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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Time to Delve Deeper Into Everyday Words

Too many people only use the dictionary to look up words they don't know. This is a mistake. For the language student, the dictionary can often be most useful for learning expressions that are made up of familiar words, but whose structure and use might not be readily apparent.


Take, for example, the word vremya (time). For most of us, the days when we needed to look up this word are long past; nonetheless, the dictionary entry for this word is fascinating and worthy of close scrutiny.


Then there's the expression detskoye vremya (literally, "child's time"), which means "it is still early." As in, posidite yeshchyo,vremya detskoye (stay a while longer, it's still early).


Vremya is at the heart of dozens of expressions that you can use every day. V posledneye vremya means "lately", as in ya ochen' mnogo rabotayu v posledneye vremya (I've really been working a lot lately). V svoyo vremya means "in my day" or "at one time," as in v svoyo vremya ya neplokho igral na skripke (I used to be a pretty good violinist).


Vovremya (one word with the accent on the first syllable) means "on time," while vo vremya (two words with the accent on the first syllable of vremya) means "at the time of." As in, Vo vremya voiny bylo ochen' vazhno, chtoby vse prikazy byli vypolneny vovremya (During the war it was very important that all orders were obeyed on time).


And how do you say "time is on our side" in Russian? Vremya rabotayet na nas (literally, time is working for us). The opposite, as might be expected, is vremya rabotayet protiv nas. Another important elocution is vremya ot vremeni ("from time to time" or "once in a while").


One can also ubit' vremya (kill time), tyanut' vremya (drag time out) or vyigrat' vremya (win time). As in, ya nachal'niku skazal, chto kompyuter slomalsya, i nekotoroye vremya vyigral (I told my boss that my computer was broken and won myself a little time). Later, when the boss finally asks for the work, you can just smile knowingly and say, "Vsyo v svoyo vremya" (All in good time).


Finally, we should mention odno vremya (at one time) and na vremya (temporarily). The latter expression is useful for borrowing things, as in daite mne pyat' tysyach na vremya (Lend me five thousand rubles).


The point is that the dictionary can be your best friend as you try to improve your Russian. But only if you look beyond the initial definition. A good dictionary will reveal to you entire hidden worlds revolving around old friends like rabota (work), dom (home) and mir (world).


So give it a try, if not vsyo vremya (all the time), then at least vremya ot vremeni.