A Guide to Using ЭТО
I've seen so many people confused with "это" and "этот/эта/эти" that I decided to write an explanation of these. I have not seen any special post for this so far.
ЭТО - the demonstrative pronoun
It means "this/these" as in "This is a pen" or "These are ducks". Note that we don't use any equivalent of "is" in Russian, so you can even think of the pronoun-like "это" as of "this is/these are" (even if it is not exactly correct).
- Это собака. This is a dog.
- Это мальчик. This is a boy.
- Это кошки. These are cats.
- Это моя машина. This is my car.
- Это правильный ответ. This is the correct answer.
"Это" is also used in definitions:
- Собака - это животное. A dog is an animal.
- Курица - это не рыба. Chicken is not fish.
You can omit "это" in such cases, but keep the dash.
ЭТОТ / ЭТА / ЭТО / ЭТИ - the demonstrative adjectives
They mean "this" or "these" as in "this pen" or "these ducks". These words are always used with a noun and must agree with its gender:
ЭТОТ is for masculine nouns:
- этот стул = this chair
- этот мальчик = this boy
- этот рис = this rice
ЭТА is for feminine nouns:
- эта девочка = this girl
- эта тетрадь = this notebook
- эта лошадь = this horse
ЭТО is for neuter nouns:
- это яблоко = this apple
- это море = this sea
- это задание = this task
ЭТИ is for plural nouns of any gender:
- эти мальчики = these boys
- эти девочки = these girls
- эти яблоки = these apples
What Is Confusing
You may have noted that "это" can be both a demonstrative pronoun and a demonstrative adjective of the neuter gender. So, "это яблоко" may mean both "this apple" and "this is an apple", and without context you can only tell them apart by the first capital letter and a fullstop in case it is a sentence.
- это яблоко = this apple // a phrase
- Это яблоко. = This is an apple. // a sentence
A Rule of Thumb
- If you can replace "this/that/these/those" with "it" or "they" → use the undeclined "это" (demonstrative pronoun)
- If you can't → use the declinable "этот/эта/это/эти" (demonstrative adjective)
- This is a table → It is a table? Looks fine! → Это стол.
- This table is mine → It table is mine? No way! → Этот стол мой.
- These are books → They are books? Looks fine! → Это книги.
- Are these books yours? → Are they books yours? No way! → Эти книги ваши?
For those who already made it to the Russian case system, here is the declension table for the demonstratives. I placed neuter next to masculine because their forms are the same in many cases.
Sorry, Dropbox has broken something and I can't paste it as a picture any more.
The accusative forms written with a slash are for animate/inanimate nouns (like "этого кота / этот стол").
Hope this helps!
Interestingly one of my favourite parks in Moscow is called "Нескучный сад" which more or less translates as "The not boring park" :) https://www.google.com/maps/place/Neskuchny+Gardenfirstname.lastname@example.org,37.5881317,14.5z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0x1ad024ed390a76e5
An unemphasized "о" in the end of the word, just like an unemphasized "а", are officially pronounced more or less the same, as something in between [o] (in "dog") and [a] (in "part"). Accents (like church Russian) may bias to pronounce "о" as [o]. As for [ch] (in "church") or [sh] (in "shallow"), [sh] variant is generally considered Moskovite accent, but is widely accepted as the correct form - except for some specific words like "булочная" or "молочная", which would only be pronounced as "булоШная" and "молоШная" by elderly if not extinct Moskovites :-)
OK, so basically, to recognize between the demonstrative pronoun and the demonstrative adjectives, you only have to ask yourself: Which is the subject? Is "This" or another word?" If it's "this" the subject then, you only have to use ЭТО. Is not "this" the subject? Then use ЭТОТ / ЭТА / ЭТО / ЭТИ.
This is a pen
Which is the subject? "This"
So "this" is ALWAYS translated as ЭТО.
Which is the subject? (The) chair. "This" acts as an adjective (in this particular case, this indicates how close is the chair to).
So you have to use ЭТОТ / ЭТА / ЭТО / ЭТИ.
I get crazy trying to understand this. But I think that I finally did it!
What will help immensely is context as stated. If you need to identify something, ( Что это)?, the response will start with Это. On the other hand, if you know the topic (normally the grammatical subject), then the demonstrative is used.
Почему ты не смотришь спортивную программу по телевизору? Этот телевизор не работает.
In Russian, these "identifying" words are used less often.
Боже мой, ещё раз Телевизор не работает. Is more likely.
The demonstratives are needed when there is confusion.
Не на той странице но на этой!
I don't think so :P.
The subject of a sentence is a person or thing that performs the action of the verb. And in the first setence the one who is performed an action (the action is the verb "to be") is "this". Not the "pen". But well, maybe I'm wrong so...can you explain why do you think other thing?
I see this a LOT on Duo.
There is a huge difference between passive and active in English. The pen performs the action of the verb, but 'to be' only denotes STATE, not action. Therefore, the subject is actually 'pen.' And 'this' is functioning as a pronoun adjective (IIRC).
And to think, I HATED sentence diagraming in 6th grade.
Both are used. Though, the usage of "This is him" suggests that many native speaker intuitively feel that the thing that goes after a copula is not the subject. The point of divergence between prescriptive grammars of the past and actual usage is whether you should use the subjective or the objective form with a copula. The confusion naturally comes from the fact that English does not distinguish between its grammatical cases, except for personal pronoun.
- Russian does distinguish them, for one. Depending on the copula, the tense and the exact meaning, a predicate nominal may use the Nominative of the Instrumental.
You may build your own grammar of English (if you wish). Then Bob in "Bob is a cat" and this in "This is a cat" may very well be adjectives, and "cat" may a subject of both. If we are talking about grammar you studied at school (or any theory of syntax in use by linguists, for that matter), they are not.
- the English copula allows for an inverse structure. You may use both "The issue is the increase in the core's temperature" and "The increase in the core's temperature is the issue", sometimes only different in intonation (and even that is not guaranteed). In such cases, one should pick the interpretation first, and only then pass judgements about the structure (usually, "the issue" would be the subject).
Right you are olimo, although I also find it helps to have a slot into which to pigeon-hole cases when learning. One of the very helpful things you've provided here is a partial structure for that, pre-assembled. So it's a matter of making the right use of the tool. Rather than trying to learn things a whole structure at a time, just know they're there, reference each new item as it comes and find its place, and look back there also for refreshers and comparisons. Best of both worlds. Thanks so much for this very useful aid!
To check if you should say "Эти яблоки" or "Это (-) яблоки", think like that: 1) Do you see these apples (to point at them as at the particular apples you are going to talk about) or ever mentioned THESE apples before? 2) Do you want to emphasize that these things on a table are apples and not watermelons?
If yes is the answer on the 1st question then you say "Эти яблоки" (it is usually a part of a sentence and after goes smth else, for example what has happened or will happen to THESE apples), because in such a case "Эти" would mean "These": "Эти яблоки очень сладкие" - "These apples are very sweet". If yes is the second answer then you say "Это (-) яблоки", because you are talking to an idiot who doesn't know that these little fruits on a table are apples: "Это яблоки, а не бананы, болван" - "These are apples, not bananas, dumby".
Another case: "Это облако" and "Это (-) облако" ("this cloud" and "this is a cloud") (WARNING: in this case the only difference is intonation) 1) Do you see this cloud (to point at it as at the particular cloud you are going to talk about) or ever mentioned THIS cloud before? 2) Do you want to emphasize that this thing in the sky is a cloud and not a bird/ rainbow/ whatever can be in the sky?
1) Your friend sees a cloud shaped like a cat. He points at it to show this particular cloud to you and says: "Это облако похоже на кошку" - "This cloud looks like a cat". You remember this cloud the next day and tell your other friend: "Недавно видел облако. Это облако было похоже на кошку" - "I saw a cloud not so long ago. This cloud looked like a cat". 2) You and your friend are playing football. Suddenly your friend sees a shadow on the ground and asks you: "What the hell it is?" You reply: "Это облако" - "This is a cloud".
That's a great guide, very good work! But I wanted to point out two minor issues: when "это" is omitted there is no need for the dash in the negative sentences, i.e. "курица — это не рыба", but "курица не рыба". Also we do have an equivalent of "is" — "есть", although it is rarely used. You can say "собака есть животное", even though it sounds rather old-fashioned.
I studied Russian for many years, though I didn't go full-on, balls-to-the-wall with it (hence why I'm using Duolingo to practice vocab). With a solid base, but being extremely far from any kind of fluency, even I have been able to find some definitively incorrect things in the Russian beta exercises. One of them involves Это. (There are a lot of issues with synonyms not being accepted.)
"That." It doesn't accept "that." In all the sentences with "это" that I've seen so far, "that" would've been valid.
That's all I have to say about Это. )))
I also see it on the Android app. But when I view the full web version, there are some contexts where the button doesn't appear. For example, if I use my Nexus 7 and view the web version in portrait orientation, the button is missing. But it reappears when I switch to landscape.
That's just one of several differences in the web layout I see on my Nexus 7 in landscape vs. portrait. Another is that the Latin/Cyrillic toggle button in the Russian course seems to disappear in portrait. (On the other hand, with my Nexus 9, I always seem to see the full site in either orientation.)
Yes, you can translate "the" with "этот/эта/это/эти" if you can replace "the" with "this/these" in English.
I see a boy. The boy is eating an apple. → I see a boy. This boy is eating an apple.
Both "Я вижу мальчика. Мальчик ест яблоко" and "Я вижу мальчика. Этот мальчик ест яблоко" are fine.
If "this" does not fit instead of "the", you shouldn't translate "the" as "этот":
I need to go to the bathroom - Мне нужно в ванную (not "в эту ванную" because you don't mean "this bathroom" but just bathroom).
Enforcing "этот" as a translation for "the" was a workaround for the course developers to give the learner some clue about using the definite article. It was the best way they could think of, and I can hardly think of anything better in Duolingo environment.
My inlaws came to the US and learned English in the late 70s and they STILL mess up definite and indefinite articles more than pretty much any other thing.
The only other thing they do (which I don't believe is technically wrong, just awkward) is construct future tense like they would in Russian: "You will go to the store and pick up groceries?". That could possibly be a request "Will you go to the store..." or it may also just be a question "Are you going to the store.."
I'm sure it feels very foreign to Russian speakers. The thing is (normal, unemphasized "the"), it gives room for considerable subtle nuance. "A" thing is one particular thing singled out from among other possibilities, which is also why one is able to make it into "a thing" (a one-and-only type of thing) that virtually draws attention to itself without overt action, which articles themselves can become for Russian speakers. And that's how it can develop into "the thing about English", that emphatically bothersome sticking point that never fails to confuse or mystify. It's all about emphasis and distinction, and I can understand why it would be so hard to understand when it's not a native type of expression. But the lowly article can be rich in connotation. A lot of it lies in the intonation of how it is said. "A thing" is just some specific thing until you heighten its pronunciation to "a thing", which draws attention to the fact that there are other things also, a fact that might not seem to be so apparent or so important in context, at first sight, but whose significance is thus highlighted. And that's nearly opposite to "the thing", which is so emphatic that (almost) no other thing at all is even possible in context (nothing else matters). I hope this serves to give you a little of the flavor of the thing (the article, that is) - "the" serving in this case to indicate that "article" is used as the name of a classification of word, and "thing" as the abstract idea of its usage, in both cases a concept rather than something concrete. Yikes! It almost confuses me to try to explain it!
Has this этот for "the" workaround then in turn influenced the Russian for English Speakers course? Этот, along with the other demonstrative adjectives, appears so frequently here that I can't help but think the course developers just transferred over already built sentences, or am I mistaken in thinking that the demonstrative adjectives can't honestly be as common as the Duolingo course makes them seem?
A bit not as common. If we would stay completely tru to reality, people rare say something like "I already read a book", they usually say "I already read it".
However, making up every sentence with "it" would no be very educational. If we refer to objects and persons more specifially that "she, "he" and "it", I don't think there's something wrong with " I already read that book" or "That woman did not say anything".
Thank you for your quick reply! The insights of native speakers are invaluable. I realize that to get the true sense of a language you must immerse yourself in a lot of both the spoken and written forms. In any case, you're absolutely right about the way we generalize in English using "it", and such generalizations don't lend very well to vocabulary building.
All languages tend to be economical. I even think that textbooks and courses are very useful to have because it has slightly higher concentrations of new material. The idea that first 2000 words cover 70% of what is said is a double-edged sword: it means that after a certain threshold you do not learn much new even if you digest huge quantities of new texts and conversations every day.
You're absolutely right Shady_arc. What you're talking about is that vocabulary threshold often mentioned that needs to be overcome when going from the intermediate to advanced level. The 2000 words number you mention seems to be the common consensus for the intermediate level of any language, which then frighteningly jumps to between 10 and 20 thousand words when approaching an advanced or "mastery" level. Fortunately we're not left without the tools for the task. I've found the Compact Oxford Russian Dictionary (denotes key words) and Russian Learner's Dictionary to be very helpful in this regard, the latter being a 10,000 word frequency dictionary. I would recommend both to anyone who wants to eventually move beyond the basics offered by textbooks and courses such as Duolingo, though I must admit not everyone probably finds dictionary reading as enjoyable as I do. ;)
Thank you for this guide! It is very clear and informative. I have only just begun the Duo Russian program, and so far it seems to use eto for everything, and doesn't really specify or make note anything you've written here. Maybe it does later, beyond the basics. But I feel like maybe this should be mentioned in the beginning, to prevent those of us who are new to the language from getting into bad habits and using wrong pronouns that will slow us down later when we have to relearn what we thought we understood.
I know the program is still in beta. I'm just glad it is finally accessible. I'll keep an eye out for corrective guides - yours and others!
This is phenomenally helpful. Thank you very much for writing this up. I think I'm going to bookmark this so that I can come back to it for future reference. I just have one question, in regards to this:
"это яблоко = this apple // a phrase Это яблоко. = This is an apple. // a sentence"
Does "this apple" always strictly have to be a phrase, and can never be a complete sentence? What about situations where it might be an answer to a question? Such as: A: "Which apple did you take?" B: "This apple." Would person B's answer here be automatically interpreted as "this is an apple", and just cause confusion for person A? If so, how would one say the equivalent of "this apple" as a full sentence response?
I admit I haven't read all 103 current comments (104 counting this one!), but I agree that this is a nice explanation. I have one other small point to add, though: it might be worthwhile to give a brief explanation of how a demonstrative pronoun differs from a demonstrative adjective even in English - something along the lines of "This is a man" (where you can substitute "he" for "this" and it makes perfect sense, showing that it is a pronoun) vs. "This man is tall" (where substituting "he" for "this" makes no sense at all, showing that it is an adjective). That might make the distinction easier to understand in Russian or any other language.
Casus Ablativus is genetically unrelated to any Slavic case. However, Latin Casus Ablativus and Slavic Intrumental Case share some common roles, particularly the instrumental role. Prepositional case is former Locative which had disappeared in Latin. Well, it's another function of Casus Ablativus being with a preposition, yes.
I personally thought of Casus Ablativus as of Instrumental case since it can be used without prepositions.
@olimo, в Вашем сообщении сбилось форматирование. Не могли бы вы его поправить?
Заголовки первого уровня сейчас не работают, зато с заголовками второго уровня (поставьте ---- на следующей строке после заголовка или ## перед текстом), третьего (### перед текстом) и так далее работают.
позволю себе уточнить Ваш коммент. В русском опускается глагол "быть" в настоящем времени. Мы не говорим "я есмь девочка", или "это есть лошадь". Хотя в прошлых веках назад глагол "быть" в настоящем употреблялся, спрягаясь соответственно "я есмь", "ты еси", "они суть" и т.д. Иногда сейчас можно сказать тоже, употребив форму глагола "быть" , но это будет звучать в пафосных и торжественных событиях. К примеру, "Это ЕСТЬ наша грандиозная задача!"
It seems like a good way of understand the distinction between the demonstrative pronoun and the demonstrative adjective is to describe a neutral object that can take the form of any object (not considering anything in particular):
это собака (this neutral object that happens to be a dog)
Whereas the adjective-form describes something unique or in particular:
эта тетрадь (this exact notebook)
Ахаха, кто бы знал что у вас с этим будут эти проблемы, это ж надо только подумать об этом "это" как о том. Это интересно. Это есть познавательно. Это тому хорошее подтверждение, что об этих ваших правилах в России только слыхали. Я бы дал вам реформировать это, это было бы здорово. Это хорошо.
This is super-helpful. I can see that. Yet I still struggle because I do not understand the terms 'Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, Instrumental and Prepostional. Whenever I have tried to find an explanation, I find these terms are described with the use of other terms I am equally unfamiliar with. Within an arena of native English speakers, English has always been my 'strong subject' and I have consistently been 'above average' but I begin to suspect it is more 'instinct' than learning. Much as a piano player can be taught with great skill and exactitude while a few others simply sit, play and amaze us with unlearned ability. I am hoping that as I plod through, since I am bamboozled by English grammatical terms, I might find my instinct for русский язык simply kicks in. In the meantime, I read many of your explanations, Olimo, and appreciate them very much. It is my hope that I shall, by some marvellous process of linguistic osmosis, eventually chock up some authentic ability. This will not be without the kindness demonstrated by yourself and others who take the time to explain and share your skills with those of us who require a lot of coaching! Please accept this as a sincere expression of gratitude!
But in some Russian dialects "o" is pronounced as "o": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_dialects#Isoglosses
Yes - please do! A table of some sort would have been very helpful even if we didn't know how to use all the forms right at the beginning. Same goes for everything else with different forms that change depending on case, gender, number, and so forth. It all gets very confusing without something complete to refer back to and put the different forms in context.
They all mean my/mine, but мои is used to refer to multiple objets (my cats - мои кошки), мой is used with masculine gender (my house - мой дом), моя is feminine (my dog - моя собака) and моё is neuter (my name - моё имя). Similar to the French mes (plural), ma (feminine) and mon (masculine).
I'm not an expert with them, but this resource can get you started with them (they're called "possessive pronouns" in grammar-speech): http://www.russianlessons.net/grammar/pronouns.php
Большое спасибо! Этот руководство очень полезный! (I hope I got all of this right!)
I'm so glad that these demonstratives only have one declension for plurals, unlike, say, Polish, which has something like 4 on top of the declensions of seven often irregularly declined (except feminine and feminine-ending nouns) cases (throw a vocative case in there) for the three genders.
You can use the Markdown syntax for images:
![fallback text](image URL)
The fallback text will be used when the reader can't see the image. For example, when your image was deleted, when a reader’s internet connection is too slow and the image wasn’t loaded, or when a reader uses a screen-reader. It’s advised to include fallback text for all the images you use, because otherwise you make the Internet less welcoming for many people: people will know they are missing something, but won’t know what exactly.
The image URL should start with https:// or http:// or //. If you want to use a file from your computer, you need upload it on some server in the internet, and then use the URL of that image. olimo used Dropbox to upload the image. I personally tend to use Imageup.ru. When writing the image URL, make sure you reference the image directly, and not the page with that image. I.e. your Image URL should normally end in .jpg, .jpeg, .png, or .gif, but not in .html.
For example, to show the Wikipedia logo, you can use the following:
![Russian Wikipedia logo](https://en.wikipedia.org/static/images/project-logos/ruwiki.png)
And it will be displayed this way: