Можно and нельзя
Most likely, you are already familiar with the Russian words можно and нельзя. They are used to express if something is allowed or possible. Today we are looking at them in detail and giving you a lot of examples and exercises to practice their use and reinforce your knowledge.
Можно means “allowed, one can, one may, it is possible”. It is a very useful word and in many cases it can help you to go through your day in Russia. Another good thing about this word is that it does not change in gender and number. Examples:
Can I? Possible?
Can I come in?
Мо́жно вас на мину́тку?
Can I have you for a minute?
Здесь мо́жно фотографи́ровать?
Can I take pictures here?
К вам мо́жно?
Can I see you? / Can I come in? (lit. – To you can?)
Мо́жно здесь сесть? – Мо́жно.
Can I sit here? – Yes, you can.
If можно is applied to somebody (I can, you can), you need to put the noun or pronoun that represents that somebody in the Dative case (highlighted). For example:
Мо́жно мне ещё ко́фе?
Can I have more coffee?
Мари́не мо́жно моро́женое, а тебе́ нет.
Marina can have ice-cream, but you can’t.
For more information about the personal pronouns in the Dative case refer to this lesson.
Нельзя is the total opposite of можно. If something is нельзя, it is not possible, not allowed/prohibited, or very much not desirable/recommended. For example:
Здесь нельзя́ купа́ться.
It’s not allowed to swim here. (prohibited)
Нельзя́ чита́ть при плохо́м освеще́нии.
One should not read in poor light. (not recommended)
Нельзя́ вы́учить ру́сский за ме́сяц.
You can’t learn Russian in a month. (not possible)
As with можно, if нельзя is applied to somebody, use the Dative case for that “somebody”. Examples:
Ему́ нельзя́ встава́ть по́сле опера́ции.
He is not allowed to stand up after the surgery.
Тебе́ сюда́ нельзя́.
You are not allowed here.
Нельзя with perfective verbs usually means that something is impossible, with imperfective verbs – that something is not allowed. For example:
Нельзя́ есть гря́зными рука́ми!
Do not eat with dirty hands! (You are not allowed to eat with dirty hands!)
Нельзя́ забы́ть то, чего́ не зна́ешь.
You can’t forget what you don’t know (it is impossible).
This is it for this lesson. Practice all the examples with the audio track and leave your questions in the comment section. Until next time!
More lessons on the Russian grammar constructions
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