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Thread: Using ли in question sentences?

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    Using ли in question sentences?

    Hi All,

    First post here. I'm an avid Russian student of lower intermediate level. For homework, we have some translations to do, which made me think of some questions.

    I know that you use ли in yes/no questions, translated as whether/if in English. For example, Есть ли у нево деньги?

    What about "Did he want to go home? He did not know if he wanted to go home. He decided whether or not he wanted to go home." Would it be "Хотел ли он идти домой? Он не знал хотел ли идти домой. Он решил идти ли домой или нет." Or am I imagining that you could use ли in these sentences when you really can't?

    Thanks so much!

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    Re: Using ли in question sentences?

    Quote Originally Posted by russiannewb
    Hi All,

    First post here. I'm an avid Russian student of lower intermediate level. For homework, we have some translations to do, which made me think of some questions.

    I know that you use ли in yes/no questions, translated as whether/if in English. For example, Есть ли у него деньги?

    What about "Did he want to go home? He did not know if he wanted to go home. He decided whether or not he wanted to go home." Would it be "Хотел ли он идти домой? Он не знал хотел ли он идти домой. [s:tad2qivq]Он решил идти ли домой или нет[/s:tad2qivq]." Or am I imagining that you could use ли in these sentences when you really can't?

    Thanks so much!
    Welcome!

    The first ones are OK, save for typos.

    The last one is tricky. You should not use "ли" or "или нет" in affirmative sentences EDIT: of this type, where something POSITIVELY HAPPENED, no "-ings", "maybes", etc. See the next post on when it might be OK. I'm sorry. But you have to use "ли" and may use "или нет" in a negative sentence of this type.
    Он решил, что пойдёт домой. He decided to go home.
    Он не решил идти ли ему домой. He didn't decide[s:tad2qivq]d[/s:tad2qivq] if he would go home.
    Идти ему домой или нет, он так и не решил. He hadn't decided whether or not he would go home.
    Идти ему домой или нет, он так никогда и не решил. He never decided whether or not he would go home.
    Он ещё не решил идти ли ему домой. He hadn't (ADD: or haven't) decided whether or not he would go home yet.


    What you may use/encounter in an affirmative is subjunctive (with "бы") and maybe a few extra words for emphasis.
    These all would mean "weaker" decision than straight affirmative. "He decided, that it would be nice to go home..." Do you notice the difference?

    WARNING: I'm not sure if your "whether or not" in an affirmative sentence means the same thing, not even sure if it's grammatical English, in fact I never saw this one before . I'm an ignorant lout, I know.

    Он решил, что неплохо бы (ему) (было) пойти домой.
    Something like that. The words "ему" and "было" may be dropped or added depending on... Well, voices in my head. I don't know. Sometimes they sound OK, sometimes they don't. But:
    Он решил, что было бы неплохо пойти домой.In these you can't drop or add anything, or so little voices tell me. No better explaination than that, sorry.
    Он решил, что хорошо бы (ему) пойти домой.


    Word and clause order may be slightly different, this one is what I believe is typical of written narratives, but II may or may not be right. And my punctuation might be dodgy.
    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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    Re: Using ли in question sentences?

    Ok. Googled it up. No conclusion. It seems to be used mostly in dependent clauses, like "<do smth> while he decided(=had been deciding?) whether or not" or for emphasis/irony, - "he "decided" whether or not" (meaning he didn't.) In the former case I believe the translation would be "<что-то делать> пока он решал пойти ли ему домой (или нет)" ( He had not positively decided, he had been deciding...) The latter case is high stylistics.
    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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    Re: Using ли in question sentences?

    Thanks, this is really helpful.

    This might be a really stupid question, but why is the ему there? You couldn't just say:
    ...пока он решал пойти ли домой (или нет).

    What's the necessity of the dative case here?

    Also, does the imperfective aspect change anything here? For example, could you say Он долго решал пойти ли домой?

    Thanks again.

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    Re: Using ли in question sentences?

    Quote Originally Posted by russiannewb
    Thanks, this is really helpful.

    This might be a really stupid question, but why is the ему there? You couldn't just say:
    ...пока он решал пойти ли домой (или нет).

    What's the necessity of the dative case here?

    Also, does the imperfective aspect change anything here? For example, could you say Он долго решал пойти ли домой?

    Thanks again.
    As for the first point I don't really know. That's just how things are said. But my theory is that there's an implied modal verb hidden somewhere in there. But these are pseudogrammatical ramblings of an insomniac.

    As for the second one, yes, sorry, it changes everything. As long as the action didn't positively happen, you may use "ли".

    Or another example: http://capitalnews9.com/capital-region- ... governor-/
    "Mayor Rudy Giuliani's camp is denying reports that he's decided whether or not he'll challenge Governor David Paterson in 2010. "
    (Giuliani did not really decide anything. )
    [s:2073kxvc]Штат[/s:2073kxvc]Лагерь мэра Руди Джуиллиани (sp?) опровергает заявления о том, что он решил будет ли он баллотироваться в 2010 г. против губернатора Паттерсона.

    Had it been: "He's decided whether or not he'll challenge..." (He did decide, but we're not told what exactly.) it would be
    Он решил будет ли он баллотироваться против губернатора...
    In these two perfective+future is used, to show that situation either never really happened or we don't know if it did, but someone said so.

    Had it been: "So, that's how one might have decided whether or not he would date her..." (a hypothetical person, no real decisions are made)
    Вот так и решают (могут решать), встречаться ли с ней или нет" (notice imperfective AND impersonal construction with dropped pronoun.)

    In other words, there isn't a single way to handle "whether or not" in these sentences. It all heavily depends on why it was used in the first place.
    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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    Re: Using ли in question sentences?

    Wow, thanks so much, this is great!

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    Re: Using ли in question sentences?

    Quote Originally Posted by russiannewb
    Wow, thanks so much, this is great!
    Thanks to you for something interesting and off the beaten track. But you really do want second opinions on those. I may misread the situation completly. Being a fluent speaker in both languages doesn't mean one has grammatical knowledge of a real pro, and there are some on the forum.

    P.S. I feel as if Оля and others are watching me over my shoulder and saying "You, moron, how could you..." Very motivating.
    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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    Re: Using ли in question sentences?

    Quote Originally Posted by russiannewb
    Thanks, this is really helpful.

    This might be a really stupid question, but why is the ему there? You couldn't just say:
    ...пока он решал пойти ли домой (или нет).

    What's the necessity of the dative case here?
    Thought about it some more... . "...пока он решал пойти ли домой" is OK in itself, but it would mean slightly different thing, - as if it wasn't just he who goes home or as if his decision process was more "abstract" in some sense. So in most cases speakers (or, rather, this speaker) avoid ambiguity and add a singular or plural pronoun. Why it is where it is and why dative of all six cases, - still no idea.
    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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    Re: Using ли in question sentences?

    Quote Originally Posted by russiannewb
    This might be a really stupid question, but why is the ему there? You couldn't just say:...пока он решал пойти ли домой (или нет).What's the necessity of the dative case here?
    "Ему" is not necessary here, but you can say for example"...пока он решал, пойти ли им домой" (lineal: ...while he was deciding if they would go home), if he was in charge to decide for all of them.

    As for dative, it is the usual way to say many things... You can think about it like пойти is a task, given(dative) to him (by himself).
    Всем стоять! - Stand still, everybody! literally: To stand is for everibody.
    пойти ли ему... - literally: if to go is for him


    Quote Originally Posted by ac220
    P.S. I feel as if Оля and others are watching me over my shoulder and saying "You, moron, how could you..." Very motivating.
    Big Sister is watching you!
    "Россия для русских" - это неправильно. Остальные-то чем лучше?

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    Re: Using ли in question sentences?

    Quote Originally Posted by ac220
    Он решил, что пойдёт домой. He decided to go home.
    Он не решил идти ли ему домой. He didn't decided if he would go home.
    In the first sentence, isn't the situaion, as defined by the perfective verbs, such that he is where he is now, but will now go home? The English sentence is more ambiguous, it could be talking about a completely past event, but пойдёт implies to me that he is going to go home now - the decision has just taken place.

    The second English sentence is not grammatically correct (didn't decided). If the Russian sentence applies to a situation fully in the past, it would be like this: (When I met him on the party last week) he hadn't decided (yet) whether to go home. I suppose it could also be applied to someone who is at a party now and has not decided so far whether he should go: he hasn't decided (yet) whether to go home. Or does решил imply otherwise?

    'Whether to go home' can be replaced by 'whether / if he should go home' in both variants, but don't use 'if' and 'would' in the same clause.

    Alternatively the sentence could also mean 'he failed to decide / didn't decide...' as in 'someone else decided for him'. Oh my, the mind boggles...

    Robin
    Спасибо за исправления!

    Вам нравится этот форум, и вы изучаете немецкий язык? Вот похожий форум о немецком языке.

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    Re: Using ли in question sentences?

    Quote Originally Posted by bitpicker
    Quote Originally Posted by ac220
    Он решил, что пойдёт домой. He decided to go home.
    Он не решил идти ли ему домой. He didn't decided if he would go home.
    In the first sentence, isn't the situaion, as defined by the perfective verbs, such that he is where he is now, but will now go home? The English sentence is more ambiguous, it could be talking about a completely past event, but пойдёт implies to me that he is going to go home now - the decision has just taken place.

    The second English sentence is not grammatically correct (didn't decided). If the Russian sentence applies to a situation fully in the past, it would be like this: (When I met him on the party last week) he hadn't decided (yet) whether to go home. I suppose it could also be applied to someone who is at a party now and has not decided so far whether he should go: he hasn't decided (yet) whether to go home. Or does решил imply otherwise?

    'Whether to go home' can be replaced by 'whether / if he should go home' in both variants, but don't use 'if' and 'would' in the same clause.

    Alternatively the sentence could also mean 'he failed to decide / didn't decide...' as in 'someone else decided for him'. Oh my, the mind boggles...

    Robin
    1st: Russian has just two tenses for perfective, and you never use <past>+<past> in situations of this sort. So it's as ambiguous out of context as the English equivalent. It might be both past events, or it might not.

    2nd: oops, sorry. I claim copy-paste error and insomnia. I really meant "He didn't decide". But in Russian either "didn't decide" or "haven't decided" or "hadn't decided" will be "не решил," you need context. "Он не решает" or "не решал" would mean "he doesn't (didn't even try to) decide," or has/had no ability to decide, or otherwise plays/played no role in that decision.
    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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    Re: Using ли in question sentences?

    Quote Originally Posted by russiannewb
    Would it be "Хотел ли он идти домой? Он не знал, хочет ли он идти домой. Он решал, хочет ли он идти домой(or: хочет [s:22y6rkfs]ли[/s:22y6rkfs] он идти домой или нет) .
    "Ли" + "или" in a single sentence is extra. You should use either one or another.
    For example:
    1. Я не знаю, хочу ли я есть. (I don't know if I'm hungry)
    2. Я не знаю, хочу я есть или нет. (I don't know if I'm hungry or not).

    Also, you necessarily need a comma before the "ли"/"или" part.

    Quote Originally Posted by ac220
    Он не решил, идти ли ему домой.
    Идти ему домой или нет, он так и не решил.
    Идти ему домой или нет, он так никогда и не решил.
    Он ещё не решил, идти ли ему домой.
    "Никогда" in "Идти ему домой или нет, он так никогда и не решил" looks absolutely extra to me and makes the sentence unnatural (like a translation from English). "Так и не + [verb in the past tense]" is perfectly enough to express the idea in Russian.
    In Russian, all nationalities and their corresponding languages start with a lower-case letter.

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    Re: Using ли in question sentences?

    Quote Originally Posted by bitpicker
    In the first sentence, isn't the situaion, as defined by the perfective verbs, such that he is where he is now, but will now go home? The English sentence is more ambiguous, it could be talking about a completely past event, but пойдёт implies to me that he is going to go home now - the decision has just taken place.
    I'm pretty sure it can mean both, depending on the context. There is no agreement of tenses in Russian.

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    Re: Using ли in question sentences?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zubr
    There is no agreement of tenses in Russian.
    Indeed. For example, you can say "She felt she was hungry" in two ways in Russian:

    1. Ей казалось, что она была голодна.
    2. Ей казалось, что она _ голодна.

    The last one sounds more natural. By the way, they both sound a bit bookish/outdated because of the "была голодна" construction. In Russian, we usually say "I want to eat", not "I am hungry", although both are possible. So, in modern colloquial language, one would say:

    3. Ей казалось, что она хочет есть. (Literally: "She felt that she wants to eat").

    And in the case of this construction ("want to eat"), the variant

    4. Ей казалось, что она хотела есть ("She felt that she wanted to eat"))

    sounds quite unnatural, even.
    In Russian, all nationalities and their corresponding languages start with a lower-case letter.

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    Re: Using ли in question sentences?

    Quote Originally Posted by Оля
    Quote Originally Posted by russiannewb
    Would it be "Хотел ли он идти домой? Он не знал, хочет ли он идти домой. Он решал, хочет ли он идти домой(or: хочет [s:2r5234e9]ли[/s:2r5234e9] он идти домой или нет) .
    "Ли" + "или" in a single sentence is extra. You should use either one or another.
    For example:
    1. Я не знаю, хочу ли я есть. (I don't know if I'm hungry)
    2. Я не знаю, хочу я есть или нет. (I don't know if I'm hungry or not).

    Also, you necessarily need a comma before the "ли"/"или" part.
    Yes, using both is pointless. What it happens nonetheless (even in one of my own examples) is the same kind of error as "Он сейчас ничего сейчас не делает", - the speaker forgot he had said that already. (Тьху, теперь везде глюки с согласованием времён мерещатся...)

    Quote Originally Posted by Оля
    Quote Originally Posted by ac220
    Он не решил, идти ли ему домой.
    Идти ему домой или нет, он так и не решил.
    Идти ему домой или нет, он так никогда и не решил.
    Он ещё не решил, идти ли ему домой.
    "Никогда" in "Идти ему домой или нет, он так никогда и не решил" looks absolutely extra to me and makes the sentence unnatural (like a translation from English). "Так и не + [verb in the past tense]" is perfectly enough to express the idea in Russian.
    Well, it might be justifiable. It was even once used by Kuprin: "Во весь этот вечер и много дней спустя, а пожалуй, во всю свою жизнь он спрашивал себя по чести и совести: да или нет? Но так никогда и не разрешил этого вопроса." (http://militera.lib.ru/prose/russian/kuprin2/21.html) who obviously wasn't translating from English. But in general you're right, - no XIX century novelist (or any other paragon of style) would use that more than once in his entire life, if that. ADD: A more justifiable way to use such a duplication is: "Он так никогда и не решит." meaning that decision not just wasn't made, but will not ever be made.
    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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    Re: Using ли in question sentences?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zubr
    There is no agreement of tenses in Russian.
    Well, it depends. There are patterns one follows, but with most of the role tenses play in English (or French) taken by intrinsic verb aspect and idiomatic usage in Russian, they are quite Byzantine, as this topic shows. And in that particular case you're right, it's both.
    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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    Re: Using ли in question sentences?

    Quote Originally Posted by ac220
    Well, it might be justifiable. It was even once used by Kuprin: "Во весь этот вечер и много дней спустя, а пожалуй, во всю свою жизнь он спрашивал себя по чести и совести: да или нет? Но так никогда и не разрешил этого вопроса."
    Well, of course "так никогда и не решил" is possible of itself. But Kuprin writes "за всю жизнь" (during the whole life). It was a serios difficult question one can think about for many years. But you can't be encompassed with doubts during all your life about the question "Should I go home now or not?"
    In Russian, all nationalities and their corresponding languages start with a lower-case letter.

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    Re: Using ли in question sentences?

    By the way, while mining lib.ru for other examples of usage, I've found something really unusual:

    Никто не знал о нашей связи, за это я вам ручаюсь, хотя так никогда и
    не бывает. Не знал ее муж, не знали знакомые.
    /Булкгаков, "Мастер и Маргарита"/

    Yes, you could say that, and yes "и" here isn't pointless. It shows futility of attempts to define "good style in general". "Так не бывает" is normal way to express this, but it's just too usual an expression for this particular dialog.
    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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    Re: Using ли in question sentences?

    Quote Originally Posted by ac220
    By the way, while mining lib.ru for other examples of usage, I've found something really unusual:

    Никто не знал о нашей связи, за это я вам ручаюсь, хотя так никогда и не бывает.
    I don't see anything unusual in this example.
    In Russian, all nationalities and their corresponding languages start with a lower-case letter.

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    Re: Using ли in question sentences?

    Quote Originally Posted by Оля
    Quote Originally Posted by ac220
    By the way, while mining lib.ru for other examples of usage, I've found something really unusual:

    Никто не знал о нашей связи, за это я вам ручаюсь, хотя так никогда и не бывает.
    I don't see anything unusual in this example.
    Попробуй поискать

    "так никогда и не бывает" -Булгаков -Мастер

    в Яндексе и Гугле. Я сам ужасно удивился. И да, признаюь, пропустил бы такую фразу не подумав, попадись она так, в разговоре.
    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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