Consider these sentences:

  • это -- ошибка
  • это является ошибкой

From what I can tell, these sentences both mean "This is a mistake". Probably they can be paraphrased explicitly using есть and быть as well. But what exactly does является bring to the table?

  • In most cases "это ошибка" will be written without the dash. But you may still put the dash for intonation. – Redbraid Aug 13 '19 at 8:46

Являться is used in formal texts, like laws or technical documentation, or scientific research. It is used for clearness, for every sentence and every clause to have at least one verb. In a similar way, the verb иметь is used in formal contexts instead of the informal construction у Х (Gen.) [есть] Y. In works of fiction, являться and иметь are used rarely, mostly for creating a formal atmosphere.

For example, in a pop song Вселенная ("Universe") by the band Иванушки Int. (lyrics), they enumerate different things and after each of them they add тоже является частью Вселенной, "also constitutes a part of the Universe". Here, является brings in a kind of scientific tone which contrasts with the simple things they mention, like "a barman, a girl, a taxi, etc. also constitute a part of the Universe".

UPD: Also, in the case of X [есть/—] Y which means "X=Y", both X and Y are in the Nominative case, and Russian has free word order, so sometimes it is hard to tell what in the sentence is X and what is Y, and it can be important, since in scientific discourse X=Y doesn't necessarily mean the same as Y=X, e.g. 'философы — лжецы' ≠ 'лжецы — философы'. In such cases, являться helps to remove the ambiguity, since with it X is in the nominative and Y in the Instrumental case:

Философы являются лжецами.

Лжецами являются философы.

Both sentences mean "Philosophers are liars", and not "Liars are philosophers".

  • Nice song but I prefer the original from 1989 by Alexander Ivanov & Rondo. The fact that Ivanushki sang it too somehow passed me by... – tum_ Aug 13 '19 at 21:34
  • @tum_ - It's the lyrics that are important here, and not who sang it. As for me, I'm not a specialist in the Russian pop/rock music, because I never listen to it. – Yellow Sky Aug 13 '19 at 22:28

For "это является ошибкой" literal translation is: "This appears (to be) mistake". More exact translation is: "This is a mistake for sure".

This word "является" brings some definition style to phrase. Speaker is shure that "this is mistake".

While "это ошибка" is more general - it can be just opinion, or assumption or a complite certainty. You can't say without context.


The verbs 'быть' and 'являться' are synonyms here. 'Есть' is just present tense of verb 'быть'. Like 'am', 'are', 'is' are the forms of the verb 'to be'.

Using 'есть' and 'является' in suchlike constructions is very limited in modern Russian.

For example, using 'есть' makes the phrase sound archaic and epic like

Я есть Альфа и Омега.

Using 'является' makes the phrase sound awkward, and often shows that the phrase was translated from some other language. There is even a joke

Являются только призраки и только плохим переводчикам.

So, usually it is better to omit the verbs and just say

Это ошибка.

  • How does this seem to you? Являюсь Альфой и Омегой – OmarL Feb 3 '20 at 16:37
  • Unless you're composing a formal document and you're going to describe what exactly Alpha and Omega must act in accordance with this document it's better not to use this option :) – VaNdal Feb 20 '20 at 14:17

The are 6 or more common ways to describe the thing in Russian(ordered by formality(descendingly)):

  1. Являться(to appear)
  2. Есть(to be)
  3. Существует(to exist)
  4. Это(to be)
  5. Быть(to be)
  6. Представлять из себя(to define *self)
  7. Изображать из себя(to pretend)

For example:

  1. Этот субъект является высшим существом.
  2. -
    1. Есть высшее существо, и это данный субъект.
    2. Этот субъект и есть высшее существо.
  3. Существует субъект - высшее существо.
  4. Это высшее существо, субъект.
  5. Быть высшим существом - значит быть субъектом.
  6. Этот субъект представляет из себя высшее существо.
  7. Этот субъект изображает из себя высшее существо.

Which mean:

  1. This subject is the supreme being.
  2. -
    1. There is the supreme being, and it is this subject(pointing to #1).
    2. This subject, indeed, is the supreme being(proving or realizing).
  3. There is the subject - supreme being(telling a fact #1).
  4. This is the supreme being, the subject(pointing to #2).
  5. Being the supreme being means to be a subject(telling a fact #2).
  6. This subject defines itself the supreme subject(in russian, this particular connection "defines iteself" is more like "to be", so this could be closer to point 1).
  7. This subject pretends to be like the supreme subject(first pretends to be the second(a fake one)).
  • #8. Являть собой (Acc.). Or I'd rather put it as #7, because your #7 actually means "isn't", and giving negative definitions of an object doesn't describe it at all. For example, if I say that you are not Messier 109 galaxy, will anyone get an idea of what you really are from such a description? ;) – Yellow Sky Aug 13 '19 at 23:19

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