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Мне и Я

Hello, me again!

Firstly I should confess that I’ve been using Memrise in combination with Duolingo, and these examples are taken across both sites, so I guess my question may be answered further down the Duolingo course. However, I’ve noticed that “Мне” is sometime used instead of “Я” to (seemingly) mean “I am”. The examples I have so far are: “Мне жарки” and “Мне колодно” (“I am hot” and “I am cold”). Most of the other “I am” phrases I know so far use “Я” though (for example “Я англичанин” amongst others). What is the reasoning behind this discrepancy? I had a play around with “Мне жарки” and “Я жарки” on Google Translate (dangerous I know!) and they were translated as “I feel hot” and “I am frying”(!!) respectively. Should I assume from this that “Мне” should be used when describing a situation where you “feel like” something, and “Я” should be used when you actually physically “are” something? This would make logical sense to me, and, as I’m moving through both courses I am finding Russian to be a very “logical” language so far! (My background is in Maths and Computer Programming, so I like “logical”!!)



November 19, 2015


[deactivated user]

    Russian nouns, pronouns, adjectives and numerals have several case forms. «Я» is the nominative case, it’s used for objects. «Мне» is the dative case, it's roughly equivalent to the English "for me".

    «Жа́рко» means 'it's hot', «мне жа́рко» means 'to me, it's hot'. English 'it' is a dummy pronoun here, it doesn't refer to anything previously mentioned, it's needed only because English requires some pronoun. Russian doesn't require any pronoun, and Russian doesn't use the verb 'to be' in the Present tense, so 'it's hot' is translated with just one word: «жа́рко».

    The same is true for «мне хо́лодно» 'for me, it's cold' (**колодно with К is a typo).

    «Мне жа́рки» and «я жа́рки» are definitely wrong. They could theoretically mean something in a context when you have most of the words omited, but without context they are meaningless.

    «Я англича́нин» is different because you're describing yourself. «Мне жа́рко», on the other hand, describes something outside, 'hot' is not something that describes you, it's a description of the environment.

    The course is intended to allow you using the language as quickly as possible, so it makes shortcuts by giving you phrases without expecting you to fully understand the grammar. If logics is more important than being able to start speaking immediately, you’d better start with a book focusing on the grammar of Russian, not on a course that teaches you to speak Russian.


    Thank you. That's such a thorough answer and makes a lot of sense. I think I'll have to keep referring back to it until it becomes second nature, but it's certainly going to be useful to me!

    Re the course, it's amazing! I wasn't intending my comments to be a criticism (if that's how they were taken) as I totally understand your purpose and methods. My aim is to be able to start speaking/writing/reading as quickly as possible. I'm only interested in the "logic" and grammar purely on account of the enthusiasm that the course has infected me with! (And because I am a naturally inquisitive person.)

    Thanks again, Mike :-)


    "it is hot to me". I like your explanation


    For starters, it's «жарко» and «холодно», no wonder Google gets confused.

    Often feelings, weather, climate and so one are described using an impersonal construction with an adverb for the state: «Сегодня жарко. Вчера было холодно. Завтра будет ветрено.» It's basically the equivalent of “It's hot today”, but Russian doesn't use the placeholder “it” and the present tense copula is omitted as well.

    Same goes for “external” sensations that someone feels, you just put the recepient in Dative: «Мне сегодня жарко». So, “I'm hot” literally looks like “[It is] to me hot”. In «я жаркий» “hot“ is in an entirely different sense, something like “I'm single and hot”.

    Trying to literally translate from English won't get you far because Russian works quite a bit differently.


    Thank you. With the benefit of all these replies I'm certain I've figured it out for now and will figure it properly as I go through the course. Yes I'm finding it works very differently to English, but I'm all for a good challenge. Oh, and apologies for my poor Russian in the question, and I'm glad it wasn't so bad that no one knew at all what I meant!

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