They tax sin?
   

In Russian the laws of syntax are loose so that word order sentences is very flexible. Since all the nouns, adjective, and verbs have inflections marking their function in a sentence, word order is less important than it is in English. However, Russians use this flexibility to indicate emphasis and even one grammatical category.


Adjectives and Nouns

Adjectives and participles normally go before nouns, though it is not crucial as in English since Russian agreement makes clear which adjectives goes with which noun.

When the adjective follows the noun, it usually implies the adjective is in predicate position.

However, an adjective may follow a noun if it is emphasized, e.g.

Since adjectives are marked with case endings that match them to the noun they modify, even adjective and participial phrases may occur before nouns:


Adverb Positions

The default position for most adverbs is before the verb or adjective they modify, especially if they are short, single adverbs.

However, adverbs may turn up anywhere in the sentence, but initial position is reserved for emphasized adverbs.

(Pro)Nouns and Verbs

Nouns and verbs they modify are free to be placed almost anywhere in the sentence, though not without semantic effect. While Russian doesn't have definite and indefinite artiles ("the" and "a" in English"), it does achieve sort of an equivalent with nouns in the subject position. The (rough) equivalent of the indefinite article is achirved by placing the subject noun after the verb, and the (rough) equivalent of the definite article (the) is achieved by placing the subject noun before the verb.

пришёл человек means "a man arrived"
человек пришёл means "the man arrived"

говорила девушка "a girl spoke"
девушка говорила the girl spoke"

Verbs must appear in initial position in questions.

Notice the use of ли in the last question. This is an optional question particle which you may use or not. It is used especially when you want to emphasize your doubt about a positive reaponse.

Otherwise, nouns and verbs can appear pretty much wherever in a sentence, depending on which word the speaker wishes to emphasize. Remember, to emphasize a word, Russians pull it out to the front of the sentence.


Nouns and Nouns

In English nouns may modify other nouns; English allows 'attributive' nouns. In English we may say things like

In Russian, however, the first noun must be converted to an adjective if possible:

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© 1996 Robert Beard