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The dictionary defines both угрожа́ть and грози́ть as “threaten.” Are they interchangeable in every case?

  • Another synonym: грози́ться, e. g.: Пьяный череповчанин грозился изувечить двух женщин. – Dmitry Alexandrov Aug 13 '14 at 15:06
  • I think грозить should be considered as lower level of threat than угрожать. – user3177112 Aug 14 '14 at 9:25
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The words are often interchangable. According to the ruscorpora.ru, грози́ть has been used about 3 times more often than угрожа́ть since 2001. Here are the most notable difference:

  • Threatening with something:
    • "Грозить пальцем" is to wave a protruded index finger meaning "don't do it". You cannot say "угрожать пальцем".
    • Similarly, to show somebody your fist in a threatening way is "грозить кулаком", never "угрожать"
    • When threatening somebody with a weapon, the word "угрожать" is used when the weapon is dangerous ("грабители угрожали кассиру пистолетом", but "старушка грозила собаке палкой"). Generally, for guns and knives "угрожать" is used, while for sticks and stones the verb "угрожать" is used only if there is a real danger.
  • Verbal threats (expressed or implied) usually require the verb "угрожать" ("не смей мне угрожать!", "террористы угрожали убить заложника"),
    • unless these are empty and laughable threats ("муж то грозил повеситься, если я его брошу, то в ногах валялся"). For especially empty and laughable treats, "грозиться" is used (colloquial).
  • For expressions like "компании грозит/угрожает банкротство", both verbs are used, "грозит" is more colloquial, "угрожает" is more formal
  • the noun "опасность" governs the verb "угрожает", unless the speech is colloqial

The rules of thumb:

  • in formal speech, "угрожать" should be used except for "грозить пальцем/кулаком"
  • in colloquial speech, "угрожать" should be used if somebody
    • expresses threats which are either serious or the fact that he/she dares to threaten is serious
    • or threatens with a dangerous weapon
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  • Thank you! This is the kind of information you can't get from a dictionary :) – CocoPop Aug 14 '14 at 13:15
  • Could you please give me a example of грозиться? – CocoPop Aug 14 '14 at 13:16
  • CocoPop: The verb "грозиться" is worth another question. But if you need one example, just replace "грозил" by "грозился" in the relevant sentence. – user31264 Aug 15 '14 at 13:36
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Грозить could mean a gesture, empathising a verbal threatening.

For instance, грозить кулаком, грозить пальцем, грозить палкой. That is, to shake some object, which may not be dangerous actually. Compare

Грозить палкой = to shake a stick to empathise a verbal threatening.

but

Угрожать пистолетом = to pose a real threat of using the gun

while

Грозить пистолетом = to shake a gun in the hand, even if the gun is not charged, toy or without intention to use it.

Расширение НАТО угрожает безопасности России = even if NATO does not express any threats verbally, they pose a threat by their potential.

So, to sum up, грозить - to threaten actively, usually shaking an object(may be non-dangerous one, such as finger) to empathise your threat, угрожать - to pose a real threat either actively or passively.

Угрожать one can only to somebody or something.

Химический комбинат угрожает экологии региона.

Свалка отходов угрожает чистоте питьевой воды.

but

Биржевой индекс грозит обрушиться в любой момент.

Compare:

Засуха угрожает посевам.

but

Засуха грозит плохим урожаем.

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  • Examples from Russian Corpus: "В Центризбиркоме схватились за голову: модель грозила сорвать 70-80% всех региональных выборов." - "model" is inanimate. "Энтузиасту грозит штраф в размере $ 415 тыс." - a "fee" is also inanimate. – Artemix Aug 14 '14 at 8:30
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They do have the same meaning, but quite different registers. Угрожать is quite common, while грозить is quite bookish if not outright archaic, apart from a few turns of phrase such as это мне ничем не грозит (this does not hold any threats for me).

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'угрожа́ть' is more strange, for example, when some criminal threaten his victim. In most cases it means that this threat has more chances to happen or may happen in short period of time. Also, you better look at russian vocabulary-wiki 'угрожа́ть' and 'грози́ть'.

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    It's perfectly valid to use "угрожать": "угрожал причинить телесные повреждения", "Начальник угрожал увольнением". – Artemix Aug 14 '14 at 8:32
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Грозить is transitive and Угрожать is intransitive. Грозишь with something and Угрожаешь something.

Грозить пистолетом

Угрожать жизни

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  • "Угрожать жизнь" is incorrect. The correct usage is "Угрожать жизни". – A-K Aug 14 '14 at 21:18
  • "Угрожать пистолетом" looks ok to me. – Artemix Aug 15 '14 at 7:29
  • Here is an example from Russian corpus: "На Пироговской набережной его машину остановили неизвестные в милицейской форме, угрожая пистолетами и ножами, пересадили Мирилашвили-старшего в другую машину и увезли его в неизвестном направлении." – Artemix Aug 15 '14 at 7:45

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