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I get that у меня is the most common pattern for showing ownership of things, say леопарда or самокат. What happens to the meaning were I to use Иметь instead? Does it mean the exact same thing?

(this Q seems to imply Иметь is for abstract things that "have" abstract things, like triangles have sides), so it isn't a dupe question

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6 Answers 6

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These sentences:

  • Я имею леопарда
  • Я имею самокат

are comprehensible, but barely grammatical in modern Russian, unless you want to say that you're engaging in an intimate encounter with the leopard or the scooter. In the modern dialect, those would be the primary meanings.

Иметь is used in positions that syntactically require a verb and cannot be easily filled with an existential clause.

  • Чего бы ты хотел больше: быть здоровым или иметь много денег?

This one can be replaced with:

  • Чего бы ты хотел больше: быть здоровым или чтобы у тебя было много денег?

but this is more clunky.

  • Имея много денег, легко быть здоровым.

Existential clauses don't form adverbial participles very readily.

  • Будучи приверженцем здорового образа жизни, я имею в собственности самокат

Using the existential clause here would result in a dangling adverbial participle (describing the scooter, not the speaker).

(this Q seems to imply Иметь is for abstract things that "have" abstract things, like triangles have sides), so it isn't a dupe question.

This isn't exactly the case. Russian proximity clauses distinguish between state and possession by using or omitting есть. This is somewhat like alienable vs. non-alienable possession found in other languages, though not exactly the same.

Compare:

  • У треугольника три стороны // Triangles are three-sided
  • У людей две руки // People are two-handed
  • У меня бородавки // I'm warty

vs.

  • У прямоугольного треугольника есть катеты и гипотенуза // Right triangles have legs and a hypotenuse
  • У него есть обе руки // He has both hands
  • У меня есть бородавка на пальце // I have a wart on my finger

Used with есть, the clauses imply possession or a transient state; used without it, they imply inherence.

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I'm not a Russian teacher, but as a native-speaker I can say that иметь has a meaning closer to 'to own'. Я имею дом. I own a house. You use it when you want to emphasize the posessive element, also it sounds more official and unnatural, but grammatically it's 100% correct. I would write it in an official document. On the contrary, У меня есть дом is neutral and sounds more colloquial. Hope this was useful.

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    Не знаю, как насчет "официально", но обычно именно плохие переводы с английского часто употребляют слово "иметь". В официальном документе скорее всего будет "Я имею в личной собственности дом", а не "я имею дом". Официальная речь вообще стремится к нагромождению конструкций.
    – Artemix
    Sep 13, 2014 at 17:50
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    Согласна, что плохие переводы часто грешат именно конструкциями с "иметь" и "есть". Сама неоднократно поправляла любительские переводы (занимаюсь субтитрами). Насчет имею в собственности - тоже вариант. Но, допустим, имею сестру, имею брата и т.д. вполне официозно звучит и совсем не естественно в устной речи, хотя переводится как раз I have.
    – Anna
    Sep 25, 2014 at 18:03
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    Имею мнение, ХО, как говорится.
    – Dan M.
    Jan 24 at 16:06
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Please note that иметь may have another, indirect meaning: "to have sex with" in the spoken language. So, if you say "я имею коня," you may find yourself the butt of laughter.

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    In fact this is already stated by Quassnoi in the beginning of the answer.
    – Artemix
    Aug 27, 2013 at 10:02
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Nowadays only foreigners use the verb "иметь" (to have) to express ownership. If you want to sound more like a native speaker, use the verb "быть" (to be) in the 3rd person: есть.

У меня есть леопард.
I've got a leopard.

В детстве у меня был свой автомат Калашникова.
As a kid, I had my own Kalashnikov.

As for other meanings of "иметь", it imply having sex or cheating someone out of money, but with a sarcastic tone.

Вчера в покер я поимел всех и каждого!
Yesterday, I "fucked" all the other players at poker!

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I was taught that «иметь» can only be used with abstractions:

  • «я имею большие проблемы» or «Это не имеет смысл.»

But we can’t say something like «Я имею карандаш» or «Люди не имеют еду.». These are concrete items that require the у + genitive pronoun construction: «У меня есть карандаш» or «У людей нет еды.»

Simple.

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  • We can say "я имею карандаш". (Just was said above that it sounds more proprietary or formally. Is it any specific meaning about somebody who very proud he have got a pencil... like a royal sceptre... ? :>) And we can say "Люди не имеют едЫ". It sounds more aggressive, pathetically and heavy. Люди не имеют даже еды... Jan 19 at 18:25
  • «Это не имеет смысл.» is ungrammatical.
    – Anixx
    Jan 21 at 13:25
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Actually, when using the у меня есть pattern, it gives a sense that the thing owned "exists" with that person. However, when using the verb иметь, it gives a sense that the thing owned is "had" by that person.

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  • Can you add some examples? Currently I'm not sure I understand the difference. Do you mean something like "у человека есть ноги", "собака имеет ошейник"?
    – Artemix
    Sep 12, 2013 at 11:05
  • Actually, both of them have the same meaning that can be used interchangebly but there is a slightly bit little difference from what I understood at the beginning of my Russian lang studies. E.g. я имею много денег -- I have lots of money (general meaning intending to mean like I am rich) у меня есть много денег -- I have lots of money (at the moment I am with lots of money or there is lots of money with me, by me, at me). у маркета есть продукты(There are products at the market). маркет имеет продукты (The market has products) Sep 12, 2013 at 11:48

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