Каждый коротышка был ростом с небольшой огурец.

I am translating it as every small person was of the size of small cucumber?

I am confused about the case, why is cucumber in accusative or nominative and why use с небольшой?

  • 2
    Was the height of small cucumber. – alamar Jun 7 at 9:07
  • Nominative can never be used with prepositions, so it's an accusative. – Sergey Kirienko Jun 19 at 8:49
up vote 11 down vote accepted

1 This is one of adjectival constructions in Russian to denote likeness in terms of measures.

размером с горошину as small as a pea
ростом с мизинец as short as a pinkie
весом с пудовую гирю as heavy as a 16 kg weight
рептилия длиной с автобус a reptile as long as a bus
глубиной с Марианскую впадину as deep as Mariana Trench
толщиной с бревно as thick as a log
шириной с футбольное поле as wide as a football field

In these the preposition C governs Accusative case because it implies a question c кого? с что?

An approximation of literal translation would be
OF THEsize/length/width/height/depth etc.OF...
but a more idiomatic one is
ASbig/small/long/short/high/low/deep etc.AS...

A word denoting a type of dimension or quality (размером, высотой, шириной, длиной etc) can be omitted if it's clear from the context

помидор размером с горошину
кулак величиной с пудовую гирю
змеи толщиной с бревно
сосиски длиной с мизинец

2 Instead of небольшой one can use маленький as well. But in this context these words differ in their register. Маленький could be perceived as belonging to a primitive language, like that of children and poorly educated speakers.

  • could not leave the comment, to short – Arioch Jun 7 at 8:48
  • Where does this qualification of "маленький" come from? It isn't style-primitive in any sense, and isn't a semantical analogue of "небольшой". How about that trend in the 19th c. Russian literature, "маленькие люди"? Granted, it's used slightly differently that "малый", tending to more unofficial vs. official use (like, in documents: "малая трещина", "малые затраты"). But that's that. – yury10578 Jun 7 at 13:42
  • it comes from my experience as a native speaker, everything is context dependent, in this particular context i consider my qualification accurate, it's not possible to foresee all potential types of context, also малый and маленький are quite different in their use and mixing them would be misleading, however i did add a reservation to my answer regarding context, if there's a need for authoritative source, Wiktionary recognizes небольшой, малый and маленький as synonyms – Баян Купи-ка Jun 7 at 15:10
  • Well, I am a native speaker, and this qualification is totally new to me. I wouldn't write "маленькие затраты" in the official document vs. "малые затраты", but does the word really "tend to be perceived as belonging to primitive [?] language [style?]"?? (Also: is Wiktionary an authoritative source now? Like: is it now refereed, quality-checked, etc.? Last time I looked, wiki-sources weren't recognised as authoritative even in the wiki-context). – yury10578 Jun 7 at 15:31
  • indeed we're all native speakers here and everyone's experience is different, i'm not in the mood for debates and don't come here in search for any, if you strongly disagree, you have the opportunity to post an alternative answer, have a great day – Баян Купи-ка Jun 7 at 15:34

"Небольшой" is perceived as slightly bigger than "маленький", but not yet so big as "big". Think "medium or just a tad bigger".

And "коротышка", being the quasi-race name, would be better translated as, e.g., "shortling".

Each shorty was as tall as a small (standing) cucumber.

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