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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?

  • 4
    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
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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
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    P. S. Your teacher might have expected the verb carry (lift and take to another place = отнести) instead of bring (just transport to some place). wikidiff.com/bring/carry – Alex_ander Aug 22 '19 at 5:10
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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
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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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    your teacher is wrong. Да can be No, уж can be grass snake but to think that a native speaker would answer to Отнеси кота на веранду. as Да уж лежит там. meaning that a snake is there is nonsense. As a native speaker I am a bit pissed – user7808407 Sep 18 '19 at 9:48
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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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For me your translations seems correct, at least in general.

I'm pretty sure there is nothing about snake. Also both кот and кошка can be used as generic cat, not only as male or female cats. I suppose that cat is more correct translation than tomcat.

But there are some moments.

Отнеси кота на веранду.

Bring the cat to the verandah.

"Bring" is "принеси". "Отнеси" - move away to some place and let it (temporary) to be there for one of the purposes: stop him from interfering us or find and place there to know where he is. I would use take or put instead, but I may be wrong as have no such good spoken English. Note that according to the next sentence the cat is not together with speaking people, so it can't be "take away [to prevent interfering]", it should be "find and move".

Да уж лежит там.

"It is already lying there."

In the context of previous sentence and using "да уж" for me is seems more like "already done" than that the cat came there himself and lay down. But it's also possible that she have accidentally seen the cat there and haven't placed it herself. But anyway she knows that currently the cat is there. Лежит may be treated as a proof of the fact that he made it himself, as it is somewhere near sleep and you can't guaranty he is lying if you put him, but actually I'm unsure.

I'd also like to move lying to the end as the most important is placement, not the pose. I'm unsure whether such word order is correct in English, but let's try :)

My translation would be:

- Carry the cat to veranda.
- He is already there lying.

It may be not perfect, but if I place it in Google Translate from English to Russian, it seems very similar to original:

translation screenshot

Note that adding "Yep" actually changes the sense and comma appears. I think, it's incorrect as it's agreement and the actual reply is "No, that's not needed". Maybe you can add opposite "Nope" instead: "Не, он и так там".

After I wrote all these things, seems like the only important difference is carry vs bring. Please comment, is it really so or there are some better translations of according to the other points I've wrote.

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First phrase uses "отнеси" which is an imperative and be translated to "Take to/away". While "verandah" is direct analog of Russian word semantically, it's less commonly used in some English-peaking areas, where it becomes just a "porch".

I have no idea if it was intentional, but the answer can be read "But grass snake is lying there" as a pun and grammatical joke because formal speech would not omit pronoun in such case, but it would take a couple of minutes for a Russian to register that. First attempt would be read as awkward "But it is already there". If this was meant as a pun, it's completely untranslatable as most of homophonic puns.

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