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1 - Твои собаки едят яблоки? 2 - У тебя собаки едят яблоки?

Hi, my Russian learning app showed me the second one for "Do your dogs eat apples?".But, I am also learning from another source.From that source I know that I can say Твои before plural nouns and that we can just ask questions with the right intonations.

So which one is true? Can I also ask like the first sentence I formed or is only the second sentence the right way to ask it?

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    I can't explain why, so it is not entirely an answer, but both sentences are correct and mean the same. – Alissa Aug 29 '17 at 11:36
  • @Alissa The don't mean the same. – Abakan Aug 29 '17 at 11:50
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Both are correct phrases. In casual speech they would most probably convey the same idea.

The second option is "easier on the tongue", sounds more casual and natural. Not much different, very close, but if out of context, i'd rather chosen second way to express myself.

However there is a slight difference in their meanings, that almost never matters, in casual chat, but in some specific situations may do.

Literally, the second option reads like "Do dogs at yours (your place, under your supervision, etc) eat apples?".

Typically, it is the same. If a dog lives in your house - then it most probably is your dog.

But imagine some shelter, or pets hotel, where both owner's own dogs and temporary cared for dogs are staying. In this rather specific situation there might be a suspense that the place owner treats his dogs and dogs trusted to him differently. In such a situation, the 2nd option would imply all the dogs, while the 1st option would imply only owned dogs apart from dogs in custody.

Compare "Чем у тебя собак кормят?" and "А чем ты своих собак кормишь?" - "What meal is fed to the dogs at yours?" vs "What meal do you feed to your own dogs?"

Also, when such a phrase arrives in the middle of a long discussion, it inherits the history and phraseology already established. Like, if we are both dog fans, and we just went for half an hour discussing "your dogs" vs "my dogs", then the 1st option would have more chances to be chosen. Because it would refer to the previously kind of coined "my dogs" and "your dogs" notions.

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    Arioch, thank you for your long answer.It's clearer now :) Спасибо! – Burak Aug 29 '17 at 12:12
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    @Burak one more situation. Imagine I live in a rural household with lots of apple trees in my yard. And you visit me with your dogs, and I am kind of joking about having too many apples this year. In this situation "у тебя" may sound a bit stretched, as both you and your dogs are at my place this second, not at your place. So, in this specific situation, again, the first phrase would be slightly preferable. But, again, not much. It is about fine nuancing, both phrases still would be correct and would convey the idea. – Arioch Aug 29 '17 at 15:47
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У тебя is more natural in Russian, and generally something you can hardly ever go wrong with. There's no difference if it's a statement or a question.

If it doesn't sound like the most obvious way to say it, consider the fact that in English, too, there's more to the "your" in "your dogs" than meets the eye. Namely: apart from indicating possession/relation, it's also a kind of stand-in for "the". What I mean by that is, in English, you always expect some word to go in front of "dogs" when they're "definite" dogs. Whether it's "the dogs", "your dogs", or "Jane's dogs". And so the "your" part is in that slot in the sentence which you expect to just be ticked off in passing, without putting a lot of emphasis on it.

Not so in Russian, where you can just say Собаки едят яблоки? to mean both "do dogs eat apples?" and "do the dogs eat apples?" Therefore adding твои in front of собаки actually feels like you're adding something, and therefore giving it some significance, pushing the whole thing slightly towards: "those dogs of yours, do they eat apples?"

Now the thing about у тебя is, it sort of applies to the whole of the sentence. Think something like, "do the dogs eat apples on you?" — which doesn't sound quite right in English, but the same general figure of speech is quite natural and neutral in Russian. Therefore, у тебя doesn't really emphasise whose dogs they are in a way that would require some justification in context, as with твои (say, "those dogs you're breeding/genetically engineering, do they eat apples?").

У тебя is a lightweight, in-passing addition because you never really don't expect it. It works with pretty much any statement. You can say У меня Рим победил Карфаген, literally ~"Rome has defeated Carthage on me", and there's at least one context in which it would make perfect sense: "I'm at the point in the history book I'm reading where Rome has defeated Carthage". You can think of у меня, у тебя, etc. as a way of "possessing" entire events, rather than their individual subjects or objects.

Hope that made sense. Arioch's answer probably deserves the checkmark, I'm just here with some follow-up ramblings.

  • Thank you, I'm trying to understand it.About your Rome example, can't you form a sentence like in English.Let's say "I'm in the chapter where they..." using just я, в, где. – Burak Aug 29 '17 at 14:05
  • That would be "Я [сейчас] на том месте, где..." – Nikolay Ershov Aug 29 '17 at 14:06
  • Спасибо за ваш ответ :) – Burak Aug 29 '17 at 14:24
  • w.r.t. Rome: .... or one could be playing computer strategy game themed in ancient Mediterranean. Or one could be writing alter-history fiction. Or maybe he could have his own very specific metrics, where Rome's final victory defeated something important. Something like popular decade ago claims like "For me Third Reich won over USSR - just look how rich their citizens are today!" So, indeed, "у меня" is a very vague and generic attribution, can mean but any kind of bond. – Arioch Aug 29 '17 at 15:41

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