Forum Rocket Russian Russian Grammar Вы были в Париже?

Вы были в Париже?





In Lesson 5.5 The Past Tense, the sentence “Вы были в Париже?” is translated as “Have you been to Paris?" but couldn't it also be translated to “Were you in Paris?"?


As the questions have quite different meanings, how would you distinguish each? Possibly by adding a time frame to the 2nd translation? “ты был в Париже вчера?” = “Were you in Paris yesterday?"


Any help appreciated

Evgenia - Rocket Russian Tutor

Evgenia - Rocket Russian Tutor

Здравствуйте, WilliamH109


You are correct! Since in Russian we have only one past tense form, time expressions play an important role in conveying the exact meaning. 

Because there's no time added in the question Вы были в Париже?, it's not specific, but rather has a meaning “Have you ever been to Paris?" It's possible to add the word “ever” когда-нибудь" of course, but often it is omitted in casual conversations. 

To the Russian mind, any past action will be described only using the past tense; then, expressions of time will define the intentions of the speaker. This is not the case in English where we have to “reinforce” certain time expressions with the specific grammatical forms of verbs. 

So, if you add any specific time, e.g. “last year" to the same question: Вы были в Париже в прошлом году? it will be translated 'Were you in Paris last year?" 



отлично, спасибо за ответ Evgenia!

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