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У меня оба часов/обеи часы/обои часы сломались.

What' s the correct way of stating the fact that both of my watches are not functioning?

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    all is wrong. Try to say in other words: "У меня двое часов сломались" or "У меня все часы сломались"
    – hellboy
    Sep 30 '13 at 20:22
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As D.Rosenthal puts it in his famous guidebook:

Разговорный характер имеют также сочетания «у обоих ворот», «у обоих часов», не отвечающие грамматической норме, так как форма косвенного падежа образована от несуществующей начальной формы (нет формы именительного падежа «оба – обе ворота», «оба – обе часы» в связи с отсутствием категории рода у существительных, употребляющихся только в форме множественного числа). Возможная правка: у тех и у других ворот (часов).

and

При слове часы (прибор) употребляется собирательное числительное (одни часы, двое часов) или добавляется слово штука (не хватает пяти штук часов). Выражение «пара часов» имеет просторечный характер.

To summarize, the best way would be to say "у меня сломались и те, и другие часы" or "у меня сломались обе штуки часов". I have never heard anyone say the latter though and I'd never say it myself. But then again I never knew someone who was in such a situation.

Myself, I'd say "у меня сломались обе пары часов", although Rosenthal deems this as low colloquial language.

UPDATE

To add more proof, here's a couple of citations from literature.

Василий Гроссман. Жизнь и судьба:

У командира первой роты две пары часов на руке.

Марк Алданов. Чертов мост:

... как он, заторопившись, посмотрит на левую пару часов (правой ведь нет) и немедленно простится с обиженным, недовольным видом.

Сергей Довлатов. Встретились и поговорили:

Какие-то сувениры, авторучки, радиоприемники, две пары часов.

Сергей Довлатов. Компромисс:

Потом разглядел две пары часов с металлическими браслетами.

Блюма Зейгарник. Патопсихология:

Так, например, при предъявлении карточки, на которой изображены три пары часов и монет, один из больных этой группы не соглашается исключить деньги...

Герман Матвеев. Зеленые цепочки:

Он вернулся в свой кабинет и, положив обе пары часов на стол, повернулся к своему помощнику, который сидел в кресле около телефона.

Do you want to tell me that in all of these cases the authors mean "four watches" and "six watches"?

Another (probably even better) alternative is the one by @Artemix: to use двое. Here's a link to a search, showing that it does show up in literature.

So, to summarize:

  • "У меня сломались обе пары часов": not really correct, but colloquially used;
  • "У меня сломались двое часов": okay, but doesn't 100% translate into "both";
  • "У меня сломались обе штуки часов": preferable, although rarely used (at least from my experience).
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    "у меня сломались обе штуки часов" who says it like that? Downvote. If you wouldn't then how can it be the best way? Aug 26 '13 at 10:55
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    +1 I do not understand why this has been downvoted, although "обе штуки" does sound weird. The reference quoted here is pretty good. Aug 26 '13 at 11:38
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    @n.m. From what I can see in that book, it says that somebody is requesting 2 floor clocks and 2 pieces of something else. Well, it's absolutely fine to say "пара" meaning something by the quantity of 2. What is not right is to use "пара" referring to a single instance of a wristwatch. Aug 26 '13 at 18:40
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    @n.m. In the phrase "у меня сломались обе пары часов" the word "обе" multiplies "пары" by 2 which totals in 2 x 2 = 4 instances of watches. So either "обе" or "пары" has to go in order to keep the number of watches equal 2. As an example of phrase with the correct (of quantity of 2) number: "у меня сломались обои часы". The smartasses who doesn't like the word "обои" might want to consider "у меня сломались и те и другие часы". Aug 26 '13 at 19:09
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    @v'-5o-1's73-, the OP (@brilliant) had asked what is the correct way of saying that both of his watches aren't functioning. I am showing you the norm - something that is written in the main guidebook on Russian language. If you don't agree, prove your point. Aug 27 '13 at 5:30
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As @fedja already answered, the word оба cannot be used here. I would use двое instead:

У меня сломалось двое часов.

Двое моих часов сломалось.

I think that it is rarely expected that one has more than one watch, so it is clear enough that no more watches left.


Словарь Ушакова states that word двое is a form of два that can be applied to living masculine objects or to the objects that do not have singular form. But it is interesting to know that this word can also mean две пары for the paired objects:

ДВО́Е, двоих, числ. колич.
1. Два (с сущ. мужск., обозначающем живые существа, и с сущ., употребляющимися только во мн.). Двое братьев. Двое суток. Двое щипцов. Нас было двое. На двое суток, по двое суток.
2. Две пары чего-нибудь (с сущ., обозначающими парные предметы; косвенные падежи могут заменяться косв. падежами от два). Двое глаз. Двое рук. Двое колес.

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  • Good answer with a good reference. Still, "двое" doesn't really mean "both", it's just "two". Aug 27 '13 at 8:45
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"оба" is never used with nouns without singular form. The correct version is "у меня сломались и те, и эти часы".

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Caring about the purity of the Russian language, you can phrase it like this:

из двух часов, что у меня, ни одни (больше) не работают

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Since "часы" has no singular form, you would need to add the word "пара" (pair) to make the phrase work, in a way similar to these:

Я погладил обе пары брюк. (I ironed both pairs of trousers.)

Точильщик наточил обе пары ножниц. (The sharpener has sharpened both pairs of scissors.)

This is how I would translate your phrase:

У меня сломались обе пары часов.

This means "two watches", not four, although it does not make much sense. According to D. Rosenthal, this use is considered colloquial (see 165-3).

Also note that in the contexts where "часы" is used as a plural for "an hour", not "watches", "пара часов" means "a couple of hours", as in

Он вернулся через пару часов. (He was back in a couple of hours).

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    Is this a modern norm? When I left Russia 20 years ago "пара часов" would mean only two watches. With scissors and trousers it is OK because they really do consist of two identical (well, symmetric actually) pieces but with watches it sounds quite outlandish to me.
    – fedja
    Aug 26 '13 at 3:57
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    Пара часов usually means a few hours. Though I have read somewhere that using пара as synonym for two is colloquial, because it can be applied to paired objects only (which is not the case for watches as well).
    – Artemix
    Aug 26 '13 at 5:30
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    I left Russia two years ago and am still in a pretty tight contact with my friends and relatives and I would say "обе пары часов" too. ;) Aug 26 '13 at 11:13
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    "три пары часов" definitely means either "6 watches" or "6 hours" in Russian.
    – brilliant
    Aug 26 '13 at 15:05
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    @dasblinkenlight, haha, skuky.net is definitely an authority on Russian. A pair means 2 things of the same matter. 2 pairs means 2 times of 2 things of the same matter. So the total is 4, unless your definition of a pair is somewhat different. Aug 26 '13 at 15:30
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У меня обе пары часов сломались.

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  • This answer doesn't provide any new information not already present in previous answers; not does it provide any additional context.
    – Aleks G
    Aug 26 '13 at 21:51
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What I would say and expect to hear from somebody is "обои часы". Not sure about how canonically right it is.

UPDATE:

For the people who don't know Russian well enough and claim there is no such word as "обои" in the meaning of "both".

Местами говорят обои м. новг. смол. и обое ср. о вещах: платье двое, да обое худое. Два брата хвалились, да оба никуда не годились. Обое рябое, зап. все равно. Оба лучше, шуточное. Обои брата, новг. обои брата, смол. обои браты, вор.

Толковый словарь Даля

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    I would only use "обои часы" when searching for a wallpaper with clocks to use on my desktop. This is outrageously incorrect, as there is no such word as "обои" that'd mean "both". Aug 26 '13 at 11:11
  • @AntonZujev, this is what people say, I don't care what you or your Rozenthal think about it. Aug 26 '13 at 14:24
  • I don't know what people you talk to then, @v'-5o-1's73-, because that is really wrong, it's not even colloquial. Aug 27 '13 at 5:19
  • @AntonZujev, you are outrageously ignorant saying there is no such word, check out the upadate Aug 27 '13 at 16:39
  • well sure, if you're from Novgorod or Smolensk you can say that. But that's a local thing and a person from St.Petersburg, for example, would just think you're uneducated. Aug 27 '13 at 18:26

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