Немно́го о языке́ 4.6 Хочу́ рассказа́ть о Же́не

More -ся verbs

In this section of the story, you meet three additional verbs with –ся.

With these new verbs, you can begin to see the contribution that the particle -ся makes in the verbs’ meaning. For example, if you leave off the –ся particle on the verb роди́ться=to be born, you will get роди́ть = to give birth.

Both of the sentences below are grammatically possible in Russian, but one expresses a really sensational news item. Which one is it?

Упражне́ние 1

Вы хорошо́ зна́ете исто́рию? Match the well-known figures with the years of their birth. The gender of the verb forms can give you an extra clue in matching.

а. Бара́к Оба́ма б. Джа́стин Би́бер в. Хи́лари Кли́нтон ...роди́лся в 1961 г.
а. Хи́лари Кли́нтон б. Бара́к Оба́ма в. Влади́мир Пу́тин ...роди́лся в 1952 г.
а. Влади́мир Пу́тин б. А́нна Ку́рникова в. Джа́стин Би́бер ...родила́сь в 1981 г.
а. Влади́мир Пу́тин б. А́нна Ку́рникова в. Хи́лари Кли́нтон ...родила́сь в 1947 г.
а. А́нна Ку́рникова б. Джа́стин Би́бер в. Бара́к Оба́ма ...роди́лся в 1994 г.

Past Forms of the Verb быть (to be)

You know Russian does not use the verb “to be” in the present tense for nominal sentences (She is a doctor = Она́ врач. /He is a teacher = Он учи́тель) or locations (We are at home. = Мы до́ма.). However, in the past and future tenses in these kinds of sentences Russian does express the forms of “to be.” In this unit you will learn the past tense forms of “to be” быть, in Russian. To make the past tense forms, take the infinitive быть, remove the -ть, and add the regular endings –л, -ла, -ло, -ли.

These forms are also the past tense of есть (there is, there are) in “having” sentences, because есть is a present tense form of the verb быть.

быть (- ть + л)
он был he/it was
она́ была́ she/it was
оно́ бы́ло it was
они́ бы́ли they were

Упражне́ние 2

A man and woman standing behind you were speaking in Russian talking about where they've been recently. You can't see who is talking but you can tell from the grammar who must be the speaker. Select whether the speaker is a man or a woman.

  говори́т мужчи́на говори́т же́нщина
1. мужчи́на же́нщина
2. мужчи́на же́нщина
3. мужчи́на же́нщина
4. мужчи́на же́нщина
5. мужчи́на же́нщина
6. мужчи́на же́нщина
7. мужчи́на же́нщина

Stress in the Past Tense Forms.

For most verbs, the stress in past tense verb forms tends to be on the same syllable as in the infinitive. However, in many verbs that have a one-syllable infinitive (жить, быть, пить), the feminine past-tense forms often have stress on the ending -ла́: она́ жила́, она́ была́, она́ пила́.

A few verbs like родиться will have stress on all the endings in the past tense.

Note the past tense stress patterns below.

Stress is stable Stress moves to –ла́ Stress is on all endings
он ду́мал чита́л учи́лся бы́л жи́л роди́лся
она́ ду́мала чита́ла учи́лась была́ жила́ родила́сь
оно́ ду́мало чита́ло учи́лось бы́ло жи́ло родило́сь
они́ ду́мали чита́ли учи́лись бы́ли жи́ли родили́сь

Verb пить (stem: пьй-)

The verb “to drink” in Russian is пить. It takes a first-conjugation verb endings, and its stem is: пьй-. In the я and они́ forms, the –й at the end of the stem combines with the endings –у and –ут to spell: я пью, они́ пью́т.

Stem Endings Conjugated Forms
[icon for audio here]
пьй- + у я пью́ I drink
+ ёшь ты пьёшь you drink
+ ёт он/она́ пьёт he/she drinks
+ ём мы пьём we drink
+ ёте вы пьёте you drink
+ ут они́ пьют they drink
Note on Pronunciation

Listen to the difference between these pairs of words and try to match the pronunciation you hear.

Most consonants + я, е, и, ё, ю Most consonants + ь + я, е, и, ё, ю
We soften the consonant and then pronounce the vowel sound. We soften the consonant, pronounce a full [y] glide sound, and then the vowel sound.



о дя́де







о судье́





Talking About People and Things: The Preposition о + Prepositional Case

You already know that the prepositional case can be used with prepositions в and на to express location. It can also be used with the preposition о to express the meaning “about.”

Упражне́ние 3

Read the questions below about our characters and pick the answer you think likely.

Ама́нда ду́мала о ча́йнике? да нет
То́ни и Ама́нда мно́го зна́ют о Дени́се? да нет
В бло́ге Джош писа́л об Ирку́тске? да нет
Ке́йтлин мно́го зна́ет о Яросла́вле? да нет
Же́ня мно́го ду́мает об Ама́нде? да нет
Мара́т Аза́тович мно́го ду́мает о рабо́те? да нет
То́ни ничего́ не зна́ет об университе́те в Яросла́вле? да нет

Review the sentences above. What do you notice about the spelling of the preposition о?

Check your observation.

Pointing Things Out: э́то and э́тот, э́та, э́то, э́ти

From the opening episode “Ама́нда Ли,” you have seen sentences where the unchanging particle э́то combines with a noun to form a complete sentence. This э́то is the equivalent of the English phrases “it is, this is, they are, these are.”

In this unit, we introduce you to the modifier э́тот which points out a specific object and is the equivalent of English demonstrative pronoun “this” or “that.” Like other modifiers in Russian, э́тот has forms to agree with the noun it modifies in gender, number, and case (masculine = э́тот, feminine = э́та, neuter = э́то, plural = э́ти in the nominative case). Look at the example sentences below and compare them with their English equivalents.

Notice how these forms of the modifier э́тот combine directly with a noun in these sentences to create modifier+noun phrases. These modifier+noun phrases by themselves do not express complete sentences.

These phrases need to be used with other words to express complete thoughts.

With neuter nouns, the form э́то is ambiguious:

With neuter nouns, you will need to look at the rest of the sentence context to know whether the phrase expresses a complete thought and is a sentence “This is a composition.” or whether it is a noun phrase “this composition” waiting for the rest of the sentence to make a complete thought.

Упражне́ние 4

Read the sentences in the left hand column and then decide whether you need the form э́то (this is) or a form of the modifier э́тот.

“This is” “This”
э́то э́та ______ кни́га о́чень интере́сная.
э́то э́тот ______ дом, где живёт Светла́на Бори́совна Черны́х.
э́то э́ти ______ сочине́ния мы уже́ чита́ли.
э́то э́та — Кака́я кварти́ра ва́ша?
— ______ кварти́ра на́ша.
э́то э́тот Мы зна́ем, что ______ его́ чемода́н.
э́то э́тот Мы зна́ем, что ______ чемода́н небольшо́й.
э́то э́то — Како́е окно́ ва́ше?
— ______ окно́ на́ше.

The modifier э́тот can occur in other case forms as well as the nominative. The table below summarizes the forms.

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative э́тот э́та э́то э́ти
Genitive э́того э́той э́того coming later
Accusative - inanimate э́тот э́ту э́то э́ти
Prepositional э́том э́той э́том coming later

Introduction to the Connecting Word "кото́рый" in the Nominative Case

In the episode Идеа́льная ча́шка, Amanda explains to Zhenya where she is going to graduate school:

Я учу́сь в аспиранту́ре в университе́те Ю́жной Калифо́рнии, кото́рый нахо́дится в Лос-А́нджелесе. I am a graduate student at the University of Southern California, which is located in Los Angeles.

Since she’s uncertain whether Zhenya knows where the university is, Amanda adds the descriptive clause “which is located in Los Angeles” to her sentence. Descriptive clauses like this modify a noun and are introduced by the word кото́рый in Russian.

Look carefully at the ending of this word. Based on what you know of Russian grammar so far, кото́рый probably...

  1. forms like a noun
  2. has endings like the adjective но́вый
  3. has a conjugation like the verb чита́ть

The endings on the connector кото́рый will depend on the gender and number of the noun that the whole clause is describing. In the example above, the ending on кото́рый is masculine and singular since it agrees with the noun университе́те, which is masculine and singular. Consider the next examples and determine which noun the ‘кото́рый’clause describes. When you click on the correct word, an explanation of the agreement will appear.

  1. Ке́йтлин живёт в но́вой кварти́ре, кото́рая нахо́дится недалеко́ от библиоте́ки.
  2. Студе́нты, кото́рые у́чатся на филологи́ческом факульте́те, жи́вут в общежи́тии но́мер 6.
  3. Ра́ньше мы жи́ли в общежи́тии, кото́рое находи́лось далеко́ от це́нтра.
  4. Вы зна́ете студе́нта, кото́рый чита́ет журна́лы в библиоте́ке?
  5. То́ни живёт в го́роде, кото́рый нахо́дится на реке́ Во́лга.

Question Words in Russian:

You have now seen a number of question words in Russian.

The question words кто? (= who?) and что? (= what) are pronouns, and like other pronouns, they can occur in cases other than the nominative. The chart below will show you the forms of each in the four cases that you know and give you examples of usage.

Cases and Their Uses Who? What?
(Subject of sentence)
кто? что?
Кто э́то говори́т? Что есть в ко́мнате?
(Possession with у;
Absence with нет)
кого́? чего́?
У кого́ есть но́вая маши́на?

Кого́ сего́дня нет на заня́тии?
Чего́ нет в ко́мнате?
(Direct objects; with verb
phrase игра́ть в for games)
кого́? что?
Кого́ вы зна́ете? Что вы зна́ете об Ама́нде?

Во что вы игра́ете?
(Location with prepositions в
and на; topic with preposition "о")
о ком? о чём?
О ком вы ча́сто ду́маете? О чём вы говори́ли?

Strategy Tip

How to Determine the Case of "кто?"/"что?" When Formulating Questions

If you are having trouble figuring out what case you need when formulating a question in Russian, start out by expressing the same idea as a statement with a form of он, она or оно́. The question words кто? and что? will need to go in the same case as the pronoun in the statement.

Whom did you see? ____ вы ви́дели?
You saw him Вы ви́дели... [он | его́ | о нём]

In the example above, the accusative pronoun его́ (him) completes the rephrased statement because the verb видели requires a direct object. So now you know that you will need the accusative case of the question word: Кого́ вы ви́дели? If you wanted to ask "What did you see?" that would be Что вы ви́дели?

The question might also require a preposition and a specific case form.

About whom did you talk? _____ вы говори́ли?
You talked about her. Вы говори́ли... [он | его́ | о ней]

Only the form о ней (about her) completes the rephrased statement since the verb говори́ли requires the complement “about something/someone.” So now you know that you will need the prepositional form of the question word with the preposition о: О ком вы говори́ли?. If you wanted to ask "About what are you talking?" that would be О чём вы говори́ли?


In conversational English a question can end with a preposition. In the Russian sentence the preposition in the question is:

  1. at the end of the sentence.
  2. at the start of the sentence together with the question word.

Упражне́ние 5. People Versus Things.

Listen to the questions below and click the word which would best answer the question. Be sure to listen for which question word кто? or что? starts the question.

1. Ма́ша лифт
2. Же́ню ла́мпу
3. На Та́не На фле́йте
4. Са́ши уче́бника
5. студе́нт компью́тер
6. О Пу́тине О поли́тике
7. Ма́ши ю́бки