When I do homework to be later read by the teachers, I sometimes like to show off by using rare forms that I have learned by deeply studying Russian. It is always fun, especially as the assistant professor is not a native Russian speaker and sometimes falls to my traps, marking correct expressions as wrong ones, in which case I get a pretext to talk with the full professor, who is a kind of bilingual and always a great pleasure to talk with.

A few months ago I wrote in an essay:

В кампус я придя с утра, в столовую зашла взять чашку супу.

The assistant professor did not take my bait супу (the partitive case, found only in textbooks of the most advanced level), but reacted to moving the subject я into the dangling participle, marking it as a mistake.

Feeling like a cat who caught a mouse, I approached the full professor and showed him my marked homework together with the following text by Krylov, a classic Russian writer:

Вороне где-то бог послал кусочек сыру;

На ель Ворона взгромоздясь,

Позавтракать было совсем уж собралась,

Да позадумалась, а сыр во рту держала.

I pointed to the second line and asked whether such a virtuoso of the Russian language had been unable to find a way to formulate his thoughts in a way conforming to the language norms.

To my great surprise, the professor was unable to give an immediate answer and promised to tell me later, which he never did. Of course, I did not remind him about his promise, as such a reminder might embarrass him a bit. He is a very good man and must have been overburdened by his duties and unintentionally forgotten about such a truly minor matter.

But I got really puzzled. I had thought that if moving the subject into a dangling participle were unacceptable, the great classic Russian writer would have used a different way to express himself. Or what could be the point of deliberately making a grave grammar mistake? Just for the sake of the rhythm? Come on, he was definitely able to make a perfect rhythm without resorting to grave grammar mistakes. But then why did my professor get so puzzled?

Can I, after all, move the subject to the dangling participle preceding the main part of a sentence if I really want to? It is sometimes convenient to put the subject there in order to make clear from the very beginning what subject the whole sentence is about. I never saw the subject inside a dangling participle in my university textbooks, but they teach rather a simplified Russian. I have already learned many times that the real world is much more complex and multifaceted than what my university textbooks teach.

Could you shed some light on this mystery?

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    the prosody of your phrase is not colloquial, it's poetic, if you said it in a company of Russian native speakers, someone could jokingly ask you whether you were reciting some kind of a poem Apr 30, 2019 at 19:40
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    in general in my opinion it's not exactly practical to derive language norms/conventions from 200 years old literary pieces unless one engages in historical philology and diachroniс research, even though some or majority of such norms may still be relevant to its modern version, or vice versa - to judge very old pieces by modern standards Apr 30, 2019 at 21:05

4 Answers 4


This statement is not quite ungrammatical, but it's definitely not a neutral writing and speaking style either.

It is parsable and comprehensible, but it abuses the relatively lax Russian word order rules.

So your professor is right in a way: it's not a mistake in the strict sense, but people don't really talk like that unless they are making their way out of a sentence they didn't completely think through in the first place.

That said,

Or what could be the point of deliberately making a grave grammar mistake? Just for the sake of the rhythm?

Krylov is very well known for deliberately using colloquial speech, teetering on the brink of violation of the language norms in his fables. This has been mentioned by Zhukovsky:

Слог Крылова кажется нам в иных местах растянутым и слабым (зато мы нигде не заметили ни малейшей принужденности в рассказе); попадаются погрешности против языка, выражения, противные вкусу, грубые и тем более заметные, что слог вообще везде и легок и приятен.

, Bestuzhev-Marlinsky:

Невозможно дать большего простодушия рассказу, большей народности языку, большей осязаемости нравоучению… его каждая басня — сатира, тем сильнейшая, что она коротка и рассказана с видом простодушия.

and many others.

The seeming "clumsiness" of his language is a literary device, which he is using to set a certain tone for his fables. He could have used a different way to express himself, that's for sure, he just chose not to. However, unless you're telling a fable, you should not be talking like a fable character or narrator.

Can I, after all, move the subject to the dangling participle preceding the main part of a sentence if I really want to?

If you really want to, why not? It's a language, it allows certain freedom of expression, and this phrase is within the limits.

However you should be aware that this is not something the neutral speech sounds like, and by choosing this word order you're deliberately making your speech non-neutral. If that's what you want, go ahead.

  • Quassnoi, thank you so much for such a fabulous and complete answer. It explains everything and puts all pieces of the puzzle together. It was so inspiring to read your explanation. I wish I had teachers like you at my university.
    – Mitsuko
    May 1, 2019 at 17:33

Russian does allow for a lot of flexibility with word order but moving the subject from the main clause to the subordinate clause is pushing its limits unto the ungrammatical zone. This can occur in impromptu, unprepared speech, the kind that Krylov was portraying. Certainly not clear, academic writing which your teachers were probably expecting.

Both your sentence and Krylov's sound a bit awkward but Krylov's less so, probably just because this particular tale is so familiar to every Russian.

I've just read @Quassnoi's answer and he pretty much said it all.

I would use тарелка or миска for the soup. :)

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    the Japanese eat from пиалы/ки which may be named чашка (as a variant of чаша) as well, also if it's an instant soup it can be drunk from a regular cup Apr 30, 2019 at 19:25
  • @Баян it is very nice to see that you know something about our culture. You are absolutely right, чашка is a very good word to describe what I eat my miso soup from.
    – Mitsuko
    May 1, 2019 at 17:34
  • Sergey, thanks a lot. It is interesting that you say that this tale, written so clumsily, is made familiar to every Russian.
    – Mitsuko
    May 1, 2019 at 17:41
  • Mitsuko - you're welcome! Are you sure about the чашка? Does yours have a handle? Most чашкаs do. May 1, 2019 at 18:03
  • @SergeySlepov , I just asked a question about it: russian.stackexchange.com/questions/19516/…
    – Mitsuko
    May 2, 2019 at 19:18

I know this is an old question, but still...

Even in the free-order languages, some word orders are more standard (unmarked) and others are more unusual (marked). Non-standard word order must have a reason. In poetry it is often rhyme or even more often poetic meter. I would guess this is the reason for this word order in Krylov's case. The unmarked word order would be Ворона, взгромоздясь на ель, ... or взгромоздясь на ель, ворона, ...

When reading your first sentence, В кампус я придя с утра, I actually expected it to continue in the same meter: A a A a A a A (stressed-unstressed) and was confused when the meter broke.

And, as mentioned above, it's almost impossible to have "cup of soup" unless it's clear soup (бульон) and even then there must be something that makes it explicitly a чашка, for example, handle and more (or almost the same) height than width.


Я только поясню вдобавок к тому, что уже сказано в предыдущих ответах, что речь идёт не столько о (дее-)причастных оборотах, сколько о распространённых членах предложения вообще.

Грамматическое согласование в русском языке (т.е. падежи, рода и числа) имеет настолько большой приоритет по сравнению с порядком слов в предложении, что логически связанные слова и обороты допустимо перемежать посторонними включениями без потери смысла.

Простой пример: "Ворона взгромоздилась на старую ель". Прилагательное "старая" связано с существительным "ель" не только порядком слов, но и падежом. Поэтому даже если мы вставим между ними что-то, например: "Взгромоздилась на старую ворона ель", смысл останется неизменным. Но, конечно, подобный порядок слов более чем странен. Всего лишь одна маленькая ошибка, и всё перевернётся с ног на голову: "Взгромоздилась на старую ворону ель" - и уже выходит, что это ель взгромоздилась на старую ворону, можете себе такое представить?

"Придя с утра в кампус" - это отдельная синтаксическая единица (деепричастный оборот). Вы можете спокойно ставить "Я" слева и справа или же перетасовать слова внутри самого оборота, но как только "Я" сунется вовнутрь - нет, это ещё не станет ошибкой, но Ваши шансы "взгромоздиться на ворону" резко увеличатся.

  • спасибо большое. Мне кажется, что эта логика применяется к любому синтетическому языку.
    – Mitsuko
    May 1, 2019 at 17:42

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