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Его зовут Борис, это он впустил нас в дом.

I'm assuming that "это он ..." is an equivalent expression of "it's him who ...". If this English construction is anything to go by, I'm puzzled by the lack of a word corresponding to the relative pronoun "who".

Is "comma + кто" dropped here?

Его зовут Борис, это он(, кто) впустил нас в дом.

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  • 1
    in a not very ideomatic but still grammatically sound Russian (like other proposed examples) one can say Его зовут Борис, он - тот, кто впустил нас в дом, which is equal to это он while sounding more like English at the expense of expressiveness Apr 20 '18 at 20:35
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The “это” does not really play a grammatical role here. “His name is Boris, he let us in”. Observe that “это” can appear without the other part of the sentence at all:

— Как вы здесь оказались?
— Это Борис нас впустил. [“это” is optional and it gives a bit of an apologetic tone]

Generally, such usage the word “это” refers to its natural meaning of “this” but without being actually coupled to particular words, rather to the entire sentence. “Что это?!” “Это кот нагадил.” (the verb is intransitive so “это” is not the object).

“Он, кто” is ungrammatical, instead use:

Его зовут Борис, это тот, кто впустил нас в дом.
Его зовут Борис, вот кто впустил нас в дом.

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  • Hi. I'm still in the dark, I'm afraid. So in my example sentence, what function does "это" serve, exactly? Apr 19 '18 at 21:23
  • @Alone-zee The equivalent form “это тот, кто” means literally “this person, who”. But in general, “это” is a vague word denoting some kind of closeness, relatedness to events at hand, and can often be just omitted without great impact on the meaning. Consider also the usual wording for definitions, e. g. “Щенок — [это] детёныш собаки”. Apr 19 '18 at 21:46
  • This all is as opposed to sentences where “это” does have a clear grammatical role. “Дайте мне это, пожалуйста.” Apr 19 '18 at 21:50
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    I think это is used to stress that you are telling who let you in. Without это you are telling that you were let in and, by the way, it was he who did it, but that is not the point.
    – AlexVB
    Apr 19 '18 at 22:27
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    @Alone-zee yes. The emphasis from “это” being “His name is Boris, and you should care because he’s the one who let us in”. Without “это” you’re just stating two facts. Apr 19 '18 at 23:31
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It's amazing how exactly you understand the details of a foreign language. Of course, the meaning of это is emphatic. And it corresponds to that English structure of yours. It's him/he is the one who let us in. But we don't use the same structure in Russian, I mean a sentence with a subordinate clause. We can emphasize with the following :

Именно он впустил нас/Это он впустил нас.(or just stress он )

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  • Hi. Given "Именно он" as a synonym, can I consider "Это он" to be like "THIS he did ..."? Apr 22 '18 at 23:04
  • It was he exactly, who did it ---именно.
    – V.V.
    Apr 23 '18 at 4:39
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Yes, it's an equivalent expression of English "it's him who ...". And the thing is that it is an equivalent expression, not a word-by-word translation. So there is no "who". Why should there be one? It's just "it's he".

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this English construction is anything to go by

Depends on your goal. If you aim at "literature translation" - at a smooth naturally sounding RETELLING - then this construction surely is "to go by", but that would make the syntax comparison pointless. Then whether your aim would be "word to word matching", a reproduction of the language mechanics barebones in another more familiar language, even if the outcome would sound awkward and would but never be used in actual conversations, then that construction obviously does not fit.

I feel like the most verbatim translation of the 2nd part would be using "the very" or "himself" expressions.

Frankly, the first part of your example is not needed to make a "minimal verifiable example" as they say in some other StackExchange forums :-D

The core question revolves around "Это Борис впустил нас". Technically, even "нас" is not needed here, just the phrase would sound very awkward without it. If chosen so, to yet reduce boilerplate/noise, we could minimize the phrase yet further up to "Это Борис сделал" to use as neuter and minimal verb as possible.

So, I would go on with "Это Борис впустил нас".

Now you map it to English "It was Boris, who let us in" and feel confused, because this English counterpart is actually two sentences fused together, a so called "complex sentence". And translating it back to Russian, if verbatim, would require a 2-parts complex sentence too.

It was Boris, who let us in ==> То был Борис, кто впустил нас.

Now, this English expression is proper mapping for "literature translation" which is "retelling". But it is not the verbatim "literary" translation.

For word-to-word attempt we need some English phraseology, that anchors the attention to some specific term, exaggerates its importance, without spawning an extra sentence.

"Это Борис впустил нас".

At glance, I can see two options for it.

  1. one way to "underline" some term is appending xxxxx-self/xxxxx-selves to it.

"Boris himself let us in".

This, however, has a specific connotation, uncalled for. It emphasize some kind of worshipping, kissing up to. It could be said with some fans daring to ring on some super-star doorbell, and that superstar blessed them with his own descending.

That is not always so, if I imagine some possible interrogation scene from a detective book, then "Boris himself let us in" would sound much differently, as framing the said Boris. So in such a context this would be probably the fitting way to translate the original sentence. But only in this kind of a very specific, narrow context.

  1. The more universal option to map such a phrase to I believe would be using "the very" expression. That would probably not be met in real life spoken English. But for the "technical" goal of making word-to-word comparison and feeling the internal mechanics of the language conveying ideas, I guess it would be the most fitting mapping.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/very

  • used to emphasize that you are talking about one specific thing or part and not another
  • 3 — used as an intensive especially to emphasize identity ·before my very eyes
  • 5 : being the same one : selfsame ·the very man I saw

That way the mapping I feel would be "mechanically" proper would be this:

"Это Борис впустил нас" ==> "The very Boris let us in".

I have strong doubt whether "the very" construct in English can be applied to personal names and for natural way of language "it was him, who..." pattern feels better. However if we sack the English correctness for the sake of representing underlying mechanics of Russian then my gut feeling tells me those two constructs as reference points.

Now, your original example using those constructs seems to be "at low level" mapped verbatim way like that:

  • Его зовут Борис, это он впустил нас в дом.
  • They call him Boris, he himself let us into the house.
  • They call him Boris, the very he let us into the house.

Those phrases are totally non-English and sound double plus awkward. Because they seek to word-for-word mapping of the entire rather complex language structure, and thus amount of boilerplate noise unrelated to the core question becomes overwhelming. Which was why I chosen above to strip your example of everything I felt was not immediately related to the problem at hands.

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