Russian How To Ask A Russian The Meaning Of A Word Or Phrase? The Equivalent Of English _what Does . . . Mean?_

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dzhon
Monday 26th of March 2007 10:42:01 AM
How to ask a Russian the meaning of a word or phrase?: Last year I took some Russian lessons and we were taught to say "что такое ...." when we didn't know the meaning of a word.

For example, if I don't know what "устала" means, then we would say "что такое устала"

However, I have the impression now that что такое is mainly used when you want to know more about something (usually a noun), rather than a word's basic meaning. Is that correct?

So if I don't know what устала means, how do I say in Russian "What is the meaning of устала?", or "What does устала mean?"

Big spaseeba!

Jon.


PS. I did a little research on the net and I found these phrases, but Im not sure if they are correct:

Что означает (устала)?

Что значит (устала)?




Anya
Monday 26th of March 2007 10:51:30 AM
Здравствуй Джон!

You are absolutely correct to say that 'что такое' is more useful when asking about physical objects. It's not wrong to use it when asking about words or verbs, but I agree that it would be nice to have more than one way to ask!

The two phrases you found are absolutely correct. Here are their approximate meanings:
Что означает (устала )? (what does устала stand for?)

Что значит (устала )? (what does устала mean?)
With this second one, you have to be a little careful, if you add a little intonation and ask this from a woman, you would ask her something completely different than the meaning of the word. "Что значит устала?" could be interpreted as "what do YOU mean you are tired?!?" in a somewhat peeved manner, actually.
With other words you're safe though! and you'll be understood to be asking for a meaning of the word or phrase.

Alternatively, you could ask directly: как перевести _______? (how do you translate _______?)

Hope this helps!


dzhon
Monday 26th of March 2007 11:20:57 AM
Privyet Anya!

Thanks for your great reply!

I'll be careful with the phrase "Что значит устала?", though I'll file it away in the memory banks as it could come in handy :)


These words "означает" and "значит" .. is it correct to say they are verbs (3rd-person singular "it")?

So the direct translations would be:

Что означает (устала )? = What it stands for (tired)?

Что значит (устала )? = What it means (tired)?


Do Russians use one of these phrases more often than the other? (For example, if they were learning English and didn't know the meaning of an English word)

Regards, Jon.



Anya
Monday 26th of March 2007 09:18:42 PM
Your direct translations are correct, Джон.
There are numerous ways to translate the words означает = signifies, stands for, denote, imply, represent...
You have the grammar right as well. 3rd-person-singular.

I guess it depends on the Russian which phrase we'd use more frequently. In conversation, I've used the following more frequently:

Как это будет по-русски? (how would this be in Russian?)
Как перевести ______ (how would you translate?)
Как сказать ______ по-русски? (how to say _____in Russian?)

I guess I use these more frequently because I'm looking for equivalent words (as opposed to definitions). The nice thing about asking for words only, is that you already have your own definition for it in your native language.

To ask "что означает" automatically asks for the person's interpretation of the word, that's all. I guess that's what you are more after, heh? I've just never asked them that way. I hope sandman or Matroskin may give us a hand with their thoughts on this!


mig32
Tuesday 27th of March 2007 03:15:09 AM
My translations looks like these:
Что означает (устала )? = What is the meaning of word (tired)?
Что значит (устала )? = What do you mean (tired)? Or it may be "I dont believe that you are (tired)." Or something like "You cant (tired) yet."



Anya
Tuesday 27th of March 2007 03:18:42 AM
Those translations look good Mig. A good way to interpret them figuratively.

"You can't be tired yet." :D





C_david
Tuesday 27th of March 2007 07:16:17 AM
Originally posted by mig32


My translations looks like these:
Что означает (устала )? = What is the meaning of word (tired)?
Что значит (устала )? = What do you mean (tired)? Or it may be \"I dont believe that you are (tired).\" Or something like \"You cant (tired) yet.\"


May I sum up 'Что значит устала?' can be translated as 'How come you're tired?'??


mig32
Tuesday 27th of March 2007 03:36:57 PM
C_david, I dont know how to translate "How come you're tired?", my english is too bad for this... =( What is the meaning of this frase?


Anya
Tuesday 27th of March 2007 06:45:56 PM
Hi David, not exactly, but you bring up an interesting translation from English...! in Russian it would be: "и почему же ты устала?"

'How come?' can be expanded 'how did it come to be ....?' from the 1800's. A related phrase is 'how is it so?' that turned into 'how so?'

These are used to get at the question "why?"

Hope this helps!

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