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Thread: "Russian for Beginners" lesson questions

  1. #1
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    "Russian for Beginners" lesson questions

    Like a lot of people here, I think, I'm a beginner who is working my way through 'Russian for Beginners' on my own. I've searched the forum but cannot find any threads about the various lessons and questions/issues/corrections to the practice exercises. (or I'm just not searching for the right combination of words, or something!)

    So of course, I have some questions on why some of the translations are the way they are.

    I'm currently working on Lesson 8, and the exercises prompted a few questions

    1) is there any real difference in meaning or intent between у него есть учебник? and у него ли учебник? The english translation provided implies that one means "Has he a textbook" and the other "Has he the textbook", but my understanding was that there was no real way to differentiate articles and that the two questions are functionally the same. I'm apparently not really clear on when the particle ли is really needed, and when есть is used/omitted. I assume that things will be clearer as I progress.

    2) The English sentence "He isn't at home today" is given as Его сегодня нет дома, and I can't figure out why it would be его instead of он -- shouldn't it be in the nom. case?

    3) As the sentences get more complex, I'm getting thrown by word order, which isn't explained very well. I know Russian word order is more fluid, since the case endings and such differentiate things much more clearly, but is there a general rule (adverbs before verbs, etc?) that might give me a clue? I understand the use of the particle for emphasis, I think, and the order of negation, but sometimes words like сегодня and плохо show up in the sentence in a place I don't expect.

    I'm sure I've got more as I work through things. Having a place to ask questions is great! спасибо!

    If there is already a thread for this that I missed, my apologies!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Failte View Post
    1) is there any real difference in meaning or intent between у него есть учебник? and у него ли учебник? The english translation provided implies that one means "Has he a textbook" and the other "Has he the textbook", but my understanding was that there was no real way to differentiate articles and that the two questions are functionally the same. I'm apparently not really clear on when the particle ли is really needed, and when есть is used/omitted. I assume that things will be clearer as I progress.
    1. у него есть учебник?
    2. у него ли учебник?

    In my opinion (native Russian speaker) this is two different sentences.
    In 1. you ask: Has he a textbook? indeed. You don't know: is there a textbook? yes or not..
    In 2. you know that a textbook is. But you don't know where? Maybe he has this one maybe not.

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    1.
    Even though Russian has no such a thing as article but there still are ways to express the idea of certainty and uncertainty. Here "ли" shifts the meaning of the question dramatically. Indeed "У него ли учебник" implies "is it him who got [---] textbook?" here I've omitted article "the" but the sentence still seems to bear the sense that the question is about a certain specific textbook and article "the" should be placed in the position [---] anyway.

    2.
    This is another example when translation from one language to another utilize quite different language constructions.
    Его сегодня нет дома. - There is no him at home today.
    While in Russian it is a typical construction in English such a sentence doesn't look natural. This is why "He" and "Его" plays different roles in the sentences of different languages.
    So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

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    Ah! That makes sense, kozyablo--so the first one really is more like "does a textbook exist at him" (which is how a similiar sentence is presented in the pimsleur cds (which I'm using to actually practice speaking out loud!), while the second stresses the 'who has the textbook' part? The coverage in the book is a bit vague on using he interrogative particle ли to emphasize part of the sentence, I think I see how this works. How would I ask if he has a textbook (vs some other kind of book)? The word order in English won't change, just the stress -- Has he a textbook? The ли should follow учебник, yes? есть учебник ли у него? Does he have a textbook (and not a novel)?

    Would the third option that is presented for asking questions, есть ли у него учебник? also add a slightly different intent? The section on interrogatives suggests (at least at this early point in the book) that у меня? у меня есть? and есть ли у меня? all are 'have I?'. I know this seems really nit-picky, but I want to make sure that I understand why certain structures have certain subtle implications now, since I imagine it gets more complicated; the textbook doesn't really explain the 'why' of things sometimes.

    And thank you, CoffeeCup - if it's "(no) him at home..." that explains it. I would say "he is not at home" in English, whereas the Russian is comes at it from the other direction.

    Another question: I learned "now" as сейчас and it's presented in the lesson as теперь. Equivalent? My dictionary is apparently too simple to really explain the difference.

    Thanks!

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    Старший оракул CoffeeCup's Avatar
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    есть учебник ли у него?
    More natural way to ask is "Учебник ли у него?" without "есть". This question implies that we know the he has something but we have some doubts that that thing is a textbook so we need to know whether it a textbook or not.

    The thing with stress works with Russian as well:
    У него есть учебник? Has he a textbook?
    У него есть учебник? Has he a textbook?
    У него есть учебник? Has he [really] a textbook [and not something else]? Here it looks as if we have some doubts that what he have is a textbook.


    Теперь vs. Сейчас
    Сейчас - now
    Теперь - now with some meaning of comparing now vs. past
    Though using of these words is context sensitive.
    So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

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    and look!
    You can use ЛИ in three places of senstenses У НЕГО ЕСТЬ УЧЕБНИК?
    1. Есть ли у него учебник? (question about ixisting of his textbook)

    2. У него ли учебник? (question about place) (who has a textbook? Is he?)
    3. Учебник ли у него? (question about a textbook) (what does he have? Is it textbook? OR I know that he has something.. Book? Textbook? Notebook? Mmmm.. I think this is a textbook... And I use ЛИ for showing of my guess)

    Now without ЛИ:
    1. Есть у него учебник? Or у него есть учебник? Sense's ABSOLUTELY same with sentense with ЛИ.
    2. У него учебник? Sense's the same.
    3. Учебник у него? Here sense changes... now this is like у него учебник? I ask: where is a textbook? has he got this? I don't know where.. I don't know he has somethig or not..

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    Thank you, kozyablo. This is very helpful.. I know it seems really too-picky, but it really helps me understand how things really work. I might not quite understand the subtle differences right now, but having a native speaker weight in really helps.

    больше спасибо! Вы очень полезны!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Failte View Post
    ! Вы очень полезны!
    I think it's better not to say that way. We usually say полезный only about thing, very seldom about people. We could say for example он очень полезный человек or полезный специалист, but it's unusual, and I wouldn't say that myself. If you say Вы очень полезны, it sounds like you use the person like a thing, and I don't think the person would be pleased with it. I think the most common expression in cases like that is Вы мне очень помогли.
    Я изучаю английский язык и поэтому делаю много ошибок. Но я не прошу Вас исправлять их, Вы можете просто ткнуть меня носом в них, или, точнее, пихнуть их мне в глаза. I'm studying English, and that's why I make a lot of mistakes. But I do not ask you to correct them, you may just stick my nose into them or more exactly stick them into my eyes.
    Всё, что не делается, не всегда делается к лучшему
    Но так же не всегда всё, что не делается, не делается не к худшему. : D

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