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I'm reading Незнайка в солнечном городе and just encountered something I cannot properly make sense of:

Подъем был такой крутой, что ...

Obviously, подъем (= climb, rise, ascent, etc.) is a male noun, but why is the adjective not in instrumental case? At least I learned that it should be instrumental with был and будет in such a sentence.

I tested it with Google translate. I know it's not reliable for translation, but it usually offers interesting alternatives. Google translate gives me:

подъем был такой крутой = climb was so steep

and in the version, I though was the proper one with instrumental case:

подъем был таким крутым = rise was so cool

Now I have two questions:

  1. Why is the adjective not in instrumental? Or in other words, which grammatical construct is it that I didn't learn about?

  2. Is Google translate right, does the adjective really mean something different if I put it in instrumental case? Why is that?

I would be happy if someone could enlighten me.

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  • Keep in mind that in Russian крутой can mean either steep or superb; same as in English cool means either cold/chilly or superb. Google translate makes a mistake there translating крутой подъем as a cool rise, obviously it should be a steep rise/climb. Well, unless the other option is apparent from the context.
    – DK.
    Nov 25 '18 at 5:48
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These two versions actually mean the same thing (without differences in emphasis or anything else). Google Translate is often not a suitable source to rely on because it translates phrases and sentences by patterns.

Nominative instead of instrumental case here is kind of colloquial transformation.

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  • I know Google translate is crappy, but I didn't know that nominative was colloquial. Interesting.
    – chaero
    Feb 21 '13 at 18:52
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The major difference is about 'durative predicate' vs 'temporal predicate'. This difference in predicates is not so obvious in English, although it can be rendered by its means as well, cf:

подъем был такой крутой = climb was so steep

подъем был таким крутым = climb had been/used to be so steep

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This might be obscure, but the fact is that in Russian 'такой' is sort of special word. It has extra meaning, I would translate as "soooo". And 'таким' has no such association. Saying 'такой крутой' is like 'soooo steep', and 'таким крутым' just 'so steep', or maybe just 'steep'. Because the listener ear could just omit 'таким' as a service word, which is not possible for 'такой' which is a very-very special word, as said.

Ok this might need some proof. Consider this:

такой-сякой! 
ты кто такой? 
да, - я такой! 
какой-такой (павлин-мавлин)? 
ух ты какой!

Those idioms are complete sentences, are quite powerful, and can be only explained and understood if you comprehend the strange special meaning of the word 'такой'.

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  • Ok, so the nominative of the adjective is due to такой, which denotes special emphasis. But подъем был крутой would be wrong, right?
    – chaero
    Mar 6 '13 at 13:21
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    It won't be wrong! But OP is reading Nosov's book, and he is aknowleged master of child story, he is trying to make any sentence sound emotional so parents can read aloud and keep children attention easily. So while reading this phrase aloud you can emphasise this word "такой" and amaze your listeners once again.
    – exebook
    Mar 6 '13 at 13:26
  • Ok, I got that with the emphasis. But is подъем был крутой grammatically right without this такой? Btw, who or what is OP?
    – chaero
    Mar 6 '13 at 13:49
  • @chaero Yes it is. OP is Original Poster (you in this case).
    – Dan M.
    Sep 30 at 12:49

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