Russian/Grammar/Articles

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Articles are small grammatical words that convey the definiteness of a noun.

Omission of articles[edit]

In English, the two articles are 'the' and 'a/an'. English uses the definite article "the" to indicate a specific place, thing, etc: 'I ate the orange' suggests there was only one orange, or it was in some way special. English uses the indefinite articles "a" and "an" to indicate that the following noun is not specific, e.g., "I ate an orange" suggests there were several oranges. Note that English only uses indefinite articles for singular nouns: 'I ate oranges' (plural) lacks an article. The word 'some' is sometimes used as a sort of faux indefinite plural article: 'I ate some oranges' conveys the same indefiniteness as 'an'.

The details and nuances of articles can fortunately be glossed over, as Russians simply omit articles altogether. For example, while we say 'I want an apple', using the article 'an', in Russian this is simply 'I want apple', or Я хочу яблоко (ya kha-CHOO YA-bla-ka). This can make the language seem quite blunt, though this is due to Russian's deliberate efficiency in grammar.

To be[edit]

To compound this efficiency, the most common verb in English, 'to be', is also omitted in Russian, at least in the present tense - that is, the words 'is', 'am', 'are', etc, don't have Russian counterparts. The infinitive быть 'to be' exists with past- and future-tense conjugations, but its present-tense conjugation is not used in contemporary Russian. For example, 'She is nice' becomes 'She nice', or Она симпатичная (a-NA seem-pa-TEECH-na-ya).

Thus, the English four-word sentence 'I am a student' is just two words in Russian: Я студент (ya stoo-DYENT). In written Russian, when a sentence equates two nouns in a row, a long dash, or —, is written between the nouns to indicate the verb 'to be'. For example, 'Tanya is a student' translates to Таня — студент (TAN-ya — stoo-DYENT).

quiz[edit]

1. Она актриса

She is an actor.
She needs an aspirin.
She is Alica.

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