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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

THE WORD'S WORTH: Spicing Speech With Particles - Vot Tak!




There is a small cluster of Russian words that have much the same effect on your language ability as the careful addition of herbs and spices does to your supper.


These are particles like zhe and i which, although appearing as blips in a sentence, effectively convey a variety of handy nuances.


The omnipresent zhe often expresses the sense of "for (my, his etc.) part": Ya zhe molchu, i ty tozhe molchi, (I'm not saying anything, so don't you either).


It is also used to emphatically convey "after all": pochemy ty yego ne lyubish - on zhe tvoi otets (Why don't you love him? He is your father, after all).


To stress immediacy and sound more imperious or resolute, try throwing in a zhe after indicating a time: Seichas zhe izvinis'! (Apologize right now!), or my segodnya zhe poedem (we shall go this very day).


And while the next examples stand up perfectly well without it, zhe helps to add that extra strain of emotion that makes Russian expression of anguish or outrage so ... Russian. Chto zhe mnye teper' delat'? (What [on earth] am I to do now?); kak zhe vam nye stydno (you [really] should be ashamed of yourself).


In fast speech, another particle uzh might be confused with zhe, but this is a separate creature with its own various applications. It is best remembered in the common expression ne tak uzh plokho, (not so bad after all).


While most people quickly learn the "and" sense of the word i, it has a number of other usages, such as "at all": Ya nye znayu, chto tebye i posovetovat' (I don't know what to advise you at all).


The feeling of "just, precisely" is often captured by a simple i, as in v tom-to i delo, (that's just the point), while the common phrase ya tak i znal gives you "Just as I thought."


Other common particles are ved', meaning "after all" or "but": Ved' ty sam etogo khotel, (it was you that wanted this, after all); and vot, commonly meaning "here is, that's": Vot moi dom (that's my house). The set phrase Vot tak! is useful for expressing approval or enthusiasm, and can be translated as "That's the way!"


To finish, we should mention da. Calling to mind Bulgarians who shake their heads to mean yes and nod for no, da can be misleading since it is often used to confirm what went before rather than to strictly mean no. Ty menya nye lyubish? Da, nye lyublyu. (Don't you love me? No, I don't).


And not forgetting da net, which generally has foreigners scratching their heads until they learn that it means something like "not really": Ty plokho sebya chuvstvuyesh? Da net, ya prosto ustal (Are you feeling sick? No, not really, I'm just tired).