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Alice adopted John, when he was 2 years old. At the age of 15 he got to know who he really is.

Is is possible to express to be in a direct manner without reconstruct these sentences?

Would Когда ему было 15 лет он узнал кто он на самом деле есть do it?

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  • 3
    Another word order is better: кто он есть на самом деле
    – Anixx
    May 27 '14 at 1:36
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The English verb to be in the Present tense can be rendered in Russian in a number of ways, apart from the complete omission of it:

  1. быть (Present есть) - here two variants are possible, a) what follows есть, the predicative, is in the Nominative case, that is what you suggested, он узнал, кто он на самом деле есть; and b) the predicative is in the Instrumental case, so it is он узнал, кем он на самом деле есть;
  2. являться - it is also followed by the Instrumental case, then your sentence is он узнал, кем он на самом деле является. Являться is a just a little bit bookish, though.
  3. находиться - this doesn't fit your sentence at all, it means 'to be [situated]', it is about the place where the subject is, like in Рейкьявик находится в Исландии. 'Reykjavík is in Iceland.'

In sentences of the kind who/what is <somebody/something>? or who/what <somebody/something> is the word такой, -ая, -ое, -ие can be added:

Кто ты такой? - Who are you? (to a man)

Кто ты такая? - Who are you? (to a woman)

Я не знаю, кто они такие. - I don't know who they are.

In this case your sentence will be он узнал, кто он такой на самом деле.

Also note that you missed a comma after "узнал."

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  • to 1. - any difference between using Nominative or Instrumental?
    – user3538
    May 26 '14 at 18:09
  • You have mistakes here. "кем он есть" is ungrammatical, as "есть" does not govern Instrumental. However, it works in past and Future, and also with the verb "являться": "Он узнал, кем он на самом деле был/будет/является". Является sounds way too stilted, and I would advise against using it here.
    – Shady_arc
    May 26 '14 at 19:15
  • @shady_arc I've seen hyphens to express is. For instance something like Эта собачка - чудовище. Can that be used in any kind of text?
    – user3538
    Jun 5 '14 at 17:57
  • These — are not hyphens. They are dashes. They are primarily an intonation mark but also are used to connect subject and predicate when predicate is essentially a single noun. Not used in questions, usually is not used with pronouns ("Я чудовище"), normally is not used in negative sentences ("Мой отец не директор"). In all these sentences you MAY insert a dash but it is gonna be purely an intonation mark for emphasis and look weird if you insert it everywhere. Only when connecting a noun subject and noun as a part of nominal predicate it is obligatory to use dash (in modern punctuation).
    – Shady_arc
    Jun 5 '14 at 18:38
  • Являться is a just a little bit bookish, though. - Okay. Is there any other thing one should consider when choosing between являться and есть / быть?
    – user3538
    Jul 10 '14 at 14:42

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