The normal way to express the idea of present tense obligation in Russian is with должен. If one wanted to say 'he should speak', one could say 'он должен сказать'. But должен (and other options, including вынужден, Нужно, and Надо (and Необходимоб?)) are all adjectives, but even though the copular verb is typically left out in predicate adjective sentences, these adjectives are interpreted as if there were a finite copular verb present (he IS obligated, etc). I am not sure that Wiktionary is acceptable to quote here, but it says of должен: "Grammatically, this term is an adjective that has only short forms, but it is best translated as a verb, either ought to/must/have (has) to if followed by an infinitive, or owe(s) if followed by a direct and indirect object.'

I would be open to using должен if one wanted to communicate the idea of obligation if the subject is not God. Thus, for 'Paul should speak', I would be open to using 'Пол должен сказать', but due to religious conviction, I am not willing to use God's name with only an adjective that is not a proper finite present tense verb form, even if the adjective is a predicate adjective. Accordingly, for 'God should speak', I am not willing to use '*ог должен сказать'. I would be willing to use 'бог есть должен сказать' because that has an explicit present tense verb form, but including the есть in cases of a predicate adjective would usually be considered poor or incorrect Russian. I am willing to do that if the subject is God (as I don't want to use his name without an explicit verb, even though predicate adjectives in Russian are treated as if an explicit verb were present), but fortunately, I can also use является in some cases, and I have used some form of являться in certain case(s).

But I have run into a bigger problem in regard to (the lack of?) a present tense verb form for 'should'. I want a present tense auxiliary verb form to use with almost any main verb that would be in the infinitive. But I have communicated with both a proofreader from Belarus and someone from Russia, and they both have left me with the impression that Russian has no such verb. Returning to Wiktionary, its second note has 'In modern Russian, the full infinitive form долженствова́ть (dolženstvovátʹ, literally “to be required to/to be obliged to”) is seldom used.', and both speakers did not approve of that. In Russian it is acceptable to use the future form of быть with должен, such that the text for 'he will have to speak' or 'he will have an obligation to speak' could be 'он должен будет сказать', so I inquired about using the present tense verb form. Would он должен есть сказать work? The present tense есть form of быть is usually avoided, but I still asked, and neither thought this was good. I inquired about a lot of other options. I just want to be able to say 'God must do something' or 'God should do something' with a present tense verb form (which должен is not, even though it is interpreted as such).

  1. он Обяжет сказать(/любить/прийти/etc)
  2. он долженствует сказать
  3. он должен есть сказать
  4. он является должен сказать
  5. он находится должен сказать
  6. он имеется должен сказать
  7. он существует должен сказать
  8. он уществует должен сказать

None of these were given a stamp of approval. The native Russian speaker did put out 'ему следует сказать', so it seems that, if I wanted to translate the English [SUBJECT] [SHOULD] [FILL-IN-THE-VERB], I could use in Russian, [ENGLISH SUBJECT IN DATIVE FORM] + следует + [RUSSIAN-VERB-IN-THE-INFINITIVE]. But that would require converting the English subject into dative form. I want to have the doer of the action be in the nominative form in Russian, a word or words for 'should' that function in an auxiliary capacity (one of which is a present tense verb form), and then a Russian verb in the infinitive for the action that the subject should do. Is there any word in Russian that can do this that would be acceptable? Or if not, is there a present tense verb form (or phrase that has a present tense verb form) that I can use that Russians would understand as meaning 'should do [fill-in-the-verb]', even if it is considered poor Russian?

  • 1
    How on earth is the formal structure of Russian grammar connected with religious conviction? Your question is similar to looking for a way to write the word "God" in Hebrew with the first capital letter, although Hebrew makes no distinction between uppercase and lowercase letters. Mutilating languages for the sake of ideology is well described in 1984 by George Orwell. Have you considered borrowing the verb ‘should’ into Russian? Like this: Бог шульдует сказать. Sounds not a bit worse than any of the variants on your list. – Yellow Sky Apr 10 at 11:00
  • By the way, what meaning of should/shell you have in mind? Has to do, will do, is better to do? – Anixx Apr 10 at 12:17
  • Is it acceptable for you to use the word Бог without a verb in cases other than nominative, like Богу должно, Богу подобает etc? – Quassnoi Apr 10 at 15:03
  • I recognize that what I wrote might seem strange to some. The root of the issue goes back to the conviction that 'Oh My *od!' as an exclamation (not as a genuine prayer) is a sin in English. And then the question is, 'Do I have a principled way to say why that would be a sin and why, for example, 'God is mine' is not a sin of using his name in vain?'. One notable difference is that the one has a subject and finite verb and expresses a complete thought, whereas the other does not have a finite verb form. If that were accepted as why one is morally okay and the other not, ... – StopAndGo Apr 10 at 15:23
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    It's only you who think that way, and it's idiosyncratic. Adjective or not, “должен” is the predicate. Not all the languages have to have a finite verb in the sentence for it to express a complete thought. Both “God is great” and Arabic “Allahu 'akbar” express a complete thought, although the Arabic sentence has no finite word, that's how Arabic works, and Russian works the same way: “Бог велик” does express a complete thought. Hebrew, too, has no finite verb in this sentence: “'Elohim gadol.” By the way, all the Russian past tense verbs are not finite, they're actually participles. – Yellow Sky Apr 10 at 15:47
он oбяжет сказать(/любить/прийти/etc)

This has meaning "he will make obliged somebody to do something" or "he will order somebody to do something".

он долженствует сказать

Possible, but awkward. More often used to inanimate objects. Your desire is awkward, but it you really seriously want to use only verb for whatever reason, I suggest to use this form. "Бог долженствует сказать" sounds pompous and maybe even high-style but archaic and bordering parody. I even found an archaic text (1782) with this phrase in Biblical context.

он должен есть сказать

This means "he has to eat, say"

он является должен сказать

One can use the form "это является должным", but it means "it is due to happen/exist", "it is customary/expected/normal/usual". Used only with inanimate nouns.

он находится должен сказать

One can say "он находит должным сказать..." "he finds it due/necessary to say..."

он имеется должен сказать

Similar to the previous one, "он имеет должным сказать" "he has it to say...". Sounds very formal and usually used with more formal verbs, like сообщить, заявить, выразить, объявить instead of сказать. Sounds like diplomatic communication or police report (like English "I have due to declare" or something).

он существует должен сказать

"He exists has to say". No.

он уществует должен сказать

What is the second word?

There is also verb "обязуется". Which means "takes obligation".

  • You wrote that 'Your desire is awkward'. I quite understand that, and to some (many?) it might seem strange. I have explained the origin of my desire to use a finite verb with the name of God in comments above that I wrote after your post. Some questions about what you wrote here... – StopAndGo Apr 10 at 15:32
  • Of 'он должен есть сказать', you wrote 'This means "he has to eat, say"'. Does that mean that a Russian speaker would understand this construction as the equivalent of the English, 'He has to...[insert verb here]'? If so, that would be great. I would assume that a Russian speaker would consider the wording poor, if not correct (?), but my first concern is to communicate the idea of 'he has to ...' or 'he should ...' or 'he must ...' with a finite verb when using the name of God in such a way that a normal Russian speaker would understand what I am trying to say. If this does that, great! – StopAndGo Apr 10 at 15:35
  • @PaulLarson есть means to eat. If you add the missing comma, the prase becomes "he has to eat, say". Without the comma it is ungrammatical. – Anixx Apr 10 at 15:38
  • Oh, I was thinking that it was the present form of быть – StopAndGo Apr 10 at 15:39
  • (though I knew in the past that it was the infinitive of eat) – StopAndGo Apr 10 at 15:40

Grammatically, this term is an adjective that has only short forms

Techincally, there is full form "должный" but it's not used like that.

I am not willing to use God's name with only an adjective that is not a proper finite present tense verb form, even if the adjective is a predicate adjective.

I admit that there could be a religious discussion on topic if should/must/должен could be applied to God and in what context. But short adjectives taken in general are absolutely okay, at least in Russian language. Consider, "Praise be to the Lord" = "благословен Господь".

  • Thank you for your response, Matt. I did not explain in my initial post why I had the view that I did. I have done that now in comment(s) above. – StopAndGo Apr 10 at 15:30
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    @PaulLarson The use of short adjective, as in "благословен Господь", is not only grammatical in modern language, but is also in Bible (both Russian and Church Slavonic) for centuries. Your argument does not make any sense to me. – Matt Apr 10 at 16:01
  • Thank you, Matt. I understand that it might look weird to others. I am not contesting that. – StopAndGo Apr 10 at 16:19

Do I understand it correctly, the OP wants the phrase not to sound as an invocation or address? In that case using short form of adjective excludes the invocation/address meaning:

Бог великий! - Invocation/address "Great God!"

Бог велик! - Not an invocation, "God is great!"

The short form of the adjective as opposed to the full form has the meaning of the copula verb. If you use the full form, it may mean you address God or you want to say something about the god that has the feature of the adjective. If you use short form, it can only mean you are communicating that God has this property, and nothing else. So, it cannot be an address, invocation, prayer, etc.

Using any case except nominative and vocative (for instance, dative) also excludes address meaning.

  • No, it is not that. It is that your translation 'God is great! is making an implicit copular verb explicit. It is interpreting a noun plus adjective as if there were a verb. That happens all the time in Russian, and is how normal speakers understand predicate adjective phrases, but it is still true that there is no verb explicitly in the text itself. But if one is convinced that 'Oh, good *od!' as an exclamation (not a genuine prayer) is wrong, I want to know why that is wrong and 'od is good!' is not. One could say that the difference is that one example has it in an attributive position ... – StopAndGo Apr 10 at 16:08
  • (the adjective comes just before the noun it modifies) and that the other has it in predicate position (the adjective comes just after the noun) and thus the predicate one is to be treated as if it were [FORM OF TO BE VERB] + [ADJECTIVE]. And then one might claim that this is what separates the two, but while I see the logic in that, I am still not comfortable with it, whereas I would surely be comfortable with wording that has an explicit verb, which *ог велик does not have. – StopAndGo Apr 10 at 16:10
  • @PaulLarson whether the adjective comes before the noun or not does not play a role, what plays the role is whether the adjective is short or full. Short adjective means "God is great" (Бог велик or велик Бог), full adjective means (may mean) address "Great God" (великий Бог or Бог великий) – Anixx Apr 10 at 16:13
  • @PaulLarson - “Right” and “wrong” is purely subjective, there's no universal truth about it, God didn't leave us any commandments as for how finite verbs are more right than adjectives, especially in Russian. – Yellow Sky Apr 10 at 16:15
  • Thank you, Yellow Sky. I think that that discussion is for another venue, not one to be litigated here. I wrote what I did to provide background to help understand my position. Arguing for or about it is not the purpose of this forum. – StopAndGo Apr 10 at 16:17

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