бы, то, and others.

Discussion in 'Русский (Russian)' started by clomu, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. clomu Member

    i'm learning russian and came across this sentence from a book:
    Не позаботься он тогда о нем, то, может быть, на ребенке некому было бы переменить рубашонку.

    After rearranging the order I get:
    He does not take care of him at that time, then, maybe, was no one to change the shirt of the child.

    Which I guess means:
    If he had not taken care of him at that time, then, maybe, there would have been no one to change the shirt of the child.

    I have several questions about this sentence, the first 4 are related i think:
    1) doesnt there need to be a бы in the first part of the sentence as well?
    2) in English, we would start that sentence with, "If" at the beginning. I thought if was если. But there is no если here. Where does "If" show up in the Russian sentence?
    3) it seems like the first part of the sentence is present tense and the second part is past tense. shouldn't there be a было or позаботался or something to make the first part past-tense?
    4) то is not in my dictionary, but i somehow remember it meaning "then". does то mean "then", as in an "if....then" statement?

    5) why is no one (некому) dative here?
    6) рубашонка is not in the dictionary. i feel like that means "little shirt" but am not sure.

    thanks a lot.
  2. Sobakus Senior Member

    That's correct.
    Actually, in English you can make do without the if as well: Had he not taken care...

    There are two ways of forming the subjunctive in Russian: the verb in the Past+бы, which is used in the second part of your sentence, and the verb in the Imperative, which is used in the first part of it. In the latter case you don't need бы, however, it can only be used in the subordinate clause. In addition, you're unlikely to meet it in formal writing.

    То indeed means "then" (as a conjunction, not as an adverb) and is part of many composite conjunctions.
    Yes, a shabby little shirt to be precise, and the Dative is required by the construction used:
    Есть тот, кто может переменить => есть, кому переменить. This can cause some ambiguity, because an indirect object in Dative may follow. It's avoided here by using a preposition.
  3. clomu Member

    Thank a lot for the information. That is very helpful to me.

    I have a couple of questions about what you said.

    1) you said you can construct the subjunctive using a verb in the imperative. first, i missed that that was in the imperative. i misread it as the infinitive позаботиться. if it is the imperative form, wouldnt it mean something like: "Don't take care of him" but then how do you include он. i guess my question is, how would you translate the subordinate clause literally into English?

    2) are you saying that кому is used instead of кто because it is an impersonal construction? the same reason you would say мне холодно and not я холодно? i get when the dative case is used to mean to whom or for whom. the other ways it is used are kind of weird to me still.
  4. Maroseika Moderator

    No. Imperative in Russian can fulfill various functions:

    Да будь я и негром преклонных годов,
    и то, без унынья и лени,
    я русский бы выучил только за то,
    что им разговаривал Ленин.
    (Even be I an advanced age negro...)

    Дайте только бумагу, чтобы я мог свободно передвигаться по острову, чтобы мне доверяли, и я помчусь за подмогой со всех ног, не будь я Джон Сильвер.
    (...[and if I don't do it] my name is not John Silver)
  5. Sobakus Senior Member

    As I already said, the form is imperative, however the meaning is subjunctive. The same subjunctive that follows "if" in English.
    Yes, the Dative expresses the object in impersonal constructions. By the way, я холодно could be said by something of neuter gender, such as a tree (дерево), since it's an adjective here and not an adverb as when using the Dative. It means "I'm cold to the touch", not "I'm feeling cold", i.e. as an adjective it expresses the quality of the object.
  6. turkjey5 Senior Member

    English - USA
    I believe those are conditional structures, not subjunctive.
  7. clomu Member

    thanks for explaining those things to me. it makes more sense now.
  8. Sobakus Senior Member

    I check if it's subjunctive or not by using the verb to be. In subjunctive it changes to were in all persons and numbers: If I were a teacher... Another sign is the fact you can omit the if by using inversion.

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