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In the song Подмосковные вечера there's a "б" letter standing alone: Если б знали вы, как мне дороги

What does this mean? Thank you.

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  • 3
    It's short for бы, used in conditional constructions.
    – CocoPop
    Mar 29 '15 at 14:53
  • roughly equal to "would"
    – Anixx
    Mar 29 '15 at 15:20
  • @CocoPop - Will you please make that an answer, not just a comment?
    – Yellow Sky
    Mar 29 '15 at 15:38
  • @YellowSky: My answer is too simplistic and I'm not a native - I think Nikolay's answer says it all :)
    – CocoPop
    Mar 30 '15 at 16:56
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б is a variant of бы that can be used (entirely optionally) if the preceding word ends with a vowel. Чтобы, being что+бы, always has the variant чтоб.

Similarly (with the same after-a-vowel rule), ли has ль and же has ж. The full and shortened forms are not entirely interchangeable; the shortened ones are stylistically non-neutral in most contexts, so when in doubt, use the full ones. You'll come across the short ones a lot in songs and poems, though, because they're a convenient way to lose an extra syllable.

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  • About shortened syllables in songs & verses. Sometimes poets use too many of them, which is considered to be a bad style. This issue is unformally referred as "ужи" - the plural of "уж" which means both Natrix snake, and the shortened form of "уже" (already).
    – Matt
    Mar 30 '15 at 6:19
  • @user4419802 that, I'd say, is the opposite phenomenon — throwing in semi-meaningful monosyllables as filler, which of course sounds awful but is not related, per se, to уж and similar contractions. Лишь is another all-time favourite with bad poets, and it's not a shortening of anything. Mar 30 '15 at 7:48
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sorry cannot comment yet.

"б" is a short form for "бы" - "conditional construction"(CocoPop)

"Если б знали вы" means "If you would know"

I think it's just the way it sounds. The tension goes on "бы" and brakes the rhythm.
With "б" there is no tension in the middle of the sentence:
"Если б знали вы" = "Если бы вы знали" = "Если б вы знали" (less common)

I would compare it to "if you would know" & "If you would only know"

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    Sorry, but "If you would know" is not correct English, you should say "If you knew". Never use "would" or "will" after "if" or "when."
    – Yellow Sky
    Mar 31 '15 at 20:12
  • my bad :) thank you.<br/> btw, "would" can be used as a polite request. Example: "if you would like" Mar 31 '15 at 20:57

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