Russian Cases Explained – The Series

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Have you ever found yourself sobbing over the chart of Russian cases, crying over prepositions and endings? If the answer is “yes”, this blog post is for you!

You got it right – this is the beginning of a new series entirely dedicated to Russian grammar cases.

Here below, you’ll find out the basis of the Russian case system and learn more about the Nominative case and its endings, while also laying the foundation to understand the rules of Russian nouns and adjective declension.

In the following posts, we will look at the six Russian cases separately, one at a time. For each case, I will explain the endings of nouns and adjectives, the prepositions it requires, the verbs it’s used with and much more.

Sit back and continue reading.

Russian grammar cases

Russian Cases Explained: Intro

Whether you like it or not (and you won’t like it), in Russian there are six cases (called “падежи”) that you must learn and master. Here are the names of the Russian cases in Russian:

  • Nominative (Именительный падеж) in this article
  • Accusative (Винительный падеж)
  • Dative (Дательный падеж)
  • Genitive (Родительный падеж)
  • Instrumental (Творительный падеж)
  • Prepositive (Предложный падеж)

Each case in the Russian language has its own well-defined function. You can find it out by clicking on their names (once the other articles are published).

For now, focus on this post and, at the end, download the PDF chart of Russian cases that contains a short summary.

My Method

For this series, I will be assigning each of the Russian cases a color. And not because I have definitively lost my mind; there’s a reason behind this!

Since childhood, our brain has been used to learning, remembering and associating information through colors.

Without bringing up neuroscience research, let’s think about animes and cartoons: from Teletubbies to Sailor Moon, from Power Rangers to The Powerpuff Girls, each character has a color that helps us remember them and describes their distinctive abilities, powers, and so on.

Well, the same thing can be applied to the Russian case system!

SPOILER ALERT!

For example, you can decide that the instrumental case is yellow and you can start underlining with this color all the endings and verbs that require the use of this case.

Later, during an exercise or an exam, when you see, let’s say, the verb наслаждаться (take pleasure in doing something) you will remember it as a “yellow verb” and you will immediately know that you should use the instrumental after.

Trust me, it works!

Can you speak Russian without using cases?

Before moving on to the first Russian case, the Nominative one, I want to publicly answer a question that I am often asked.

NO! You CANNOT speak Russian without using cases!

Or rather, you can, but it’s like speaking English without using prepositions, German without articles or Chinese without tones. People won’t understand you properly.

If you want to speak Russian, you need to master Russian cases. And that’s on period.

The endings of Russian cases

In Russian words like to change, just as much as Harry Potter’s staircases do. That’s because of the so-called Russian declension: to “apply” cases, you have to change the endings of some words.

Which words? Nouns, adjectives and, yes, even numbers.

Each case in the Russian language features its own endings and we will see them in detail article by article.

However, some critical rules ALWAYS apply to all Russian grammatical cases.

To understand and remember which ending you should use, you have to imagine a situation of dislikes and friendships, intrigues and betrayals between letters. As if you were watching a high school movie from the US.

Ч, ж, ш, щ

Hissing snakes like the sounds they emit, the letters ч, ж, ш, щ are the mean girls of the Russian alphabet.

Just like Regina and company in the homonymous movie, they hate many letters, especially “ы” which they NEVER want to be followed by and accept “o” only if it’s stressed, as in большой (big).

Г, к, х

The 3 girls of the 'г, к, х' sosority are snob, but not as mean as the previous group. They despise 'ы', but gladly accept the 'о'.

The Н twins
Apparently identical, the н twins are actually very different. One is strong and sociable, the other н is soft and can be followed only by letters that have the same character – “ь”, “е”, “и”, “я” and “ю”.

It’s very hard to figure out which is which!

russian cases endings

Russian cases explained 1: Nominative

Here we go with the first and the simplest among Russian cases: the Russian nominative case.

The Russian nominative (именительный падеж) is the basic case, the neutral case and so it has no color associated with it. It answers the questions кто?/что? (who?/what?).

Russian nominative case is used only to indicate the person or thing that performs an action, the grammatical subject of the sentence. For this reason, it cannot be paired with any prepositions.

Russian nominative noun endings

Russian nominative nou endings are the basis; you won’t go anywhere without them.

As you may already know, Russian nouns have three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter (or neutral).

Singular

Let’s start with singular nouns in the nominative. I will be using the same words in all the charts throughout all the articles of the series. This will make things easier! And no, I didn’t choose them at random.

MASCULINEFEMININENEUTRAL
Журнал (magazine)
Брат (brother)
Круг (circle)
Отец (father)
Музей (museum)
Словарь (vocabulary)
Лампа (lamp)
Звезда (star)
Ручка (pen)
Дочь (daughter)
Подруга (female friend)
Компания (company)
Площадь (square)
Слово (word)
Море (sea)
Время (time)
Занятие (class)

What does it teach us?

Russian masculine nouns mostly end in a consonant, some in '-й' or '-ь'.

Russian feminine nouns end with '-a', '-ия / -я' or '-ь'.

And here is the first question: when a word ends in '-ь' how do you know if it is masculine or feminine? You don’t, unfortunately you have to know it.

Russian neutral nouns end in '-о', '-е' or '-я'.

And here is the second question: when a word ends in '-я' how do you know if it is feminine or neuter? It is almost certainly feminine, the neuters ending in -я are very few (время, имя,…).

So far so good.

Plural

MASCULINEFEMININENEUTRAL
Журнал – Журналы (magazines)
Брат – Братья (brothers)
Круг – Круги (circles)
Отец – Отцы (fathers)
Музей – Музеи (museums)
Словарь – Словари (vocabularies)
Лампа – Лампы (lamps)
Звезда – Звёзды (stars)
Ручка – Ручки (pens)
Дочь – Дочери (daughters)
Подруга – Подруги (female friends)
Компания – Компании (companies)
Площадь – Площади (squares)
Слово – Слова (words)
Море – Моря (seas)
Время – Времена (times)
Занятие – Занятия (classes)

What can we observe?

Generally speaking, the plural of Russian masculine and feminine nouns is made with the sound “i”, but which one? If you read the above carefully, you already know!

  • Hard sounds replace hard sounds, so 'ы' replaces 'а' and is added after simple consonants
  • Soft sounds replace soft sounds, so 'и' takes the place of 'й', 'я' and 'ь'
  • After the mean girls 'ч, ж, ш, щ' and the snobbish 'г, к, х' we always write 'и' because they hate 'ы'

Then you have Russian irregular plurals, the Blair Waldorfs of Russian endings:

  • Model брат – братья оr друг – друзья (friends)
  • Some follow the rule, but change the accent of the word like звезда – звёзды (sister) and сестра – сёстры (sisters)
  • Others drop a letter: отец – отцы (father) and дворец – дворцы (palaces)
  • Some others take one or some more: дочь – дочери (daughters) and мать – матери (mothers)
  • Finally, there are masculine nouns that have their plural form in 'a': паспорт – паспорта (passports).

MAKE SURE TO REMEMBER THEM because they’ll come in handy when studying the other Russian cases. Here is a full article about them.

Neutral nouns follow their own flow and get an “a” sound, how?

  • Hard sound for hard sound – 'а' replaces 'о'
  • Soft sound for soft sound – 'я' appears instead of 'е'

The few Russian neuter nouns ending in -я all work in their own way, accept them as they are.

russian cases

Russian nominative adjective endings

OK, we have seen the nouns, now let’s tackle the Russian adjective endings in the nominative case, which, in my opinion, are easier.

We are having a quick look! If you want the details, please leave me a comment and I’ll write a separate article.

Singular

Without hesitation, let’s look at the chart.

MASCULINEFEMININENEUTRAL
Красивый (good looking)
Плохой (bad)
Хороший (good)
Долгий (that lasts long)
Летний (proper of summer)
Красивая
Плохая
Хорошая
Долгая
Летняя
Красивое
Плохое
Хорошее
Долгое
Летнее

We can see that:

The endings of Russian singular masculine adjectives are '-ой' and '-ый'. However, as you know, after the mean girls, the snobs and even the soft twin, '-ый' must transform into '-ий'.

(Unfortunately, you’ll have to learn the adjectives ending in “soft n' like 'летний' by heart)

Almost all consonants get along with “a”, so feminine adjectives end in “-ая”, except for the softs н which requires “-яя”.

Same thing for the neutral adjectives: the ending is '-oe', but the mean girls and the sweet н can’t stand the 'o', so you have to attach '-ee'.

Plural

Let’s wrap this first article about Russian case up with plural adjectives and some good news, excellent indeed!

Thank goodness, in Russian there is only one plural form that works for masculine, feminine and neuter adjective. And this applies to all Russian cases!

MASCULINEFEMININENEUTRAL
Красивые (good looking)
Плохие (bad)
Хорошие (good)
Долгие (that lasts long)
Летние (proper of summer)
Красивые
Плохие
Хорошие
Долгие
Летние
Красивые
Плохие
Хорошие
Долгие
Летние

Isn’t that wonderful? Masculine, feminine and neuter Russian endings are all the same!

Here you just have to remember that after the mean girls 'ч, ж, ш, щ', the snobs 'г, к, х' and the soft н we always write '-ие', everything else iends in '-ые'.

Russian cases chart PDF

As I promised at the beginning, here you can download a PDF chart of all the Russian cases.

Enter your name, your email and click on the button! The download link will appear below.

    Conclusions and other cases

    Here below you’ll find the link to the other articles of the series!

    Have a look at these posts!

    Did you like this post about Russian cases? Have you downloaded the PDF chart? Do you have any questions?

    Leave me a comment!

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