ни за грош

Discussion in 'Русский (Russian)' started by seitt, Apr 25, 2013.

  1. seitt Senior Member

    Turkey
    English/Welsh
    Hi

    Re the “Paper Soldier” song, I quote the last verse:
    В огонь? Ну что ж, иди! Идешь?
    И он шагнул однажды,
    и там сгорел он ни за грош:
    ведь был солдат бумажный.

    Please, what exactly is the force of ни за грош here? Could you perhaps also give one or more Russian equivalent as well as any English equivalents you can think of?

    What exactly is the rôle of ни in the phrase?

    Best wishes, and many thanks,

    Simon
     
  2. Maroseika Moderator

    Moscow
    Russian
    Ни за грош - for nothing.
    Ни means that even not for a penny.

    Cf.:

    Пропасть ни за грош (...not even for 1 grosh).

    - Я купил эту рыбу не за грош (not for 1 grosh).
    - А за сколько?
    - За 3 гроша.

    Грош - old Russian coin < Polish grosz < German Grosch << Latin (denarius) grossus.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2013
  3. seitt Senior Member

    Turkey
    English/Welsh
    Many thanks, interesting.

    So, this ни seems to be negative sometimes but not always. How can one know when it's negative and when it isn't?

    PS How are these as synonyms for Ни за грош?
    зря, напра́сно, да́ром
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2013
  4. Maroseika Moderator

    Moscow
    Russian
    Generally speaking, ни has 3 meanings, always evident from the context (two first are rather close to each other):

    1. Ни + Gen. means complete absense of the noun or pronoun:
    В доме - ни души (not a sole person).
    Никого нет (we wrire it as a solid word, but the sense is the same).
    Больше ни слова!

    2. Ни can intensify negation:
    Он ни одного дня в жизни не проработал.
    Пропал ни за грош.

    3. Ни + pronominal words in affirmative sentenses means that the action expressed by the verb remains in force in any case:
    Куда ни посмотри, везде одни дураки.
    Что ни делай, ничего не поможет.
    Кто ни увидит, все удивляются.
     
  5. tosamja Senior Member

    Serbian - Bosnia
    Кажется хорошие синонимы в данном контексте.
     
  6. Enquiring Mind

    Enquiring Mind Senior Member

    UK/Česká republika
    English - the Queen's
    Using the examples given in Maroseika's excellent explanation, the (out-of-context) English equivalents are:
    1. Ни + Gen. means complete absence of the noun or pronoun:
    В доме - ни души
    There's not (even) a soul in the building.
    There isn't (even) a soul in the building.
    There's no-one (at all) in the building.
    Никого нет
    There's no-one (here).
    There's no-one (there).
    There's no-one (to be seen).
    Больше ни слова! (literally: not a (single) word more!)
    Let's hear no more about it!
    I'm not telling you anything/a single word more!
    There's nothing more (written or spoken) at all! etc. (depending on context)

    2. Ни can intensify negation:
    Он ни одного дня в жизни не проработал.
    He's never done a (single) day's work in his life.
    He's never worked a (single) day in his life.
    Пропал ни за грош.
    He fell/gave up his life for nothing (at all).
    He fell/gave up his life for not even a penny/kopek/cent (etc. choose your currency!)

    3. Ни + pronominal words in affirmative sentences means that the action expressed by the verb remains in force in any case: (the sense in English is often "no matter who/where/what", or who/what/wherever etc.)
    Куда ни посмотри, везде одни дураки.
    No matter where you look, everywhere there are nothing but fools/idiots (literal, but ok. More idiomatic translations would be possible depending on the specific context)
    Wherever you look, there are (nothing but) fools.
    Just take a look - no need to stare, there's fools and idiots everywhere. :cool:

    Что ни делай, ничего не поможет.
    No matter what you do, nothing will help/work/do any good etc.
    Whatever you do, it's no good.
    It doesn't matter what you do, it won't help.

    Кто ни увидит, все удивляются.
    (Absolutely) everyone who sees it is surprised/amazed.
    Whoever sees it is amazed.
    (No matter who sees it, they're surprised/amazed.)
    (There's no one who sees it and fails to be surprised/amazed)

    (The tenses could be different in English, always depending on the context. For the eagle-eyed grammarians on the forum, some of the Russian verbs above are future perfectives, but this kind of conditional "no matter/whoever" can't take a future tense in English)
     
  7. seitt Senior Member

    Turkey
    English/Welsh
    Thank you so much, truly most helpful. Some thoughts:
    Since делай is an imperative, a possible translation which brings this fact out would be, "Do what you may, it won't help." Of course, the translations offered above are also perfectly valid.
    Re ни за грош, does it have the same meaning as ни за что? Could ни за грош even have developed as a colloquial alternative to ни за что?
     
  8. Maroseika Moderator

    Moscow
    Russian
    Ни за что means quite the same as ни за грош only in the following context:
    Пропасть ни за что, ни за грош.

    But already in such case ни за грош is hardly applicable:
    Он обидел ее ни за что (ни за что ни про что).

    However ни за что can also mean 'by no mean', like Ни за что не ходи туда or Ни за что не отдам тебе медвежонка.
    And Ни за грош, of course, cannot be used here.

    Hard to say, as there is a bunch of equivalent expressions of the same construction such as: ни за копеечку, ни за едину денежку, ни за понюшку табака, ни за овсяный блин, ни за холщовый мех, etc.
     
  9. Sobakus Senior Member

    Not in the general case, no. In the subordinate clause, the subjunctive/conditional can be expressed by the imperative in colloquial speech. In this case you can translate it with the imperative in English, but it's an exception.
    Ни за что has quite a bit more senses, but in one of them they are indeed synonymous. The word грош was supposedly borrowed in the 14th century, but this что itself stands for any low value currency (or indeed anything of low value), and you can't really say that something developed from everything :)
     
  10. seitt Senior Member

    Turkey
    English/Welsh
    Many thanks for that too!
     

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