1

Consider this headline from medpulse.ru

Как работают антибиотики: когда они эффективны и бесполезны

Which may be translated in English:

How antibiotics work: when they are effective and useless

  1. Shouldn't "и" be "или" instead? I would think "effective, or useless". Certainly a drug is not both "effective and useless".
  2. If you were writing this headline, would you write it the same way? Is this very clear and correct usage of the language in your opinion?

Thanks.

5

Как работают антибиотики: когда они эффективны и бесполезны

  1. Shouldn't "и" be "или" instead? I would think "effective, or useless". Certainly a drug is not both "effective and useless".

That's how I read this title:

Как работают антибиотики: когда они эффективны и (когда они) бесполезны

The 2nd когда они is not writen, but implied. Here the author intends to talk about different situations: those when the medicine is working and those when it is useless. И combines multiple situations (maybe different diseases) into the scope of the article. It cannot be replaced by или.

However, if the author would want to go on per-disease basis or single out a particular kind of illness you could use или there, e.g. "Antibiotics for Flu: Effective or Not?":

Антибиотики при гриппе: эффективны или бесполезны?

  1. If you were writing this headline, would you write it the same way? Is this very clear and correct usage of the language in your opinion?

You are right though, that the original wording still has a chance to be be misconstrued. If one has to reduce that chance with minimum correction, there is an option to put it like this

Как работают антибиотики: когда они эффективны, а когда бесполезны?

5
  • It sounds like you are saying the headline is slightly unclear, and could be improved, but it's basically acceptable. Not perfect, it could be better, but we can understand what they mean. Maybe true. However, another posted answer is different: "According to Russian grammar the title is incorrect". (btw, in English it also looks incorrect, but that's English, not Russian). It's going to be difficult to pick a right answer since I still don't know. :-)
    – Sam
    Aug 17 '20 at 13:28
  • @Sam If you are saying that "How antibiotics work: when they are effective and useless" is grammatically incorrect, could you please elaborate?
    – DK.
    Aug 17 '20 at 14:44
  • My point is that the original phrasing could be understood in a number of different ways making author's intent unclear and thus likely to be misconstrued. I agree with Slo_nik that the title is also a bad match for the article content, so I'm concentrating on the title only and pretend that article doesn't exist.
    – DK.
    Aug 17 '20 at 14:49
  • In English it looks too much like the sentence "These antibiotics are effective and useless." We would not imply the additional "when they", although it must be what the author intends. So, a difference between the languages, or an error. One or the other.
    – Sam
    Aug 17 '20 at 18:31
  • @Sam, headlines are headlines: it came to be accepted that many rules get 'broken' to make them shorter, so it's not entirely fair to say the grammar is 'incorrect'. IMO, English headlines suffer more in this department: articles get thrown out first, and conjunctions often too (which is normally less acceptable in English than in Russian); e.g. I would expect this headline in English to read ...when they are effective, useless. Or a real one I randomly picked: AMP to release sexual harassment report, stands by executives.
    – Zeus
    Aug 19 '20 at 0:46
2

The author of the article I've read(your link) meant that he wrote about the proper use of antibiotics: when they are effective and when they are useless. But from the title we see that the text is about bouth efficiency and uselessness of them. Accoding to Russian grammar the title is incorrect. If I were an editor I would contract it to 'Как работают антибиотики' or rewrite like this 'Как правильно принимать антибиотики'.

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