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Вы мне клиентов распугиваете.

Вы мне клиентов отпугиваете.

Am I correct in assuming that the prefix "от-" simply conveys the idea of someone moving away from a place, whereas the suffix "рас-/раз-" is more about multiple people being scattered in multiple directions, and in a disorderly manner, at that?

Incidentally, I wonder if the dative "мне" in this instance means "(scare off ...) from me" rather than "to/for me"?

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    The dative мне is used in the general sense of being the recipient of an inflicted wrong. It's not affected by the specifics of распугивать, and the closest translation would be "you're scaring away my clients". Apr 28 '18 at 8:13
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Your understanding of the difference in the verbs' meaning is absolutely spot on.

However pас-/отпугивать мне is not from me, it means to my displeasure and inconvenience. A difficult one to render idiomatically in English.

It's a colloquial expression of displeasure or indignation with someone else's actions when they interfere with or disturb one's comfort, plans etc. For example

Что ты мне тут расселся? - What's up with you sitting around here?

Вы мне тут ходите туда-сюда, а я убирай (a typical rant from a grumpy cleaner)

Ты мне оставь/брось эти выходки! - You'd better stop your tricks!


отпугивать can be used with preposition от + Genitive, but not so much распугивать. The latter doesn't go well together with indirect object. One it can be used successfully with in my opinion is that which denotes a place and is governed by preposition из/с(о) + Genitive.

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    In a manner of speaking, I wonder if “отпугиваемые клиенты” is like bullets fired away in a single direction from a pistol, while “распугиваемые клиенты” resemble shotgun shells flying away in random, multiple directions? Apr 23 '18 at 9:24
  • This specific Dative can perhaps be rendered in English as "at the expense of somebody"? Apr 23 '18 at 9:31
  • w.r.t. Dative "мне" I feel more like it means "bringing me into the situation, authorizing me to interfere, making me relevant for the case". Kind of "i am getting ready for an outright escalation you vs me". Like "you bother me, and it would be me who'd put you straight". This construct is noticeably aggressive and is only rendered with singular 1-st face pronoun "мне",
    – Arioch
    Apr 23 '18 at 9:35
  • That said, I am not sure that in your original example that was the case, it - in my perception - could be a neutral and even somewhat asking for pardon "you are scaring away my clients". Like "i would not ask you to move if I had no reasons, but I do have and very real ones". It would depend upon voice tone, mimics,gestures, etc. For another example "вы ЕМУ всех клиентов распугиваете" certainly would be a reasoning rather than an escalation threat. That last one would not be so much "at the expense of him" but more like "you are messing with his circumstances", like "you cause him ...."
    – Arioch
    Apr 23 '18 at 9:37
  • Maybe - again, discussing the aggressive "ты мне" meaning mentioned by Баян - it can go as "before my face", "in front of me". It is hard to reason about subconscious "gut feeling", but i'd think that "Что ты мне тут расселся?" would imply that you are not just sitting wrongly, but you intentionally did it in a way to irritate me, to bother me, to make my life more problematic. In a sense that I claim your behavior a personal offense to me and that I am readying to personally fight it back. Telling would be that "Что ты тут расселся?" even w/o "мне" is already an aggressive complain.
    – Arioch
    Apr 23 '18 at 9:45
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While the prefix от- here works almost literally as a directional one (they tend to scare the clients into getting away from the business person), the prefix рас- works idiomatically. It adds intensity in case of imperfective распугиваете (like, many clients each minute, one by one) and resultativeness in case of perfective распугаете/распугали (I'll finally lose or I have lost every potential client). So the direction remains indefinite (just away) in that case, as in this typical expression about fishing ( = every fish will swim away from here):

Не шуми, (всю) рыбу распугаешь.

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