Russian Language Grammar

    Classification and Usage of Particles

Particles are divided into the following classes:

 

1. Demonstrative

  • Вот – here is, there is, here's, there's, here are, there are, as a general rule, refers to something or somebody in close proximity – at least when compared to

  • вонthere is, there's, there are:

Вот ваша книга.

Here's your book.

Вон летит самолёт.

There's an airplane flying.

Вот is of a more current, and also wider usage than вон. In some instances, вот does not imply any close proximity:

   (a)   It may mean the emphatic that in sentences such as:

Вот кому надо помочь.

That's someone whom one should help.

It attracts attention to a word logically emphasized:

Вот в чём дело.

(Now) that's the thing; That is the point.

Вот кто здесь!

(Look) who is here!

Вы едете в Италию? Вот куда я хотел бы поехать!

Are you going to Italy? That's where I would like to go!

   (b)   Вот is frequently found in narratives:

Вот иду я по улице и вдруг вижу: идёт ко мне навстречу мой старый приятель.

Well, (there) I was going down the street, and suddenly I see my old friend coming towards me.

Note: The particles вот and вон are used in the same way as the French "voici" or "voila." They do not function in the same way as the adverbs здесь and там, which indicate location:

Вот ресторан.

Here's a restaurant. (Pointing – if not literally – to it)

Здесь ресторан, а там банк.

Here is a restaurant, and there is a bank.

Ресторан здесь.

The restaurant is here.

  •  Это is emphatic (and usually is not rendered in translation).

Кто это пришёл?

Who came?

Куда это вы спешите?

(Now) where аrе you hurrying?

When preceding a predicate noun, это may be translated this is, it is, is:

Ум – это силища. (Горький)

Intelligence – this is (great) strength.

А по-моему, современный театр – это рутина, предрассудок. (Чехов)

And I think that modern theater is routine, prejudice.

 

2. Limitative

  • толькоonly, just

Я только на минуту.

I (have come) just for a minute.

  • Лишь (лишь только, только лишь) may be considered synonymous with только. However, тoлько has a wider usage, it is found in poetry, conversation and business speech.

Remark:   Только and лишь have clearly different meanings – when they function as particles, or as conjunctions:

(Conj.) 

Лишь звёзды блеснут в небесах...

No sooner the stars begin to glisten in the sky...

(Part.)

Лишь одна звезда видна.

(slightly stressed)

Only one star is seen.

(Conj.) 

Только он приехал...

No sooner he arrived...

(Part.) 

Только он приехал.

(stressed)

Only he arrived.

  • Хотя бы;  хоть; хоть бы  all of which mean if only, at least.

Поедем хотя бы на три дня.

Let us go, if only for three days.

Ну, хоть вы мне скажите.

Well, at least you tell me.

 

3. Emphatic

  • Даже and и mean – even. 

Даже is usually stronger than и.

А, ваш брат приехал? Я и не знал.

Oh, your brother has arrived? I (even) didn't know.

Я даже не знал, что он здесь.

I even did not know he was here.

At the beginning of a sentence, и may carry a strong emphasis.

И зачем это нужно?

And why is it necessary?

И я ещё виноват!

And I am to blame! (On the top of everything.)

  • Же and ведь are both translated as but, why ..., after all – or are frequently rendered by expressions such as didn't I, don't you know, etc:

Я же (ведь) вам сказал!

But I told you! (I told you, didn't I?)

Ведь has no fixed place in a sentence. Же is always enclitic.

Ведь банк закрыт сегодня.

Why, the bank is closed today.

Он ведь скоро приезжает.

Не is coming soon, don't you know?

With interrogative parts of speech, же is often translated as then.

Кому же вы написали?

То whom did you write then?

Когда же они вернутся?

When are they coming back (then)?

Note: In an interrogative construction, ведь cannot be substituted for же.

  • Даbut (at the beginning of a sentence) may express impatience, even annoyance. A great deal, however, depends on the tone:

Да не хочу я идти туда!

But I don't want to go there.

Да я вам этого никогда не говорил!

But I never said that to you!

Notes:

(a)  

  • Да нет means not at all; oh, no; by no means.

(b)  

  • Да may be used in questions, sometimes in combination with же.

Да почему вы мне не сказали?

But why did not you tell me?

Да когда же они поженились?

But when did they marry then?

  • Нуwell is usually mildly emphatic, but this again depends on the tone:

Ну, я не знаю.

Well, I don't know.

Ну, хорошо.

Well, all right.

Ну, приходите в пять, если хотите.

Well, come at five, if you wish.

Ну, довольно!

Well (now) that's enough!

  • Ужwell, really often carries only a mild emphasis:

Это не так уж дорого.

This is really not so expensive.

Я уж не знаю.

Well, I really don't know.

Note: Here again the tone plays a role. Lermontov's (Borodino) "Уж мы пойдём ломить стеною." ("We will go, breaking through like a wall.") – is not mildly emphatic.

With the imperative mood, уж usually mollifies the order or the request:

Вы уж пойдите сами.

(Look,) you better go yourself.

Уж не забудьте, пожалуйста.

Please don't forget (will you?).

 

4. Definite

Some of these particles are very close to adverbs, and may be classified as such.

  • Именноnamely, just

Всё произошло именно так.

Everything happened just so.

Кому именно вы написали?

То whom did you write namely?

  • Как раз just

Это как раз то, что я слышал.

That is just what I heard.

  • Почтиalmost, just about

Он почти всегда дома.

Не is almost always at home.

  • Приблизительноapproximately, about

приблизительно в час

at about one o'clock

  • Простоsimply

Она просто очень милая.

She is simply very nice.

  • Чуть неalmost

Я чуть не забыл.

I almost forgot.

 

5. Affirmative

  • Даyes is the most widely used affirmative particle.

Note the variants:

  • Ну, даwell, yes; yes, of course

Это довольно дорого.

Ну, да.

– This is rather expensive.

– Yes, of course.

  •  Да, даoh, yes; surely; yes, yes.

– Надо бы написать им.

Да, да.

– We (really) should write them.

– Yes, yes.

  • Ещё быof course; naturally; I should say so; indeed; by all means.

– Он прошёл экзамен?

Ещё бы!

– Did he pass his examination?

– Of course!

  • Естьright! aye aye. (Characteristic of military speech)

– Полный вперёд!

Есть!

– Full speed ahead!

– Right!

 

6. Negative

  • Нетno. This particle may also have an independent meaning of a whole sentence:

– Вы кончили ваш доклад?

Нет.

– Did you finish your report?

– No.

At the beginning of a sentence, it emphasizes the negation: "Нет, не кончил" – No, I haven't (finished).   At the same time, and said in the proper tone, this construction is more polite than the laconic "Нет". Нет not only denies a sentence, but has an independent value of its own. Compare, for example, the same answer to two different questions:

– Вы куда-нибудь едете?

– Нет.

– Are you going anywhere?

– No.

– Вы никуда не едете?

– Нет.

– You are not going anywhere?

– No.

  • Henot. Usually precedes the predicates, and thereby negates the whole sentence:

Я не говорил с ним.

I did not speak with him.

Otherwise, не may negate another word of the sentence by immediately preceding that word:

Я не с ним говорил.

I did not speak with him.

(It wasn't he with whom I spoke).

He я с ним говорил.

I did not speak with him.

(It wasn't I who spoke with him).

Remark:   The double usage of не makes the statement affirmative – yet of a different shade of meaning, compared to a simple affirmative:

He могу не порадоваться.

I can't help being happy.

Он не мог не знать.

It would be impossible for him not to know.

As compared to:

Могу радоваться.

I can be happy.

Он мог знать.

Не could know.

  • Ни not а.

Ни normally combines with не in negative sentences:

Мы не получили ни одного письма.

We did not receive a single letter.

Она не сказала ни слова.

She did not say a word.

In impersonal sentences, ни alone can carry the negation:

Ни слова!

Silence! (Not a word!)

Ни с места!

Freeze! (Don't leave your place!)

Even in this type of a sentence, не is implied ("Hе говорите ни слова").

Remark: After certain pronouns and adverbs, ни loses its negative character, and imparts a generalization to the statement:

Куда он ни пойдёт, всюду ему скучно.

No matter where he goes, he is bored.

Кого ни спросишь – никто не знает.

Whomever one asks – nobody seems to know.

 

7. Interrogative

  • Ли – not translated into English (unlike the conjunction ли which means whether, if).

Ли follows the word which is being questioned:

Знаете ли вы?

Do you know?

Приехал ли доктор?

Has the doctor arrived?

Вы ли это?

Is that you?

This construction is most frequently replaced by the positive statement said with the proper interrogative intonation:  Вы знаете? Приехал доктор? Это вы?

Note: In a few set expressions, ли loses its interrogative meaning: видите ли (you see); шутка ли (it's no joke); то ли дело (it's a different matter; how can one compare?); мало ли (there are many things; I don't care what...), etc:

He нравится мне здесь. То ли дело жить в деревне!

I don't like it here. How can it compare with life in the country?

Мало ли что он говорит.

I don't care what he says.

  • A? – (informal) what?, means "eh?" or the French "n'est ce pas?" Or it can also give a motivational shade to the sentence - "shall we?". The usage of this particle is often characteristic of individual speech:

Это я сам сделал. Здорово, а?

– I made it myself. Cool, eh?

– Пойдём спать, а?

– Let's go to sleep, shall we?

  • Разве and неужели mean is it possible that; do you mean to say that; why,... They are frequently omitted in translation and expressed by reversing the English word order and optionally adding "really": 

Разве он русский?

Is he Russian?

Разве вы не знаете?

Don't you really know? (Do you mean to say you don't know?)

Неужели вы не знаете?

Both these interrogative particles express doubt, disbelief, or surprise – the latter is especially characteristic of неужели. Here, the surprise may be mixed with different – in fact fully opposite – feelings or emotions. Thus:

Неужели они приезжают завтра?

Are they really coming tomorrow?

may express surprise coupled with joy as well as with displeasure. On the other hand, sentences such as:

Разве они приезжают завтра?

Do you mean to say they are coming tomorrow?

Разве почта на этой улице?

Why, is the post office on this street?

are usually more matter of fact.

Remarks :

(a) Разве is often used in interrogative-negative sentences:

– Я всё вижу. Разве ты такой был полгода назад? (Л. Толстой)

"I see everything. Were you like this half a year ago? "

Here the speaker (Lise Bolkonskaya) herself already knows the negative answer to her question.

(b) Неужели frequently, (but not always) expresses the opposite:

"Что это за люди? – всё думал Ростов. – Неужели французы? Зачем они бегут? Неужели ко мне?" (Л.Толстой)

"Who are these people?" Rostov kept thinking, "Are they Frenchmen? Why are they running? Could it be towards me?"

Here the speaker actually cannot doubt that these are French soldiers running towards him.

 

8.  Exclamatory

  • Ну иwhat (a, an); certainly, "sure":

Ну и день!

What a day!

Ну и устал я!

I'm certainly tired!

  • Простоsimply, just.

More emphatic than the definite particle "просто", given above:

Я просто не могу понять!

I simply can not understand!

  • Ведь is both, exclamatory as well as emphatic. It is discussed above.

 

9.  Indecisive

Indecisive particles, introduced into a sentence, express doubt, uncertainty:

  • Вряд лиunlikely, I doubt, etc.

Они вряд ли дома.

I doubt that they are at home.

  • Едва лиhardly

Этому едва ли можно поверить.

One could hardly believe this.

  • ПожалуйI suppose, "I guess," maybe.

Ну, я, пожалуй, пойду.

Well, I suppose I will go.

  • Чуть ли неjust about, practically.

Это чуть ли не самый дорогой ресторан в городе.

This is just about the most expensive restaurant in town.

 

10.  Comparative

The comparative particles будто, как будто, как бы, словно have the same meaning as the corresponding conjunctions. They express a comparison between similar notions, or may refer to something hypothetical:

Он как будто правда уехал.

It seems as if he really has left.

Вы словно не понимаете, что я говорю.

You act as if you don't understand what I am saying.

Он как бы не знал, что ответить.

It seemed as if he did not know what to answer.

 

11.  Auxiliary Particles

Auxiliary particles may form new words or new verbal constructions.

Particles forming new words

   (a)

  • The particles -то, -нибудь, -либо, кое-, serve to express indefiniteness when combined with interrogative pronouns or adverbs.

Examples:

кто-то

somebody

что-нибудь

anything

когда-либо

ever

кое-где

here and there

(See "Indefinite Pronouns" and "Indefinite Adverbs".)

  • The word угодно (when functioning as a particle) may be added to the same pronouns or adverbs:

кто угодно

whoever you wish (one wishes)

когда угодно

whenever you wish (one wishes)

   (b)

  • The particles ни, не express negation. For example:

никто

nobody

ничто

nothing

никак

in no way

нигде

nowhere

негде

nowhere (to...)

(See "Negative Pronouns" and "Negative Adverbs".)

  • The particle не is widely used in forming antonyms, such as небольшой – small (not large); недалеко – near (not far).

   (c)

  • The particle -ся (-сь) is used in the formation of reflexive verbs:

мыться

to wash:

моюсь... моются

одеваться

to dress:

одеваюсь... одеваются

Particles forming new verbal constructions

   (a)

  • Бы combined with the past tense forms the conditional (or sub­junctive) mood; combined with the infinitive бы is sometimes used to express a wish:

Я пошёл бы, если не было бы так поздно.

I would go if it were not so late.

Хорошо бы отдохнуть!

It would be nice to rest!

   (b)

  • Пусть and the less emphatic пускай combine with the third person to form the equivalent of an imperative.

  • The same applies to the particle да, the usage of which is limited to a few expressions:

Examples:

Пусть он придет в девять.

Let him (He should) come at nine.

Пускай они играют здесь.

Let them play here.

Да здравствует!

Long live!

Да будет вам известно.

Let it be known to you.

   (c)

  • Бывалоformerly; used to; sometimes... would. This particle may be used with the present, past, or future – however, it always refers to an action which happened, at intervals, in the past:

Бывало, сидим мы у реки.

We used   to sit near the river (in those days).

 

Бывало, сидели мы у реки.

Бывало, посидим мы у реки.