The Missing Is

Here’s the phrase and its word-for-word translation:

Что   э́то?

What happened to the word is? Very simple: Russian doesn’t use the verb “to be” in the present tense.

Here’s what some sentences would look like if translated word-for-word from Russian:

EnglishRussian Translation
I am a student.I — student.
She is a doctor.She — doctor.
The book is big.Book — big.

You’ll also notice that Russian doesn’t use words for a and the, either. To speakers of English, this sounds like dialogue from a really bad Tarzan movie, and they are tempted to think of Russian as primitive. It’s not; Russian is just very economical in its use of words.

What would you like to do next?

  1. Find out why the о is pronounced differently in the two words.
  2. Find out why the ч is pronounced like “sh” instead of “ch”.
  3. Continue with the tutorial.
  4. Go back to the “What is this” page.