Explaining Impersonal Sentence Structures in Russian

There are several types of sentences in the Russian language. One of them is impersonal constructions, which may cause difficulties for those whose native language is not Russian.

Let’s break down what makes them so obscure.

What Is An Impersonal Sentence?

Impersonal constructions are essential grammatical structures that allow speakers to convey actions or situations without specifying a particular subject. These constructions are particularly useful when the subject is unknown, irrelevant, or general.

The purpose of impersonal sentences is to create more abstract or generalized statements and to avoid specifying who is performing the action.

See Also: Sentence Structure in Russian

Common Use Cases

Impersonal constructions are commonly used in various situations, such as expressing necessity, permission, prohibition, curiosity, interest, describing occasional situations or common beliefs, etc.

They are prevalent in everyday communication and are a valuable tool for Russian language learners.

State Categories

There are special words in Russian known as “state categories.” They are a type of word that describes how things or living beings are, such as their condition or the environment. These words are predicative adverbs that are used as the main part (predicate) of a sentence that doesn’t focus on a specific person or thing (impersonal sentence).

Predicative adverbs answer the question “How?”.

For example:

На улице тепло. (It’s warm outside.)

Летом жарко. (It is hot in summer.)

Здесь всегда грязно. (It is always dirty here.)

В библиотеке тихо. (It’s quiet in the library.)

Интересно попробовать что-то новое. (It’s interesting to try something new.)

Мне холодно. (I’m cold.)

Ей грустно. (She feels sad.)

Нам скучно. (We are bored.)

Мне хорошо с тобой. (I feel good with you.)

Им весело с друзьями. (They have fun with friends.)

Мне не интересно . (I am not interested.)

В магазине пусто. (It’s empty in the store.)

В воскресенье всегда тише [comparative degree of the adverb “тихо”]. (It is always quieter on Sundays.)

Impersonal sentences in Russian

To convey the meaning of time, state words can be used with linking verbs:

Ночью становится прохладно. (It gets cool at night.)

Завтра будет ветрено. (It’s going to be windy tomorrow.)

Вчера было скучно. (Yesterday was boring.)

На вечеринке было весело. (It was fun at the party.)

Будет интересно узнать результаты. (It will be interesting to know the results.)

Мне стало страшно. (I got scared.)

В сентябре бывает прохладно. (It can be cool in September.)

Бывает сложно понять друг друга. (It can be difficult to understand each other.)

Using words like “интересно,” “удивительно,” “поразительно,” and “жаль (жалко),” we can craft complex sentences like these:

Жаль, что лето так быстро пролетело. – Too bad the summer went by so fast.

Удивительно, как быстро летит время. – It’s amazing how quickly time flies.

Интересно, что это значит. – I wonder what that means.

We can say “мне интересно” instead of “интересно”, but the construction remains impersonal, as there is no subject (мне is an object pronoun).

There are also several state categories that denote the evaluation of an action. These include the words необязательно, можно, нельзя, нужно, надо, необходимо and adverbs like важно, полезно, etc.

“Нужно”/”надо” are used to indicate the necessity or obligation to perform an action. It conveys the idea that something needs to be done.

  • Нужно учиться. (One needs to study.)
  • Нужно помогать другим. (One should help others.)
  • Надо работать. (One must work.)
  • Мне нужно купить продукты. (I need to buy groceries.)

“Нельзя” is used to express that an action is prohibited or not allowed.

  • Здесь нельзя курить. (One cannot smoke here.)
  • Нельзя говорить громко. (One cannot speak loudly.)

“Можно” is used to express permission or the possibility of performing an action.

В лесу можно услышать шум реки. (In the forest, you can hear the sound of the river.)

Other state categories examples:

Важно помнить правила безопасности. (It’s important to remember safety rules.)

Важно учиться на ошибках. (It’s important to learn from mistakes.)

Важно уважать разные точки зрения. (It is important to respect different points of view.)

Не всегда можно контролировать ситуацию. (You can’t always control the situation.)

Необходимо подтверждение по электронной почте. (Email confirmation is required.)

Полезно заниматься физическими упражнениями. (It’s beneficial to do physical exercises.)

Мне необязательно идти туда. (I don’t necessarily have to go there.)

Мне необходимо время для размышлений. (I need time for reflection.)

Literally any “It is…” construction in English can be translated as an impersonal sentence in Russian.

Приятно проводить время с друзьями. – It’s nice to spend time with friends.

Лучше оставить всё как есть. – It is better to leave everything as it is.

Иногда проще промолчать. – Sometimes it’s easier to keep quiet.

See Also: Negative Sentences in Russian

There Is/Was/Will Be

When we want to say “there is (was, will be)… there/here/etc.” or “it is (was, will be)… [somewhere]”, we use impersonal constructions. The prepositional case is often used to describe location.

Examples:

Здесь всегда шумно. (It is always noisy here.) [+ state category]

Здесь запрещено фотографировать. (It is prohibited to take photos here.) [+ state category]

Там всегда интересно. (It’s always interesting there.) [+ state category]

Здесь неприятно пахнет. (It smells unpleasant here.)

В океане много рыбы. (There is a lot of fish in the ocean.)

Зимой на дорогах гололёд. (There’s black ice on the roads in winter.)

В городе всегда много машин. (There are always many cars in the city.)

Зимой много снега. (There is a lot of snow in winter.)

На полях растут хлеба. (Crops grow in the fields.)

На улице ветер. (The wind is blowing outside.)

В магазине много народу. (There are many people in the store.)

В парке много деревьев. (There are many the park.)

На работе много дел. (There is a lot of work at the office.)

В кафе всегда много посетителей. (There are always many visitors in the cafe.)

На небе много звёзд. (There are many stars in the sky.)

В горах всегда великолепные виды. (There are always magnificent views in the mountains.)

В метро всегда многолюдно. (It’s always crowded in the subway.) [+ state category]

В комнате светло. (It’s bright in the room.) [+ state category]

В этом кафе всегда вкусно. (It’s always tasty in this café.) [+ state category]

They Say/It Is Considered

“Говорят” and “Считается” are used to express common beliefs or sayings without specifying the source.

Говорят, что время лечит. – They say that time heals.

Считается, что это удача. – It is considered to be luck.

Часто говорят, что знание – сила. – It is often said that knowledge is power.

Говорят, завтра будет солнечно. – They say it will be sunny tomorrow.

Говорят, что улыбка — лучшее лекарство. – They say that a smile is the best medicine.

Говорят, что счастье в мелочах. – They say that happiness is found in the little things.

Считается, что эта книга является классикой литературы. – It is considered that this book is a classic of literature.

See Also: 30+ Real Examples of Giving Opinions in Russian

Impersonal Sentences Used With The Genitive

The genitive case is often used in impersonal sentences.

For example, to indicate absence or lack:

  • У нас нет еды. (We have no food.)
  • У него нет машины. (He has no car.)
  • У них нет опыта в этом деле. (They have no experience in this matter.)
  • У них нет времени на разговоры. (They have no time for conversations.)
  • У детей нет уроков сегодня. (The children have no lessons today.)
  • У вас нет шансов на победу. (You have no chances of winning.)
  • У него нет причины для беспокойства. (He has no reason to worry.)

But if you’re talking about place, use the prepositional case:

  • В комнате нет света. – There’s no light in the room.
  • В холодильнике нет еды. – There’s no food in the fridge.

With verbs that are used with the preposition “у” (usually denoting talking something from someone):

  • У него забрали кота. – His cat was taken from him.
  • У нас украли телевизор. – Our TV was stolen.

Note that we do not name who exactly did this, only the person who was hurt.

Impersonal Sentences Used With The Dative

You may have noticed at the beginning of the article that in many examples impersonal constructions were conveyed using the dative case:

Мне скучно. – I am bored.

Им грустно. – They feel sad.

We don’t use the nominative when talking about feelings, psychological or physical states. So, instead of “I am cold” we say “To me it’s cold” (Мне холодно).

The dative case is used with other state categories as well. For examples:

Мне надо идти. – I have to go.

Нам нельзя опаздывать. – We can’t be late.

Ей лучше не разговаривать. – She’s better off not talking.

However, the dative case is not only used with state categories. It is also found in other impersonal constructions. For example:

When telling your age:

Мне 25 лет. – I’m 25 years old.

Ему 16. – He’s 16.

With the verbs taking the dative (when we want to emphasize the recipient rather than the giver):

Мне подарили машину. – I was given a car as a gift.

Ему заплатили 10 тысяч. – He was paid 10 grand.

Ей сделали операцию. – She had surgery.

Impersonal Sentences Used With The Accusative

There are a great many verbs that take the accusative case, and many of them can be found in impersonal sentences.

Меня уволили. – I was fired.

Нас поблагодарили за визит. – We were thanked for our visit.

Их оштрафовали. – They were fined.

Меня беспокоит эта ситуация. – I’m worried about this situation.

Меня утомила эта работа. – I’m tired of this job.

Меня удивил его ответ. – His response surprised me.

Меня не волнуют их проблемы. – I don’t care about their problems.

Меня вдохновляют природа и искусство. – Nature and art inspire me.

Меня возмутило его поведение. – I was upset by his behavior.

Меня радует ваше приглашение. – I’m delighted by your invitation.

Impersonal Verbs

Impersonal verbs in Russian are verbs that do not have a specified subject or are used with a general, indefinite subject, such as “it” or “one.” These verbs are often used to express actions or states without specifying who is performing the action or experiencing the state.

Impersonal verbs are quite common in the Russian language. Quite often impersonal verbs are formed from personal verbs with the suffix -ся and used with the dative case.

Examples of impersonal verbs in Russian include:

нравится – to like

Ему нравится музыка. – He likes music.

Мне нравится эта идея. – I like this idea.

Некоторым людям нравится готовить. – Some people enjoy cooking.

Некоторым нравится рисковать. – Some people like to take risks.

See Also: How to Use The Verb Нравиться

кажется – “it seems” or “it appears”

Мне кажется, он устал. – It seems to me that he is tired.

Мне кажется, что это неправильно. – It seems to me that this is incorrect.

Мне кажется, что он прав. – I think he is right.

хотеться – to want (used when something is desired or wanted)

Мне не хочется делать это. – I don’t feel like doing this.

хватает – it’s enough (an impersonal verb indicating that there’s enough or sufficient of something)

Мне не хватает времени. – I don’t have enough time.

недоставать – to lack

Ей недоставало смелости, чтобы высказать своё мнение. – She lacked the courage to express her opinion.

надлежать – to be proper

В данной ситуации надлежит проявить уважение и терпимость. – In this situation, it is proper to show respect and tolerance.

следует – it should (what one should do)

Следует обратить внимание на инструкцию перед использованием этого устройства. – It should be noted to read the instructions before using this device.

подобает – to be fitting, suitable or appropriate

В этой церкви подобает соблюдать тишину. – In this church, it is fitting to maintain silence.

Ей не подобает говорить с незнакомцами. – It’s not fitting for her to talk with strange men.

Verbs denoting human actions or states:

  • знобить (to shiver)
  • лихорадить (to have a fever)
  • нездоровиться (to feel unwell)

Verbs denoting natural phenomena and the actions of natural forces:

  • морозить (to freeze)
  • холодать (to get cold)
  • теплеть (to warm up)
  • светать (to dawn)
  • рассветать (to become light)
  • смеркаться (to dusk)
  • вечереть (to get dark)

Personal verbs can also be used in the impersonal sense.

Лес темнеет вдали. – The forest is getting dark in the distance. (personal verb)

Зимой темнеет быстро. – It gets dark quickly in winter. (personal verb with impersonal meaning)

See Also: 100 Russian Verbs For Intermediate Learners

Summary

Impersonal sentences let you talk about things without pointing fingers, which is pretty cool! Whether you’re chatting about your likes and dislikes, describing the weather, or giving general advice, these sentences have your back.

They work behind the scenes, making communication smooth and straightforward. When you say something like “Надо учить уроки” (One must study lessons), you’re not pointing to anyone in particular – it’s like a universal truth.

So, why does this matter? Well, it’s not just about speaking Russian fluently; it’s about diving deeper into the culture and the way people see the world. Impersonal sentences are the secret sauce that adds flavor to the language.

By mastering them, you’re not just learning words; you’re unlocking a whole new way to express yourself. Hope this article was useful. Good luck!

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