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Thread: Respectful plural forms

  1. #1
    Почтенный гражданин Misha Tal's Avatar
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    Respectful plural forms

    In the 4th chapter of "Мастер и Маргарита", right after the death of Berlioz, Ivan Bezdomny asks Voland to confess who he really is. Here's the passage:
    — Сознавайтесь, кто вы такой? — глухо спросил Иван.
    Иностранец насупился, глянул так, как будто впервые видит поэта, и ответил неприязненно:
    — Не понимай... русский говорить...
    Они не понимают! — ввязался со скамейки регент, хоть его никто и не просил объяснять слова иностранца.

    Now, Korovyev is supposed to speak perfect Russian. I was surprised at him referring to a single third person by plural forms.
    1-Using plural forms for second person singular is a pretty common way of showing respect in many languages. In Russian, is it also common for third person singular?
    2-What about first person? Again, you get the "Majestic We" in many languages, but is there a "Respectful we" in Russian too? In Persian, it is most common among school pupils talking to their teachers.
    Thanks in advance.
    "If in the end, Misha, you are destined to lose this game, there is no need for the reason to be cowardice!"

  2. #2
    Подающий надежды оратор
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    Re: Respectful plural forms

    1&2 In modern Russian the only respectful form is the second plural "Вы"
    The Korovyev's use of the 3d person plural is out-of-dated, it was common in 18-19 centuries among servants when they were talking about their masters (both pronouns and verbs) : "Барыня чай пьют", "Господин полковник уехали" etc. But it wasn't at all literary or normal language and was considered a language of the lower class people. Bulgakov uses this language on purpose, to emphasize Korovyеv'v buffonary.

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