This is the words spoken by the thin in Chekhov's "Толстый и тонкий". Although the subject looks like "Друг детства", which is a singular noun, the verb "вышли" is plural. (Here, I omitted the insertion phrase "можно сказать" for simplicity.)

What is the subject of this sentence?

3 Answers 3


The subject is missing, and it is вы. The full sentence would be like this:

Вы друг, можно сказать, детства, и вдруг вышли в такие вельможи-с!

It is important for understanding the story that Тонкий initially called his friend ты, but when he discovered that his friend is now тайный советник (rank 3 in the Russian Empire), while Тонкий himself is only коллежский ассесор (rank 8), he started to call his old friend вы, and add respectful "-с". That displeases his friend, who replies:

— Ну, полно! — поморщился толстый.— Для чего этот тон? Мы с тобой друзья детства — и к чему тут это чинопочитание!


The subject here is вы. Your sentence is taken from a dialog:

— Я, ваше превосходительство... Очень приятно-с! Друг, можно сказать, детства и вдруг вышли в такие вельможи-с! Хи-хи-с.

— Ну, полно! — поморщился толстый.— Для чего этот тон? Мы с тобой друзья детства — и к чему тут это чинопочитание!

Here the тонкий, Porfiriy, is addresing his schoolmate Misha the толстый with the polite 2nd person plural after having learned his schoolmate has already got a very high rank of Privy Councilor (тайный советник) equal to Lieutenant-General in the Army.

The sentence itself is eliptical, it is a compound sentence consisting of two independent clauses connected with the conjunction и, and the subject pronouns in both of them are omitted. They can be easily reconstructed, though:

[Вы —] друг … детства и вдруг [вы] вышли в такие вельможи-с!

Друг детства cannot be a direct address, since here Porfiriy is speaking very politely, he uses a словоер (the particle of reverence, -c at the very end of the sentence), and Privy Councilors could not be addressed with "friend" by those of lower ranks, "Your Excellency" (ваше превосходительство) was the way to address them which Porfiriy does in the next phrase he says.


It's important to understand that russian sentences can have hidden subjects which are meant by the context:

Люблю грозу в начале мая. (Ф.И. Тютчев)

Which equals to "Я люблю грозу в начале мая"

Or more complicated sentence:

Умей творить из самых малых крох. (К.Д. Бальмонт)

Which equals to "Ты (должен) уметь творить из самых малых крох"

UPD: Also if you can read in russian you can find more information about this phenomenon here: http://www.svetozar.ru/index/id/38639/index.html

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