Rí's Russian Questions

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Rí's Russian Questions

Postby Rí.na.dTeangacha » 2021-04-23, 5:19

I'm playing around with Russian on Duolingo, so I'm going to start a thread here for my random questions.

I just came across the sentence:
на этом столе уже есть тарелка

My question is about "есть" - from what I remember/understood from previous lessons, the zero copula is used for location, e.g. на столе мои яблоки, whereas here there seems to be an explicit 'be' verb. Did I misunderstand, or is there some rule at work here?
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Re: Rí's Russian Questions

Postby linguoboy » 2021-04-23, 12:32

есть translates “there is”. If you just wanted to say “a plate is on the table” you’d leave it out.
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Re: Rí's Russian Questions

Postby Rí.na.dTeangacha » 2021-04-23, 13:30

linguoboy wrote:есть translates “there is”. If you just wanted to say “a plate is on the table” you’d leave it out.


Okay, so "на этом столе уже тарелка" would work for "A plate is already on the table"? I saw a comment in the discussion page for the sentence on Duolingo that seemed to indicate that the "уже" was somehow causing "есть" to be necessary here, but it may not have been a native (or even proficient) speaker who said that, so I don't know if that's actually a thing in Russian.
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Re: Rí's Russian Questions

Postby linguoboy » 2021-04-23, 13:42

Rí.na.dTeangacha wrote:
linguoboy wrote:есть translates “there is”. If you just wanted to say “a plate is on the table” you’d leave it out.

Okay, so "на этом столе уже тарелка" would work for "A plate is already on the table"? I saw a comment in the discussion page for the sentence on Duolingo that seemed to indicate that the "уже" was somehow causing "есть" to be necessary here, but it may not have been a native (or even proficient) speaker who said that, so I don't know if that's actually a thing in Russian.

It definitely sounds awkward to me with уже and without есть (doesn't the English equivalent sound awkward as well?), but I'm not a competent Russian speaker by any means. I do know a couple natives I can ask though.
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Re: Rí's Russian Questions

Postby Rí.na.dTeangacha » 2021-04-23, 13:53

linguoboy wrote:
Rí.na.dTeangacha wrote:
linguoboy wrote:есть translates “there is”. If you just wanted to say “a plate is on the table” you’d leave it out.

Okay, so "на этом столе уже тарелка" would work for "A plate is already on the table"? I saw a comment in the discussion page for the sentence on Duolingo that seemed to indicate that the "уже" was somehow causing "есть" to be necessary here, but it may not have been a native (or even proficient) speaker who said that, so I don't know if that's actually a thing in Russian.

It definitely sounds awkward to me with уже and without есть (doesn't the English equivalent sound awkward as well?), but I'm not a competent Russian speaker by any means. I do know a couple natives I can ask though.


I guess in context it does sound a little weird, I was just wondering if there was some hard grammatical rule at work in Russian that isn't in English, but if it's just a question of naturalness, I understand then. I think it was that "есть" appears to be a conjugation of "Быть", so it could be translated as "(it) is", and I knew that a previous sentence had employed Russian's famous zero copula for a similar phrase, so I wasn't (and still amn't) sure what the difference between using a form of "Быть" or using the zero copula is - in this case it seems that they're both possible, with the difference amounting to the difference in English between "There is X" and "X is". I'm sure I'll learn more about it as I go through the course (or subsequent courses, if it's not covered in more depth in Duolingo).
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Re: Rí's Russian Questions

Postby TheStrayCat » 2021-04-23, 15:22

I am not a Slavic grammar expert but my intuition here is that есть as the copula is mostly omitted in two situations:

(1) When the sentence follows a similarly structured one so the redundant parts can be omitted:
В шкафу есть чашки, а на столе тарелки. - There are mugs in the cupboard and plates on the table.

(2) When the focus is one the object rather than the place, usually in the context of a disease or problem:
На столе есть тарелки. - There are already plates on the table.
But:
На кухне тараканы. - There are cockroaches in the kitchen.

У меня есть кот. - I have a cat.
У меня простуда. - I have cold.

So I agree that "На столе уже тарелки" definitely sounds ungrammatical. "На столе уже мыши", much less so.

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Re: Rí's Russian Questions

Postby Rí.na.dTeangacha » 2021-04-23, 16:14

Thanks for the answers!

TheStrayCat wrote:(1) When the sentence follows a similarly structured one so the redundant parts can be omitted:
В шкафу есть чашки, а на столе тарелки. - There are mugs in the cupboard and plates on the table.


Cool. It seems even English allows us to drop the "be" verb there, so not too hard to wrap my head around.

TheStrayCat wrote:(2) When the focus is one the object rather than the place, usually in the context of a disease or problem:
На столе есть тарелки. - There are already plates on the table.
But:
На кухне тараканы. - There are cockroaches in the kitchen.


Okay, that's interesting. The "there are..." structure in English would emphasis the object more, so it seems that sometimes a zero copula is actually a better translation of "there is/are" than "есть" is.

TheStrayCat wrote:У меня есть кот. - I have a cat.
У меня простуда. - I have cold.


I would not have thought you could drop "есть" from the "У + dat.pronoun + есть" structure too, good to know!

TheStrayCat wrote:So I agree that "На столе уже тарелки" definitely sounds ungrammatical. "На столе уже мыши", much less so.


It's interesting that it sounds so much more acceptable with a different noun. From a learner's perspective, is it a case of "when in doubt, use есть", do you think?
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Re: Rí's Russian Questions

Postby Fruchtenstein » 2021-04-24, 21:02

TheStrayCat wrote:So I agree that "На столе уже тарелки" definitely sounds ungrammatical. "На столе уже мыши", much less so.

I would agree with most of your examples, but not with this one. Mice are just as awkward as plates.
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Re: Rí's Russian Questions

Postby TheStrayCat » 2021-04-25, 17:57

Rí.na.dTeangacha wrote:Okay, that's interesting. The "there are..." structure in English would emphasis the object more, so it seems that sometimes a zero copula is actually a better translation of "there is/are" than "есть" is.

That depends. Sometimes a sentence with zero copula can describe a context which cannot be easily translated into English using "there is/are", for example, "На столе твоя тарелка" - "Your plate is on the table". You could probably say something like "There's a plate of yours..." but that sounds awkward, I think.

Rí.na.dTeangacha wrote:I would not have thought you could drop "есть" from the "У + dat.pronoun + есть" structure too, good to know!

Yes, the grammatical context looks equivalent to me in both cases. (By the way, the noun/pronoun is in accusative, not dative)

Rí.na.dTeangacha wrote:It's interesting that it sounds so much more acceptable with a different noun. From a learner's perspective, is it a case of "when in doubt, use есть", do you think?

Probably yes, but you definitely should not use it if the object is a disease or social problem which you can only have one of - like "у меня коронавирус" or "в стране кризис". In each case the copula would look weird. This also means you can use the copula to say you have lab worms (у меня есть [лабораторные] черви) but not pinworms (у меня глисты).

Maybe there are other clear-cut exceptions, I just cannot readily think of one.

Fruchtenstein wrote:I would agree with most of your examples, but not with this one. Mice are just as awkward as plates.

Hmm, probably yes, it sounds a bit off. Do you think "На столе уже беспорядок" would be a better example, like when you're talking about an ongoing party?

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Re: Rí's Russian Questions

Postby Fruchtenstein » 2021-04-26, 13:56

TheStrayCat wrote:Hmm, probably yes, it sounds a bit off. Do you think "На столе уже беспорядок" would be a better example, like when you're talking about an ongoing party?

Much better, but not as a separate sentence, IMHO, but as a part of a longer: "Я только проснулся, а на столе уже беспорядок".

Afterthought: The sentence can be tweaked to omit the beginning or to move it to the end, though. Like, "На столе уже беспорядок. А ведь я только проснулся".
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