Here I am sitting late in the evening, struggling with a home test devised by a university teacher of mine, and here is a question in the test:

Как корректно закончить следующее предложение?

Я считаю Пушкина более талантливым поэтом, чем ... .

(а) Блок

(б) Блока

The teacher is known for setting up traps and being harsh to students (see, e.g., this post of mine). The test I am currently struggling with is full of nasty traps set up by using homonyms, idioms, double meanings, etc. Some questions have more than one correct answer, and some - none at all. The good news is that I can use the Internet and, in particular, the Russian SE, as the test is to be completed at home.

I tried to find the answer to the above question by doing research in Google, but got very much confused and puzzled. One the one hand, a classic Russian writer, Lev Tolstoy, wrote in his novel Anna Karenina:

– Нисколько, – Левин слышал, что Облонский улыбался, говоря это, – я просто не считаю его более бесчестным, чем кого бы то ни было из богатых купцов и дворян. (Source)

He used the same grammatical construction as the one in the test question and chose either the genitive case or the accusative case after чем, and this suggests that I should choose Answer (б). On the other hand, I found examples suggesting the opposite. Here is an example:

Считаю его более значимой фигурой в игре команды, чем Аксель Витсель. (Source)

Especially confusing is this article. Its title is: "Считаю Жевнова более стабильным, чем Малафеева." But the same article also contains the following sentence: "Но все равно считаю его более стабильным игроком, чем Вячеслав Малафеев." That is, the author flip-flops like a landed fish when choosing the grammatical case in the grammatical construction my teacher is asking me about.

My gut tells me there is a trap. The whole sentence sounds somewhat weird to me, so I won't be surprised if the teacher says that none of the suggested variants makes the sentence right. I also won't be surprised to hear that both suggested variants will do the job and can be used interchangeably. And who knows, maybe only one variant is correct if formally judged by some strict grammar rules only teachers know.

So I am curious as to what native speakers have to say and whether they can help a confused Japanese student evade a trap set up by a harsh Russian teacher.

Which variant should I choose and why?

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    Изучать русскую грамматику по спортивным статьям — дело неблагодарное. Вспомните "выиграть соперника". Лев Толстой для этих целей тоже не годится otvet.mail.ru/question/215998653
    – Elena
    Nov 21, 2019 at 16:09
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    I see I got three answers below so far: one says that both variants are correct, another answer says that only the second variant is right, and the third answer says that only the first variant is technically correct. Wow, my teacher is a beast who can trick even native speakers, and I am at a loss as to whose answer to copy. I'll try to think deeply about the arguments provided in the answers.
    – Mitsuko
    Nov 21, 2019 at 18:09
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    @shabunc : Thanks for editing the title, you made it more catchy and specific. Since Quassnoi says that поэтом is critical here, I just added поэтом in your version of the title, to preserve the exact wording of the test question. I also swapped Блок and Блокa in the title for consistency with the order of the variants in the test, to avoid a potential confusion as to which variant we refer as to first and which as to second.
    – Mitsuko
    Nov 21, 2019 at 18:14
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    @Mitsuko: sentences like the old man the boat make a nice parlor trick and are fun to think about, however, in actual writing, you don't try to be clever about grammar nuances, you want to be concise and give your texts proper style. I think it's OK for a teacher to bring them up every once in a while, but I don't think questions like that genuinely reflect your command of Russian.
    – Quassnoi
    Nov 21, 2019 at 19:53
  • I think the both sentences are grammatical but the first version is also ambiguous.
    – Anixx
    Nov 24, 2019 at 12:53

4 Answers 4


Technically, this variant is correct:

Я считаю Пушкина более талантливым поэтом, чем Блок.

This is easily verified by changing the word order in the sentence a little bit:

Я считаю Пушкина более талантливым, чем Блок, поэтом.

This way putting Блок in accusative makes the sentence sound ungrammatical.

That said, building a sentence like this is putting a strain on reader's cognitive abilities.

The "wrong" one is not a garden path sentence (because it's technically ungrammatical) but it's very close to it because it looks grammatical, and here's why.

Consider the two sentences:

  1. Я читаю Пушкина более тщательно, чем Блок.

  2. Я читаю Пушкина более тщательно, чем Блока.

Those are two simple sentences with apparently different meanings: the former means "I read Pushkin more thoroughly than Blok does", the second one means "I read Pushkin more thoroughly than I read Blok".

Those are two equally valid sentences, and there's nothing wrong with them.

Your original sentences are almost like this one, however, более … чем is not governed by the verb anymore. It's now not считаю более, чем but Пушкин более талантливый, чем. The slight change in the wording completely rewires the whole sentence structure, leading the reader down the proverbial garden path.

As a result, the incorrect sentence has perceptibly correct structure (because it does not differ much from the correct sentences with almost the same structure) and its meaning can be easily deduced. This makes even the native speakers make mistakes like that, which is something you saw in your Internet quotes.

It's not much different from the famous проезжая мимо станции, у меня слетела шляпа.

Any Russian speaker can tell what exactly it means; it's close to the grammatically, if not so much semantically, correct проезжая мимо станции, слетела шляпа; and it does work exactly like this in many languages, so it does not go against the basic patterns of language use.

This is enough to make it widely used by the native speakers.

So the real answer to your question would be:

Both of those sentences are incorrect: the first one is ungrammatical, and the second one is hard to get out of

Something like

Я считаю, что Пушкин, как поэт, талантливее Блока

is shorter and easier to parse and understand.

  • Wow, your theory even explains why different cases were used for Malafeev in the examples provided in my question. "Считаю Жевнова более стабильным, чем Малафеева." "Но все равно считаю его более стабильным игроком, чем Вячеслав Малафеев." The word игроком makes the difference! Just as your theory says. I've been so close to cracking the riddle on my own, as I found that article with these examples. I just had to think better and spot the difference between the sentences....
    – Mitsuko
    Nov 21, 2019 at 18:32
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    this is the first time in a veeeery long time when I actually disagree with Quassnoi - in the part about both sentences being invalid.
    – shabunc
    Nov 21, 2019 at 18:50
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    @Curiosity: no, technically (technically) я считаю Пушкина более талантливым, чем Блока is invalid as well. It's not считаю более, чем Блока, it's Пушкин более, чем Блок. However, Я считаю Пушкина талантливее Блока is fine. As with the проезжая мимо станции, the overall shape of the sentence is almost the same, but the internal structure is completely different. That's why you should just steer clear of sentences like that.
    – Quassnoi
    Nov 21, 2019 at 19:34
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    @Quassnoi, I am with shabunc here. Your answer is incorrect Nov 21, 2019 at 19:51
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    @user7808407 That's OK, and that's exactly why I wrote that one should not use sentences like that at all.
    – Quassnoi
    Nov 21, 2019 at 19:55

Я считаю Пушкина более талантливым поэтом, чем Блока

This means that I think Pushkin is more talented than Block is.

Я считаю Пушкина более талантливым поэтом, чем Блок

This means I think Pushkin is more talented than what Block thinks about Pushkin's talent.

Both sentences are grammatically valid.

  • Thanks, but your answer seems to be in contradiction with examples cited in my question. "Считаю его более значимой фигурой в игре команды, чем Аксель Витсель." "Но все равно считаю его более стабильным игроком, чем Вячеслав Малафеев." Just follow the links and have a look. The intended meaning is clearly different from what you describe. Or do you think the journalists made mistakes?
    – Mitsuko
    Nov 21, 2019 at 14:34
  • Yes, I see this and am kind of confused. I would always use the genitive case in this situation speaking of the first meaning (I think A is more talented than B). Nov 21, 2019 at 14:42
  • Do you really mean genitive, not accusative?
    – Mitsuko
    Nov 21, 2019 at 14:44
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    I am also highly unsure that you can omit считает in чем считает Блок.
    – Mitsuko
    Nov 21, 2019 at 14:50
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    Your answer is correct, thus you have my upvote.
    – V.V.
    Nov 21, 2019 at 18:44

The sentence "Я считаю Пушкина более талантливым [поэтом], чем Блока" can be treated as a short form of following: "Я считаю Пушкина более талантливым [поэтом], [чем я считаю] Блока". This is the correct form.

The sentence "Я считаю Пушкина более талантливым [поэтом], чем Блок" is incorrect (in this particular context, @user7808407 actually is right about how can this be alternatively interpreted), the form with nominative would be rather "Я считаю, что Пушкин более талантлив[ый] [поэт], чем Блок". However, this kind of mistakes are quite typical in casual speech. Some linguists even think that those are early traces of Russian language evolution towards the loss of cases, but, for good or for bad, we are not there yet. And won't be in foreseeable future.

  • you seem to have missed the поэтом which kinda turns the whole sentence upside down
    – Quassnoi
    Nov 21, 2019 at 17:01
  • @Quassnoi I don't see how so far - I've added "поэтом" as optional word but don't see how it changes the overall picture.
    – shabunc
    Nov 21, 2019 at 17:08
  • that's surprising, my answer is more or less the same but I got downvoted badly. Nov 21, 2019 at 17:51
  • Would you also say “я нашёл чемодан более тяжёлым [предметом], чем сумку”? Sounds very questionable. Nov 21, 2019 at 19:00
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    @RomanOdaisky "я нахожу чемодан более неудобным, чем сумку" - yep, I would also say this, this is perfectly fine. ("нашёл" is not applicable in this context however).
    – shabunc
    Nov 21, 2019 at 19:04

Кто-то мог носить фамилию или прозвище Блока, или взять такой псевдоним. Например, в XIX веке был Поль Брока (Paul Brocha), врач и физиолог. Поэтому предложение можно интерпретировать четырьмя разными способами:

  • Я считаю, что Пушкин как поэт талантливее, чем Блок.
  • Я ценю Пушкина как поэта выше, чем его ценил Блок.
  • Я считаю, что Пушкин как поэт талантливее, чем некто по фамилии Блока.
  • Я ценю Пушкина как поэта выше, чем его ценил некто по фамилии Блока.

Ответ: оба варианта верны.

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    It's a bit of a stretch to assume the speaker has in mind someone with the surname Блока :) On the Internet, I couldn't find anyone with that surname, let alone poets :) And you seem to have been unable to find such people either, since your example is about Бpока rather than Блока :) Anyway, my confusion was due to the difficulty of choosing between Блока and Блок assuming it's about the Russian poet everyone heard about :)
    – Mitsuko
    Jun 27, 2020 at 12:18
  • @Mitsuko there is such a family name. I found, e.g, myheritage.com/…
    – user31264
    Jun 27, 2020 at 14:05
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    Oh, you are such a cheater :) What you found isn't Блока :) It's Błocka, a Polish surname, and it's pronounced in Polish as Блоцка and is transliterated into Russian as Блоцкая :) So it's not easy to trick an Orient student who learns and studies languages, right? :))
    – Mitsuko
    Jun 27, 2020 at 14:19
  • Ok, but if somebody with surname Blocka would go to the USA, after a couple of generations they will read her surname as Блока. Like Сорос, whose surname on Hungarian should be Шорош. :-)
    – user31264
    Jun 27, 2020 at 15:58
  • >> Ok, but if somebody with surname Blocka would go to the USA, after a couple of generations they will read her surname as Блока << If a Pole has the surname Błocka, that Pole is a female, for a male would be Błocki. Now let's suppose our Polish female Ms. Błocka goes to the USA, marries someone, and gives rise to "a couple of generations." Which surname will her children have - her own original surname or the surname of the father? :) I'm afraid the Western tradition stipulates the latter, which breaks your scenario :)
    – Mitsuko
    Jun 27, 2020 at 16:25

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