Common English to Russian Translation Errors. Part 10. Punctuation

This article focuses on some of the most frequent punctuation errors.

“Например” and “в частности”

These two constructs normally require a comma before them. However, choosing whether to put a comma after them is not as straightforward, because it is a matter of context. Example:

Original Correct Explanation
I choose you—for your strong will, for example. Я выбираю вас, например за силу воли. “например” refers to “силу воли.”
I choose you, for example, because you have a strong will. Я выбираю вас, например, за силу воли. “например” refers to “вас.”

As shown in these examples, “например” requires a comma after it when it is a standalone word that can be easily omitted without breaking the sentence apart. However, when “например” has a connection to the following words, it is part of a larger construct (оборот) and is subject to punctuation within this entire construct. In this case, you cannot omit it without breaking the sentence apart. The same is true for “в частности”:

Original Correct Incorrect
Discuss items such as: В частности, можно обсудить следующее: В частности можно обсудить следующее:
I know one Wall Street executive who sought to improve his empathy—specifically his ability to read people’s reactions. Нам известно об одном руководителе с Уолл-стрит, который задался целью повысить уровень эмпатии, в частности способности понимать реакцию людей. Нам известно об одном руководителе с Уолл-стрит, который задался целью повысить уровень эмпатии, в частности, способности понимать реакцию людей.

Two clauses referring to the same word in the other clause

Look at this example:

Original Correct Incorrect
I felt my mood was rising and wanted to share it with others. Я почувствовал, как настроение улучшается и хочется поделиться им с окружающими. Я почувствовал, как настроение улучшается, и хочется поделиться им с окружающими.

In the example above, the lack of a comma between the two subordinate clauses may seem counterintuitive. But what matters here is that both clauses refer to the same word in the main clause (“почувствовал”). Because they depend on the same word, the comma is unnecessary.

It is not always easy to tell whether both clauses depend on the same word, though. You need to use common sense and context. Example:

Original Correct Explanation
When the computer shuts down, the screen will go blank and the power indicator will turn red. Когда компьютер выключится, экран погаснет и индикатор питания загорится красным. In this case, we are assuming that actions in both clauses happened as a direct result of the computer shutting down.
When the computer shuts down, the screen will go blank and you will be able to leave the room. Когда компьютер выключится, экран погаснет, и можно будет покинуть помещение. In this case, however, we are assuming that there is no direct connection between the computer shutting down and being able to leave the room.

By the way, two clauses in questions are subject to a similar punctuation rule: no comma is required between them. Example:

Original Correct Incorrect
How long did you stay at our hotel and how did you like it here? Как долго Вы отдыхали в нашем отеле и насколько Вам понравился отдых? Как долго Вы отдыхали в нашем отеле, и насколько Вам понравился отдых?

Compound conjunctions

Conjunctions, such as “прежде чем,” “несмотря на то что,” “перед тем как,” are counterintuitive in terms of punctuation, because the parts they include do require a comma when they occur as standalone words. Here is an example of standalone “несмотря на”:

Original Correct Incorrect
Despite the melting snow, many came to ski. Несмотря на тающий снег, многие рискнули приехать на лыжню. Несмотря на тающий снег многие рискнули приехать на лыжню.

However, when part of a conjunction, the same “несмотря на” does not require an additional comma after it. Only one comma per entire conjunction is required. Example:

Original Correct Incorrect
Despite the fact that the snow was melting, many came to ski. Несмотря на то что снег таял, многие рискнули приехать на лыжню. Несмотря на то, что снег таял, многие рискнули приехать на лыжню.

Whereas “несмотря на то что” does not allow any exceptions to the above rule, some other compound conjunctions may allow an extra comma. Example:

Original Correct Incorrect
As a result of the concern for down sales… В связи с тем, что мы обеспокоены падением продаж… В связи с тем что мы обеспокоены падением продаж…

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Roman Mironov
Roman Mironov
CEO & Founder

As the founder of Velior, Roman has had the privilege of being able to turn his passion for languages into a business. He has over 15 years of experience in the translation industry. Roman has helped dozens of clients increase sales by making their products appealing for speakers of other languages.