дитя и ребёнок

Both дитя and ребёнок appear to mean "child".

I can't really find the difference between them. Would anyone know when it's more appropriate to use each, if we can use them interchangeably in some situations and if there are situations where one is less appropriate?

Any insights on this would be appreciated :)

February 26, 2016


Indeed, they are synonyms. But my impression (as a native speaker) is that "дитя" is an older word, used only in certain kinds of situation/expressions.

February 26, 2016

Usual disclaimer: not a native speaker.

That said, I have pretty much never heard дитя used in the singular, but always ребёнок. Conversely ребёнок I have only ever heard in the singular except when it's used casually to mean "guys" - ребята.

The plural of дитя is used for the plural of ребёнок, so you get a situation where the singular is pretty much always a form of ребёнок and the plural a form of дитя, so that's why you have он ребёнок but они дети.

I wouldn't say you'd never come across дитя as a singular form, and like I say, ребята is used albeit in a different meaning, but for yourself, if you use the guideline ребёнок = singular and дети = plural, you'll probably be right at least 99% of the time ;)

February 26, 2016

You are right - we use "ребёнок" for singular and "дети" for plural. There is a number of expressions where "дитя" is used in singular: "моё дитя" is an ironic way to refer to a child, since it is a neuter gender used for a human; "чем бы дитя не тешилось..." - a common reproach to a person passionately doing something useless.

February 26, 2016

Haha, that's an interesting phrase to learn :D A Russian friend just also told me that дитя is probably used for a younger child, it kind of makes sense with what you're saying.

February 26, 2016

Thank you, this is good practical advice - initially I thought дети was some sort of crazy irregular plural of ребёнок, exactly because I wouldn't see it mentioned otherwise. But then I looked them up at the dictionary and I didn't have enough experience of my own :)

February 26, 2016
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