Наконец = finally, both when it means "after some difficulty or delay" and when it means "as the last item of several" (separating commas are only required in the latter case). Наконец-то = at last. This adverb is used to modify a verb referring to a long awaited event. No comma is used after it.
With the English translation given "we finally took this book" the only reading of the English is "after some difficulty or delay" because that position of 'finally' means a delay after waiting a long time. If you want "the last item of several" it would be "We took this final book". With the meaning of 'final decision' which is what I assume from the Russian, it should be: "In the end, we took this book."
Still, in English, I think they are virtually indistinguishable.
There seems to be a fine balance that the course creators/curators are toeing between what is good English and what is good Russian.
The fact of the matter is: Here? We're trying to learn Russian, not trying to explore the variations of English.
I would hope that (and they seem to be, mostly) siding on the side of good Russian. The reverse tree is the place for these kinds of subtleties in English, I would think.
What do I know.
It is important to remember that words rarely map between languages with a one-to-one correspondence. Trying to translate that way produces stilted and unnatural language. The only way to understand a word properly is to explore the range of meaning that it can have, and how this compares with the range for comparable words in the target language. And that applies whichever direction you are translating.
This is exactly so. Languages do not translate neatly, nor does every individual speak or write in precisely the same way. One needs to keep multiple possible translations in mind and choose the one that feels the most natural in a particular instance. And the odds are good that down the line, it will be necessary to use some of the others.
Of, course, "take" does not necessarily mean "steal", but in many instances it does. For example, parents will tell their children "Don't take things that don't belong to you", with "take" being a softer word for "steal". And in the sentence that we are discussing here, it does imply theft. I cannot think of any instance where a native English speaker would say "We finally took this book" in a normal situation. Who knows, maybe someone has been bugging us to take a book from him/her, and we finally relent. But that's a bit of a stretch, I would think. At any rate, if you say, "We finally took this book from the library (or from the bookstore)", you are saying that you stole it. And the "finally" in this case implies that you have been waiting a long time to steal it..
Here is a discussion on that topic in another forum.
Once again, as a native Russian speaker, I assure the participants of this discussion that взяли in the given Russian sentence has no (and cannot possibly have) implication of theft. The verb брать/взять only means "to steal" in the phrases "взять/брать чужое" and "взять/брать что плохо лежит". If it is pilfering or theft, we have a wide range of slang verbs to choose from: стырить, стибрить, слямзить, умыкнуть, скоммуниздить (the last one is a bit vulgar as it used as a euphemism rhyming with another word whose root refers to the female sexual organ) - взяли sounds too bland to be used for "stole". On the other hand, взяли encompasses the meanings "borrowed" and "picked up", so, with more context, I guess only those words would be appropriate in the correct translation.
As a native English speaker, I disagree that "We finally took this book from the library" implies theft. However, I will say that we would not usually say it like that, not because it does leave open the possibility that the book was stolen, but because it is just not commonly spoken that way. We would say "We finally took out this book from the library" or "We finally checked out this book from the library", both of which imply proper procedure was followed. Now, if you say "We finally took this book from the bookstore", people will think you stole it.
AN acceptable option. Pretty much the top choices (here "this" is above "the") are the ones appropriate for the current sentence (if they're not, report them - this still is in Beta, after all). If you select the second or third choice then you're veering a bit off and may have to adjust or be flat out wrong.
If you select the first choice for "you" and it's "вы" but you select the second choice for the verb which is conjugated as if your pronoun is "ты" you're going to get it wrong. It's a totally acceptable option! And yet still absolutely, unequivocally wrong - given the pronoun choice.
The top choices (mostly, it's not perfect, I've reported some) seem to be the ones most appropriate for the current sentence but the alternate (lower) choices want to let you know that the word doesn't just have one meaning.
I appreciate that.
The Russian sentence does not sound lik that at all. Consider this situation. "Here's the list of the books we borrowed from the library: (1)..., (2)..., (3)... . Finally, we borrowed this book." The last sentence translates into Russian as "Мы, наконец, взяли эту книгу". When it's not money that you are talking about, Russian does not make any difference between borrowing and taking. Nor does it distinguish between lending and giving.
If you say, "We took this book from the library", it means you stole it. It's best to say "We borrowed this book from the library", or "We checked this book out at the library". And if I say "I'm lending you this book," it means that I'm expecting you to return it to me at some time in the future. If I say I'm giving you the book, it means the book is yours to keep :)
Checked the book out or borrowed it, in Russian we would still say "взяли". It is understood that no library gives books away. Likewise, Я даю тебе книгу does not necessrily mean "I'm giving you the book" (in which case we are more likely to say, "Я дарю тебе эту книгу"); it can also mean "I'm lending you the book". If you want to make it clear that it's not a gift, you should say, "Я даю тебе эту книгу на время" or ""Я даю тебе эту книгу - вернёшь, когда прочтешь". Russian simply does not have separate words for "borrow" and "lend".
Well, I'd say if you took it from the library you could have checked it out, or you could have removed the magnetic tracker and slipped it in your backpack. It's unclear; usually in American English, though, we'd just say you checked it out.
The bigger problem is that the sentence doesn't mention a library! So maybe we took our own book... somewhere? For a stroll in the park? Мы наконец взяли эту книгу и гуляли в парке?
So while "from the library" might be implied in Russian, and theft is not implied in Russian, as an English sentence this doesn't really work.
I guess context would tell more, but I think of it as.... "After thinking about it" or something, "We finally took this book". So it was a choice to take it after some previous thought. At least that is how I read it. A different context could make "got" more logical I suppose, but to me if it is read the way I read it then it wouldn't be.
Curious in what context you were reading the sentence, if you care to share. That is why it is so hard to communicate, even in the same language, as we see the same thing differently. Wonderful and frustrating. :)
I just have trouble thinking of a context in English where I would say that I took a book (at least without any further specification, like "I took the book from him"). But взять is (I think - I'm not a native speaker) what you would use in Russian when talking generally about acquiring something, the same way you would use "got" in English, in contexts like:
"Oh, I finally got that book you recommended to me." "She was so excited about the party that she got a new dress for it." "Dad got some bananas at the store."
Something like "Oh, I finally took that book you recommended to me," sounds completely unnatural to me.
I'm not a native, but this word really seems to work exactly like Polish "wziąć", therefore the meaning is "take" and I definitely agree with the example put by n9yty, with the bookstore choice. And I don't think it can be used in the contexts used by les_ja - it's physically taking something from somewhere, not acquiring. Probably can have other, more metaphorical meanings, but here, it's just "taking".
It doesn't even have to be a library or a bookstore. It could be someone who is downsizing and invites each of his friends to take a book from his collection. Now they are talking about how they decided which to take. Or maybe the students have to take a book to school and give a report on it. For a time our speaker didn't know what book to take, but now tells his friend he has made his decision.
I think I have noticed that it seems there is a very slight difference in the pronunciation of я embedded in words than on its own.
When embedded as part of a word, especially between two consonants, its pronunciation seems more like "ye" as opposed to "ya".
Is this correct for native speakers?
The pronunciation of я depends on two factors: (1) whether it is preceded by a consonant or not, and (2) whether it is stressed or not. I will illustrate the differences by transliterating a few words: ясный /yussniy/ (clear), ноябрь /nuh-yubr'/ (November), лягу /l'uh-goo/ (I'll lie down) - the stress in both words falls on the syllable with я; январь /yinvar'/ (January), лягушка /l'ig-oosh-ka/ (frog) - in these two words, я is not stressed. So you can see that, without a consonant letter in front of it, я stands for a combination of the consonant represented by 'y' in 'yes' and a vowel - either /а/ (it is similar to 'uh' and 'u' in 'bus' and 'a' in 'car'), or the vowel represented by 'i' in 'in', depending on the place of the stress. If there is a consonant before я, such consonant is palatalized or as we say it in Russian becomes "soft" - the concept unknown to most English speakers - and я only stands for a vowel (one of the pair mentioned above, the choice depending on the position of stress). I used the apostrophe to mark palatalization of the preceding consonant).
This is a great observation! In standard Russian, in words like взяли and пять, where я is in the stressed syllable and the consonant directly following it is "soft" (or palatalized, meaning the tongue is mashed up against the hard palate - in these words л is followed by the soft vowel и and т is followed by the "soft sign" ь, so they are both soft), the a sound becomes less like the a in father and more like the a in cat (which is indeed closer to "e").
This is separate from the stressed/unstressed rule Dmitry_Arch mentions, which is also true and really much more important for grasping Russian pronunciation. :)
Source: not a native speaker but I studied phonetics and phonology in college.
There is no such thing as a "soft" vowel in Russian. "я" in "взяли" and "а" in "в зале" indicate the same vowel. The letter "з", however, has two different values in these two examples. In "взяли", it stands for a soft "з' " which sounds as if you pronounced z and y at the SAME time (not y after z). "Я" serves as a marker of that "softness". In "в зале" "з" sounds just like z in English. The vowel in both cases is close to "a" in father and "u" in "dull" (a Russian ear doesn't feel any difference between these two sounds, nor does it feel any -difference between "u" in "full" and "oo" and "fool", unless, of course, the listener has been trained in English phonetics, and even that doesn't help lots of times). The "a" in "cat", if pronounced by an American, is almost identical with the Russian "э" and only in the north of England it sounds close the Russian "a". Russian elelementary school students (pupils) are taught that there are two sets of 5 "vowel" letters in the cyrillic alphabet; the letters form these two sets can be paired up as follows: а-я, э-е, о-ё, у-ю, ы-и. The second letter in each pair "softens" the preceding consonant. There are some exceptions: ш and ж are never followed by ы (и is used instead), but they remain "hard" before "и". "ю" only occurs after ш and ж in words of French origin жюри, брошюра and парашют, but in these words it has the same value as "y", so ш and ж are not palatalized, "ч" and "щ" are always soft; therefore, they are never followed by "я" or "ю" (there's simply no need to use these letters after ч or щ, a and y, respectively, being used instead). But of the pair "ы/и" only "и" is used after those consonants. In some loan words such as антенна, пантера, интеграл, интернациональный, интенсивный, т is "hard" despite the fact that its is followed by "e". Apart from letters я, е, ё, ю and и, a consonant can be "softened" by the following "soft sign" "ь". Apart from ы/и, the letters in each pair denote the same vowel when the are stressed. In an unstressed position, "a" has the same value as "o" (both are pronounced as "uh" in the syllable preceding the stressed one and in the opening position, and as shwa in all other cases), "ю" still has the same value as "y", and "э", "e", "и" and "я" all have the same vowel sound - it is similar to "i" in "in" or "e" in "economy".
Yes, sorry, I was using "soft vowel" to mean "vowel that marks the softening of the previous consonant," which is not correct.
This is a really minor point so I don't want to belabor it, but here is the Wikipedia cite for what I am talking about: "Between soft consonants, /a/ becomes [æ], as in пять [pʲætʲ] ('five')." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_phonology#Vowels (The Russian version of the entry says almost the same, although it claims that this happens in more cases, after [rather than between] soft consonants under stress.)
I've checked your link. Although it seems to be a good source of information, as a native Russian speaker, I disagree with the authors of the article on the 'æ' issue. This sound simply doesn't exist in Russian. When Russians pronounce "ряд" and "рад", we hear the same vowel in the two words and it is clearly different from the 'æ' vowel which we here in the English word "rat". Compared to 'æ', the Russian vowel denoted by "а"/"я" has a very weak articulation - you can say both "ряд" and "рад" with your mouth barely open. By the way if a Russian starts speaking French, Spanish or Italian with the proper pronunciation, after a few minutes of talking the person's lips start to hurt, because our lip muscles are not trained to pronounce full vowels in every syllable.
Although "in the end" has the meaning "в конце" as in "I'll tell you about it in the end", it is more often translated as "в конце концов" as in "but in the end it doesn't really matter" - "но в конце концов это не имеет значения"(in British English this meaning is also rendered by the phrase "at the end of the day")
After giving it a second thought, I realized that my previous conclusion was wrong. 'Have taken' can be used with 'finally' - for example, when you are on a beach talking over the phone with a friend and he or she asks, "What have you taken along?" You say, "Firstly, we've taken a suntan lotion; secondly, the picnic basket, and, finally, we've taken this book". In Russian, we would still use the word "взяли", given that it refers to a one-time action.
I have the same impression. Is this perhaps linked to the fact that there is no longer a box where those submitting an error report can give their reasons for doing so? I cannot really blame the course managers if, faced with a bald statement 'My answer should be accepted' and having no means of finding out the details behind it, they give up in despair and push the report aside. I do, however, blame the people, evidently much higher up in Duolingo, who have deleted the box.
In Russian, commas are used much more often than in English. There does not have to be a pause for a comma; however, commas separating introductory words mark changes of intonation similar to those that occur in English. In the case of наконец, we put commas when the word means "finally" in the process of enumerating (firstly, secondly etc.) and we don't put commas when it means "at last".