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I don't understand the function of как in this sentence:

Возле окна — большая клетка Букли. Сейчас она пустая: Букля уже два дня как улетела.

I know there a usage of как with perfective verbs that means "suddenly." However I wonder if here it isn't "approximating" two days: about two days ago.

1

This is unrelated to the как that expresses suddenness. And approximating two days would be an entirely different construction: Букля улетела дня два назад.

In phrases like this one, как serves to further stress that the time elapsed is the focus/"rheme"/new information communicated by the sentence.

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  • Very useful, and impeccable English! Please look over my other questions and see if you have anything to add. :) – CocoPop Jan 1 '15 at 14:47
  • Also, along with the use of как here to emphasize the time elapsed, is there also an added intonational emphasis on два дня? – CocoPop Jan 1 '15 at 14:49
  • Can this be explained by hypothesizing a contraction of Прошло два дня с тех пор (с того момента), как (когда) Букля улетела? – Avi Gordon Jan 7 '15 at 19:31
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This как refers to уже два дня, not to the verb.

[Вот] уже period of time как means 'it's already been period of time since', and "Букля уже два дня как улетела" means 'it's been already two days since Buklya flew away.'

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There is a certain colloquial trend where conjunction как replaces когда. E.g.

Как дойдёте до перекрёстка, поверните налево

(I think I can see a direct analogy in English: When you reach the junction turn left => As you reach the junction turn left - is it a contraction of as soon as?)

I am not sure as to the reasons for this phenomenon but the following excerpt from Lermontov's well-known pastiche indicates that some historical process may be at work here:

Как сходилися, собиралися
Удалые бойцы московские
На Москву-реку, на кулачной бой,
Разгуляться для праздника, потешиться.

So I am tempted to hypothesize a transformation:

Прошло <уже> [a period of time] с тех пор (с того момента) как (когда) [the event happened] => <уже> [a period of time] как [the event happened] => [the event] <уже> [a period of time] как [happened].

I would also argue that this usage does preserve a certain shade of suddenness or rather instantaneousness of the event or the particular moment. One would say Как вошёл я в ресторан, сразу увидел Сашу, but never Как жил я Москве, каждый день ходил в Большой. Only когда will be used in the latter case. The escape of a bird lends itself very well to such suddenness.

It is also worth adding that с тех пор как is a stable and actively used idiom.

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  • Very interesting hypothesis. Thanks for the clarification :) – CocoPop Jan 8 '15 at 13:39

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