Не понимаю, в кого он такой своевольный.

I saw this phrase in an IM, and I assume it is roughly an equivalent of "take after" in English. I find this turn of phrase curious, though: how should I interpret "в кого {accusative}"? It seems to literally mean:

I don't understand to whom he's so stubborn.

Is this how Russian speakers commonly convey the idea of "take after"? Or are there other expressions?

  • 1
    besides [быть] (весь)/пойти в кого-л. also удаться в кого-л. Jul 14 '18 at 10:56
  • @БаянКупи-ка So now, with six months' worth of deeper insight under my belt, I'd now epxress this idea as "Не понимаю, откуда это в нем (берется [or should it be] "взялось") . What's your take? Jan 1 '19 at 14:17
  • 1
    that's an option, берётся fits better in reference to habitual sporadic manifestation of certain [blameworthy] character traits, взялось - to a one off, first ever or recent manifestation of some such quality Jan 1 '19 at 14:44
  • 1
    but mind you that this construction is convenient when you're prepared to be confined to the use of the pronoun это as a subject, should you need to specify the trait you're referring to you'd have to use a noun which isn't so handy, in the context of character traits adjectives come easier Jan 1 '19 at 14:56
  • Выходит, у дураков мысли сходятся! Руки так и чесались включить "его/это своеволие", а я не знаю, как с этим разобраться. @БаянКупи-ка Jan 1 '19 at 15:31

Yes, "в кого ты/он/она такой/такая..." is the question about whom that person is taking after. It can be about about appearance and/or behavior.

"Он весь в отца" means "he really takes after his father"/"he's just like his father". "Весь/вся в..." can be translated as "He/she is the spitting image of..."

A very common phrase is "В кого ты такой уродился?!" Depending on context and intonation, it can be lighthearted, positive even, or an expression of annoyance (that's how it's most often used), sort of "You're just impossible!"

"В кого ты такой умный?" can be a compliment "Damn, you are smart!" or more like "Oh really, smartass?", while "В кого ты такая красивая?" is a compliment.

You can also drop personal pronoun if it's clear whom you're talking about. Like so "Ну вся в мать!". Again, whether her being like her mother is good or bad depends on the context.

  • Interesting. Should I see "в" as "after whom", or is it more like "to whom" in the sense of "direction"? Jul 14 '18 at 6:30
  • Yes, I suppose. Or you can think of "in" as in "God created mankind in his own image".
    – AR.
    Jul 14 '18 at 6:37

Yes indeed, the English “take after someone” can be translated as «родиться/поийти/идти/быть/стать в кого-либо»

Основные значения фразового глагола take:

Take after – быть похожим, походить на (родителей, родственников) – когда говорят о характере, склонностях и т.п.  — Mary is very clever – she takes after her mother. – Мэри очень умная – она пошла в свою мать

In your example, the verb быть is omitted in the Present tense, so what is left is «в» with a noun phrase in Accusative.

  • So "в кого пойти/go" works just as well, huh? Does this phrasing without an adjective have the same "take after" meaning: "И в кого он пошел такой?"? Jul 14 '18 at 6:41
  • Maybe "такой" in "И в кого он пошел такой?" related to: russian.stackexchange.com/questions/16775/… Jul 14 '18 at 6:44
  • @Alone-zee yes, exactly, «в кого он пошел такой» has the same meaning, but it depends just on «в», not on «такой».
    – J-mster
    Jul 14 '18 at 6:46

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