3

In my university I was explained various grammatical means of making a request, but find it very difficult to understand their connotations. Your language is so rich and nuanced in this regard.

Let's suppose my boss wants me to quickly slice a fish. Or, alternatively, let's suppose that I get a Russian boyfriend in the future and that he wants me to quickly slice a fish for him.

My question is this: What is the difference between the following grammatical means of making a request, in terms of connotations?

(1) Возьми нож и быстро нарежь рыбу! (Imperative)

(2) Взяла нож и быстро нарезала рыбу! (Past tense)

(3) Берешь нож и быстро режешь рыбу! (Present tense)

(4) Сейчас ты возьмешь нож и быстро нарежешь рыбу! (Future tense)

(5) Ты бы взяла нож и быстро нарезала рыбу! (Hypothetical mood)

(6) Чтоб взяла нож и быстро нарезала рыбу! (Clause with чтоб)

(7) Чтоб быстро рыба была нарезана! (Clause with чтоб and passive voice)

To me, Sentences (1)-(7) are just requests to quickly slice the fish, but I feel there must be considerable variations in the connotation, because the grammatical means are very different.

Please help me understand the connotations.

3
  • 2
    "various grammatical means of making a request" - what you listed here are orders, not requests. They are all rude (unless said as a joke and both parties understand this is not serious). Joking aside, such orders can be acceptable only in a limited number of specific circumstances - in the army, in a prison, a very angry parent talking to their disobeying child etc. A boyfriend talking like that to a Russian girlfriend is probably talking for the last time in his life :) well, at least, for the last time to this girlfriend. (5) is just weird, so my comment does not apply to it. – tum_ Jun 5 '19 at 19:13
  • @tum_ : >>(5) is just weird, so my comment does not apply to it<< We were given numerous examples of this form, e.g.: Ты бы потеплее оделся, на улице мороз. Precisely what is weird in (5)? – Mitsuko Jun 5 '19 at 21:19
  • 1
    "Быстро" is odd here, and the exclamation mark. A Russian would most likely say "Ты бы взяла нож да рыбу нарезала (чем сидеть без дела/пока время есть)" but this is more of a suggestion rather than order or request... – tum_ Jun 5 '19 at 21:29
4

Your language is so rich and nuanced in this regard

I guess it's not as much as Japanese. Also, this is quite common in many languages to have fine distinctions between orders, polite requests, etc. Also, as it's usual, the intonation could change really much in this regard.

(1) Возьми нож и быстро нарежь рыбу! (Imperative)

You could think it as "normal", but it's "the bare norm" which could be sometimes considered aggressive. So it's often advisable "to twist" it a little bit, for example: "Возьми, пожалуйста, нож и порежь быстренько рыбу".

In short, you should normally use the imperative, but, please, don't forget to say "please".

(2) Взяла нож и быстро нарезала рыбу! (Past tense)

This is rude. Or, at least, too demanding.

(3) Берешь нож и быстро режешь рыбу! (Present tense)

(4) Сейчас ты возьмешь нож и быстро нарежешь рыбу! (Future tense)

Very pushing mentor tone. The differences are more about specific intonation.

5) Ты бы взяла нож и быстро нарезала рыбу! (Hypothetical mood)

In general, hypotheticals are polite but rather formal. (BTW. If your sentence sounds a bit strange that's because you use "hypothetical" alongside with "a bare form", which sounds like a clause, not as a separate sentence). So it suits better "the boss", not "the boyfriend".

(6) Чтоб взяла нож и быстро нарезала рыбу! (Clause with чтоб)

This is very similar to (2). But while (2) usually stands for "do it now", (6) typically means "do it ASAP".

(7) Чтоб быстро рыба была нарезана! (Clause with чтоб and passive voice)

Well, passive is a passive. "Get it done ASAP".

14
  • +1 from me for the analysis. Having seen (and participated in) other questions by @Mitsuko I can safely assume that her main interest here is focused on "grammatical forms" alone. So I'll take the liberty to emphasize: the effect of gram.forms in these examples (especially, in spoken language) is negligible compared to factors like the intonation, the facial expression, the voice tone, the relationships between the parties etc. In other words - the context, in the widest possible sense of the word. – tum_ Jun 5 '19 at 20:10
  • @tum_ : I do not get notifications when you refer to me by using @ in the middle of a comment, not in the beginning. This is just how SE works, I think. – Mitsuko Jun 5 '19 at 21:04
  • Great analysis, thanks a lot. It is surprising to me that many of these forms are considered rude or pushy. – Mitsuko Jun 5 '19 at 21:08
  • @Mitsuko Hmm, weird. But possible, there are various glitches here... I'm in a worse situation - some people address me as @ turn ;) so I don't get notifications regardless of the position of it.. And some poor user "turn" might be receiving them all and cursing the Latin script... – tum_ Jun 5 '19 at 21:11
  • 1
    @Mitsuko It could be rude when misused. But nowadays one should first look into a dictionary to know the meaning of the word courtesy. For example, if I have come visiting you and say "А ну-ка, Мицуко, быстро схватила нож и метнулась нарезать мне рыбки. А еще принеси воды попить, а то так есть хочется, что и переночевать негде", in fact, it's exceedingly rude. However, I can simply laugh out loud and be assured that you won't show me the door right after that. Alas, there's no way to find any bon ton on the Earth. Not even in Russia. – Matt Jun 5 '19 at 21:51
1

For a boss' request, #1 is definitely the most appropriate option. For a boyfriend's request, "hypothetical mood" might be preferable, but your option (#5) is poorly worded.

(1) Возьми нож и быстро нарежь рыбу! (Imperative) - just fine;

(2) Взяла нож и быстро нарезала рыбу! (Past tense) - colloquial and impolite (pushy);

(3) Берешь нож и быстро режешь рыбу! (Present tense) - colloquial, usable when addressing a child, for example;

(4) Сейчас ты возьмешь нож и быстро нарежешь рыбу! (Future tense) - Ok, but less usable than #1. Stresses that we are "shifting gears" from planning to action;

(5) Ты бы взяла нож и быстро нарезала рыбу! (Hypothetical mood) - Ok, but sounds cranky. More positive saying would be like "Вот бы ты взяла нож и нарезала побыстрее рыбу!";

(6) Чтоб взяла нож и быстро нарезала рыбу! (Clause with чтоб) - colloquial and impolite;

(7) Чтоб быстро рыба была нарезана! (Clause with чтоб and passive voice) - impolite, pushy;

Also consider inserting "пожалуйста" in the sentences. For example, "Возьми, пожалуйста, нож и быстро нарежь рыбу!" is a polite version of #1, and you probably find it used in most situations.

1

(1) Возьми нож и быстро нарежь рыбу! (Imperative)

Firm request or order (ex., from cook to his helper)

(2) Взяла нож и быстро нарезала рыбу! (Past tense)

order with threatening (you may think of family violence)

(3) Берешь нож и быстро режешь рыбу! (Present tense)

order + explanation (think of cook teaching newbie)

(4) Сейчас ты возьмешь нож и быстро нарежешь рыбу! (Future tense)

order with threatening ("Сейчас ты возьмешь нож и быстро нарежешь рыбу! Иначе - неделю без сладкого!")

(5) Ты бы взяла нож и быстро нарезала рыбу! (Hypothetical mood)

Not-so-polite request. (like "Хватить сидеть в телефоне! Ты бы лучше взяла нож и быстро нарезала рыбу!")

(6) Чтоб взяла нож и быстро нарезала рыбу! (Clause with чтоб)

Impolite firm request or informal order (ex., from father to daughter)

(7) Чтоб быстро рыба была нарезана! (Clause with чтоб and passive voice)

Impolite firm request or rude order.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.