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What is the logic behind these adverbs? I'm trying to get a more literal understating of why they are in the accusative feminine and why the preposition "в" or "за" is used.

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    I did not find "впустую" etymology, but there is some other word - lexicography.online/etymology/%D0%B2/… - I did not look into it, but I think that stems from Old Slavic and the way those words were formed should be similar if not same. "ВОТЩЕ. Заимств. из ст.-сл. яз. Сращение предлога въ и местн. п. прил. тъщь "пустой, напрасный" (ср. всуе). Буквально — "впустую". См. тщета." – Arioch Jul 14 '17 at 9:09
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It's highly likely that most of these were formed after this had already grammaticalised as a way to form adverbs, so they don't really have a literal reading. The original adverbs formed this way (maybe even a single one) probably did make sense.

Maybe there was a feminine noun that got lost. Or maybe this isn't feminine singular accusative at all, but obsolete dual locative. Dual body parts are certainly likely candidates for omitted nouns, though what particular ones were originally referred to, and with what adjectives, is hard to tell.

Note that вовсю also belongs on this list, while вправду doesn't really.

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  • What do you mean by "dual body parts"? – VCH250 Jul 14 '17 at 20:54
  • @VCH250 Hands and eyes in particular. – Nikolay Ershov Jul 15 '17 at 12:43
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The adverbs you listed follow actually two different patterns:

  1. в + adjective ( впустую)

  2. в + noun ( вправду)

The first one has perhaps developed in some way from the second, but I can't say how.

As for the second pattern, I can shed some light on it:

в + smth (accusative) has the meaning for the sake of smth, in order to do smth, in order to form (make up) smth up

Such constructions are rarely used in today's language. Most of them has transformed into adverbs, but some still keep its original state:

во исполнение - in order to implement, in order to form an implementation

в продолжение - in order to continue, in order to form a continuation

во избежание - in order to avoid

Thus, вправду means in order to make truth. Я и вправду опоздал на поезд - I have really missed the train (the fact that I have missed the train makes the sentence true.)

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  • I have strong doubts about your literal reading of вправду. Does во имя mean "in order to make a name"? – Nikolay Ershov Jul 14 '17 at 19:53
  • @Nikolay Ershov, may be "for the sake of the name" fits better. – AlexVB Jul 14 '17 at 21:26
  • it's not really that, because the "name" here actually stands for the "sake". At any rate, I just used it as an example to show how I'm not sure "in order to make truth" is what suggests itself here. – Nikolay Ershov Jul 14 '17 at 22:15
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Adverbs do not have Case in Russian. Actually they have no ending, or -ую is a suffix. в- or за- is a prefix not a preposition. It's just used to form adverbs and I don't see any literal meaning in it.

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    Nothing that's "just" used has always been "just" used. Even the -d of the English past tense is a trace of "do". – Nikolay Ershov Jul 14 '17 at 19:56
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Adverbs are unchangeable parts of speech. The word вправду doesn't exist in russian. I guess you meant взаправду. There is no any logic in using specific prefixes. Because the words впустую, вплотную can not be used with the prefix за like the word зачастую can not be used with the prefix в. You just need to remember its meaning.

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    Just because a word is classified as colloquial does not mean it doesn't exist. Вправду do exist. – Abakan Jul 14 '17 at 8:31
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    word "вправду" is de-facto used, therefore - exists. – shabunc Jul 14 '17 at 8:48
  • I never seen взаправду except in very old books in speech of uneducated characters. Вправду is seen and heard everywhere. – Anixx Jul 15 '17 at 10:16

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