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Thread: Прощай - when to say it, when not to say it, and its cultural meaning

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    Властелин Deborski's Avatar
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    Прощай - when to say it, when not to say it, and its cultural meaning

    Прощай is the forever goodbye which also means "forgive," and I have heard a few explanations for this word but I still feel like I have only scratched the surface of it's meaning. It is a mysterious word to me, as a foreigner, since English does not have any word I know of with the same meaning. We have "farewell" which could be used to mean goodbye forever, but this word is only wishing the other person a good life (fair "thee" well) and not asking forgiveness in the same breath.

    I have heard that Russians typically say прощай when someone is dying, or at funerals. But I have also heard that it is said sometimes when lovers break up or if someone moves to a foreign country and is unlikely to ever return.

    A discussion about this word would be very helpful. Have any of you used this word yourselves? And if so, what was the context? What was your experience?

    I only used this word one time in my life, with exactly the person I did not want to say it to, and sometimes I wonder if I should have said it at all - but it seemed appropriate at the time.

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    Почтенный гражданин dtrq's Avatar
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    Well, yes, it's basically "farewell", "goodbye forever".
    As for "forgive" part, I never really thought about it until now (I think many native speakers don't even realize it's same words), but probably it means "I'm sorry for all the bad things I've done to you so have only good memories about me as we will never meet again"
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    Властелин Deborski's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dtrq View Post
    Well, yes, it's basically "farewell", "goodbye forever".
    As for "forgive" part, I never really thought about it until now (I think many native speakers don't even realize it's same words), but probably it means "I'm sorry for all the bad things I've done to you so have only good memories about me as we will never meet again"
    It's interesting to me that native speakers would not know that, but then again many native English speakers don't realize that the modern "goodbye" actually comes from a much older expression of parting - "god bless ye."
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    Властелин Medved's Avatar
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    Прощай in the second meaning "forgive" is imperfective, so it is used for repeated actions; the perfective is "простить".
    Example: "Прощай тех, кто будет тебя обижать." (Forgive those who will offend you).
    This verb is very rarely used, compared with the word "прости", which means the same but conveys the meaning of a single action, rather than repetitive (maybe because we rarely ask people to do it several times or to get a habit of forgiving people).
    So, notes of usage:
    1. It's all about context. If a context involves offenders, this word usually means "forgive", otherwise "gb forever".
    2. If you see "прощай", 9 out of 10 times it will mean "farewell".
    3. Once it's imperfective, you just should memorize it as a form of the "прощать" verb (forgive) rather than "прощаться" (farewell).
    4. Btw "прощай(те)" is a nonstandard usage of the verb "прощаться" as the reflexive ending "ся" is dropped.
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    Властелин Deborski's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Medved View Post
    Прощай in the second meaning "forgive" is imperfective, so it is used for repeated actions; the perfective is "простить".
    Example: "Прощай тех, кто будет тебя обижать." (Forgive those who will offend you).
    This verb is very rarely used, compared with the word "прости", which means the same but conveys the meaning of a single action, rather than repetitive (maybe because we rarely ask people to do it several times or to get a habit of forgiving people).
    So, notes of usage:
    1. It's all about context. If a context involves offenders, this word usually means "forgive", otherwise "gb forever".
    2. If you see "прощай", 9 out of 10 times it will mean "farewell".
    3. Once it's imperfective, you just should memorize it as a form of the "прощать" verb (forgive) rather than "прощаться" (farewell).
    4. Btw "прощай(те)" is a nonstandard usage of the verb "прощаться" as the reflexive ending "ся" is dropped.
    The English "I'm sorry" or "please forgive me" can apply to either single or multiple offenses and I'm not sure in which way these phrases are most often used. I've heard "I'm sorry" used equally in situations like "sorry for bumping into you" to "I'm sorry I was such a bad friend." Americans say "I'm sorry" frequently as a kind of cultural politeness, but "forgive me" is used much more rarely. I've only seen it used when someone is making a much more serious apology such as "I cheated on you and I was wrong. I hope you can forgive me."

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    Quote Originally Posted by dtrq View Post
    As for "forgive" part, I never really thought about it until now.....
    The 2 other examples are Спасибо which can be traced to Спаси Бог (г dropped out eventually), and здравствуйте which literally means 'будьте в здравии, в здоровье, be well, be in health' but is perceived as just 'hello, hi' in modern language.

    Deb, прощай traditionally implies people are not supposed to see each other again. It's quite a literary word, for sutuations like:

    Прощайте, братцы! Не поминайте лихом! Не увидимся уж боле! or
    Прощай, душа моя. Расстанемся навеки. Прощайте эти милые леса и реки! - he is leaving the country and his beloved one.

    Such words are connected with the Russian Orthodox aspect of Russia, forgiveness being one of the cornerstones or the Russian Orthodox tradition.

    Today we tend to often say Не прощаемся , which means we hope to meet again in the future.
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    at the same time прощаться, попрощаться is used often and doesnt' have this 'parting forever' connotation.

    Eg, Мы попрощались с гостями и стали мыть посуду - We said good bye to our guests and started to do the dishes. (just an every day situation).

    But прощай, прощайте as form of address imply that we are not likely to meet again.
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    Почтенный гражданин dtrq's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alexsms View Post
    The 2 other examples are Спасибо which can be traced to Спаси Бог (г dropped out eventually)
    I was just thinking about it recently, and funny thing, if it's true, in Russian the expression "God forbid" ("упаси Бог") is the closest relative to "thank you".

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    Нарыл в Сети:
    Прощай! Означает "прощай мне все обиды, ты меня больше не увидишь". Имеется в виду, что эта встреча была последней на этом свете, а потому вступает в действие обычай предсмертного прощения, отпущения грехов. Французы и итальянцы в этом случае говорят "до Бога!" (соответственно "адье" и "аддио").
    Слово Прощай в словаре Ефремовой

    Ударение: проща́й
    1. предикатив разг. (а также прощайте)
      1. Возглас при прощании, расставании на длительное время или навсегда как действие.
      2. перен. Возглас при выражении утраты, лишения, исчезновения чего-л. как действие.

    2. межд. разг. (а также прощайте)
      1. Употребляется при прощании, расставании на длительное время или навсегда.
      2. перен. Употребляется при выражении утраты, лишения, исчезновения чего-л.; соответствует по значению сл.: больше нет, не будет, исчез.
    Рассмотрим этимологию слова «прощай» (разреши). Оно означало «сними с меня вину», «отпусти меня свободным». «Прощайте», высокое по стилю слово, категорично.
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