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I think this is the so-called FAQ,
but still I am wondering the difference among сказать/говорить/поговорить.

In past posts, I found:

  • сказать implies one person speaking ('saying'),
    and говорить implies one or more persons talking ('talking', 'discussing')
  • the word ''поговорить'' is rather result-oriented,
    and at the same time is about talking for a while

Then what do these sentences mean?
Or are these wrong or invalid?

  1. Я не могу сказать.
  2. Я не могу говорить.
  3. Я не могу поговорить.

    a) I cannot talk now because my mouth is full of food.
    b) I cannot reply now because I am busy.
    c) I cannot speak in general because I have a handicap.
    d) I cannot join the discussion.

  4. Скажите по-русский.
  5. Говорите по-русский.
  6. Поговорите по-русский.

    e) Speak up some Russian sentences now with your voice.
    f) Use the Russian language when you talk to me from now.
    g) Make the Russian language your mother tongue.
    h) Let's have a chat in Russian.

I will appreciate any hints and corrections. Thank you for having read this.

5

I would say that сказать is content oriented, it is used when you follow up about what actually was told. It got same root as сказка - tale.

говорить is indeed analog of talking or speaking to if object of action is mentioned, or saying in case of subject.

поговорить is related to verb говорить with perfective aspect of action. The act talking to someone was done at this point. Russian doesn't do compound tenses English is so fond of, instead prefixes and suffixes are used, which creates new verb in the formercase and inflections in the latter.

Neither of those are strictly incorrect, they may have different contexts.

  1. Я не могу сказать. I can't tell. (I don't know? I'm not allowed?)

  2. Я не могу говорить. I'm not able to talk (now). lit. I can't talk.

  3. Я не могу поговорить. I'm not able to have a talk (to someone?)

  4. Скажите по-русски. Tell\Say that in Russian.

  5. Говорите по-русски. Use Russian language (a demand)

  6. Поговорите по-русски Perform a conversation in Russian (for practice?)

Those last three can be considered imperative mood because it uses 2nd person, so the meaning may be slightly different from usual. The 6 is no way "Let's have a chat in Russian", that would require an idiomatic form: Давайте поговорим по-русски which contains a plural imperative Давайте, direct analog of let's.

6
  • Thank you for your clear explanation.
    – user16151
    Jul 4 at 5:38
  • 2
    just one thing. It doesn't correct to use по-русский. по-русски is correct
    – Dmitry
    Jul 4 at 11:24
  • 1
    поговорить is not a perfect form of говорить. The term “perfect” is not used in Russian grammar and поговорить is not a form of говорить, those are two different verbs. The best way to put it is like this: “поговорить is a perfective counterpart of говорить”. Please, take some actions to correct that. The Russian verbs go in pairs — an imperfective verb (e.g. писать, рисовать, брать) vs. a perfective verb (e.g. записать, нарисовать, взять). It is aspect, вид, несовершенныйсовершенный, and Russian verbs don't inflect for aspect, they belong to one or the other.
    – Yellow Sky
    Jul 4 at 11:51
  • 1
    @Dmitry it's stupid SwiftKey striking. it doesn't want русски to exist as a word :P
    – Swift
    Jul 4 at 12:04
  • @YellowSky When I was in school "Совершенный вид" sometimes was called "Перфект" or or "Перфективный вид". I agree tis' an aspect, but aspect is property of action, not verb, so there is our terminology doesn't combine well with general one. verb with perfective aspect might be. But inflection never creates aspects in any language, it may change tense, gender, etc. :P
    – Swift
    Jul 4 at 12:18
0

Сказать и говорить

  1. «Сказать» emphasizes the completeness of the process, it implies the result, while «говорить» focuses on the process itself and emphasizes its duration rather than the fact that the process has reached its limit as in «сказать».
  2. «Сказать» means «to express one thing, one thought» (and it may also be used in the meaning “to pronounce”), while «говорить» implies that there are several thoughts being said (even if they all are related to one topic) Examples: “Он сказал о необходимости решить эту проблему” - he mentioned that it’s necessary of solve the problem, “it is necessary to solve the problem - that’s what was said”. “Он (они) говорил(-и) о необходимости решить эту проблему” - there was a monologue (dialogue) on the necessity of solving the problem, “talking about the necessity of solving the problem - that’s what he (they) was (were) doing”. «Я не могу сказать такую ужасную вещь» - a single thought is implied to be expressed. «Я не могу говорить такие ужасные вещи» - several thoughts are to be expressed. Although, if the action was done in the past, we may use «я не мог сказать» instead of «я не мог говорить» to emphasize the result rather than the process.

Говорить и поговорить «Поговорить» implies active interaction and can be translated as «to have a talk». As you mentioned, it emphasizes the result, the completeness of the action rather than the process itself, while «говорить» focuses on the process. Example: «Они поговорили о необходимости решить эту проблему» - they had a talk about the necessity of solving the problem. Other variant: «Он поговорил с ними о необходимости решить эту проблему» - there is always more than one side taking part in the action, so you must either say who the subject in the singular form interacts with or use the subject in the plural.

While «поговорить» means that all of the sides were involved in the dialogue, «говорить» does not necessary mean that there was an active interaction, it depends on the case in which the word denoting interlocutor is used. For example, «Я говорил с ней (Prepositional case)» implies a dialogue, like “I talked with her”. «Я говорил ей (Genitive)” - “I told her”.

Now, let’s talk about the examples you gave in your post. “Я не могу сказать” doesn’t match with any of the variants of below, I guess. Its literal translation is “I can’t tell you one thing”: «Я не могу сказать тебе, где ключи, потому что я не помню». «Пока не могу сказать, во сколько я вернусь». “Я не могу говорить” matches with a, b and c. Literal translation: “I can’t talk/speak”. It is about the general ability to talk (at the moment or in general): «Я не могу говорить по-французски», «Я не могу говорить по телефону, пока я не работе», «Немые не могут говорить». “Я не могу поговорить” matches with d, but it is not always about a discussion with several people, it may refer to dialogue between two people: «Я не могу поговорить с тобой сейчас, я занята».

a) I cannot talk now because my mouth is full of food. b) I cannot reply now because I am busy. c) I cannot speak in general because I have a handicap. d) I cannot join the discussion.

«Скажите по-русский» matches with e. It simply means “say in Russian”: «Не могу понять, что это слово значит; скажите его по-русски, пожалуйста» - “I can’t grasp what this word means; say it in Russian, please”. «Говорите по-русский» - f. This phrase expresses the request to switch the speech language. «Поговорите по-русский» - h.

e) Speak up some Russian sentences now with your voice. f) Use the Russian language when you talk to me from now. g) Make the Russian language your mother tongue. h) Let's have a chat in Russian.

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