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I saw the following sentence:

Моя бабушка умерла в 1959 году, не дожив до ста лет всего лишь трёх месяцев.

I understood the meaning of this sentence. "My grandmother (...) lived three months short of 100".

However, I don't get the syntax in this sentence. What's the meaning of the genitive трёх месяцев here? Does it imply "for a matter of three months"?

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    не дожив СКОЛЬКИ МЕСЯЦЕВ? - трёх or as yury10578 explained не дожив ЧЕГО? трёх месяцев Jun 13 '18 at 15:26
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The use of Genitive (which is rather Abessive) is linked to the negation of the verb.

The quoted phrase does sound idiomatic (as Abessive case does in Russian), but it would still sound right if instead of Abessive Accusative was employed

...умерла в 1959 году, не дожив до ста лет всего лишь трИ месяцА.

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    So, "три месяца" is agreeing with "дожив"? I know that дожить implies the amount of time one has lived; but previously I thought it should necessarily be followed by до. So, if translated literally, maybe this sentence means "not having lived just the three months until the age of 100"?
    – swrutra
    Jun 13 '18 at 15:43
  • Interestingly, my guts feeling tell me ordering matters. "трИ месяцА .... не дожив до ста лет" sounds idiomatic. Yet "не дожив до ста лет .... трИ месяцА" does not (grammatically normal, but forced and unnatural). "не дожив ... трИ месяцА ... до ста лет" is mostly idiomatic, but something is getting fishy. Then, adding "лишь" and especially "всего лишь" strongly shift balance pro-Abessive in last two cases.
    – Arioch
    Jun 13 '18 at 16:19
  • @swrutra your literal rendering is absolutely correct, and you indeed do have the preposition до in the sentence namely до ста лет Jun 13 '18 at 17:21
  • @swrutra трёх месяцев/три месяца is a direct object of the verb дожить which can exist in Genitive (Abessive) as well as in Accusative, and so is primary, до ста лет is its indirect object and so is secondary Jun 13 '18 at 18:25
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The genitive is because of не.

  • Я видел ваш чемодан but Не видел я вашего чемодана! (Не видел я ваш чемодан! is also correct.)
  • Она прожила семь лет but она не прожила и семи лет
  • Она не дожила трёх месяцев до ста лет.
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Literally this means: "My grandma died in 1959, not having reached the age [не дожив] of 100 [до 100 лет] by just [всего лишь] three months [трёх месяцев]".

So the genitive you're asking about relates to the "не дожив [сколько?; кого? чего?]", which in its turn implies a relation with the qualification "до чего, до какого? (события, времени, срока)" -- "to what, to which? (event, time duration, moment in time)".

Compare: "не доделав [чего?] насколько?" -- "not having completed [what?] by what measure?".

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