"У мальчика нет сестры."
Translation:The boy does not have a sister.
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It's not a plural form, it's a genitive case. Russian nouns have several case forms, «сестра́» and «ма́льчик» are Nominative singular forms.
Nominative case forms are used for subjects of the sentences: «Ма́льчик большо́й» (the boy is big), «сестра́ у́мная» (the sister is clever).
«Сестры́» and «ма́льчика» are Genitive singular noun. Genitive nouns have a number of uses. First, it's used in a construction «нет» + Genitive noun to express absence of something (нет ма́льчика 'there is no boy'). Second, it's used after the preposition «у» 'by, at, with'.
By the way, «сестры́» cannot be understood as a plural. Plural would be «сёстры».
But that's the Russian. The sentence that conveys the same meaning in English would more usually be constructed with the plural. 'He has no sister.' is not an impossible sentence in English but it is not neutral - it's an odd emphasis (did someone just claim to have met his sister?). We are more likely to say 'he has no sisters [but he has a brother],' or 'He doesn't have any sisters,' in everyday conversation and to me those seem to be the natural translation. We don't insist on 'until we see each other again' for da svidaniya or au revoir.
Actually, to convey this meaning, I would normally use a plural form in Russian too. :D Singular would work in some context when, for example, we spoke about someone having one sister before.
So it's meant to be a weird sentence? This is where Duolingo gets the pedagogy terribly wrong, because aspencer and I were left with the impression that this was being treated as the normal way to express this idea in Russian. And there is no explanation of the intended sense. It doesn't work.
I disagree. "He has no sisters" sounds unusual to me, while answering a question or replying to a statement (perhaps of assumption) about a boy's sister: "why doesn't he ask his sister for help?" I would say something like "he cant, because he doesn't have a sister". I don't think that's specific to New Zealand/ British English either.
That is true, but consider the following situation, in which one party has knowledge of the boy's family where the other does not: "Superintendent, the girl claims to be the boy's sister, she is quite insistent." "Constable, the boy does not have a sister. The girl is an impostor."
You can check it on forvo site https://forvo.com/word/%D1%81%D0%B5%D1%81%D1%82%D1%80%D1%8B/#ru
Сестры́ (stress on the 2nd syllable) is a genitive singular form of сестра́, roughly similar to 'of sister'. It's also the form we use with «нет» to express absence (У неё не́т сестры́ 'she has no sister'), and the form we use with «у» to express a possessor (У сестры́ есть компью́тер 'the sister has a computer')
Сёстры is the plural nominative form of сестра́, 'sisters'. It's used for the subject of the sentence (Мои́ сёстры мне помога́ли 'my sister helped me') and in the 'X is Y' sentences for both X and Y (Они сёстры 'they are sisters').
There's also се́стры (stress on the 1st syllable), a Church Slavonic doublet of сёстры. It is basically also a nominative plural form of сестра́, but with an ecclesiastical flavour. It could be heard in the church address «бра́тья и се́стры» 'brothers and sisters', and probably in other church-related contexts. It's probably outside of this course's scope.
When spelled without stress marks and without dots over ё, «сестры» can stand for either сестры́, сёстры and се́стры. You'd need to choose the correct form based on the context.
We don't normally write the stress marks.
In very few cases we can write them when the pronounciation can't be guessed from the context (e.g. when you mean бо́льших 'larger' [pl.] and not больши́х 'large'; when there is a strange stress shift in poetry) and in the dictionaries.
I try to mark pronounciation in Duolingo, but I don't do it elsewhere: it would look pretty strange.
This sentence should be pronounced сестры́, the genitive-case singular form of сестра́. (After нет, we use genitive case.)
Other pronunciations don’t work here. Сёстры ‘sisters’ is a nominative-case plural of сестра́ (another option is се́стры, an alternative old-fashioned variant of сёстры used in Church, and it’s even less likely). You can’t use nominative after нет.
Why does the voice (in the listening exercises) always pronounce genitive singular of "сестра" with accent on the first syllable??? In almost every exercise about "not have"!!! "Нет сёстры" is wrong. I reported this bug again and again. It seems to me that no one of the DL team read it.
This is a bug.
Russian has a letter ё (yo). It's not uncommon to drop dots over ё, so сёстры becomes undistinguishable from сестры́.
In Duolingo, Cyrillic script distinguishes between сестры́ (genitive of 'sister') and сёстры (plural nominative, 'sisters'), but Latin script renders both sestry. So, the exercise is doable in Cyrillic script, but impossible in Latin.
Fortunately, there aren't many such bugs, so you won't see this often.
But I'd recommend learning Cyrillic script and doing Duolingo in Cyrillic. It might look complex, but it just has 33 letters. Russian is rarely written in Latin script (you probably won't see it outside of Duolingo and SMS messages), so learning Cyrillic will allow you to read unadapted texts.
It is common (and usually considered ok) for Russians to not write ё at all, instead writing always е for both е and ё. This is due to historical reasons (ё is a very modern letter compared to the other Russian letters, and appeared in order to explicitly write a "pronunciation shift" that occurred over the centuries in some words where there was previously a е sound).
In this course and in learner's/children material in general, ё is always written explicitly so that you can learn. However, probably due to this ё/е thing, the text-to-speech software gets it wrong many times. In this sentence, it is сестры, the genitive singular. The audio is plain wrong because it is getting confused with сёстры (which is spelled the same if you write everything with е). You can check all the forms in wiktionary: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D1%81%D0%B5%D1%81%D1%82%D1%80%D0%B0