In a story, I came across the exclamation:

И вот он я - живой и здоровый!

Was this a typo, or is it in actual use and what does it mean?

  • Note that you may stress either "вот" or "я", but not "он".
    – Matt
    Dec 30 '15 at 17:34

Like Alex S said, вот он я is a fixed construction, and you're not likely to find the two pronouns in a row anywhere else. It sounds colloquial and kind of jovial — your example is very typical of its use — but curiously, the он seems to also be semi-mandatory. You can't just say вот я except in specific situations: when you're calling out to someone who can't seem to locate you ("I'm here!"), or you're pointing to an effigy of yourself — as in a photo ("that's me there"), or if you're explaining/reenacting something using objects ("so suppose this [pencil] is me and this [eraser] is the car, and it whizzed past me just liiiike this": вот я, вот машина, и та-а-а-к вот она мимо меня пронеслась). Вот он я, on the other hand, is always about your literal physical self in the here-and-now, and the message it conveys is that you're present at all, not where exactly you are.

[Disregard the part in my original answer about emphasis on вот vs. emphasis on я. Didn't think of enough examples. It's not really a factor.]

  • Excellent answer as usual. You mentioned that the element он is quasi-mandatory in this usage, since you can't just say вот я (except in the cases you pointed out). However, would вот и я have the same force?
    – CocoPop
    Dec 31 '15 at 4:41
  • 1
    @CocoPop Great observation, I forgot about вот и я too. It's more stylistically neutral — while having a stronger connotation of arrival/turning up whereas вот он я can also be used if the speaker had been there all along. The two do overlap a great deal nonetheless. Dec 31 '15 at 10:31

Он in вот он is a clitic (a word which does not have an accent on its own). Phonetically, вот он is a single word.

Since Russian normally omits copula in a sentence, вот он is perceived as a deictic adverb on its own, with a meaning slightly different from a mere вот, as noted in the answers above.

There are other phrases in vernacular Russian similar in origin: вот так вот, вот это вот, как же ж так etc, produced by adding a particle or an adverb to a (seemingly) one word which already had it.

Zaliznyak mentions there was a period in old Russian when the reflexive pronoun ся, which was on its way from an unbound morpheme to the postfix it is now, was used twice with the reflexive verbs: мнѣ сѧ не можетсѧ, а то сь диѧлось.

  • Thank you for that, Quassnoi. ¿Is this expression only used as an independent exclamation, or can it form part of a bigger thought such as: ну, ты должно быть собираешься начать день и вот он я так рано мешаю.
    – CocoPop
    Dec 31 '15 at 4:59
  • 1
    @CocoPop Both OK.
    – Matt
    Dec 31 '15 at 7:16

"Вот он я" is a fixed grammatical construction which means "look, here I am".
A female person would say "вот она я" and a group of people — "Вот они мы".

See also answers to this question: What's the difference between “вот” and “здесь”?

  • Thank you for your answer, Alex. ¿Does this clitic only work with я, or would it be possible to say: Я только что думал о тебе и вот он ты.
    – CocoPop
    Dec 31 '15 at 4:57
  • 1
    @CocoPop In this context "вот он ты" sounds natural.
    – Artemix
    Dec 31 '15 at 9:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.