In a recent interview, a man, whose son had passed away, stated:

A good father teaches his son about life, but my son taught me!

The portion after the comma presents a paradox in the speakers mind: my son (unlike other sons) taught me (of all things!).

In English this is accomplished with stress and intonation, as indicated by my italics. I believe in Russian, this is expressed with stress, intonation AND (I suspect) particles.

1 Answer 1


You are right, in Russian is accomplished with stress and intonation, and in the case of your sentence also with the particle же after the word which shows what is "unlike others", this particle intensifies the contrast. In this case no conjunction is used:

Хороший отец учит своего сына жизни, мой же [сын] научил меня.

Also, you can do without any particles and with a conjunction:

Хороший отец учит своего сына жизни, а мой [сын] научил меня.

In both cases 'son' can be omitted, since Russian has neither like my/mine distinction nor "one" as a universal substitution for any noun.

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    ommision of "son" would sound ambigous, as it is not clear why "мой" should mean "мой сын", not "мой отец"
    – Shady_arc
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 15:51
  • 1
    @Shady_arc: That's a good point!
    – CocoPop
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 16:34
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    "мой-то сын" won't work here. It is difficult to explain in a few words, though. Fortunately, there are articles on the topic. -то marks a contrasting topic possessing some property against some other thing that possesses some other property ("Я-то давно здесь, а вот где был"~"I have been here long enough, but where have you been"). The important thing is, the information is known to the listener but not activated in their mind, so this way you attract attention to a known fact in order to make some statement or ask a question.
    – Shady_arc
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 17:31
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    "же" marks a stronger "contradiction", incompatible with some previous information ("usually iti s father who teahes a son life, but not so for me and my son"). Here it is used to mark a topic: ".., as for my son — it is him who taught me".
    – Shady_arc
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 17:38
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    Sometimes "же" is used to give an new, "incompatible" statement in the situation when the listener has only one part of information activated, while the speaker thinks that the statement marked by "же", the "contradiction", should have been known by the listener and activated, but isn't ("Он же не умеет плавать!"="But he cannot swim!" - i.e. the listener acts as if the person can swim while he should have known or guessed that it is not the case).
    – Shady_arc
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 17:39

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