здравствуйте, hello,

I'm following a Russian language course for beginners (for I am one) on Youtube [1].

Here is some example dialog about interrogative words and negation :

Чьё это пальто ? Я не знаю , чьё это пальто .

My problem :

This use of the comma seems very odd to me, and I'm wondering whether I should learn it as a syntax / punctuation rule for the use of commas in the Russian language.

In French, my mother tongue, I would say

À qui est cette veste ? Je ne sais pas à qui est cette veste.

In English, I am not completely certain but this :

Whose coat is this ? I don't know whose coat this is.

sounds much better than :

Whose coat is this ? I don't know, whose coat this is.

My reasoning :

For me it seems logical not to have the comma because the part "чьё это пальто." in the answer is the "direct object" of the action "Я не знаю", as I understand it in French and English.

I know Russian sometimes constructs sentences in a much different way, so any advice, short or long, will be much appreciated !

Thank you in advance, and of course please feel free to correct me on my English sentence if it's wrong. And for my use of commas in general ^_^ .

Notes: [1] Full Russian language course for English speakers produced years ago on videotapes and archived by some American language school. Question for moderators : should I provide a link or would it be advertisement ?

1 Answer 1


This comma is really needed, and it's absolutely in full consent with the Russian grammar.

The rule is: "every clause that has its own subject and predicate is to be sparated with commas." {rule 1}

In Я не знаю, чьё это пальто. there's an objectibe clause чьё это пальто, inside it это пальто is the subject and чьё is the predicate, so, according to {rule 1} it has to be sparated with commas.

  • Большое спасибо!, thank you very much for this clear and simple answer. I would be glad to "vote it up" but I don't have enough reputation yet . :-/
    – Yoyo Math
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 23:38
  • And, as a complementary question, should one always "pause" or "wait" at the comma, while one reads out loud / tells such a sentence?
    – Yoyo Math
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 23:53
  • 3
    @YoyoMath - Usually one should make a pause at a comma while reading distinctly, but very often in colloquial speech no pause is made. Generally speaking, Russian comma rules are rather complicated and they are a pain even for the Russian native speakers when they study those rules at school, because one has to make a syntactic analysis of the sentence to put the commas correctly, and that's difficult for many people, so wrong comma usage or absence of commas is the most typical mistake on Russian forums now.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 6:59
  • 1
    @YoyoMath That is just completely wrong. Commas in Russian do no generally correspond to pauses. They are just markers of the structure of the sentence, which in rare cases may indeed cause a pause (mostly they are optional, yet convenient to take a breath in when reading a long passage).
    – Shady_arc
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 9:54
  • 3
    @YoyoMath - Shady_arc is right about commas and pauses, but wrong about everything I wrote is completely wrong.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 13:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.