Выбери на чьей ты стороне.

= Choose which side you are on!

In expressing the idea of "on which side" in Russian, the phrase "на чьей стороне" is interposed by the pronoun "ты". On the other hand, I'm assuming the addition of a verb such as "стоять" prevents this separated construction:

{vs}: Выбери на чьей стороне ты стоишь.

I notice this kind of separated construction often appears with the particle "ли", but I'm wondering if there is a grammatical rule that determines when such a construction is mandatory.

  • For literary translation your guess is Ok, but the language does not work like that. The established phase is a bit intimidating, a but colloquial, but very authentic. If I would be asked to translate it to English though, I'd say Which side are you on?. Oh, and even выбери can be omitted. Jun 28 '18 at 21:33
  • выбери, на чьей ты стороне стоишь is perfectly grammatical
    – Quassnoi
    Jun 28 '18 at 21:43
  • The construction is not mandatory without “стоишь” either. “Ты на чьей стороне?” or “На чьей стороне ты?” are just fine. I guess the preferred interposed placement of “ты” is simply because of nice iambic meter that results. Jun 28 '18 at 22:41
  • Other constructions ("на чьей ты стороне стоишь", "на чьей стороне ты") while grammatically correct, sound poetic or archaic.
    – Alexander
    Jun 28 '18 at 23:41
  • 2
    Everyone is missing the real reason for different word orders—emphasis. Выбери на чьей ты стороне.— HERE the most important thing is which side, so the word ты is moved to the left. if you wrote—Выбери на чьей стороне ты.—it would mean something like—Choose what side YOU ARE on.
    – VCH250
    Jun 29 '18 at 19:20

First, I would go with different translation in English for the first Russian sentence, smth. like

"Choose your side (in the conflict"

"Choose the side you support"

And the second Russian sentence the best translation would be

"Choose where are you standing"

Basically, the first sentence has a somewhat idiomatic luggage, implying context of conflict, but the second uses verb "стоять" that is mostly used in context of "standing on your legs"

Also, the first sentence should be written as

Выбери, на чьей ты стороне.

It is a complex sentence. It looks weird, because both parts are grammatically incomplete, but there are two of them, and they should be separated by a comma.

But that's nitpicking. As for the actual question.

In Russian connections between words are not regulated by their position, or, more precisely, position is second to inflections. In this particular case, "чьей" is controlled by "стороне" as both words are of female gender and in Preposition case. Usual, i.e. default word order in a sentence is subject-verb-object. The verb in the second part of the first sentence is omitted, so it is subject-object. In part adjective-object, adjective is usually first. So, normally it should be "Выбери, ты на чьей стороне", and it is perfectly fine. However! It is a good idea to specify, what should be chosen, i.e. what links the first part of the sentence and the second. It is "чьей", i.e. what is to be chosen. And so this word is moved forward, and since it does not create ambiguity, it is also perfectly fine. There is not an iron-clad rule for it.

  • did you mean to say “however” instead of “whoever”? Jul 10 '18 at 21:46
  • @IgorSkochinsky yep. Corrected
    – permeakra
    Jul 10 '18 at 22:04

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