A tough one to так-le.

I don’t plan on doing a post on a single Russian word often, but today I will focus on just a couple of the features of the monster Russian adverb, particle and conjunction так [tak], in particular, the ones that have most interested me in my time learning Russian.

I’m not going to copy out the 16 definitions of так my dictionary (Shvedova) gives. I’ll simply sum up the most important sense as follows:

  • ‘so’, ‘in such a way’:
  • Я сделаю так, как я хочу. [Ya sdelayu tak, kak ya khochu] – ‘I’ll do it the way I want to’ (lit.: ‘I’ll do it so, how I want’)
  • Он работал так усердно, что стал примером всем остальным. [On rabotal tak userdno, chto stal primyerom vsyem ostal’nym.] – ‘He worked so hard that he became an example for all the others.’

…and I’ll leave it at that. There is a whole sea of idiomatic and fixed expressions that I won’t discuss at this stage. So let me focus on the following points:

Так and как – close relatives

These two are very closely related. Как [kak] can be primarily translated as ‘how’, and it goes hand in hand with так, as we saw in the first example, above, to mean ‘so … as’.

Another example of так and как at work together is:

  • Сборная Польши хочет сыграть так хорошо, как в прошлый раз. [Sbornaya Pol’shy khochet sygrat’ tak khorosho, kak v proshly raz.] ‘The Polish national team wants to play just as well as they did last time.’ *

Here так precedes как. But there is also:

  • Оставаться молодой всегда – как внутренне, так и внешне. [Ostavat’sya molodoi vsyegda – kak vnutrennye, tak i vneshnye.] (Дагестанская правда) ‘To stay young forever, both inside and out.’ *

Here, как precedes так, and this has always been a headache for me to remember. The problem is most phrases, at least the ones I know, go “так … как” and this one is in the other order. I always have to first remember a phrase like “сыграть так хорошо, как в прошлый раз” and then reverse that “так … как” order to get “как … так”. Am I alone in doing this?

Так – такой, N – N-ый

Так is also closely related to такой [takoy], adj., ‘such a one’, ‘so’. I think of так as the short form adjective of такой, just like many other adjectives: весёлый [vesyoliy] – весел [vesyel] ‘cheerful’; строгий [strogiy] – строг [strog] ‘strict’; крепкий [krepkiy] – крепок [krepok] ‘strong’. The -ый [-iy] or -ой [-oy] ending is lost. I remember being very excited about learning that only the following are correct:

  • Он так весел! [On tak vesyel!]
  • Он такой весёлый! [On takoy vesyoliy!]

That is, you can’t say *он такой весел or *он так весёлый. Short form with short and long with long. Beautiful!

I’ve written enough, so … я оставлю этот пост так [ya ostavliu etot post tak]. I’ll leave this post as it is!

PS: Question time for native speakers

* In the examples above, does it make any difference to add or remove и [i], ‘and’? Так хоршо, как и в прошлый раз. Оставаться вечно молодой – как внутренне, так внешне. I made up the first example above: does it sound wrong because I’ve left out the и? Is the и compulsory in the second example, or ever? Feedback very much appreciated!


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