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The question is in the title of this post. A couple of explanatory points:

Context: The organizers of a certain tournament cannot provide a big cash prize that would attract a lot of participants, so the organizers reached an agreement with the national sport federation that the winners of the tournament will get a direct right to play in a certain very prestigious championship. Now many players will participate in the first tournament in order to try to earn a seat in the prestigious championship. Thus, the organizers of the first tournament are unable to make it attractive by itself and parasitize the popularity of the prestigious championship.

My attempts: I looked in Reverso and found that the phrase "by itself" is usually translated as "сам по себе," but my problem is that I cannot choose the grammatical case:

(1) Они не могут сделать турнир притягивающим сам по себе.

(2) Они не могут сделать турнир притягивающим самим по себе.

(3) Они не могут сделать турнир притягивающим самого по себе.

All variants seem wrong and unnatural to me. The Russian grammatical cases make me very confused at times, and this is just a typical situation.

Another problem with variants (1)-(3) is that "самим/самого" seems to interfere with other words: for example, in Sentence (2) "самим" can be understood as referring to "они" rather than to "турнир."

I am curious how the native speakers would express the idea.


UPDATE: Please be careful with the precise meaning. Compare two sentences:

(4) They cannot make the tournament attractive by itself.

(5) They cannot make the tournament itself attractive.

I want to translate Sentence (4) to Russian, whilst Elena's answer seems to be rather a translation of Sentence (5). She offers this: Они не могут сделать сам турнир достаточно привлекательным.

The difference is this: Sentence (4) implies that the tournament is attractive, but the attractiveness is not related to the cash prize or anything else intrinsically related to the tournament; the tournament is rather a stepping stone for something else. Sentence (5) implies that the tournament is not attractive enough to make people come to play in it, but comes as a part of an attractive package (e.g., tournament + sightseeing tour + sauna + night party), so people come to the city for the whole package and play in the tournament in that city because they are already in that city.

I humbly hope you can give me nice translations of Sentence (4), not (5).

  • I think, regarding your 'update', that your interpretations of (4) and (5) are a bit far fetched. When presented on their own, i.e. w/out your "novel", they will mean more or less the same to native speakers. I presume you will jump into arguing your point but only a discussion on enSE, i.e. opinions of numerous native speakers, would prove my understanding right or wrong. – tum_ Jul 28 '19 at 17:19
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    Они не в состоянии организовать турнир, который был бы привлекателен сам по себе, и вынуждены паразитировать на... – Elena Jul 28 '19 at 19:25
  • Турнир cannot be притягивающий. It can be привлекательный or притягательный. – Anixx Jul 30 '19 at 18:58
  • "Представлять интерес" (literally "to be of interest") would be a more natural wording option in Russian than "привлекательный" and "притягательный". Another option is "заманчивый". However, using "привлекательный", "притягательный" and "заманчивый" would require more careful phrase construction and/or extra context to avoid a hint of being unusual/foreign. – DK. Jul 31 '19 at 5:50
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"Сам по себе" has certain difficulties when it comes to declension. I once tried (see this thread) to establish the correct way to decline it and got many people puzzled. So you are not alone.

When сам по себе is adjacent to the word it modifies, things are easy:

  • Сам по себе турнир [состояться не может.]
  • Самого по себе турнира [не может быть.]
  • Самому по себе турниру [не бывать!], etc

In your sentence, the instrumental привлекательным comes in between, which messes things up. I suggest rearranging the sentence:

Сам по себе турнир они не могут сделать привлекательным.

@Elena's answer (сам турнир) also works but is a bit less precise and a bit more idiomatic.

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    сам по себе here can also follow the adjective сделать привлекательным сам по себе, although it doesn't sound ideal, it's passable in my opinion – Баян Купи-ка Jul 28 '19 at 10:30
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Почему "притягивающим"? "Привлекательным" - лучше.

Они не могут сделать сам турнир достаточно привлекательным.

And again my free time is not enough to read such a novel.

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  • Elena, you do not need to read the entire post. You can just read the title. And you missed the phrase "by itsef." They can make the tournament attractive, but they cannot make it attractive by itself. – Mitsuko Jul 28 '19 at 8:16
  • If I make my question short, then shabunc will come and ruthlessly close my question as too broad or unclear. So I have to protect my questions against this by writing novels. – Mitsuko Jul 28 '19 at 8:18
  • No, you don't have to write novels, 5 lines is more than enough. And look at my answer, it contains the answer. – Elena Jul 28 '19 at 8:23
  • >> No, you don't have to write novels, 5 lines is more than enough << I wish shabunc were of the same opinion. – Mitsuko Jul 28 '19 at 8:28
  • If you manage to render the sense in 5 lines, he won't need a novel as an excuse. The questions are closed not for being too short, but for being too vague. – Elena Jul 28 '19 at 8:32
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Из трех вариантов (1) правильный, но хочется поставить "сам по себе" так, чтобы было понятней, что это относится к турниру, а не к организаторам. А то сначала читается почти как "сами по себе", мол, "они сами по себе ничего не могут сделать". Можно даже опустить "по себе".

"Притягивающий" чаще означает физическое притяжение (например, магнит). Лучше сказать "привлекательный" или "заманчивый". Я бы сказал:

Сам (по себе) турнир они заманчивым сделать не могут.
Они не могут сделать сам турнир заманчивым.

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Here we have to choose between two ways of declension, those of the nominative and instrumental. If you make "tournament" a subject and "attractive" a subject complement you must apply the nominative case when there is a copula "to be" (implied): "Турнир-привлекательный сам по себе". In other cases of subject complementation you should use the instrumental case: "Турнир является самим по себе привлекательным". To verify this you can use a nonfinite construction: "быть (стать, являться, слыть, сделаться) привлекательным самим по себе.

The same is to be observed when "tournament" is an object and "attractive" is an object complement: "Они не могут сделать турнир привлекательным (притягательным) самим по себе" or (it would sound better): "Они не могут сделать турнир самим по себе привлекательным". However somewhat different options with the nominative case are possible: "Они не могут сделать сам по себе привлекательный турнир" (the difference is that here we have "привлекательный" as an attribute (premodifier) whereas in the aforecited patterns "привлекательным" is an object complement which demands the instrumental case).

Passing to the backbone of your issue, you should take account of " сам по себе" being a noun phrase (not an adverb) calling for being declined and conjugated in line with the complement it modifies. For example: "Они гордились, что сделали турнир мероприятием, привлекательным самим по себе", "Они гордились тем, что сделали из турнира мероприятие, привлекательное само по себе", "Они гордились турниром как самим по себе привлекательным мероприятием", "Они рассказывали о турнире как о мероприятии, самом по себе привлекательном".

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  • Following this logic, you could end up with something like "... сделали турниры привлекательными самими по себе" which sounds amusing, at best. – Sergey Slepov Jul 28 '19 at 18:31
  • Of course not, in Russia people use to say: "...сделали турниры привлекательными сам по сибе";)). In fact, it is the logic of the Russian grammar. "...быть (сделать, стать) привлекательными самими по себе", is there something wrong? It's about the object complement, which you can bring up to a noun phrase: "Они сделали турниры мероприятиями, привлекательными самими по себе" or "Они сделали турниры мероприятиями, самими по себе уже привлекательными". Some more: "Они провели несколько турниров, привлекательных самих по себе,"Законодатель посчитал данные деяния преступными уже самими по себе". – Eugene Jul 28 '19 at 21:14
  • Здесь считают, что в подобных конструкциях в "сами по себе" не надо склонять "сами" по падежам. И я с этим согласен. – tum_ Jul 28 '19 at 22:17
  • @tum_ You give a reference where there is a lucid scheme of its declension. But someone assumes something somehow somewhere. Could you proffer the slightest verification of such an oppinion? Nevertheless there is a man there who maintains that "Книга о кошке, гуляющей самой по себе" is correct and that is what is really correct. "Самими по себе детьми это сделано быть не могло". Dut you would definitely prefer to say: "Сами по себе детьми это сделано быть не могло". What is all that? Feeling myself somewhere in the market among guests from the Middle East when I hear all that. – Eugene Jul 29 '19 at 7:28
  • And, by the way, if you don't decline "сам по себе" then you shouldn't also decline "гуляющий" as a part of a compound postmodifer: "кошками , гуляющие сами по себе". Sounds zingy, doesn't it? – Eugene Jul 29 '19 at 7:29
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Simpler:

"Сам по себе этот турнир никого не привлечёт"

or even

"Этот турнир, сам по себе, заманчивым сделать не получится"

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