I'm confused as to how чему is used in following sentence:

И стал припоминать Сократ все, чему учили его про Богов.

Does the sentence translate to:

And Socrates remembered all, to which they taught him on the gods.

It doesn't make sense to put 'to which' there as well?

up vote 5 down vote accepted

We would use чему asking about what someone is being taught, as well as answering questions like that. For example:

Чему вас учат в школе? (what are you taught at school?) - Много чему (a lot of things): математике, русскому языку, литературе и т.д. (mathematics, Russian, literature etc.)

Я не знаю чему тебя учат. (I don't know what you are being taught.)

Чему is the Dative form of что: учить чему? - математике.

So, I'd translate your sentence like this:

И стал припоминать Сократ все, чему учили его про Богов. - Socrates started remembering everything he had been taught about Gods.

  • 1
    to tease out Dative in English so it sounds more similar to Russian with subordinate clause these examples can be phrased as follows What is that which you are taught at school? I don't know that which you are being taught – Баян Купи-ка Oct 9 at 9:05

Here учить is a synonym of обучать which governs two cases Accusative and Dative

учить/обучать кого? Accusative - Сократа
учить/обучать чему? Dative - всему

Dative doesn't always require preposition, it's formed perfectly just by inflexion alone in both English (eg. which) and Russian.

Thus in the English sentence preposition to is superfluous

And Socrates started to recall everything, [x] which they taught him on the gods.

Etymologically, English infinitives (as well as Russian infinitives) are dative forms of nouns.

If you look long enough at the sentences "I give the dog to you" and "I teach the dog to fly", you will probably start seeing their similarity.

If you look long enough at the Russian sentences: я учу сестру плести and я приношу жертву нечисти, you will probably see their similarity as well.

Dative has long since died in English, but whenever you are saying "I teach to swim", in English and Russian alike, your are saying the phrase which has started out as "I teach to the skill of swimming", in dative.

Hope this will help you to wrap your head around it.

  • or я жертвую сестру нечисти – Баян Купи-ка Oct 9 at 8:59
  • @БаянКупи-ка it's surprisingly hard to find an animate i-stem Russian noun in -ть using only a mobile phone! – Quassnoi Oct 9 at 11:21

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