I don’t know about you, but something that I’m constantly asking my wife for is forgiveness (I don’t mean that you might be asking my wife for forgiveness, but that you might be asking your own wife for forgiveness). In Russian, when you ask for something, there are a few different conditions that regulate how you say this.

The verb ПРОСИТЬ can control two cases (as in declension of nouns): accusative and genitive. The question is which of the two should one choose? There is a rule just for this case.
If the verb is used with a concrete noun, then that noun takes the accusative case. For example, прошу стакан молока (I ask for a glass of milk)(bold word in accusative case). The accusative case, in this situation, points to a specific item, стакан.

If the verb is used with an abstract noun, then that noun takes the genitive case. Since the noun прощение (forgiveness) is abstract, then it follows that we need to use the genitive case, thus, ПРОШУ ПРОЩЕНИЯ.

Here are some other cases when genitive is used with ПРОСИТЬ: прошу спокойствия (I ask for calm), прошу сосредоточенности (I ask for concentration), прошу разрешения (I ask for permission).

“Прошу прощения” is also used as a set phrase, akin to извините, when addressing someone, such as, Прошу прощения, а Никанор Филиппович у себя или вышел? (Excuse me, is Nikanor Filipovich in his office or has he already left?) Прошу прощения, а вы не могли бы сказать где туалет? (Excuse me, could you tell me where the toilet is?)

But the most important phrase for today is: “Прости меня, дорогая жена!” (Ok, so “прошу прощения” is not in that phrase, but when you’re down at the паб telling your buddies about your day, you can say: “Я попросил прощения у моей жены.” And they’ll all say, “Good man.”

And to top it off with some poetry, here’s a poem from Boris Pasternak entitled “Learn to forgive and pray for offenders.”

Учись прощать, молись за обижающих,
Зло побеждай лучом добра,
Иди без колебаний в стан прощающих
Пока горит Голгофская Звезда.

Учись прощать, когда душа обижена,
И сердце, словно чаша горьких слёз,
И кажется, что доброта вся выжжена,
Ты вспомни, как прощал Христос!

Учись прощать, прощай не только словом,
Но всей душой, всей сущностью твоей.
Прощение рождается любовью
В борении молитвенных ночей.

Учись прощать, в прощеньи радость скрыта,
Великодушье лечит как бальзам,
Кровь на Кресте за всех пролита,
Учись прощать, чтоб был прощен ты сам

1952 г.

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