In a recent test I had to translate the following:

-- Отнеси кота на веранду.

-- Да уж лежит там.

My translation was:

"Bring the cat to the verandah."

"It is already lying there."

My translation was marked as failed, and I got zero points for that part, but no explanatory comments were provided.

For some reasons that are too long to explain, I find it impractical to approach that particular teacher and ask him about the matter.

I did my best to sort out the issue on my own, but failed. The literal meaning seems to be exactly the one I provided, and Google Translator offers essentially the same translation. There is no context at all, as the above excerpt of two sentences was given per se as a separate translation task in the test. I thought it could be some Russian idiom, but could not find any. My original translation seems to make perfect sense, and I do not see even a slightest inconsistency or anything indicating that my translation could be wrong. The task seems to be very easy and straightforward, and I am at a total loss as to what I did wrong.

I hope that you as native speakers can kindly help a humble confused student. What did I do wrong?

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    giving riddles as an exercise and then failing students for not resolving them correctly doesn't seem like a honest practice becoming of a Uni, you may want to appeal the score if such procedure is envisaged – Баян Купи-ка Aug 21 '19 at 10:48
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    @БаянКупи-ка : As Quassnoi pointed out below, it seems to be about a snake. If this is indeed the key, I am pissed off by the teacher. I am writing an email to him now. – Mitsuko Aug 21 '19 at 10:53
  • Has the task actually been to translate from Russian into English (or was it Japanese)? – tum_ Aug 21 '19 at 12:10
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    @tum_ : This time the test was about translating from Russian to English. We must learn to flawlessly translate between Russian, Japanese, and English in ANY direction. – Mitsuko Aug 21 '19 at 13:30
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    Well, he's already lying there. There could be так in the place of the particle да as well. – Alex_ander Aug 22 '19 at 4:56

First of all, you translation is correct and I would not fail you for that.

That said, да уж лежит там is a peculiar, if grammatically correct, to put "it's already lying there" in Russian. Russian does not omit pronouns as easily as, say, Romance languages do.

There is a chance that this was a trick question, and уж in this context meant "grass snake". In this case the "correct" translation would have been "but the snake is lying there".

However, Russian does not usually word this idea this way either.

Again, I don't know why exactly your professor failed you. Your translation, given no other context, is correct.

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    Wouldn't there be a comma before Уж if it's meant as a grass snake though? "Да, уж лежит там" – Dmitrii Z. Aug 21 '19 at 10:28
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    @DmitriiZ. not if да is used in the sense of "but" (rather than in the sense of "yes"). Я бы отнёс кота на веранду, да уж лежит там vs. Уж лежит на веранде? Да, уж лежит там. – Quassnoi Aug 21 '19 at 10:29
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    Thanks a lot. If it is really about a snake, I am totally pissed off by the teacher. I am writing an email to him now. – Mitsuko Aug 21 '19 at 10:51
  • it's perfectly correct to say да уж лежит там in response to the question provided. Nothing not grammatical about this one at all, and no native speaker would assume it to be a 'grass snake'. – user7808407 Sep 18 '19 at 9:41

Quassnoi suggested in his answer that the key might be the homonym "уж", which can mean "already" and "grass snake," and this possibility made me so pissed off that I got brave enough to sent an email to the teacher.

He was quick to reply and elected to respond in Russian:

Во-первых, Вы не учли разницу между "отнеси" и "принеси". Приставки используются в русском языке не просто так.

Что касается второго предложения, то переводчик должен видеть все возможные значения. Вы обязаны были указать, что второе предложение может быть понято двояко. Может, отвечающий хочет сказать, что кот уже лежит на веранде. А может, отвечающий хочет сказать, что на веранде лежит змея, и намекает на то, что это проблема. Ни один из этих вариантов нельзя исключить, и потому Вы обязаны были привести оба, с чем Вы не справились.

Наконец, Вы проигнорировали "да" во втором предложении.

В целом хочу еще раз подчеркнуть, что переводчик должен с огромным уважением относиться к оригиналу и передавать мысли автора как можно точнее, стараясь не терять ни капли смысла. Вы же подошли к переводу данного отрывка крайне небрежно и непрофессионально. Как можно с подобным подходом переводить труды русских классиков, стенограммы важных переговоров, контракты?

Надеюсь, Вы воспримете это без обид. Лучше получить снижение оценки в малозначащем тесте, чем провалить серьезное задание после окончания учебы.

С искренними пожеланиями успехов в учебе и профессиональной деятельности

So as far I as I understand, my translation should have been like this:

"Carry the cat out to the verandah."

"But it is already lying there." (The translator's note: There is an alternative interpretation, "But a grass snake lies there.")

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    for all his underhanded tactics his written Russian is impeccable, is he a Japanese? – Баян Купи-ка Aug 21 '19 at 21:33
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    What I at once saw as a drawback in your translation was the interpretation of отнеси as 'bring' in the first sentence. It is much bigger a mistake than everything you could have noticed about да and уж in the second one. – Yellow Sky Aug 22 '19 at 0:45
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    “Carry out” wouldn’t be correct if you, say, sit in the garden. “Bring” is absolutely correct in this case. "Отнеси" doesn’t imply in/out or whatever. It means just “take it (wherever it is) and bring it (to the other place)”. – Abakan Aug 22 '19 at 15:48
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    @Quassnoi : Thanks a lot for such a detailed explanation. Indeed, students find the methods of this teacher quite controversial. Even a slight inaccuracy in a translation is sometimes enough for him to call the student unprofessional. I personally prefer a more positive approach to teaching. This teacher seems to believe that students should be taught by criticisms and discipline. He is very strict. Sometimes I feel that it makes a pleasure or a kind of sport for him to find flaws and inaccuracies and punish for them. Perhaps he needs it for his self-affirmation. – Mitsuko Aug 24 '19 at 15:01
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    @Mitsuko it was disappointing for me to see unfounded accusation of racism, i'm not an Englishman but i will hardly be ever capable of mastering English on the level of the native speakers and probably on the level your teacher has mastered Russian... i guess you can accuse me of racism towards myself then... charges of racism is an American thing, they do it all the time on the Web, this is their pet peeve, i would discourage from assuming their cultural peculiarities and bringing them over to our discourse simply because we both communicate in English, cheers – Баян Купи-ка Sep 29 '19 at 18:14

You already have more or less consistent answers for the first sentence.

Except, it is clearly about a tomcat (a male cat) and not a cat in general. In Russian, "кот" means a tomcat, it is "кошка" that may mean either a female cat or a cat of unspecified gender (see ex. here).

Missing the context, for the second sentence, I would consider the following:

If it was about the snake, it would be "Уж лежит там" (without "Да"). Or even "Уж сидит там" (yes, Russians say "сидит" for presence even for something that cannot sit or stand on feet).

It may be (with almost equal probability) either "the cat is already there (at the verandah)" or "The cat is already pretty much OK where he is lying right now, no need to deal with him".

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    'Змея СИДИТ там' is a very strange phrase from a foreigner. Russians never say that. Russians say: 'Птица сидит на ветке. Ящерица сидит на веранде'. But a bird and a lizard have legs. Змея, уж, полоз могут либо лежать, либо ползти. "Рожденный ползать летать не может" (бегать, ходить, сидеть — тоже) – Elena Jun 28 at 3:11
  • google.com/… – fraxinus Jun 28 at 8:27

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