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Both words translate as here, but in which context should I use one over the other?

There's a question about it on the Q&A of masterrussian.com that already gives me a rough understanding.

That is, I should use вот when pointing at something and здесь when referring to where I am at the moment of speaking.

However, the examples given there though confuse me a bit as there's no context given

Вот зонтик. = Here's the umbrella.
Зонтик здесь. = The umbrella is here.

I guess that in the former example a person is either passing on the umbrella or pointing at the umbrella, whereas in the latter example the person is just standing next to the umbrella (or maybe holding it in their hands) but is not pointing at it.

  • Is my understanding of this example correct?

I kinda believe that it is important whether or not the person I'm talking to can see me and knows exactly where.

  • Suppose I am in the same room with the other person. Could I also use вот when just referring to my exact location? That is, would вот also cover the case where I'm just holding the umbrella or where I'm standing next to it, but without pointing at it? Like I would virtually point at myself.
  • Suppose I am on the phone. Am I right when I assume that only ever здесь is valid in that case as there's no way of pointing at something or, in case my previous assumption was correct, letting the other one know my very exact location as opposed to my approximate location like a city, a building or a room (unless I send him my GPS coordinates, of course)?
1
  • To give you a quite different example of вот, where здесь is unusable. "Вот некролог, словно отговорка, / Объяснил смертельный мой исход / Просто: он — помор, она — поморка, — / Это то же, что огонь и лед…" — v-vissotsky.ru/song.php?pid=159 – Oleg Lobachev Jun 18 '18 at 12:12
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"Вот" does not mean "here" in the meaning of place. Never! You cannot say "Зонтик вот" meaning "the umbrella is here". You use it only pointing on something (Вот зонтик) or showing something (even yourself - Вот он я = here I am) or giving something to somebody. So your understanding is correct.

There is also "вон" with almost the same meaning as вот but the difference is that вон is considered to be further than вот. Вот зонтик (here, right next to me), а вон пальто (over there).

A synonym of "здесь" is "тут".

1
  • 6
    +1 I completely agree. Вот means "see, I'm showing it to you". Saying вот in 99.9% of cases is accompanied with pointing to the thing of interest with finger, hand, or with your eyes, or by shaking the thing. So, answer to the first bullet question in OP is "no". You must point to something to use вот. Вот is only used for emphasising the pointing gesture. – farfareast Dec 29 '15 at 21:15
6

Your understanding is quite correct.

Вот is a kind of thing-pointer "here", which is only appliable for seeable objects (I mean "seeable" in a broad sense; for example, Вот оно что = Now I see / understand).

Здесь is rather a place-pointer "here", so if, say, talking to someone who's looking for you but can't see you, you may shout Эй, я здесь! (Hey, I'm here!).

Тут is mostly the same things as Здесь. (BTW. Consider this brilliant saying: Здесь вам не тут!).

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  • 2
    "Здесь вам не тут!" < don't use it. An aggressive remark. Especially in case you aren't sure that your interlocutor is in a good mood, and you are understood and not taken seriously. – Avtokod Jan 5 '16 at 20:08
  • Isn't the meaning of что, 'what' ? – vikrant Jan 30 '20 at 19:09
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Здесь is strictly about location, which generally coincides with the location of the speaker, meaning "right here, where I am (we are) at the moment". Вот is more about existence (or coming into existence). You can use either, depending on the intent, in both your examples.

Thus, in your second example, somebody might tell you over the phone:

Я потерял зонтик, не знаешь, где он?

with the implication that the umbrella might have been lost forever. You happen to see the umbrella in the room with you and say:

Вот он.

or

Он здесь.

meaning "You think you may have lost your umbrella but I found it, it is here with me".

However, in a different situation, you have been long waiting for a train and suddenly see it in the distance. You can say:

Вот поезд.

which would mean that the train has appeared, but not

Поезд здесь.

The latter is only applicable when the train actually arrives at your station.

1

Здесь и вот are often synonymous, however not always.

would вот also cover the case where I'm just holding the umbrella or where I'm standing next to it, but without pointing at it?

Yes, you can. If someone was looking for an umbrella, and you are pointing it out: here it is, then you say вот зонтик.

If, on the other hand, the inquiry was about the list of items in the room, as in what do you see? question, Then you say здесь зонтик.

If someone is on the phone, and asks you where is that umbrella, then you say зонтик здесь

In reply to your comment, Em1: The approximate rule of thumb is: здесь identifies spacial location, вот identifies an object within a set of other objects. If you show me picture of a street where you live, and point to your house you'd say вот мой дом, meaning it's THIS house and not that house. If it's the only house on the photo, you can still use вот (или это). If you want to emphasize the surrounding - the neighborhood or the scenery, then you'd say зедесь мой дом, meaning that this is [the wonderful place in the world] where my house is. Again, there are many instances when здесь и вот can be used interchangeably.

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  • I didn't even think about that "what do you see"-questions. But this raises a further question: Suppose, I have a picture book and you ask what do you see, then I use "здесь" as you mentioned. But I guess when I point with my finger on something in my picture book, do I switch to "вот" then? Or is both fine? – Em1 Dec 29 '15 at 13:19
0

Wanted to add my "5 копеек".
There's at least 2 more cases of using "вот", compared to "здесь".
Revealing something explicitly and exactly. Consider

"Вот ты какой, северный олень!" ([I see now] [exaclty and explicitly] what you are, a north deer)

Another example of the same, e.g. a shop assistant gives you phone, you just bought. Consider the case it is packed (giving a box):

Здесь Ваш телефон и чек. (Here is your phone and the bill)

But in the case the box was not opened to show the buyer the contents of the box, I can not be completely sure the phone is there, so "здесь" is rather potential in this case, than actual.
Consider another example, phone is given rather unpacked. In this case

Здесь Ваш телефон и чек. (Here is your phone and the bill)

is not proper -- I see it is here, the information is redundant and will sound quite odd unless you use "вот" in this case.

Вот Ваш телефон и чек. До свидания. ([Exactly and explicitly] here is your phone and the bill. Good bye.)


Another case of using "вот", in spoken language is to indicate a thought end, in opposite to "так" to indicate it's start. Consider

Вот. Я всё сказал. (I've said it all)

--

Так, продолжим. (Let's continue)

And beside it strange constructions like

Так вот, ... ([Let me continue] [[explicitly the thing] I was talking about some earlier is ]...)

--

Вот так. ([That is exactly the way it is/was])

now start making sense.


For other usages of "вот" one can consider this pdf but it's in Russian and contains very specific language-research-related language.
Вот так.

EDIT: Relative to the third bullet, when one is on the phone, the key point when using "вот" is permitted is the listener can imagine the object position relative to the teller, IMHO.
Consider you're on the phone with someone looking for their glasses:

-- Привет, что делаешь? (Hi! What are you doing?)
-- Привет. Очки ищу. (Hi! Looking for my glasses.)
-- В кармане смотрел? На тумбочке? (Did you inspect your pockets? Your bedside table?)
-- Да, нигде нет. Ааа, вот же они, у меня на лбу! (Yes, nowhere I can find them. Aaargh, here it is, on my forehead)

Is perfectly correct. Another example ("Детство" Суриков, 1865):

Вот моя деревня; (Here is the village where I live)
Вот мой дом родной; (It is the house where I grew up)
Вот качусь я в санках (I'm sliding in a sled)
По горе крутой (Upon a steep hill)

Is perfectly correct as the reader can imagine all these things relative to the author, somehow. Alone to say there we no radio discovered those days, and, consiquently, no GPS)

On the other hand, consider when you're on slype with camera on both sides on, you can see things, you can point to things, and the opposite side person is again looking for their glasses, which you see in background conversation image on the table behind the mirror. How do you say that?

Вон они, на зеркале.

"вот" would sound odd in this case.

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