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I read a page on Russian Impersonal constructions a few days ago by the RLM. It was all about impersonal constructions. But, it's just not clicking for me. For example: "Пашу тошнило всю дорогу". Why does this sentence govern the neuter form of the verb? Another question I have is with this example: "Едва самолёт взлетел, как один из моторов заело." Why does this also govern neuter form of the verb? I was taught earlier that impersonal construction use dative case, and these use accusative case? Please explain how to form impersonal constructions.

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Пашу тошнило всю дорогу.

The impersonal neuter verbs + Accusative case in the constructions like this are often used to show conditions or feelings. The typical dummy subject 'it' is omitted here, but still the verb agrees with 'it', this is why it is neuter: тошнило (a verb describing one's condition - being sick)

Едва самолёт взлетел, как один из моторов заело.

Here you have the dummy subject 'it' omitted again. It is an impersonal construction describing the condition of the engine (broken).

The usage of the impersonal construction rather than normal active voice sentences can be explained by the topical analysis. Since Russian is a topic-prominent language, i.e. syntax follows the topic (what's new is in your message), not the straight S-V-O logic, those impersonal sentences shows what exactly you wanted to say, highlighted the new part of the message. You can read more about topic-prominent languages here.

  • I still am confused on why dative cannot be used here, like why couldn't I say "Паше тошнило..."? – kingkola36 Feb 15 '15 at 2:08
  • Because тошнить takes an accusative object. – CocoPop Feb 15 '15 at 5:32
  • One can also say «мне тошно» (it's another impersonal construction, with the adverb тошно governing the dative мне). Native speakers sometimes confuse these two constructions and say мне тошнит, but this is considered an error. Even more frequently one can hear «мне сегодня плохо и тошнит» that sounds a bit wrong but can be analyzed as two impersonal phrases. – J-mster Feb 15 '15 at 13:37
  • Dative case goes with adverbs describing conditions - плохо, холодно, больно, etc. Паше плохо, Паше больно. Тошнит is a verb, it agrees with a dummy 'it' and takes Accusative. A large amount of verbs showing conditions act like this: Меня тошнит. Пашу знобит (Pasha has a fever). Or even slangish Его колбасит (He's got high). – Eugenia Vlasova Feb 15 '15 at 14:49
  • @EugeniaVlasova Great answer and thanks for the interesting info on topic- vs. subject-prominent languages. FYI according to the current Russian Wikipedia page, Russian is a subject-prominent language. Any comments? Also, a couple of examples of dative with verb: мне хочется, Паше не терпится. – biggvsdiccvs Mar 17 '15 at 1:14
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I'm not sure, but I think, neuter form of verb in cases like this are used for something like passive voice. Compare following:

Пашу всю дорогу тошнило

Паша всю дорогу читал

один из моторов заело

один из моторов сломался

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