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Thread: Progressive Tenses

  1. #1
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    Progressive Tenses

    Present: I read a book
    and
    Present Progressive: I am reading a book
    are both
    я читаю книгу
    in Russian, but how would you translate something like the past progressive, as in 'They were going to go shopping' or the past perfect progressive as in, 'They had been shopping for a long time'?

    Also, if you have 'у меня книга' for 'I have a book' how do you express possession in the future tense, as in, 'I will have a book'?

    Any help would be great!

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    Завсегдатай it-ogo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by G2Ident89 View Post
    Present: I read a book
    and
    Present Progressive: I am reading a book
    are both
    я читаю книгу
    Yes, if it is iterative or progressive should be understood from context.

    in Russian, but how would you translate something like the past progressive, as in 'They were going to go shopping'
    Они собирались пойти по магазинам. ('They were going to start shopping')
    or
    Они собирались походить по магазинам. ('They were going to spend some time for shopping')

    In Russian verbs of motion can be either iterative or progressive. That is we have separate verbs for iterative motion (like "ходить") and progressive one (like "идти").

    or the past perfect progressive as in, 'They had been shopping for a long time'?
    Они долго ходили по магазинам.

    Actually, I don't understand why perfect is needed here. It is past and it means that action is over anyway. Why don't you say just "They shopped for a long time?"


    Also, if you have 'у меня книга' for 'I have a book' how do you express possession in the future tense, as in, 'I will have a book'?
    У меня будет книга.
    "I have a book." = "У меня [есть] книга." where "есть" can be skipped.
    Literally: "A book is at me."
    "Россия для русских" - это неправильно. Остальные-то чем лучше?

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    Почтенный гражданин bitpicker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by it-ogo View Post

    Они долго ходили по магазинам.

    Actually, I don't understand why past perfect is needed here. It is past and it means that action is over anyway. Why don't you say just "They shopped for a long time?"
    These are two different things. Without any context you wouldn't usually say "they had been shopping for a long time". The past perfect tense can only be used in relation to a point in time you are talking about. Anything prior to that point is past perfect. English sees it fit to distinguish between something which is past in relation to the present, and something which is past in relation to a point in time which is also in the past. Yes, this is actually helpful.

    So, if I see a sentence like "They had been shopping for a long time" I immediately know that the speaker is actually talking about a point in time which lies after the whole shopping event, but still in the past. I know to expect something like "and when they came home (which is the moment he is actually talking about) they were utterly exhausted".

    Russian does a similar thing using adverbial participles like this: сделав уроки, он отдыхал. The adverbial participle tells you that one action is in the past of the other action. It's not as versatile as having a full-fledged tense because it can only apply to the subject of a connected expression.

    As for the original question of the thread, it is important not to mistake the English distinction of progressive vs. simple tenses for the same thing as the distinction of perfective and imperfective aspects in Russian. They share some similarities, but they are not the same thing. Grammatical features present in one language do not automatically have a counterpart in another language, just as words cannot always be translated 1:1. I'm coming from a native language (German) which has neither progressive nor perfective aspects and still works well. We use other means, words rather than grammar, to mark something as continuing or finished.

    Different features in different languages engender different ways of thinking. Learning a language is mostly trying to come to terms with these different ways of thinking and expressing thought, not about mere translation.
    Спасибо за исправления!

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    Administrator MasterAdmin's Avatar
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    Here are some good explanations of the perfect forms in English.

    Perfect forms: Simple or Progressive?


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    The thing I'm having trouble with is that in English, a sentence like, 'They were going to give him the book', is ambiguous. There are actually two distinct interpretations.
    The one: 'They were going - to give him the book', meaning that they set out 'to give him the book'. In Russian, I think this would be something like, 'они пойтили давать ему книгу' with the intended meaning of something more like, 'They set out to give him the book'.
    The second: 'They were - going to give him the book', meaning that they intended 'to give him the book' but the action was never actually undertaken. This is where I'm confused. How would you translate this sentence with this second intended meaning into Russian? Can you just put it in the conditional, so that you have, 'они пойтили бы давать ему книгу'?
    Also, can you clarify the meaning and use of 'собирались'?

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    Почтенный гражданин Demonic_Duck's Avatar
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    I guess you would use the verb собираться, unless I'm misunderstanding the question?

    Meet the Verb: «собираться»! | Russian Blog
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    Quote Originally Posted by G2Ident89 View Post
    The thing I'm having trouble with is that in English, a sentence like, 'They were going to give him the book', is ambiguous. There are actually two distinct interpretations.
    The one: 'They were going - to give him the book', meaning that they set out 'to give him the book'. In Russian, I think this would be something like, 'они пойтили давать ему книгу' with the intended meaning of something more like, 'They set out to give him the book'.
    The second: 'They were - going to give him the book', meaning that they intended 'to give him the book' but the action was never actually undertaken. This is where I'm confused. How would you translate this sentence with this second intended meaning into Russian? Can you just put it in the conditional, so that you have, 'они пойтили бы давать ему книгу'?
    This is what I meant when I said you should not expect something which works in one language to work the same way in another language. Russian simply doesn't use the verb "go" to signify future tense in the fashion English does. The verb идти means movement towards a place by walking, not an intention to do something in the future. (By the way the past tense form of, for example, пойти is пошёл, пошла, and not formed by appending the regular suffixes).

    Furthermore, as far as I know, the pretty complex distinction of "going to" future as opposed to "will" future is also absent in Russian, while of course it is possible to use specific additional words to give the meaning of a phrase a certain slant.
    Спасибо за исправления!

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    Завсегдатай it-ogo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by G2Ident89 View Post
    The one: 'They were going - to give him the book', meaning that they set out 'to give him the book'. In Russian, I think this would be something like, 'они пойтили давать ему книгу' with the intended meaning of something more like, 'They set out to give him the book'.
    I don't understand well the sense of this. Does it mean "they started the process of giving him the book?" Sentence looks strange. Though it can be translated as "Они начали давать ему книгу."

    The verbs "идти, пойти, ходить etc" normally are applied to the pedestrian motion. Here they are not equivalent of the English "to be going to do smth."

    Quote Originally Posted by G2Ident89 View Post
    The second: 'They were - going to give him the book', meaning that they intended 'to give him the book' but the action was never actually undertaken. This is where I'm confused. How would you translate this sentence with this second intended meaning into Russian?
    'They were going to give him the book'='they intended to give him the book'='Они собирались дать ему книгу.' If you want to say in addition that the action was never actually undertaken, you can add corresponding phrase:
    'Они собирались дать ему книгу, но так и не дали.'='They intended to give him the book but never gave.'

    Can you just put it in the conditional, so that you have, 'они пойтили бы давать ему книгу'?
    I don't see the way to do it without the full context. Please give the full sentence to translate, which contains all the necessary context about the idea.

    Quote Originally Posted by G2Ident89 View Post
    Also, can you clarify the meaning and use of 'собирались'?
    It is past plural third person form of the imperfective verb "собираться" , which means "to intend to", "to prepare to", "to plan to".
    "Россия для русских" - это неправильно. Остальные-то чем лучше?

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    Почтенный гражданин delog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by G2Ident89
    'They were going - to give him the book', meaning that they set out 'to give him the book'. In Russian, I think this would be something like, 'они пойтили давать ему книгу'
    Very faithful translation: "Они были идущими давать ему эту книгу" (nonsense for Russian speakers). You must understand that there is no translation to other languages at all, but there is a retelling. English speakers use "go" for designation of a movement and for describing of an intention to do something. English speakers are already used to use "go" in that way. But why do you think that Russians uses one word for these two action? Well, let's consider the contrary example. In Russian language the word "сильный" can be used in "сильный дождь" and "сильный человек". One word for these two cases. Faithful translation to English is "strong rain" and "strong man" respectively, but retelling is "heavy rain" and "strong man".

    upd: блин... пока писал, уже два раза ответили
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    'They had been shopping for a long time' can also be translated with the help of the word 'уже' - 'already' - Они уже долго ходили по магазинам (и всё еще продолжали). In this sentence the Russian equivalent of already would help better communicate the meaning that the still were shopping.

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