Discussion in 'Русский (Russian)' started by Chekhov_Reader, Aug 29, 2013.

  1. Chekhov_Reader New Member

    English - UK

    The Chekhov story Death of a Government Clerk ends: Придя машинально домой, не снимая вицмундира, он лег на диван и... помер.

    What is the significance of the prefix по- in this context? Why not use умер?

    Thanks for any suggestions or help!
  2. Ёж! Senior Member

    That of a momentary, improvisioned action. It also makes his death sound more 'simple', like a common action; the verb «помереть» is low register. «Умер» just does not sound good at all: it does not relate to the sentence and to the story well.
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2013
  3. Chekhov_Reader New Member

    English - UK
    Great, that's really helpful. Thank you!
  4. Lotto74 Member

    Ekaterinburg city - Russia
    Russian - Russia
    In fact, "помер" is a colloquial word for "умер". Usually those two words are interchangeable, but "помер" is more suitable for peasants, low-skilled industrial workers, etc. Which word the author would use depends on his style and intentions.
  5. Ёж! Senior Member

    As I'm thinking further on this, «помер» is about the action that merely happens to somebody, while «умер» is an action that the person does, i.e. an event in which the person and/or other people are perceived to somehow participate, morally if not actively (an illness, a fight, an accident, or even a momentary death). So, for example: «помер как собака» (never «умер как собака»: dogs don't get ready to their death, they don't have human feelings); «а чего беспокоиться-то, все помрут» (it will happen to everybody; the talker is willing to avoid mentioning the 'institutional' side of death, like preparations, consequences, etc). So it goes for the clerk.
  6. Saluton Banned

    Moscow, Russia
    I don't think помереть is in use today, probably only by the older generation. It would sound too informal, even ironic, and in fact creates a humorous effect in Chekhov's story. The word умереть could also be used in the context, despite what Ёж! says (although I agree помереть is a better choice). Sorry, Ёж!, what you say about the Russian language is often very strange.
  7. Ёж! Senior Member

    Well, since «помереть» is a better choice, «умереть» cannot be used. It'd be just strange if Chekhov used it! And, well, you don't need to be sorry; you are just as free to state your opinions as everyone else. :)
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2013
  8. hellboy81 New Member

    Please note, that word помереть has deflated style (не соответствующий нормам литературного языка, с элементами просторечия) - this is language of people (substandard language).

    Умереть is more correct and neutral in common language use.

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