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Thread: possession

  1. #1
    Увлечённый спикер
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    Jul 2015
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    What is the difference between иметь and есть (like when saying у меня есть, и так далее)?

    Is иметь for more abstract and intangible ideas?

  2. #2
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    Jul 2010
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    Generally speaking, иметь in this sense is a formal word which means 'possess, have as possession'.

    I have a book. - У меня есть книга. - that's the normal way of saying. If you say Я имею книгу - that sounds quite formal, like 'I have a book in my possession'.

    Иметь is often used in statistical or historical texts to express the idea of 'possession', e.g. Средний крестьянин имел дом и корову - An average peasant would have a house and a cow.
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  3. #3
    Почтенный гражданин
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    > Is иметь for more abstract and intangible ideas?
    No. "Иметь" is direct word for "possess". But, as was said above, it sounds formal and bookish a little. Normal way to express possession is "у меня есть".
    You may even think about "У меня есть книга" as "There is book of mine" - as you can note, there is no need in word "possess" to express this idea. Something similar takes place in russian. Compare to "у меня процесс занял два часа" - "Process took two hours for me" or "My process took two hours".
    Also russian language tends to drop out verb "есть": "У меня два высших образования".
    However, if you want to stress/emphasize idea of possession you should not omit "есть": "у меня есть" and this will be english "I have".
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  4. #4
    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    Jan 2010
    Fairfax, VA (Фэйрфэкс, ш. Виргиния, США)
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    I was taught that in normal speech, иметь is used primarily when you need to the verb "to have" in the INFINITIVE, as in "it's important to have an emergency escape plan." In other situations, using "у кого-нибудь (есть/было/будет)" sounds much more natural.

    For example, there's a familiar saying Хорошо иметь домик в деревне, "It's nice to have a little house in the countryside." I don't know the origins of the saying, but if you do a Google Image search, you'll find many, many parody versions:

    I assume the dragon (змей) is meant to be Горыныч (Gorynych), even though he only has one head and чаще всего у Горыныча три головы (more often than not, Gorynych has three heads).

    P.S. Another thing they taught us in first-year Russian: есть is nearly always omitted when talking about parts of the body. For instance, У неё голубые глаза, "She has light-blue eyes," but У неё есть голубой попугайчик, "She has a light-blue parakeet." (Note that having eyes is an innate characteristic of humans, but having a pet parakeet is not! So using есть instead of omitting it will be favored in cases where "not having" is as normal/common as "having.")
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  5. #5
    Почтенный гражданин Soft sign's Avatar
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    Yes, есть is omitted when the sentence is about some quality or quantity of the the possessed thing, and not omitted when it’s about the possession itself.
    У неё три́ попуга́йчика.
    Having three pet parakeets is not an innate characteristic of humans, but we talk about the number here, not about the possession.

    Есть is omitted with diseases for some reason:
    У меня рак — I have cancer.
    («У меня есть рак» would be understood as ‘I have a crayfish’)
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    Please correct my English

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