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Similar to one of my previous questions, I want to know how to say "going to" as in The salt shaker was going to/about to fall off the table

This is because I read online that собираться was only for things with consciousness, and I want to know what word you would use if an object was about to do something in the near future.

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  • First off, "собираться" can be used not only for things with consciousness "Самолёт собирается взлетать" is perfectly correct. One could say "солонка собиралась упасть/почти упала со стола".
    – avp
    Nov 11 '16 at 12:28
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    @avp, I disagree. "Самолёт собирается взлетать" involves consciousness because here "самолёт" is used synecdochically (replacing, for brevity, its crew and passengers). "Солонка собиралась упасть со стола" is possible, but I'd expect to find such a thing in a fiction book, where The Salt Shaker was one of the characters. In ordinary everyday situations, it is also possible but sounds a little quirksome; we'd rather say "Солонка почти упала со стола."
    – ach
    Nov 11 '16 at 12:46
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    You could say солонка сейчас упадет. It gets tricky with was going to though.
    – jwalker
    Nov 11 '16 at 13:04
  • @AndreyChernyakhovskiy: "Дерево/дом собирается упасть", "Стена покосилась". OTOH, I agree that it sounds weird.
    – avp
    Nov 11 '16 at 13:05
  • A nice question. The problem is the same for our English learners.
    – V.V.
    Nov 11 '16 at 15:06
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In present tense, "The salt shaker is about to fall of the table" can be translated as:

Солонка сейчас упадёт. (as mentioned by jwalker)

or

Солонка вот-вот упадёт.

I can't think of a straight-forward way to express it in the past tense. So I would use an additional clause to indicate the past tense:

Я увидел, что солонка вот-вот упадёт.

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  • Увидел is an appropriate word. +1.
    – V.V.
    Nov 11 '16 at 15:17
  • I am surprised there is no word that conveys the meaning of "going to" for inanimate objects. Thanks for the answer!
    – casey
    Nov 11 '16 at 16:14
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    @casey, Try translating into English a common Russian phrase: "Он мне мешает" Some notions just don't have simple counterparts in other languages.
    – Vitaly
    Nov 11 '16 at 16:17
  • Perhaps, depending on the context, one could use conditional instead of past tense: Солонка вот-вот бы упала.
    – bipll
    Nov 12 '16 at 20:48
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Let me explain the problem. Be going to +infinitive has two main meanings:a planned action which is mainly translated as собираться что‐то делать,though should sometimes be translated as будущее время.In this case "consciousness " as you call it is important. But there exists a "narrow" usage of going to, that of referring to a prediction based on facts(visual or well-known ). Such predictions can involve all kinds of subjects (including inanimate nouns). Such sentences are translated with будущее время, or прошедшее время as in your example.

Смотри,солонка сейчас упадет.(because you see it near the edge of the table).Or Смотри, солонка чуть не упала. Я видел,что она чуть не упала.

Sometimes собирается is used to describe the rain coming, here the meaning of it is "пойдет","будет".

Кажется, дождь собирается.

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Солонка была близка к тому, чтобы упасть со стола.

Солонка была на грани падения со стола.

Alternatively, it is possible to reveal it's somebody's impression.

Солонка будто вознамерилась упасть со стола.

Казалось, солонка вот-вот упадёт со стола.

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    That first sentence is stylistically dubious, and "Солонка была на грани падения со стола" sound like downright parody. Nov 11 '16 at 13:28

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