that or rather for (a) successful way(s) of doing that, which others have already worked out. So an impersonal structure that should be.
    I fully understand what you want me to understand.
    When I started to learn Russian it was impossible for me to understand these constructions:
    1. Как мне доехать в центр города?
    2. Вам подвезти?
    3. Вам помочь?

    In Greek all these verbs should conjugate! Worst, in English the ommission of the subject is unthinkable.
    For example in example 2. and 3. you don't understand who is the subject of the phrase!
    Кто предлагает помочь вам? Я или кто-нибудь другой?
    Со щитом или на щите

    Для бешеной собаки семь вёрст не крюк

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    Moderator Lampada's Avatar
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    Вас подвезти?

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    Властелин iCake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lampada View Post
    Вас подвезти?
    To be fair, it can very well be "вам подвезти" in a certain context. As in вам (куда?) подвезти (помидоры )

    @Antonio1986

    And I understand where your confusion comes from, but all the years of learning made me a strong proponet of this idea. You have to learn to think within the boundaries of the language you're studying and if you have to add some unnecessary words to a phrase to adjust it to the language that you know well, then it's not such a good practice, it's more of a crutch. Unsurprisingly, it seems that you become more and more "Russian minded", so to speak, with each passing day. I'm merely trying to do what I can to help speed up this process.
    Lampada, fortheether and xXHoax like this.
    I do not claim that my opinion is absolutely true.
    If you've spotted any mistake in my English, please, correct it. I want to be aware of any mistakes to efficiently eliminate them before they become a habit.

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    Завсегдатай Antonio1986's Avatar
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    This is new:

    Мне нечего ответить!
    Со щитом или на щите

    Для бешеной собаки семь вёрст не крюк

  10. #10
    Почтенный гражданин xXHoax's Avatar
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    *There is nothing for me to answer
    *There is nothing for me to say [in response]
    *There is nothing for me to respond with

    Concerning the inevitable difference in the exact English version:
    English's interpretation of the same ideas manifests differently, primarily in the fact that the word "respond", or the word "answer" (as a verb), can not seamlessly be used, though they are the most accurate translations of ответить. The English versions given above... Lack grace. Instead the best way to translate for a book or something important would be "I have no answer", or just utterly changing the sentence. Russian can use ответить whenever it fits in meaning, but each language at any given moment must also act according to its respective syntactical restrictions and patterns. Russian, being awesome, not only exhibits more ~possible~ syntactic structures for expression, but also manages to keep them all organized and non conflicting with one another. So both the нечего, некуда, некогда etc. constructions meld seamlessly with the completely unrelated "кому-либо + (infinitive)".

    Another example of English shortcomings in this area would be the fact that you can't put a preposition before the relative pronoun "that". Any prepositions that ought to, get put at the end. A shame.

    The bottom line here on my off topic rant is:

    Кому-либо (не____) (infinitive). - not only gets translated in varying ways do to English's lack of an exact way to express the same "mood" (which in and of itself may not necessarily be a damning flaw), but any English translation for the construction will be NON-universal, and flawed.

    Obviously English still works as a language and all/ none of this matters all that much; it's just flaws of grace like this that make me dislike the language.

  11. #11
    Властелин iCake's Avatar
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    @xXHoax

    Don't sell your language short. English, as any language, has its strengths and weaknesses, no, not weaknesses, shortcomings and the language is beautiful in its own ways. English is so up to the point that it strives to have so many different words for seemingly the same ideas, only spiced with different flavors, so to speak. This alone gives a lot of extra room for artistic expression, if you know how to utilize the language with finesse. I might not be the most objective source, as my perception of English is somewhat hightened due to the fact of it being my second language, but again, this is true for you as well, isn't it? The first English book that I read (Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption) in original made my experience so vivid, so palapable. That was the time when I truly started to appreciate the language, love it even. Only a few Russian books managed to infuse me with such real feelings.

    Oh, and those puns! Do you know how difficult it is to pull off a good pun in Russian? All those different endings are not even the worst part! Those damn adjectives, nouns, verbs are always so different sounding that it makes it such a difficult material to work with
    xXHoax likes this.
    I do not claim that my opinion is absolutely true.
    If you've spotted any mistake in my English, please, correct it. I want to be aware of any mistakes to efficiently eliminate them before they become a habit.

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    Почтенный гражданин xXHoax's Avatar
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    I definitely agree that I am skewed.

    One might argue that puns are impurities in and of themselves, however fun they may be xD

    All those endings Russian has make rhyming a wondrously easy thing! And that rhyming naturally ends up drawing parallelism amongst syntactic "arms", that is to say, you'll end up rhyming an instrumental noun with another instrumental noun, which often draws a kind of magical conceptual balance; a balance that is key for making strong quotes, memorable children's rhymes, and catchy aphorisms.

    Again though, I agree, every language is beautiful in its own way, and valuing different things allows different languages to posses more beauty. For instance, I'm so infatuated by Russian because it prevails magnificently in the very respects that I value most, and what I value, in the grand scheme of things, is essentially arbitrary. And also second languages, through the learning process, become delightful memories and experiences, for sure. English is just in my head, Russian - I had to put there.

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