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Traditionally (as far as I know), schools have 4 quarters in Russia, and so they're called "1-я четверть, 2-я четверть". If a school only has three terms, is it still correct to call them "четверть", or should you use "треть"? I've never heard of a third being used that way in Russian, but I have heard "полугодие" for half a year.

Basically, does "четверть" mean "term" or "semester" when applied to schools, regardless of how many terms the school year is divided into? And is using "треть" acceptable, or should it be avoided?

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4 Answers 4

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If an academic year is divided into three parts, each of them is called a "триместр". But historically "четверть" is also acceptable.

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    "Триместр" may be formally correct, but I've never heard it in any other context except related to pregnancy. Have you?
    – Headcrab
    Nov 25, 2021 at 14:50
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    @Headcrab, that really depends on your local school. Teachers and kids in my (that is, my daughter's) school use it every day. Though, I'm in no position of judging how common such schools are...
    – Igor G
    Nov 25, 2021 at 16:57
  • @IgorG I guess, my schools were too old school. To make sure, is that an ordinary plain "школа" in Russia, or is it some special school, or some fancy "лицей/гимназия" or whatever they like to call them these days?
    – Headcrab
    Nov 25, 2021 at 17:22
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    @Headcrab, I've just posted an answer and put a few links to school sites. Just some schools I remember. I would say they are plain and ordinary ones (save 1511). Are you aware of "электронный дневник" government project? I suspect "триместр" is used there too, but may be not for all schools.
    – Igor G
    Nov 25, 2021 at 17:28
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    Nowadays "триместр" is used in many schools.
    – demonplus
    Dec 20, 2021 at 7:53
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Четверть means a quarter of anything. Четверть яблока (though in this case четвертинка would be more appropriate), четверть дня, четверть пути, etc. It means "term" in a school only when there are four terms, which is very standard in Russian secondary schools.

If there are three terms, you can't call them "четверть". The best choice here would be "триместр". However, it's very very very uncommon for Russian secondary schools to have three terms, so the term "триместр" is by far not as well-established and widely known as "четверть".

Three terms are more common for universities, not secondary schools (although even there, three terms are very uncommon). The standard situation in universities is to have two terms called "семестр", and I guess that's why for three terms we use "триместр". I suppose that if three terms were more common in secondary schools than in universities, then they would probably have been called "треть", not "триместр".

(Also note that "семестр" and "полугодие" differ specifically in that the former is used in universities and the latter, in secondary schools.)

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If a school only has three terms, is it still correct to call them "четверть", or should you use "треть"?

I suppose you can call it "четверть". Older people will certainly understand what you mean, and younger children are also familiar with this term. But I've never heard it called "треть".

The official term for 1/3 of a school year is "триместр", and as far as I can trust my ears, it is actually used in everyday school talk. Well, at least where I live.

Some random proof from schools around my area: школа 1450, школа 814, школа 1511, школа 536.

Basically, does "четверть" mean "term" or "semester" when applied to schools

It always means exactly 1/4 of a school year. People may stretch its meaning to include 1/3 of a school year, but only because the word "триместр" is quite new and odd in this context. However, the trend is to use "триместр".

is using "треть" acceptable, or should it be avoided?

It should be avoided.

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There used to be strictly four terms in the academic school year in Soviet times. Sometimes, 3-month-long summer holidays are called пятая четверть (fifth quarter). Now schools have more freedom and can choose to have 2, 3, 4 or 5 periods. I remember at one point towards the end of 90s, it was changed to five periods in my school, but the name четверть just stuck because everybody was so used to it, and there's no special word for 1/5 in Russian.

Apparently, there's still a lot of controversy around this subject. Some people still call it четверть when there are 5 terms, others say that just doesn't make sense. There's probably more agreement about триместр which is 1/3 of the academic year, and семестр which is 1/2. But to answer your question, yes, definitely, the word четверть is a well-accepted name for a term when there are four terms in a school year.

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