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This is perhaps a use of где that I have yet to encounter; I simply can't work out the meaning of this sentence:

Где бы смолчать, а он сейчас в драку.

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  • Где бы = Вместо того чтобы
    – Matt
    Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 20:19
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    Also "сейчас" in this sentence means rather "straight away" than "now".
    – Matt
    Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 20:26
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    I'd suggest a translation of this into better Russian as "Ему бы смолчать, а он сразу в драку (полез)".
    – Alex_ander
    Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 21:40
  • Still, I think it ought to be "а он сразу в драку (лезет)", and not "...(полез)". Although it seems that the past tense perfective verb might imply subjunctive mood. Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 19:38

2 Answers 2

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Here the words "где бы смолчать" is a subjunctive construct which actually means something like "anywhere it might be advisable to keep silent". Translated from "proverbal" Russian, the entire sentence might be

Смолчать бы где-то, а он тотчас же - в драку.

The order of words in Russian, as you probably know, is not predetermined, and here the particle бы is placed before the verb for giving the spoken phrase more fluency (compare to "смолчать бы", where you can hear a very hard pause between words).

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  • Thank you Victor. I'm curious: is this a statement of general validity, or does it refer to one situation in the past?
    – CocoPop
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 14:40
  • It's general. Besides, from "где-то" we conclude that it's not any specific situation, since the -то particle makes that pronoun undefined. Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 14:53
  • but it was где бы...
    – CocoPop
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 19:07
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    I was referring to the last sentence in my answer ("Смолчать бы где-то, а он тотчас же - в драку."), which I think is easier to understand. Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 19:10
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Where he could keep silence, he would eagerly brawl

(I imagine there is better-styled version of "keep silent" in English)

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