- Я студeнт.
This means "I am a student" in Russian.
- "Я" means "I".
- "студе́нт", as you may remember from Lesson 1, means "student".
- Russian does not distinguish "a student" from "the student"; that is, it does not use articles ("a", "an", "the"). So the above sentence could also be translated as "I am the student."
- Russian does not use the verb to be in the present tense. Instead, a dash separates the subject of the sentence from the predicate (but the dash is not put between a pronoun and a verb).
|You||not||student.||("You are not a student.")|
|This||boy –||student.||("This boy is a student.")|
Russian has eight personal pronouns altogether:
|я (I)||мы (we)|
|ты (you, singular)||вы (you, plural)|
|он (he), она́ (she), оно́ (it)||они́ (they)|
Verb conjugation, past tense
Past tense verbs are somewhat simpler. They conjugate with the gender (or number) of the pronoun. Thus, "I understood" changes depending on whether the speaker is a man or a woman. But the verb is the same for "he understood" or for "I understood," where the speaker is a man. "We understood" and "they understood" are the same.
To form a past tense verb, drop the ть and add л (pronounced "l") for masculine pronouns ("I," "you," "he"), ла (pronounced "la") for feminine pronouns ("I," "you," "she"), and ли (pronounced "lee") for plural pronouns (мы, они, "we," "they"). (Neuter subjects can't talk.)
|Masculine pronoun||"л"||понимал ("understood," pronounced "poneemal")|
|Feminine pronoun||"ла"||понимала ("understood," pronounced "poneemala")|
|Neutral pronoun||"ло"||понимало ("understood," pronounced "poneemalå")|
|Plural pronoun||"ли"||понимали ("understood," pronounced "poneemalee")|
Verb conjugation, future tense
Russian future tense is incredibly more complex in meaning than English future tense. Russian future tense also contains information pertaining to the aspect of the verb.
The simplest, and imperfective aspect of a verb can be attained by the use of the verb "быть." By placing the correct form of "быть," in front of a Russian infinitive, you can create a verb in imperfective future tense.
быть roughly means "will"
|я буду||мы будем|
|ты будешь||вы будете|
|он/она́/оно́ будет||они́ будут|
Can you decipher these?
- Я буду играть.
- Ты будешь говорить.
As an FYI, the imperfective aspect in Russian refers to a habitual action that we would not go out of our way to delineate. While "Я играю в игру" (I am playing the game) shows current action in a way not unlike English, "Я играла в игру" (I played-feminine the game) relates a habitual action to the playing of the game in the past. This is not unlike the imperfect past tense in French. English leaves this ambiguous. In Russian, the pronoun is often omitted in both the present and future tenses as it is clear from context. This is not the case in dealing with the past tense, as it has been already dealt with.
]Prepositional case possessive pronouns
If the object possessed is masculine or neuter, use the following possessive pronouns: моём ("my"), твоём ("your" informal), нашем ("our'), вашем ("your" formal), чьём ("whose?"), этом ("this").
If the object possessed is feminine, use the following possessive pronouns: моей ("my"), твоей ("your" informal), нашей ("our'), вашей ("your" formal), чьей ("whose?"), этой ("this").
If the objects possessed are plural, use the following possessive pronouns: моих ("my"), твоих ("your" informal), наших ("our'), ваших ("your" formal), чьих ("whose?"), этих ("this").
]Prepositional case question words
Some question words change in the prepositional case. Что ("what," pronounced "shto") changes to о чём (pronounced "o chyom"). Кто ("who," pronounced "kto") changes to о ком.
Conjunctions: "and," "yes but," and "but"
Let's do something simpler.
И (pronounced "ee") means "and."
А (pronounced "ah") means "yes, but."
Но (pronounced "no") means "but."
In English we add "self" to a pronoun to indicate reflexive action. E.g., "I wash myself" is different from "I wash my dog." In Russian, reflexive action is in the verb, not in the pronoun. E.g., a Russian would say something like "I washself."
This reflexive action is indicated by the suffix ся added to the verb, if the verb ends in a consonant. But if the verb ends in a vowel you instead add сь. Note that the former adds a syllable but the latter doesn't!
The verb учиться means "study" (pronounced "oo-cheet-syah"). The verb conjugates:
|я||"I"||учусь (pronounced "oochoos")|
|ты||"you" (informal)||учишься (pronounced "oocheesh-syah")|
|он/она||"he," "she"||учится (pronounced "oocheet-syah")|
|мы||"we"||учимся (pronounced "oocheem-syah")|
|вы||"you" (formal)||учитесь (pronounced "oocheetyes")|
|они||"they"||учатся (pronounced "oochat-syah")|
Three words for "study"
Russia has three words that translate to "study." (You can imagine that Russians must study three times harder than English-speakers to learn language skills!)
Учиться (pronounced "oo-cheet-syah") usually refers to where you go to school, e.g., "I go to the University of Colorado." As a memory aid, picture that Russians students go to school to learn to cheat.
Изучать (pronounced "ee-zoo-chat") usually refers to the subject you study, e.g., "I study physics." As a memory aid, picture that the zoo is where you study subjects such as monkeys, elephants, etc.
заниматься (pronounced "zan-ee-mat-syah") usually refers to doing homework, e.g., "I'm studying at the library." As a memory aid, picture that your "zany mother makes you do your homework."
Two words for "also"
Russian has two words that translate to "also."
Тоже (pronounced "to-zheh") means that two people are doing the same thing (e.g., "I'm a student and my sister is also a student").
Также (pronounced "takzhe") means that one person does two different things (e.g., "I'm a student and I also work part-time").
As a memory aid, picture that Emperor Tojo of Japan is also the emperor of Russia. He has a reclusive brother Takzhe who only does things by himself.
Going on foot, by car, and going regularly
Russian has several verbs which mean "to go."
Идти (pronounced "eed-tee") means to go on foot. As a memory aid, think the conjugation он идёт ("he walks," pronounced "on eed-dyot") which sounds like "he's an idiot to walk (with the traffic so dangerous)."
Ехать (pronounced "yeh-hot") means to go by vehicle (car, bus, etc.). Note that conjugations are еду, едешь, едет, едем, едете, едут—none have the х!
Ходить (pronounced "hod-deet") means to go back and forth habitually on foot, e.g., "I go (walk) to school every day." As a memory aid, think of hod carriers going back and forth up and down ladders (a hod carrier carries mortar to a bricklayer).
Ездить (pronounced "yez-deet) means to go back and forth habitually by vehicle, e.g., "I go (drive or ride) to work every day."
Necessity and freedom
"I have to" translates to я должен (pronounced "dol-zhen," sort of like "dolphin")—if the subject is masculine! If the subject is feminine, it's должна. If the subject is neuter, it's должно. If the subject is plural, it's должны.
Remember that "have to" is an adverb, not a verb! Don't try to conjugate it as a verb.
The opposite of "have to" is freedom. E.g., "I'm free this evening" means there's nothing you have to do. The adjectives are свободен (masculine, pronounced "sva-bod-den"), свободна (feminine, pronounced "sva-bod-na"), свободно (neuter, pronounced "sva-bod-no"), and свободны (plural, pronounced "sva-bod-nih").
Note that вы ("you" formal, and "y'all") uses the plural forms, regardless of the gender of the person you're addressing.
Note that кто ("who") uses the masculine form, regardless of the gender of the person you're asking about