An obscure use of the infinitive

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Aphelios

Member
Portuguese - Brazil
Hello! I came across some phrases in which the infinitive seems to play a different role. For instance:

a) День или ночь - никому не понять.
b) Не остаться в этой траве.
c) Я воровать твой аккаунт!

I don't think the context is needed here, but (A) and (B) were taken from songs. I suppose it has something to do with "not being possible", for instance "b) It's not possible to remain in this grass(?)". Are my assumptions correct? Is it used in modern everyday conversations? As for the (C), I read it in a online game once, exactly like that: "воровать" instead of "ворую".

And, by the way, why the first phrase uses "Никому" instead of "Никого"? Понять (To understand) requires accusative, right?

By the way 2: Why the preposition 'В' was used in sentence (B)? 'На' sounds much better to me.
 
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  • Syline

    Senior Member
    Russian
    The context is needed in case b) at least. There are several possible meanings.

    а) День или ночь - никому не понять.
    Means "It's impossible to understand if it's day or night". More literally: "Day or night - nobody can understand which one".

    "Понять" requires the Accusative form of the noun in the function of Object. But here "никому" is Subject, that's why it's in the Dative form.

    Compare:
    Мне не понять тебя. = I will never understand you.
    Тебе не понять меня. = You will never understand me.

    b) Не остаться в этой траве.
    I've found the context. It's Цой as I suspected. So we have "Пожелай мне не остаться в этой траве" meaning "Wish me not to remain in this grass".

    About prepositions, literally:
    На траве - upon the grass, on grass surface
    В траве - in the grass (especially if grass is high)

    c) Я воровать твой аккаунт!
    Just mangled, illiterate Russian. Such fake illiteracy is used jokingly to imitate the speech of a foreigner.
     
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    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    The whole context is really: Пожелай мне удачи. не остаться в этой траве. b. Wish me good luck. Not to remain in this grass.
     

    Syline

    Senior Member
    Russian
    The whole context is really: Пожелай мне удачи. не остаться в этой траве. b. Wish me good luck. Not to remain in this grass.
    There are words "пожелай мне не остаться в этой траве" as well as "пожелай мне удачи".

    Refrain:
    Группа крови - на рукаве,
    Мой порядковый номер - на рукаве,
    Пожелай мне удачи в бою, пожелай мне:
    Не остаться в этой траве,
    Не остаться в этой траве.
    Пожелай мне удачи, пожелай мне удачи!
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    I do not want to argue with you Syline, but I do not think this is how he usually sang it. These words do not fit the music, if you sing it. In fact I am not one hundred percent sure. I think he usually sang it the way I said, but Coj had a tendency to change his lyrics at concerts, so I do not really know. The difference is not that big.
     
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    Syline

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Don't argue, just listen to the song as I did ;) I myself can't imagine how to sing the way you're suggesting.
    The version I heard is the studio one, from the album.
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Very easily: it even sounds better. Maybe I just learned it wrong one time, or maybe he sang it like that. It sounds better like that, but linguistically it can make more sense the way the lyrics go. With the original version there is too big a gap after пожелай мне. Anyhow, these the official lyrics, the ones you posted. As far as the infinitive goes this does not make any difference.
     

    Syline

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Лилиана, скорее всего, вы просто не помните. Ну так за чем же дело стало? Если послушаете песню, все ваши вопросы отпадут сами собой. И звучать лучше ваш вариант не может, потому что слово "удачи" просто-напросто не вписывается в ту мелодию, которая всегда была в этой песне. Никакой большой паузы (too big a gap) там нет.
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Syline, I do not want to argue. There is no sense to it. I am almost one hundred percent sure it was sang sometimes this way, but it does not matter. The lyrics go like this, so let it be.
     

    Syline

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Syline, I do not want to argue. There is no sense to it. I am almost one hundred percent sure it was sang sometimes this way, but it does not matter. The lyrics go like this, so let it be.
    Вы уже второй раз говорите, что не хотите спорить, и тут же продолжаете спорить дальше... ;)

    Теперь и я уже не хочу спорить с вами на эту тему, так что закончили.
     

    Aphelios

    Member
    Portuguese - Brazil
    Thanks for the enlightment!

    So the use of such infinitive is always followed by the subject in dative, and the phrase has always a negative meaning, in the sense that it's impossible for the subject to complete the action?

    As for the Цой song, I really thought it was like "[Пожелай мне удачи в бою, пожелай мне!]" (End of the verse); "Не остаться в этой траве, не остаться в этой траве!" (End of the verse), so that's why I thought the context wasn't important. Luckly enough it's a famous song and you could correct me. And the explanation of the high grass makes perfect sense! In portuguese we have a different name for "high grass". You can't be 'inside' Grama (Трава) in our language, unless you're an ant or some small insect :)
     

    Explorer41

    Senior Member
    So the use of such infinitive is always followed by the subject in dative, and the phrase has always a negative meaning, in the sense that it's impossible for the subject to complete the action?
    Yes, but as this construction is impersonal, it mentions a fate in its meaning, and so its usage is restricted. For example: "мне не вернуться в дом родной" (something prevents me from returning home; look also at this), "ему уже не уйти" ("he will not escape!"), "никак ей не поиграть на этом пианино!" (something prevents her each time she wants to play the piano, and so it is the fate which makes her life).
     
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    Saluton

    Banned
    Russian
    LilianaB, too big a gap там или не too big a gap, а поётся именно "пожелай мне не остаться в этой траве".

    c) Я воровать твой аккаунт!
    This one can be used colloquially: Я - воровать твой аккаунт! as a way of expressing indignation, "Me, to steal your account!", i.e. "How could you even think that I could steal your account?!" but this is hardly your case.
     

    Explorer41

    Senior Member
    Saluton, there are question marks for that. ;) I think nobody will forget about them when expressing oneself, or else s|he will be misunderstood. The sentence would be "Я -- воровать твой аккаунт?!", and the intonation of this phrase is different.

    As for the c) expression posted by Aphelios, the context is needed of course. There's a wise suggestion by Tim Peters: "In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess". But I'm not that wise, and I'm a sinner, so I give way to the temptation and make my guesswork.

    I see the following variants:
    1) that posted by Syline, meaning "я ворую твой аккаунт!";
    2) that posted by Syline, but rather with the meaning "и иду воровать твой аккаунт!" (in French there is a similar expression). Again, Russian is mangled, but the joke is addressed to the Immediate Future, not to the Present.
    3) completely normal Russian utterance (with omitted words, as is usual in the spoken language), but incorrectly written without a dash.
    - Ты что собираешься делать?
    - Я -- воровать твой аккаунт!

    - What will you do?
    - Me? I'll steal your account!
     

    Syline

    Senior Member
    Russian
    So the use of such infinitive is always followed by the subject in dative, and the phrase has always a negative meaning, in the sense that it's impossible for the subject to complete the action?
    A mononuclear (односоставное) impersonal sentence with such infinitive in the function of the Predicate can have either negative or positive meaning. Agent of the action (not Subject as the sentence is mononuclear and have only one main part) in its Dative form can either precede or follow the Predicate.

    "Positive" example:
    ...И до рассвета бушевать огню. = The fire will rage till the dawn. (meaning of inevitability)
     

    Aphelios

    Member
    Portuguese - Brazil
    Thank you, Syline and Explorer41 for your explanation! :)

    As for the third phrase, nothing was previously said at all. It's a battle game, and after my team killed some of them, the russian one simply typed: "Я воровать твой аккаунт, (insert some маты here)". I remember my friends asked me to translate, but I noticed that the conjugation was strange. That's not the first time I read that sort of sentence on the internet, so it's probably some kind of online-жаргон. I actually find it very, very hard to understand online chatting. Even Толстой is easier for me. :p
     
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    Explorer41

    Senior Member
    Well, Leo Tolstoy is a grand writer who was good at expressing oneself clearly and accurately :) (and using a standard language, unlike Dostoevskiy; the language of Tolstoy, I think, can be considered mostly standard still today, though his stylistics are different from today's -- I don't know how to explain the latter, it's just a feel)
     
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    Syline

    Senior Member
    Russian
    It's a battle game, and after my team killed some of them, the russian one simply typed: "Я воровать твой аккаунт, (insert some маты here)". I remember my friends asked me to translate, but I noticed that the conjugation was strange.
    He was upset and threatened to steal your account :) I hope it was just a joke :)
     

    Explorer41

    Senior Member
    Calling "бифштекс" "бифстеком"?
    And like ;-) But I don't know, there are of course not only "strange" words in the novels of Tolstoy, but also "strange" ways of making thought. All I meant by my sidenote was that the language of Tolstoy feels standard, though a bit unusual -- and I'm not ready to explain it now, why unusual, but anyway, the topic of this thread was another thing ;-) .

    EDIT: well, an example is this phrase: "Сам дедушка, как внутренно называла Малаша Кутузова, сидел от них особо, в тёмном углу за печкой". One could say (or, rather, write) something like that even today, this phrase doesn't contradict the common logic of our language (and I feel this language as Russian and nothing else), but anyway such word use is rare and unusual now. And, for example, Arkadiy and Boris Strugatskie don't use words in this way. Now we would rather prefer to say "про себя" and "отдельно".
     
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    morzh

    Banned
    USA
    Russian
    I can explain why it felt so to me: when reading serious Dostoyevsky (The Idiot), I had a headache, and when reading serious Tolstoy (Anna Karenina), I didn't.
    Probably because with Tolstoy my brain did not have to spend all that effort to digest the language, to get through to the thought behind it.
     

    Explorer41

    Senior Member
    A mononuclear (односоставное) impersonal sentence with such infinitive in the function of the Predicate can have either negative or positive meaning. Agent of the action (not Subject as the sentence is mononuclear and have only one main part) in its Dative form can either precede or follow the Predicate.

    "Positive" example:
    ...И до рассвета бушевать огню. = The fire will rage till the dawn. (meaning of inevitability)
    By the way, just remembered: this construction may mean not only inevitability or a fate. Its shade of meaning is rather that it is a) impersonal and b) somewhat bookish. Remembered an example: "О том, насколько мой замысел удался, судить вам, уважаемые читатели!" (common phrase for introductions to books). Here is no fate or inevitability in meaning, but the construction is impersonal and thus avoids a plain order to readers ("судите сами").
     

    Explorer41

    Senior Member
    More examples:
    1. Тебе ходить (например, два человека играют в шахматы);
    2. Им начинать ("им" может быть футбольная команда - они начинают игру с центра поля);
    3. Мне выступать на следующей неделе (если говорит эти слова, скажем, артист).

    Но надо учитывать, что использование такой конструкции в русском языке очень ограничено, и со многими глаголами она звучит смешно (например, с глаголом "убегать").
     
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