Dialogue

Vocabulary

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Lesson Notes

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Lesson Transcript

Topic Introduction
Michael: What word order do you use in Russian sentences?
Saodat: And how does word order impact meaning?
Language in context
Michael: At RussianPod101.com, we hear these questions often.
In the following situation, BEN LEE, a foreign-exchange student, thinks he sees a famous Russian singer as he's walking with a friend in central Moscow. He gestures to his friend, VALERIA IVANOVA, who then notices the celebrity and responds,
"I know him! That's Philipp Kirkorov!"
VALERIA IVANOVA: Я знаю его! Это Филипп Киркоров! (Ya znayu yego. Eto Philipp Kirkorov!)
DIALOGUE - RUSSIAN ONLY
VALERIA IVANOVA: Я знаю его! Это Филипп Киркоров! (Ya znayu yego. Eto Philipp Kirkorov!)
BEN LEE: Я тоже его знаю! (Ya tojhe yego znayu!)
Once more with the English translation.
DIALOGUE - WITH TRANSLATION
VALERIA IVANOVA: Я знаю его! Это Филипп Киркоров! (Ya znayu yego. Eto Philipp Kirkorov!)
Michael: "I know him! That's Philipp Kirkorov!"
BEN LEE: Я тоже его знаю! (Ya tozhe ego znayu!)
Michael: "I know him too!"

Lesson focus

Michael: In the conversation, both Valeria and Ben say different versions of the sentence, "I know him!". In English, Ben only adds another word — the word for "too."
Saodat: Тоже (Tojhe).
Michael: But did you notice how the words were also in a different order? Whereas Valeria says, "I know him!"
Saodat: Я знаю его! (Ya znayu yego!)
Michael: Ben says, "I too him know!"
Saodat: Я тоже его знаю! (Ya tojhe yego znayu!)
Michael: In Russian, word order is relatively flexible. While Russian is classified as an S-V-O language, meaning it tends to follow the subject-verb-object word order, this order does not need to be observed as strictly as in English. This is because in English, meaning depends almost entirely on word order. In Russian, however, the forms that are used for each of the words carry a lot of grammatical information. If you want to convey something, you use prefixes and endings to make changes to the word, rather than change the whole sentence structure. Almost all Russian words can be changed in this way.
Michael: Let's take a closer look at both responses.
Do you remember how Valeria says, "I know him!"
VALERIA IVANOVA: Я знаю его! (Ya znayu yego.)
Michael: Valeria decided to put the subject, "I,"
VALERIA IVANOVA: Я (Ya),
Michael: first, the verb, "know,"
VALERIA IVANOVA: Знаю (Znayu),
Michael: second, and finally the object pronoun "him,"
VALERIA IVANOVA: Его (yego),
Michael: at the end of the sentence. This word order follows the most common subject-verb-object pattern and is one of many possible variations of this sentence.
Michael: Now let's take a look at our second version.
Do you remember how Ben says,
"I know him too!"
Saodat: Я тоже его знаю! (Ya tojhe yego znayu!)
Michael: Ben's sentence differs from Valeria's by only one extra word, "too,"
Saodat: Тоже (tojhe),
Michael: but he also chose a different sentence structure to express the exact same thought. He started off like Valeria, with the subject,
Saodat: Я. (Ya.)
Michael: Afterwards, he inserted the adverb, "too." The next word in Ben's sentence is the object pronoun,
Saodat: Его (yego),
Michael: and the last one is the verb, "know."
Saodat: Знаю. (Znayu.)
Michael: As you can see, this sentence follows the subject-object-verb pattern. There's one more way to say this sentence.
Saodat: Я знаю его. (Ya znayu yego.)
Michael: This version places the object pronoun, "him,"
Saodat: Eго (Yego),
Michael: first, the subject,
Saodat: я (ya),
Michael: second, and the verb "know,"
Saodat: знаю (znayu),
Michael: last. This version follows the object-subject-verb order. Russian sentences are indeed pretty flexible, aren't they?
SUMMARY
Michael: So far we have learned that, although the subject-verb-object structure is dominant in Russian, the words can be moved around rather freely. This is because Russian speakers change the words themselves rather than the entire sentence.
Michael: Does the free word order mean that two sentences with different word orders convey the same nuance? Not exactly. Let's consider two examples.
Saodat: Кошка пьёт молоко. (enunciated). (Koshka p'yot moloko.)
Кошка пьёт молоко. (Koshka p'yot moloko.)
Michael: meaning "The cat is drinking milk." Koshka here would be a cat. This sentence is a simple informative statement.
Saodat: Молоко пьёт кошка. (enunciated). (Moloko p'yot koshka.)
Молоко пьёт кошка. (Moloko p'yot koshka.)
Michael: This sentence also means "Koshka is drinking milk." Here, the subject, "Koshka" is put at the end, which indicates that this is the most important piece of information in the sentence. Such an uncommon word order would usually be used for a reason. This sentence, for example, might be a reply to someone's question, "Where did the milk go?" Thus, we change the word order to emphasize a particular piece of information, or use it to change speaking style.
Practice Section
Michael: Let's review. Respond to the prompts by speaking aloud. Then repeat after the Russian speaker, focusing on pronunciation.
Do you remember how VALERIA IVANOVA says, "I know him!"
Saodat as VALERIA IVANOVA: Я знаю его! (Ya znayu yego!)
Michael: Listen again and repeat.
Я знаю его! (Ya znayu yego!)
Michael: And how BEN LEE says, "I know him too!"
Я тоже его знаю! (Ya tojhe yego znayu!)
Я тоже его знаю! (Ya tojhe yego znayu!)
Cultural Insight
Michael: Another thing that makes learning Russian just a bit easier is that there are no auxiliary verbs.
In English, if you want to make a negative out of a statement, you need to carefully choose the right form of the auxiliary verb, "do," and change the whole structure to form a negative.
In Russian, no matter what tense you use, you always use the same word — не (ne), which is translated as "not." It can be placed in front of any part of speech. For example, the negation of "Valeria likes ice cream."
Saodat: Валерия любит мороженое. (Valeria lyubit morojhenoyeh.)
Michael: is
Saodat: Валерия не любит мороженое. (Valeria ne lyubit morojhenoyeh.)
Michael: Word order in questions is also very easy. Unlike English, where you need to change word order to ask a question, Russian doesn't make you move the words around. All you need to do is change your intonation — and a statement becomes a question.
For example, the statement "You're going to University tomorrow."
Saodat: Ты идёшь завтра в университет (Ti idyosh' zavtra v Universitet .)
Michael: becomes a question when you say it like,
Saodat: Ты идёшь завтра в университет? (raised intonation to indicate a question) (Ty idyosh' zavtra v Universitet ?)

Outro

Michael: Great job. Now you know how to make sentences in Russian. That's all there is to it! Be sure to download the lesson notes for this lesson at RussianPod101.com — and move onto the next lesson!

4 Comments

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RussianPod101.comVerified
Monday at 6:30 pm
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What Russian learning question do you have?

RussianPod101.comVerified
Friday at 9:01 am
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Hello Thomas,


Thank you for your comment 😄


Elena

Team RussianPod101.com

Thomas
Thursday at 8:20 am
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😄 I think this is great. Extremely helpful, especially having a choice of playbak speeds plus the ability to record myself for comparison. Thank you!

robert groulx
Monday at 12:57 am
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thank you for the lesson transxcript


i wouldlike to have basic conversation like greetings and basic speaking skills


robert