This question arises from a tangential discussion in this one: Preposition to quote: из or от (or none of them).

Concerning the punctuation (comma, dash, brackets...), when does a subordinate clause acquires the same case of the noun it is refeering to? To get a more concrete idea, take as example some comments by @Yuri and @Quassnoi in the question above:

As far as I understand if one uses brackets in the following sentece, the subordinate мой любимый роман stays in nominative:

Из «Преступления и наказания» Ф. Достоевского (мой любимый роман)

If, instead, one uses a comma, the genitive is acquired by the subordinate sentence:

Из «Преступления и наказания» Ф.Достоевского, моего любимого романа

Question: I was told, sometimes in Russian writing a dash, has the effect of an equal sign. How does these sentences look like if I use -?

  • The meaning changes slightly, but Из «Преступления и наказания» - моего любимого романа Ф.Достоевского uses the dash in the meaning close to "equals". – dasblinkenlight Oct 8 '12 at 0:08
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    @dasblinkenlight If you use a dash like you showed, yes, the meaning is somewhat different, however if you write Из «Преступления и наказания» - моего любимого романа - Ф.Достоевского, then the dashes have the same power as parentheses and the meaning of the sentence does not change. Of course, it doesn't sound very good and you wouldn't use it this way in a normal speech; it's just to show how using a dash can change the meaning and then using another dash revert to the original meaning. – Aleks G Oct 8 '12 at 8:52
  • I'm correcting the title of the question, because what you are asking about is an apposition, not a subordinate clause. – Olga Oct 8 '12 at 19:17
  • Ладно! Спасибо. – c.p. Oct 8 '12 at 20:00

These sentences use different rhetorical figures.

Из «Преступления и наказания» Ф. Достоевского (мой любимый роман)

This one is parenthesis (парентеза), or, being more exact, a kataploke (parenthesized exclamation). It's not connected grammatically to the main sentence and may be expressed as two independent sentences: Из «Преступления и наказания» Ф. Достоевского. Это мой любимый роман.

This one unequivocally requires parentheses, written with a dash, it would be ungrammatical.

Из «Преступления и наказания» Ф. Достоевского, моего любимого романа

This one is an apposition (приложение). It's grammatically connected to the main sentence, and, hence, inherits the case of the noun it defines.

This one may be isolated (in order from least to most parenthetical) with a comma, em-dash (тире) or parentheses.

Comma is the most preferable way to do this.

An em-dash could be used if you intend to make a long pause.

Parentheses could be used to if you intend to make the clause to sound like a remark to a third person which, unlike the fist case, does not interrupt the flow of speech.

  • Thanks for the detailed answer. What would happen with Из «Преступления и наказания» Ф. Достоевского-моего любимого романа or Из «Преступления и наказания» Ф. Достоевского- мой любимый роман ? which (if any) would be correct? that's what I'm rather interested in. – c.p. Oct 7 '12 at 22:49
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    Note that even with parentheses you can use the same case/declension as the main sentence: Из «Преступления и наказания» Ф. Достоевского (моего любимого романа) – Aleks G Oct 8 '12 at 8:08
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    @JorgeCampos The former one is correct, but it's better to use comma instead of the dash there. The latter is not correct unless you replace the dash with parens or extract мой любимый роман into a separate sentence like this: Из «Преступления и наказания» Ф. Достоевского. Мой любимый роман! Also please note that there are spaces around dashes in Russian. Москва — столица России., not Москва—столица России.. – thorn Oct 8 '12 at 9:51
  • I see, that was helpful. – c.p. Oct 8 '12 at 17:02

From the point of style, the form with non-synchronized case in parentheses reflects colloquial speech. I would not recommend using it in an article, but in the mail it's perfectly suitable.

The form with commas is neutral, in theory commas can be replaced with dashes:

Из "Преступления и наказания" Ф.Достоевского - моего любимого романа - ...

(which one to use is a matter of personal preference).

There is, however, another problem with this phrase: syntactically it's not perfectly clear whether "моего любимого романа" refers to the book or to the writer. Taking into account that "роман" can also mean love affair, we end up with a funny-looking sentence.

There can be several ways to remedy this problem, the easiest one would be to make sure that the words "novel" and "Dostoevsky" are not in the same case, this way you get rid of the ambiguity for sure.

For example:

В моем любимом романе Достоевского - "Преступлении и наказании" - говорится о том, что...

By the way, if you mean that this is your favorite book in principle, you might be able drop the name of the author completely, depending on the context. It's common knowledge that Crime and Punishment is written by Dostoevsky, and this book is part of the obligatory high school curriculum. But this is only valid for that particular example.

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