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I came across the following construction:

«Ерунда! – воскликнул принц. – Я не стану есть свою собаку!

The context is an Indian prince, who is told he may have to eat his dog if the food runs out.

This prompts two questions:

  1. What is the meaning of не стану in this construction, and how would it differ, let's say, from simply saying Я не съем свою собаку! ?
  2. Why is the imperfective есть used here, when this refers to a specific situation with a specific dog?
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The whole sentence would properly be translated as

I will never eat my own dog.

However word-for-word it's more like

I will not become [such that I] eat my own dog.
I will not get to be [such that I] eat my own dog.

Verb cтать (here не стать) in this sentence is the equivalent of become in English or get to be.

Whether or not you are talking about a specific dog in a specific situation is irrelevant to using perfective/imperfective verbs. It's more about the situation as a whole. As he (the prince) wouldn't eat his own dog, he won't be eating (есть) and thus won't have finished eating it (съесть). There's just the slight difference in meaning (or rather emphasis).

Я не съем свою собаку

has the emphasis on есть - (eat).

Я не стану есть свою собаку

has the emphasis on не стану (won't become), making the point that much stronger.

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  • Thank you. You just confirmed my original thinking: he's not willing to take one bite (есть), so eating the entire dog (съесть) is out of the question. – CocoPop Jun 3 '14 at 15:58
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    So basically, this construction boils down to: there's no way I'm doing that! I'm not about to do that! or any such expression of categorical denial of something you consider preposterous? – CocoPop Jun 3 '14 at 16:00
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    @CocoPop Yes, you are absolutely correct in both of your comments. – Aleks G Jun 3 '14 at 16:04
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    @CocoPop, rather too strong, I think. 'No way' seems to mean that nothing in the world would cause me to get up early. This would be expressed as 'Ничто бы не заставило меня встать рано'. 'Не стал вставать рано' is more matter-of-the-fact: there was no reason for me to wake up early (but probably if I'd had some nice plans for the morning, I might do so). On the other hand 'я не встал рано' would mean that I had the reasons to wake up early and maybe even tried to do so but failed. – ach Jun 3 '14 at 16:56
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    I'd say that "Я не стану есть свою собаку" quite closely matches English "I will not eat my dog". You see, only in legal use "will + verb" is "merely" a Future tense. If I am not mistaken, in speech it means your decision (made, probably, just now) and your intention, i.e. has a shade of "I won't eat my dog because I do not want to do it and I've got no intention to do so". Which is exactly what "не стану + verb" represents. It is used only in negative statements about the future to strongly emphasize that a person will no do something and is opposed to the idea. – Shady_arc Jun 3 '14 at 19:59
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Я не съем свою собаку

Such thing will not happen that I complete eating my dog. This may be because the dog is too big for me so I can eat only a part or because the dog will not be with me at the time or due to some other obstacles, including, possibly (but not limited to), my own intention.

Я не стану есть свою собаку

I do not want to even start eating my dog. This is due to my intention, and not due to some obstacles.

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не стану here is equivalent to не буду, and the latter is more common in modern Russian. So you could also say

Я не буду есть свою собаку.

As for the comparison to Я не съем, не стану / не буду puts more emphasis on the negation.

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I do not like that dog sentence, so I will start with Shady_arc comment

"Я не стану учиться на каникулах" (I won't study during my holidays)

It's a wish, proposal for future - but live is hard, parents may think different about that matter, and everything may turn out different, as it planned.
So sentence is expression of who speaks, expression of his current feelings.
But feeling, as any knows, are object of change, especially in long run therms. And highly depends on who makes that statement.
So focus is on the person. And in literature, I wouldn't be surprised, if everything turns to situation where person have to make choose, or do something he denies(even as unlikely possibility) before, especially when it goes about Indian prince's.
So person on first place and unlikely situation in far not defined future (as person thinks)
Also it may be(or actually is) form of oath, vow - in form where unwanted action is not directly connected to the person.(as image in someone else's mind, or it's own mind)

Я не буду есть свою собаку.

Dima's equivalent have different flavor, it's more like decision or promise.
Hard future is now, or can be observed as doom, days, weeks, months. But anyway here should be a reason, why that question considered to be answered, reasons may be clear from context. One possible reason because you already promised your dog: "Я не буду тебя есть, Пушок, но будет лучше если ты нам нанюхаешь еды." (and really, most times there is much better ways to use your dog to get some food, then just eat that dog.)
Also there is another reason as example - because you do not think that dog meat is tasty. ("свою собаку" - makes that reason a bit unlikely, but)

Я не съем свою собаку

Maybe a promise, but one word ruins all glory : "Я не съем свою собаку, один", "Я не съем свою собаку, один, за раз"
So flavors of considering to eat that dog, but something ruins the plan.

«Ерунда! – воскликнул принц. – Я не стану есть свою собаку!

Говорит нам о том, что человек легкомысленный, не слишком далекий, но возможно хороший человек, имеющий привязанности
Настоящий младший принц, без забот и хлопот и проблем ))

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  • I understand: so the не стану construction makes clear you unwillingness, as in "I won't be studying on my vacation." However, how does this translate in a past form, when the deed is already done, or in this case - not done? For example: Было воскресенье и я не стал вставать рано. Does this mean: (I decided) I wouldn't be getting up late -or- I didn't get up late (for obvious reasons)? Thanks again! – CocoPop Jun 5 '14 at 13:03
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    Well, it is literally "I did not get up early" in a sense that you chose to do so, it is your decision. How one should render this in English is up to the speaker. You may very well do nothing to clarify this. You may say "It was Sunday so I preferred not to get up early". I am not a native speaker of English, so you are always going to be better at choosing just the right words that sound natural in English. – Shady_arc Jun 5 '14 at 14:48
  • So in so many words, it's an expression of the speakers personal inclination, will, etc. and has nothing to do with outside pressure, obligation, etc. Understood! Thank you all :) – CocoPop Jun 5 '14 at 15:46
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    Well, unless external circumstances forced you make some choice ("I got so much work to do then that I decided not to sleep"~ "У меня тогда было столько работы, что я не стал спать" — obviously you wanted to sleep but having given it a second thought decided that it's better to get the work done first). – Shady_arc Jun 5 '14 at 20:14
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IN SUMMARY and to make sure I understand all your answers: it's a matter of personal volition. If you said something and I didn't understand you, I can't say "Извини, я не стал понимать" because I had no choice in the matter - it just didn't happen. BUT I could say: "Не зная кто он, я не стал давать ему свой номер телефона" meaning simply "I didn't give him my number" but implying "I chose not to under the circumstances."

Am I correct?

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  • Yup, absolutely right. – Shady_arc Jun 6 '14 at 19:34
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As far as I know становится—стать aspectual pair (at it's heart) means "to stand"—and basically я не стану есть свою собоку means I won't (can't) stand to eat my dog. Or I will not stand to eat my dog. We use that phrase all the time in english, with various shades of emotion of course.

And it seems to fit all the examples above. In my opinion if you know the base physical meaning of the verb all other meanings are just extensions of that meaning—зима стала холодно—means more (Winter stood cold) than it does became. I mean of course that's a terrible translation, but the physical meaning still kind of works in English

"Я не стану учиться на каникулах" (I won't stand to study on the holidays)

Just my views)

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    I think "зима стала холодно" should be "зимой стало холодно". – Artemix Jan 9 '15 at 8:02
  • I'm sorry but I find your interpretation too literal and simplistic. In my lexicon, "can't stand" means basically "hate" and "won't stand (for)" means "will not allow." So I don't see how your mnemonic, for lack of a better word, brings any clarity to my question. Thanks anyway - every opinion is interesting. – CocoPop Jan 23 '15 at 21:23
  • depends on how literal you interpret (to stand)—your use of english may differ from mine. – VCH250 Jan 23 '15 at 22:42
  • it works for me for most verbs :) base meaning is better than gloss :) – VCH250 Jan 23 '15 at 22:44

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