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There's an interesting definition and example in wiktionary about следовать.

  1. to should, to ought to (the agent who/which should/ought to do something is in the dative case) Ему́ сле́дует сро́чно прибы́ть на вокза́л. ― Jemú slédujet sróčno pribýtʹ na vokzál. ― He should urgently arrive at the station.

That's a strange translation, in English. Not sure what it means because we wouldn't say the sentence "he should urgently arrive at the station."

But let's continue. The most common meaning of "should" is

  1. indicating opinion, advice, or instruction, about what is required or desirable. Such as "you should go see that movie".

A secondary meaning is

  1. expressing expectation. such as "He should arrive at the station soon." Not opinion or advice. Rather, it's expectation.

So, the question is, in Russian, does следовать correspond mostly to meaning 1. or 2.?

Can следовать match both of these meanings (advice or expectation)?

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  • For the sake of discussion and understanding of the question here it would really, REALLY help to come up with Russian phrasing that you have in mind. Like 1. "you should go see that movie" = "Вам следует посмотеть этот фильм" - pretty clumsy phrasing, unless you try to impersonate an authority figure making a request/demand to its subjects. 2. "He should arrive at the station soon." - this phrasing could be iterated or derived from something like "Следующая станция - Сокольники" = "The next stop is <Sokolniki>" - ain't a good translation, but this would help understanding you.
    – DK.
    Feb 14 at 1:27
  • @DK. "to come up with Russian phrasing that you have in mind." I don't have a phrasing in mind. I'm trying to understand the definition #7 in wiktionary. where it says it means "ought" or "should". You have just provided an example, and then you said "pretty clumsy phrasing". So, what is a good example then? By the way, most definitions of следовать are "follow", "next", "after". But I am more curious about "ought".
    – Sam
    Feb 14 at 1:34
  • ah, right, guess I was trying to comment on the question you didn't ask . In "следовать" there are 2+ meanings: "to follow/chase", "to derive", and something like "you (should) better do that", making per your question it #1, but never #2.
    – DK.
    Feb 14 at 15:02
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    I've always had a hard time expressing meaning 2 in Russian. I usually just use наверное or наверняка, but don't know if there's a better way. For instance, "I gave him your number and he should be calling you tomorrow." (=I expect he'll be calling you tomorrow)
    – CocoPop
    Feb 14 at 18:37
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    @CocoPop "He should arrive at the station soon." "Он скоро должен прибыть на станцию." "I gave him your number and he should be calling you tomorrow." "Я дал ему твой номер, и завтра он должен тебе позвонить".
    – il--ya
    Feb 14 at 22:21

1 Answer 1

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So, the question is, in Russian, does следовать correspond mostly to meaning 1. or 2.?

It corresponds to meaning 1: opinion, instruction or advice. Although a shade of implicit meaning of expectation is always there, as long as expressing advice implies the expectation that this advice will be taken, it can't be used to express an explicit expectation, like in "The train should (is expected to) arrive soon". Well, at least I can't think of an example where "следует" would explicitly mean "is expected".

  • "Сделать работу как следует" = "To do the job properly", literally "To do a job as it should be done". Although this one is idiomatic, it can be taken quite literally.
  • Context: someone is reflecting on the surprising outcome of an experiment, and finally realizing that such outcome makes perfect sense
    "Этого результата следовало ожидать" = "That outcome should have been anticipated".
  • "Следует заключить, что ..." = "One must conclude that ..."
  • "Для нахождения площади круга следует радиус возвести ..." = "To find the area of a circle, one should take the radius to the power ...".
  • Supreme Court rulings, explaining to the courts of first instance how certain laws should be applied, often use wording "... следует руководствоваться нормами ..." = "... must be guided by the rules of ... [article NNN]".

P.S.
Note that this meaning is possible only if there's no subject to this verb. "Я следую" always means "I follow" or some other motion-like meaning. To get the "ought to" meaning you must use some impersonal form:

  • If there's no definite subject in the English sentence, then there should be no subject in Russian either: "It should be noted that ..." = "One should note that ..." = "Следует отметить, что ...".
  • If there's a definite subject in English, it should be put in the dative case (which means it's not a subject any more): "I should ..." = "Мне следует ..."

P.P.S.

That's a strange translation, in English. Not sure what it means because we wouldn't say the sentence "he should urgently arrive at the station."

What would you say if, for example, some emergency just came up at the station, and the officer on duty was calling for a medic (or a firefighter, or just general reinforcement) and said that they should come as soon as possible?

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  • 3
    great answer! ok, in terms of the translation we could say "go to the station" "attend to the emergency" "rush immediately to the station". The verb "arrive" is more passive, or objective, and doesn't fit with "urgent".
    – Sam
    Feb 14 at 13:43
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    I agree with Sam. Arrive sounds like he's a passenger in a train and can somehow make the train go faster. It's the wrong choice of verb and confusing to the native ear.
    – CocoPop
    Feb 14 at 14:51
  • Thank you Sam and CocoPop for the explanation!
    – Igor G
    Feb 14 at 17:52
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    "he should report to the station at once". (if it's a police station or fire station and he works there)
    – Sam
    Feb 15 at 0:22
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    @il--ya: I agree with Sam — especially a police station. Also, I would put urgently at the end.
    – CocoPop
    Feb 15 at 3:29

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