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There is a dialog in my workbook, which goes

-Ты каждый день ходишь в бассейн? - Нет, я хожу через день.

I get the first sentence, and why one should use the abstract ходить instead of the concrete идти there.

What I don't understand is what the second sentence is saying. My thought was that it was supposed to say "I haven't went in a day" or "I am going to go a day from now", so I thought that one should write иду or пойду -- but instead the correct answer is to write хожу.

Question: So why is an abstract verb of motion appropriate in that context? How does it represent a repeated action or a motion without a specified direction?

The key words, I am guessing, are через день, but I don't understand what the phrase is supposed to connote in this context.

14

Через день is a set phrase which means "every other day".

You can also say через два дня ("every third day"), через три дня ("every fourth day") etc., however, to avoid ambiguity, phrases like those are usually worded as через два дня на третий or день через два, or just раз в три дня.

Через день can also mean "in a day" (hence the ambiguity) and usage of an iterative (ходить instead of идти) helps to resolve this ambiguity.

  • Я хожу в бассейн через день // I go swimming at the pool every other day
  • Я хожу в бассейн через три дня на четвёртый // I go swimming at the pool every fourth day
  • Я пойду в бассейн через день // In a day I'm going to go swimming at the pool
  • Я пойду в бассейн через три дня // In three days I'm going to go swimming at the pool
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  • 5
    I would add that раз в N дней is the most common as it is the least ambiguous. Jun 15 '17 at 9:34
  • 1
    @Baskakov_Dmitriy as the gap grows it indeed becomes more obvious, as you telling about specific "out of general order" things. If I go to pool once a year, then the common background is me not attending, but once a year there is an exception that I do go. However when I am generally attending pool but do some skipping days, then the very fact of skipping can be seen as exception from the general rule, and so "через 1/2/3 дня" are equally valid forms. But as the gaps grew larger then this form indeed becomes more and more awkward
    – Arioch
    Jun 15 '17 at 9:48
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Yes, через день means every other day. The verb ходить is appropriate here as it denotes a repetitive action, as opposed to идти which denotes a continuous action.

5

While answers provided are correct, let me mention another possible phrasing which is also perfectly valid though indeed used not that frequent: каждый второй день, like in:

Робинзон Крузо каждый второй день пополняет запасы питьевой воды из источника, каждый третий день собирает фрукты и каждый пятый день ходит на охоту.

As you can see, this pattern can be used to indicate some action that is taken every third day, every fourth etc.

3

The key words, I am guessing, are через день, but I don't understand what the phrase is supposed to connote in this context.

Example: я перепрыгнул через камень - I jumped over a stone.

In such phrases "через" conveys an idea of some 'obstacle' to be skipped.

So, "хожу через [один] день" is conveying that after you visited the place, the next day would be an obstacle to skip over.

Like those mentioned above "через два дня" and "через три дня" conveying that after each visit next two or three days are again considered a nuisance to be skipped over.

I am not a native English speaker, but maybe you can translate your phrase as "No, I am attending the pool skipping next (after visits) day(s)".

So why is an abstract verb of motion appropriate in that context? How does it represent a repeated action or a motion without a specified direction?

Because you are not talking of any specific visit. You are not asking "how was you pool session on the last Tuesday going?", you are not suggesting "When you depart for the pool, take the umbrella, skies are clouded", you do not mean any specific visit in itself. What you are querying about is the general pattern of behavior, a schedule of all visits without stressing any specific one. Here "ходить" is rather "to attend" than "to go" or "to reach" or "to move".

By the way, within the example with a "focused" verb "Я пойду через день" by @shabunc the meaning of "через" also can be conveyed via skipping: "I will first skip the tomorrow day and then I will be going the day after skipped tomorrow".

Also, there is a word "чересполосица" :-D

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