In Russian (my native language) there are two words - "день" and "сутки". First means day, just a day, probably lightest part of it, second - 24 hours from 00:00 to 00:00. There is a strict difference between them. As I tried all of the dictionaries - in English there is a single word "day" for both meanings. Is it true? Are there no two different words for a light part of day and for whole day 00:00-00:00?
The question succinctly could be expressed like this: How does one say сутки in English? That's really what the original poster is asking as this is one of the most common questions asked by Russian speakers who are new to English. He's just not being very clear about it (but that's fine).
Yes, it's true. The word сутки in Russian means an amount of time that equals 24 hours and is often used synonymously with the word день which in meaning is exactly equivalent to the English word day. By the same token, the word day in English is defined as exactly a 24-hour period when viewed as a length of time and, to the best of my knowledge, no other special term like сутки in Russian that specifically refers to a 24-hour time period exists in English. So, day does cover both meanings and, in general, you're really going to have to translate both день and cутки using a single word, day, when talking about a 24-hour period for which Russians have a special term.
However, all is not lost. In situations where you want to be more specific, you can qualify the word day by adding additional time-related information to it to make it more precise timewise. In other words, you would say something like this: entire day, 24-hour day (this one sounds a little bit tautological, though) or, if you want to be more technical, calendar day. Better yet, you could even say: twenty-four hour period or simply twenty-four hours (I think twenty-four hours is the exact English translation of сутки).
It's been twenty-four hours and he still hasn't called. (Прошли сутки и он ещё не позвонил.)
This job will take me five calendar days to complete. (Эта работа займет у меня пять суток/календарных дней.)
I'm available twenty-four hours a day. (Я доступен каждые сутки.)
Here's one way to understand the problem. And this is just an example. Since the arrival of the Internet where there is really no difference between night and day, greetings like "Доброго всем времени суток!", which literally translates as "Good 24-hour day, everybody!" (not idiomatic English at all), have become very popular. And a lot of people learning English often ask how do you say the exact same thing in English? The answer is you can't. You simply have to say "Good day, everybody!" But the thing is that Russian has that expression too ("Добрый день всем!") which is distinct from the one used on the Internet. So, how to reconcile this situation is not obvious.
Yes, the word "day" can mean the entire 24-hour period. But it can also mean just the part where the Sun is above the horizon. It can also mean the part of the day during which work and other "daytime" activities are accomplished.
"A week is seven days long."
"Please respond within 30 days."
"The light he called day but the darkness he called night."
"I expect your response by the end of the day."
"I have been waiting for you all day!"
When it is necessary to specify a 24-hour period, this is done explicitly:
"He was under the rubble for 48 hours." (Он провёл под завалом двое суток.)
The expressions "24 hours", "48 hours", and "72 hours" are used. After that the distinction is seldom important. When it is, you can say "full days".
Yes, there is a word meaning "24 consecutive hours". It's nychthemeron. Not an everyday word, and few people would know it, but still it exists!
It sounds like день translates best to "daytime", while сутки translates to "day". In many cases English speakers will use "day" for either, unless we want to distinguish the part when the sun is up from the nighttime. In this case we say "during the day", which almost always means the part of the day when the sun is up.
She likes to paint during the day.
Otherwise use "daytime":
She likes to paint in the daytime.
These are standard expressions and you may want to substitute them for день as needed.
Can we see the moon during the day? (Можем ли мы видеть луну днем?)
Side note: "Day", and "daytime" are rarely exact measurements in English. While, yes, a "day" is 24 hours, sometimes the speaker means, "From the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep," and so can vary with context.
As a translator and a learner of the English language, and Russian being my native language, I say the difference between the two terms does actually exist in English. Some may say that it doesn't though.
Let's take the word "day" first. It can refer to the daytime when it's bright outside or to the day itself as starting 0:00:00 at night and ending the next second after 11:59:59 the same night.
Now, we can state that a day is a timeline which equals 24 hours but has a defined start time and a defined end time. Besides that it is also a part within this defined timeline when the sun is up. Thus the word carries the same definition as the Russian word "день".
Now, if we take the Russian word "сутки" we can either represent it as a "day" or as a period of "24 hours" depending on the meaning we imply.
Assuming we are speaking about a period of 24 hours we can start them at any point of time within a day: 24 hours can start any time on one day but should strictly end at the same time the other day.
But besides that "сутки" can still refer to the day the way it starts and ends.
Here are a few examples that will help you feel the difference:
- Он занимается каждый день. - He studies every day.
- Весь день мы провели на улице. - We spent the whole day outside.
- Ночь была холодной, а вот день был тёплым. - The night was cold but the day was warm.
- Мы целые сутки потратили, чтобы это сделать. - We spent a whole day to finish it.
- У тебя есть сутки, чтобы добыть деньги. - You've got 24 hours to get the money.
- За сутки можно многое сделать. - Much can be done in a day.
- Компиляция занимает аж сутки. - The compilation takes a full day to complete.
As you can see, depending on the idea and the context we can choose an option that fits best.