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Thread: Indefinite Personal and Passive Tense

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    Indefinite Personal and Passive Tense

    On my russian test, the problem was "Этот город строили пять лет, а сейчас его уже построили" (Red being what he corrected).

    I asked him what was wrong with the translation of "This city was built in five years, and now it is already built." He answered that I mistook the sentence for passive tense which Russians rarely use; they tend to use something called Indefinite Personal (or so it looks like he scribbled on my paper). This would change the translation to "They built the city in five years, and they already already built it." Anyways, could anyone further elaborate on indefinite personal or whatever tense that would help me understand?

    -Спасибо

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    Re: Indefinite Personal and Passive Tense

    By "he" you mean your teacher?
    Yes, he's absolutely right. Basically, in Russian we can also say "The city was built", literally, using the passive voice ("Город был построен", "Город строился"), but that's the way we don't use that often.
    Usually we omit the "they":
    They say John bought a car - Говорят, Джон купил машину.

    Another example:
    Help! My things has been stolen! / Someone stole my things! - Помогите! У меня украли вещи! ("[They] stole my things").
    In Russian, all nationalities and their corresponding languages start with a lower-case letter.

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    Re: Indefinite Personal and Passive Tense

    So in a lot of time the "они" is omitted from the sentences? If this is the case, how would I know when to use a plural verb without any subject when I am supposed to fill in the blank (missing the verb, of course).

    Secondly, is this only true with "они" or is it also true with "он, она," etc.? The only time I can think of when we do this in English is when we give commands such as "Do your homework" or "Make me a sandwich".

    This entire concept seems much different, though. And yes, I was impying my teacher

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    Re: Indefinite Personal and Passive Tense

    Quote Originally Posted by Wyrm
    Secondly, is this only true with "они" or is it also true with "он, она," etc.? The only time I can think of when we do this in English is when we give commands such as "Do your homework" or "Make me a sandwich".
    It's true with any pronoun because in Russian, unlike English, verbs change their present form depending on the pronoun, so the verb forms for "они", "мы", "он" would be all different. When we give commands (it's the imperative form), the verb form is different too.

    - Говорят, он купил машину. They say he bought a car.

    - Дай мне ключи. Give me the keys.
    - Что? What?
    - Дай мне ключи, говорю! Give me the keys, I say!

    - Ну, что он? Well, what's his mood/word/what did he say?
    - Говорит, что передумал. He says he changed his mind.

    - Думаем, надо продавать дом.
    - We think we need to sell the house.

    - Я не знаю, как решить задачу. I don't know how to resolve the problem.
    - Думай! - Think!

    And so on.
    In Russian, all nationalities and their corresponding languages start with a lower-case letter.

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    Re: Indefinite Personal and Passive Tense

    Quote Originally Posted by Wyrm
    So in a lot of time the "они" is omitted from the sentences? If this is the case, how would I know when to use a plural verb without any subject when I am supposed to fill in the blank (missing the verb, of course).
    Well, in a sloppily constructed exercise this might be a problem. But, as Оля pointed out, it isn't as big a deal as it might seem initially.

    Этот город строили пять лет. (Impersonal. They had been building this city for five years.)
    Этот город строился пять лет. (Imperfective passive. City was built for five years, but it wasn't completed.)
    Этот город был построен за пять лет. (Perfective passive. City was built in five years.)
    Neither is much like the variant with impersonal "They", if you know where to look and have an infinitive to insert. (unusual reflexion or auxiliary "to be" used with the passive participle.)

    Potentially pseudogrammatical gibberish of someone who studied all this more than fifteen years ago follows: What is and what isn't "true" passive in Russian is somewhat of a gray area. The strictest definition requires use of participle, but reflexion is used like that all the time, mainly with imperfective verbs. In fact passive participles of imperfective verbs as in "делан, строен" sound archaic and uneducated. Perfective "сделан, построен" sound OK, and are used. In fact using reflexion instead would mean that a city indeed built itself. "Город построился за пять лет".

    Imperative is a bit trickier, with no verb the only clue is usually the word order:
    plural imperative:
    Стройте этот город ещё пять лет! (Build this city for five more years!)
    Singular imperative:
    Строй этот город ещё пять лет! (Build this city for five more years!)



    Quote Originally Posted by Wyrm
    Secondly, is this only true with "они" or is it also true with "он, она," etc.?
    Except for the cases above and some rare and "literary" constructions, pronouns always are dropped only if they're otherwise obvious from the context. So, a proper exercise should contain some clue as to what pronoun was there before the drop.

    One of those literary constructions that doesn't obey these rules, and which you may find sometimes, is dropped "ты".

    It's like impersonal "man", "one" or "you". And again, it's used mostly in the literature, so if your main interest is spoken language you may ignore it.

    From "The Hound of the Baskervilles":
    "Yes, it is an interesting instance of a throwback, which appears
    to be both physical and spiritual. A study of family portraits is
    enough to convert a man to the doctrine of reincarnation.
    The
    fellow is a Baskerville--that is evident."
    Compare:
    Да, любопытный пример возврата к прошлому и в физическим и в
    духовном отношении. Вот так начнешь изучать фамильные портреты и, пожалуй,
    уверуешь в переселение душ.
    Он тоже Баскервиль, это совершенно очевидно.
    I often edit my posts five times or so, after I've sent them. Sorry for any confusion, feel free to correct me.

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