If you’re tired of studying endless tables with endings of Russian cases, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I’ll share a scientifically proven approach that will help you to memorize them. I will not only show you my method but also explain each of the Russian cases in details.
For easier navigation through the article, you can use these links:
Table of contents:
- Can You Escape Learning Russian Cases?
- Why does this Method Work?
- What do Scientists Say?
- The Core of the Method on a Childish Example
- Before we Begin…
- Prepositional Case, Singular
- Prepositional Case, Plural
- Dative Case, Singular
- Dative Case, Plural
- Instrumental Case, Singular
- Instrumental Case, Plural
- Genitive Case, Singular
- Genitive Case, Plural
A few weeks ago, I was reading a book by the Russian neuropsychologist A. Luria, in which he described his patient with a phenomenal memory.
On one occasion, the patient was asked to memorize about 10 lines of syllables like this:
This man remembered every single moment of his life, thousands of pages of texts, and random numbers easily, yet this was the hardest task he’d ever been asked to complete. “Multiple repetitions of 4 consonants, leaning on a primitive-shaped vowel A undermined my confidence,” he said.
I immediately imagined an ordinary student looking at a table of Russian case endings: large, weird and chaotic. It’s no wonder that learning case endings is one of the biggest challenges for beginning learners.
No one panic! As a teacher, I’m sure that there are no unsolvable problems, but there are ineffective and effective approaches. In this article, I’ll show you a new path to learn endings of the Russian cases, then take your hand so we can follow this way together.
I’m often asked: “Will I be understood if I know lexis, but don’t know any of the case endings?” Yes, you will certainly be! If you use your communication skills and add a bit of informal sign language, you’ll be able to explain what you need and get an adequate response.
But if speaking “childish” Russian is not an option, if you want to feel confident while speaking, if you don’t want to hear: “excuse me, what did you say?” 50 times a day, or if you want more freedom of expression, you have to learn grammar as well.
So, if you’re trying to learn Russian case endings, but feel dizzy because all these tables seem senseless and too similar then this article is for you. I’ll show you a new methodology and provide some tips and tricks that will allow you to speak correctly.
The overwhelming amount of the Russian teaching websites suggest that you memorize endless rules like, “in the Genitive case, singular in masculine nouns, ending on “ь”, change “ь” for “e”.
The method I offer is not brand-new. Russian learners say that it’s much more effective that boning up usual tables (see the post of Lauren from fluentin3months.com) and a YouTube video by languagehunt.
In addition, there are a scientific studies which show that this method speeds up the process of memorizing case endings.
One study from Brigham Young University states: “It has been shown that missionaries using model sentences acquire case forms more readily than with a traditional paradigm chart.”
Finally, I also learned about this strategy some 20 years ago from my mom. And you know, mothers rarely give bad advice.
As I mentioned before, scientists agree that memorizing examples can help you deal with case endings. However, they do endorse two different approaches.
In a study from Brigham Young University, students were asked to learn log sentences, such as:
NOM. Это мой интересный брат (This is my interesting brother)
ACC. Я люблю моего интересного брата (I love my interesting brother)
DAT. Я служу моему интересному брату (I serve to my interesting brother)
PREP. Я говорю о моём интересном брате etc. (I talk about my interesting brother)
As a result, “it has been shown that missionaries using model sentences acquire case forms more readily than with a traditional paradigm chart.”
From my point of view, in one sense that’s a good idea because these examples involve different parts of speech. However, they don’t show what forms feminine, neutral, and other masculine words take.
A Russian paper on the subject suggests students memorize the “speech clichés” that we use on a daily basis. For example:
GEN. Приятного аппетита!
ACC. Дорогому другу на память!
INST. С Новым Годом!
PREP. Я на седьмом небе! etc.
In my opinion, this is a very helpful idea too. But even in such a broad language like Russian, it is difficult to find a phrase that would fit every case.
So, the ideas are very good, but at the same time, they are not good enough. That’s why I offer a slightly different yet far more effective solution
Once I learned this method of memorization, I began applying it to my own studies, especially when I was struggling with the English tenses.
As a child, I couldn’t understand when I should use the present perfect continuous. There’s no such tense in the Russian language, so I couldn’t think of an analogy. The rule “use it when a prolonged action happened in the past but the result is seen at the moment of speech” didn’t tell me a lot either.
Then my mom gave me some brilliant advice: “don’t try to memorize the rule, memorize the example.” So, first of all, I memorized a sentence “I have been learning English since I was seven.” Then I began comparing other sentences with this example. Therefore, I could say “I’ve been watching you for a long time” or “I have been looking for the answer for years.”
I wasn’t sure exactly how it worked, but with the help of one example, the entire concept of the present perfect continuous tense became super clear to me.
This is how I managed to deal with participles, gerunds and many other grammar rules. So, the method I use now is:
Don’t memorize the rule, memorize an example.
Oh, great! Thank you very much, I’ll be closing this article and moving on to learn from some examples.
Wait a minute! I haven’t yet told you the most interesting and useful parts: how to find patterns and how to turn 10 confusing rules into 1 simple sentence.
Memorize eight Times More in five Easy Steps!
I know that it sounds like a typical clickbate heading, but it is possible. Right now, I’m going to give you a step-by-step plan to create your own “rules-examples” that will help you memorize case endings once and for all.
- Analyze a typical table of endings for a certain case and outline any patterns.
- Write a list of the most common situations when the case is used.
- Find nouns that illustrate the patterns you found in step 1.
- Make a sentence with these nouns.
- Use this sentence as an analogy.
What if I Can’t Think of Anything?
You might say that for a beginner it’s quite hard to create a perfect sentence that would include all the patterns you found. That is why I’m not leaving you alone, my reader. In the next part of this article, I’ll provide detailed explanations of each of the 5 cases and create example-sentences with you.
In this article I don’t discuss what case we need to put here or there, nor will I examine the problem of exceptions, because our main task is to memorize the main case endings.
If you need more information about a certain case (such as case questions, prepositions, exceptions and so on), all you need to do is wait a little longer. I’m already working on that section of the site, so it will be available soon.
Let’s do an experiment
Before you begin, complete the following 10 question quiz. At the end of the article, you’ll see a similar quiz. Compare your results and share in the comments below!
How’s your result? Are you satisfied? If you want to improve, then we’ll dive right into the topic. Let’s go!
Let me introduce you to a typical case endings table for the Prepositional case.
|Gender||Replace the ending||Add the ending|
It contains 11 “mini-rules”:
- If a masculine noun ends with a consonant, add e
- If a masculine noun ends with ь, replace it with e
- If a masculine noun ends with й, replace it with e
- If a masculine noun ends with ий, replace it with ии
- If a neutral noun ends with an о, replace it with e
- If a neutral noun ends with a е, don’t make any changes
- If a neutral noun ends with a ие, replace it with ии
- If a feminine noun ends with an a, replace it with e
- If a feminine noun ends with an я, replace it with e
- If a feminine noun ends with an ь, replace it with и
- If a feminine noun ends with an ия, replace it with ии
Now, let’s learn them by heart. Haha 🙂 I’m just kidding. Of course, we’re not going to do that. Let’s use our head instead and figure out how to make memorizing this table easier.
Look at the table carefully. What patterns do you see? What conclusions can you make about the noun’s endings?
It’s obvious that in most cases when a word ends up with one vowel, or if it’s a masculine noun ending a -ь, we use the -e ending.
How to remember this easily? As you may remember, the main function of the Prepositional case is to show the location of an action. So, I advise my students to use the following tip: when we ask где?” (where?), at the end, we put -e
Just like this:
В стране есть город, в этом городе есть улица, на этой улице есть дом, а в этом домe есть комната
(There is a city in the country, and there is a street in that city, and there is a house on that street, and there is a room in that house)
When a noun ends with two letters (-ия, -ие or –ий) we change the ending to another two letters: –ии.
Аудитория (a lecture room) – в аудитории (in a lecture room), история (a history) – об истории (about a history)
In feminine nouns ending with а -ь, we change it for и.
Кровать (a bed) – в кровати (in a bed)
Look, 10 rules turned into just 3!
When do we use the Prepositional case? I’ve already mentioned that its main purpose is to mark a location. That is why its “favorite” prepositions are – в и на (in, at, on). The second most common case is with preposition o (about).
Okay, now that we’ve recalled when to use the Prepositional case, let’s find the nouns that would fit the conclusions we found in step 1. I picked a few student-related examples: университет, лекция, тетрадь.
|Feminine||Change –ь to –и||Тетрадь||Тетради|
|All genders||2 letters (-ия, -ие, -ий) use -ии||Лекция||Лекции|
|All genders||All other words use -e||Университет||Университете|
Now we need to create a sentence that we’ll use as an example. It has to include all the words we’ve come up with. The more words you include in this sentence, the less you’ll need to memorize. My sentence is the following:
В университете на лекции я пишу в тетради
(At the University during a lecture I write in a notebook).
Ta-daa! 10 complicated rules turned into just one example!
Now try practicing this. The line of thinking may be similar to the following:
- Я прочитал это в книг(а) на первой страниц(а). (I’ve read that on the first page in the book). The nouns answer the question “где?” (where), so the ending is -е. Я прочитал это в книге на первой странице.
- Я думаю об этой истор(ия). (I’m thinking of this story) The word ends with 2 vowels, like the word лекция, so, we use the ending -ии. Я думаю об этой истории.
I hope you grasped the idea of the method. Now let’s explore the plural of the Prepositional case according to this plan.
Have a look at the table. It seems to be much simpler, though it still contains 7 rules.
|Replace the ending||Add the ending|
- If a word ends with a consonant, add ax
- If a word ends with a, replace it with ax
- If a word ends with o, replace it with ax
- If a word ends with й, replace it with яx
- If a word ends with ь, replace it with яx
- If a word ends with е, replace it with яx
- If a word ends with я, replace it with яx
I think you will agree that it’s far easier to memorize 1 sentence than all those rules with confusing letters.
However, this time we’ll need some “preliminary” knowledge.
First of all, we need to recall what is a hard sound and what is a soft sound. In short, a soft consonant is a consonant followed by the letters ь, и, е, ё, ю, я. The letters ч, щ, й are always soft. All the other consonants are hard.
Secondly, we need to know that a word consists of different parts. Today we need only one of them – the stem.
What is the stem of a word? To put it in simple terms; the stem is the part of a word that doesn’t change. In other words, a stem is a whole word, without its ending (that changes all the time).
Now, look at the table above again. Do you see what I’m getting at?
Conclusion 1 If the stem of a word ends with a hard consonant, we add –ах.
Here are some examples:
- In the word ручка (a pen) – the stem ручк_ ends with a hard consonant к, so, we add ах – ручках
- In the word – телефон (a telephone) the stem телефон ends with a hard consonant н, so we add ах – телефонах
Conclusion 2 By contrast, if the stem of the word ends with a soft consonant, we add the ending –ях.
- In the word словарь (a dictionary) the stem словарь ends with a soft sound рь, so we add the ending –ях – словарях
- In the word гость (a guest) the stem гость also ends with a soft sound ть, and we add the ending -ях – гостях
Refresh your knowledge of the functions of the Prepositional case from the previous section.
Now the task is to pick nouns with a hard and a soft sound at the end of the stem.
|Hard stem —> Use ах||Рука||Руках|
|Soft stem —> Use ях||Дверь||Дверях|
I’ve chosen these nouns because they’re part of very common colloquial expressions that I’ll tell you about a little later.
Open any vocabulary list and pick your own nouns that you find suitable.
I decided to use “clichés” that are heard in daily speech.
The first one is – носить кого-то на руках (to carry someone in arms) means to care about someone. For example, “Он носит свою жену на руках” means that he cares or looks after his wife.
The second one is – стоять в дверях (to stand by the door). This may be said about someone who doubts and neither enters or leaves. Very often you’ll hear the phrase “Проходи, не стой в дверях!” (Come in, don’t stand by the door).
Write down these phrases. They’ll not only help you to memorize the case endings, but they’ll also bring a little diversity to your vocabulary.
Once you have the benefit of these phrases, practice using them in the Prepositional case. An example of the logic could be as follows:
- Он всегда витает в облак(а) (He’s always daydreaming) There’s a hard stem in the word like in the phrase носить на руках. That’s why it’s correct to say – Он всегда витает в облаках
- Киты белухи живут в северных мор(е) (Beluga whales live in Northern seas) The stem ends up with a soft consonant like in the word “в дверях”: Киты белухи живут в северных морях
This is the typical Dative case ending table that can be found on the most Russian language learning sites.
|Gender||Replace the ending||Add the ending|
The table contains 9 tricky little rules.
- If a masculine noun ends with a consonant add у
- If a masculine noun ends with й, replace it with ю
- If a masculine noun ends with ь, replace it with ю
- If a neutral noun ends with о, replace it with у
- If a neutral noun ends with е, replace it with ю
- If a feminine noun ends with а, replace it with е
- If a feminine noun ends with я, replace it with е
- If a feminine noun ends with ь, replace it with и
- If a feminine noun ends with ия, replace it with ии
What conclusions can we draw from this table, besides the fact that it’s totally inconvenient to memorize?
Conclusion 1 You’ve probably noticed that masculine and neutral nouns share endings у and ю.
Before you read further, try to guess what stems require the –у and what the –ю ending.
Right, if a stem ends with a hard consonant, we use –у. For instance:
- друг (г – is a hard consonant)— к другу,
- озеро (р – is a hard sound too) —> по озеру
If a stem ends with a soft consonant, we add –ю:
- поле (л – is soft sound) — по полю
- словарь (р – is a soft sound too) – по словарю
Conclusion 2 Now let’s turn to the feminine nouns. The options here are more diverse. You know that 80% of feminine nouns end with -а or -я in the Nominative. These endings are changed for -e regardless of the hard or soft stem ending: мама — маме, неделя —> неделе
Conclusion 3 For feminine nouns that end with a -ь, we change this letter for -и: тетрадь -тетради
Conclusion 4 There are a significant number of feminine nouns that end with -ия and we change that ending for -ии: Лидия —> Лидии, Мария —> Марии
As you well know, Dative is used mainly to identify the indirect object of an action or its’ direction. The verbs that are commonly used with Dative are давать (to give), and идти (to go). The prepositions that go with this case are – к (to) and и по (by, on).
At this step, our task is to pick nouns that would fit the four conclusions we made in step 1.
Now create a sentence that will include these nouns.
If it’s too difficult to create one sentence, you’re free to think up more than one or to use mine. In this second case, make sure you understand why a certain ending is used in each word.
- Я куплю лодку и буду плавать по морю, а потом по озеру (I’ll buy a boat and will travel by sea and by lake)
- Передавай привет маме, Кате, Любови и Марии (Say hello to mom, Katya, Lubov and Maria).
Practice time! As usual, I’ve provided you with several examples to make sure that all the above-mentioned explanations are clear.
- Я звоню бабушк(а). (I’m calling grandma) Бабушка is a feminine noun like the word мама from my example. Then, the correct answer is: Я звоню бабушке
- Подойди к окн(о). (Come to the window) “озеро”. What was there? Аh! The word окно looks like the word озеро. Then we put -y: Подойди к окну
Again, have a look at the following table.
|Replace the ending||Add the ending|
- If a word ends up with a consonant, add aм
- If a word ends up with a, replace it with aм
- If a word ends up with o, replace it with aм
- If a word ends up with й, replace it with ям
- If a word ends up with ь, replace it with ям
- If a word ends up with е, replace it with ям
- If a word ends up with я, replace it with ям
The rule says, that if a noun ends up with a consonant, -o or -a, we use the ending -ам, and if it ends up with -й, -ь, -е, -я, then we replace it with -ям and bla-bla-bla…
Is it comfortable to memorize that? Of course, no.
What would you say about this table? What patterns do you see? It resembles the previous one from Dative, singular, right?
So, if the stem is hard, we use the -ам ending, and if it’s soft, we use – ям.
As you well know, Dative is used mainly to identify the indirect object of an action or its’ direction. The verbs that are commonly used with Dative are давать (to give), and идти (to go). The prepositions that go with this case are – к (to) and и по (by, on).
Now let’s pick up nouns that have a hard and a soft sound at the end of the stem.
|Hard stem —> Use ам||Доллар||Долларам|
|Soft stem —> Use ям||Рубль||Рублям|
Finally, let’s create a sentence, that will remind us about the Dative case endings. Let it be the following one:
Прибавь центы к долларам, а копейки к рублям (Add cents to dollars and kopecks to rubles).
Look, instead of 7 inconvenient rules, you have one example!
Write the example down and check yourself!
- Я даю еду зверь (?) Check with your example. The word зверь ends up with a soft consonant like the word рубль. So, the correct answer is Я даю еду зверям.
- Я не верю журнал(?) Have a look at your example. The word журнал ends up with a hard consonant like the word доллар. That is why the correct answer is Я не верю журналам.
Slowly but surely, we’re moving towards the cases that look pretty scary. But they only seem scary at first glance. In fact, they’re not so difficult and can be taught with several examples like the previous ones.
Horrible table, isn’t it?
And here’s what it says:
- If a masculine noun ends with a consonant, add ом
- If a masculine noun ends with й, replace it with ем if the ending is unstressed
- If a masculine noun ends with ь, replace it with ем if the ending is unstressed
- If a masculine noun ends with й, replace it with ём if the ending is stressed
- If a masculine noun ends with ь, replace it with ём if the ending is stressed
- If a masculine noun ends with ж, ц, ч, ш, щ and the ending is unstressed add ем, otherwise (if the ending is stressed) add ом
- For all neutral nouns add м
- If a feminine noun ends with a, replace it with ой
- If a feminine noun ends with я, replace it with ей if the ending is unstressed
- If a feminine noun ends with я, replace it with ёй if the ending is stressed
- If a feminine noun ends with ж, ц, ч, ш, щ and the ending is unstressed add ей, otherwise (if the ending is stressed) add ой
- If a feminine noun ends with ь, add ью
You know, my motto in life is “what can I do with that?” I ask myself this question every time I face a problem. Ask this question to yourself too. What can you do with this monstrous table? Is there any way to make it easier?
Here are the conclusions I came to:
Conclusion 1 We’ll begin with two very simple rules. The first one is the following: to neutral nouns, we just add –м, for instance:
задание – заданием, здоровье – здоровьем
Not difficult at all, isn’t it?
Conclusion 2 To the feminine nouns that end with –ь, we add -ю:
ночь – ночью, тетрадь – тетрадью
Conclusion 3 From the table we can see that masculine and feminine nouns use pretty similar endings, with one difference: the masculine get –м, and feminine –й.
The vast majority of words in the Russian language have a stem ending in a hard consonant. So what endings do you think we will use? ом и ой, of course. These endings will be the most common.
How do you memorize that ом is for masculine nouns and ой is for feminine? Well, imagine the following picture. When a joiner loses his hummer (an instrument) he thinks “Where is it?” and says “Oм…” (Russian equivalent to Hm…) and when his wife finds it in the fridge, she says surprisingly “Ой!” (Russian equivalent to Oh!)
Let me give you several examples of how nouns with a hard stem change.
Masculine nouns: инструмент – инструментом (an instrument), стул – стулом (a chair)
Feminine nouns: книга – книгой (a book), рука – рукой (a hand)
Conclusion 4 But what happens when the stem ends with a soft consonant? We use ем or ей for masculine and for feminine nouns respectively.
Masculine nouns: музе́й – музе́ем (a museum), сти́ль – сти́лем (style)
Feminine noun: тётя – тётей (an aunt), Софи́я – Софи́ей (Sophia)
Pay attention where the stress falls: in all changed words it the stress stays in the stem and doesn’t fall on the endings.
Conclusion 5 The system is more or less clear, but why do we need the -ё endings (ём and ёй)?
Remember, Russian stress is not fixed and it can “migrate” from one place in the word to another. So, when the stress relocates to the ending of the word, the letter -e is changed for -ё.
Here’re some examples:
Masculine nouns: слова́рь – словарём, коро́ль – королём
Feminine nouns: семья́ – семьёй, земля́ – землёй
So in sum, if the ending is unstressed we use ем or ей and if it is stressed – ём and ёй
Conclusion 6 Have a look at our big Instrumental case table. Do you see a line of unpronounceable letters? Let’s talk about them.
There’s a rule in the Russian language that we can’t put unstressed -o- after ж, ш, щ, ч, and ц. The most logical question here is – why? Well, because it’s of the spelling rule that I promise to observe in a separate article soon.
So, every time you want to use the ending –ом or -ой, according to the first conclusion, but letters ж, ш, щ, ч, and ц stop you, just change -o- for -e- and you get ем or ей.
For example, the word муж (a husband) ends with a hard consonant and you’d think you need the –ом ending. But we can’t put unstressed -o- after ж, and say му́жом because it’s a crackjaw! That’s why the correct version would be му́жем.
Or, here’s another example. The second name of the American politician is Буш. The word also ends with a hard consonant, so we might think that we need to add -ом, but Бу́шом sounds like a tongue twister. So, the correct arrangement is Бу́шем
I know, that the number of conclusions we made is a bit more than in the other cases, but 6 is much better than 12, isn’t it?
Now let’s recall why we need the Instrumental case. Initially, it means “by means of” and it’s used with the preposition c (with). We also use it to talk about the time of the day.
Let’s select nouns that would fit the conclusions we made in step 1.
Let’s create sentences that will illustrate our rules. Here are mine.
Look, we turned 12 extremely complicated rules into 4 (!) sentences.
Here’s a typical table of the instrumental case that you can see on any Russian teaching site.
- If a word ends with a consonant, add aми
- If a word ends with a, replace it with aми
- If a word ends with o, replace it with aми
- If a word ends with й, replace it with ями
- If a word ends with ь, replace it with ями
- If a word ends with е, replace it with ями
- If a word ends with я, replace it with ями
In comparison with Instrumental singular, plural is child’s play. I think by now you can easily figure out the rule yourself.
If the stem of a noun ends with a hard consonant, we change the ending to –ами, (число – числами) (a number), and when it ends with a soft consonant, we use -ями (учитель – учителями) (a teacher).
Have a look at step 2 in Instrumental singular to complete this step for the plural.
I think you won’t have any problem picking suitable words. Here’re the ones that I’ve chosen.
I made an easy sentence, relevant to every student.
Мой стол завален книгами и словарями (My table is loaded with books)
Now let’s have some practice. If I were a student, I would think in the following way.
- Мой день занят заняти(е) (My day is busy with lessons) In this sentence the stem ends with a soft consonant, like in the word словарь, so the correct form is – Мой день занят занятиями.
- Мы идём в кино с коллег(а) (We go with my colleague to the cinema). Which one is correct – коллегами or коллегями? Can you tell that the wrong version is difficult to pronounce? This is a hard stem, like in the word книга, so it would be correct to say – Мы идём в кино с коллегами
In the genitive we find various types of endings.
- If a masculine noun ends with a consonant add а
- If a masculine noun ends with й, replace it with я
- If a masculine noun ends with ь, replace it with я
- If a neutral noun ends with о, replace it with а
- If a neutral noun ends with е, replace it with я
- If a feminine noun ends with а, replace it with ы
- If a feminine noun ends with я, replace it with и
If a feminine noun ends with ь, replace it with и
This table contains 8 mini-rules, but we’re not going to learn them by heart. Look at the table again. It’s obvious that the Genitive has a lot of -a and -я endings, which will tell us something already. Secondly, feminine nouns are different: they use –ы and –и. So, Watson, let’s figure out what’s going on here.
Conclusion 1 If a masculine or neutral noun has a hard stem, then we use the ending -а (телефон – телефона (a telephone), письмо – письма (a letter), and when a stem ends with a soft consonant, we use -я (словарь – словаря (a dictionary).
Conclusion 2 The same rule applies to feminine nouns, with the exception that after a hard consonant you add -ы (мама – мамы (a mother), сестра – сестры (a sister), and after a soft consonant at the end of a stem we add -и (Настя – Насти)
Conclusion 3 Is that all? Not yet, there’s another rule that concerns feminine nouns. When you drop the last letter and see that one of the following letters has exposed: к, г, х, ж, ш, ч or щ, then you need to use -и instead of -ы.
Why? Because of the spelling rule, I’ll observe in a separate article soon.
Do you remember when the Genitive case is typically used? The rule that is initially taught to students is to use it when discussing absence of something: У меня нет + Noun in Gen. (I haven’t got…) The second one is when discussing “a part of the whole”: Принеси мне немного + Noun in Gen. (Bring me some…)
Now let’s find nouns that will fit our conclusions.
I’ve come up with the following sentences that include all the previous examples.
Now let’s practice.
- У меня нет с собой словар(ь). (I don’t have a dictionary with me). Our word is a masculine one with a soft vowel at the end of the stem, like the word кисель. So, we use the ending –я. У меня нет с собой словаря.
- Принесите мне пив(о), пожалуйста. (Bring me some bear, please). Пиво is a neutral noun with a hard stem like the word морс. So, in the bar you’ll tell the waiter: Принесите мне пива, пожалуйста.
- – Чей это телефон? – Кат(я). (Whose telephone is that?) Катя is a girl’s name with a soft consonant at the end of the stem, like the word тетрадь.Then the correct form is Кати
- Сегодня я пришла без подруг(а) (I’ve come without my friend today) Here we have a noun with this special letter at the end of the stem like in the word книги. That’s why the proper form is Сегодня я пришла без подруги
Genitive case plural has a very bad reputation and it’s quite a difficult task to find logic in this chaotic flow of endings.
- If a masculine noun ends with a consonant add ов
- If a masculine noun ends with й add ев
- If a masculine noun ends with ж, ч, ш, щ, ь add ей
- If a neutral noun ends with o remove this ending
- If a neutral noun ends with e replace it with ей
- If a neutral noun ends with ия replace it with ий
- If a neutral noun ends with ие replace it with ий
- If a feminine noun ends with a remove this ending
- If a feminine noun ends with я replace it with ь
- If a feminine noun ends with ь replace it with ей
- If a feminine noun ends with ия replace it with ий
A typical table offered by internet sources looks confusing, but I’m going to show you that even in this mess we can find a sequence that will reveal the sense of these modifications.
We’ll divide all changes into two groups: when we remove something at the end of the word and when we add something at the end of the word. Let me show you how it works.
Conclusion 1 We remove the last sound of the word when it ends with a vowel sound.
1) Our big table says that we remove the ending -a. This perfectly fits the rule I just mentioned.
For example, the word подруга (a female friend) ends with a vowel sound [а], so we remove this sound and the corresponding letter -a: подруг_.
2) The table also says that we change the ending -я for -а. But that is gleaned from just a quick glance. In fact, we also remove the last vowel sound.
Of course, you know that the letter я consists of two sounds: [й+а]. You also know that when it stands after a consonant it loses it’s [й] part and softens this consonant. Let’s transcript my name for example, Настя: [н а с ть а] or my best friend’s name: Коля [к о ль а].
So, in the words that end with the vowel [а] sound, even it’s expressed by the letter я, we remove this last vowel.
Let me give you some more examples:
- баня (a sauna) [б а нь а]: in Genitive, we remove the last sound [а] and get – бань.
- миля (mile) [л и ль а]: in Genitive, we remove the last sound [а] and get – миль.
3) We apply this rule when we talk about words that end with –ие and -ия. The big table says that we change these endings on –ий. But as you may guess, we also remove the last sound here.
We’ve discussed the double nature of the letter я. The letter e has a similar double nature: it sounds like [й+э]. So, we’re going to remove the last sound here too.
To put the word занятие (a lesson) [з а нь а ть и й э] in Genitive, we remove the last sound [э] and get занятий. Here’s another couple of examples:
- лекция (a lecture) [ль э к ц ы й а]: in Genitive, we remove the last sound [а] and get лекций
- традиция (tradition) [т р а д и ц ы й а]: in Genitive, we remove the last sound [а] and get традиций
Let’s sum it up: in nouns that end with a vowel, we remove the last vowel sound.
Conclusion 2 The next two conclusions describe a situation when we add an ending.
We add -ей when a noun ends with ж, ч, ш, щ, ь. For example: ей: врач – врачей, плащ – плащей, соль – солей
Conclusion 3 We’ve covered all the forms of the feminine and neutral nouns. Now let’s have a look what happens with the masculine ones.
Here we also need to apply the idea of the hard and soft stem ending rules. Before you read further, look at the table and try to draw the conclusion yourself.
Did you get it? Let’s check.
When a stem of the word ends with a hard consonant, we add the ending ов: слон – слонов (an elephant), волк – волков (a wolf).
When a stem ends with a soft consonant or –й (which is soft by default), we add –ев: трамва́й – трамва́ев (a tram), музе́й – музе́ев (a museum)
What do you think we need the -ёв ending for? We’ve already talked about this pattern in the Instrumental case here.
We use -ёв when the stress relocates to the ending of the word: край – краёв (edge), бой – боёв (a fight).
Make sure you remember situations when the Genitive case is used.
Let’s find nouns that would illustrate the conclusions we draw.
I picked words that are used in colloquial expressions that I’ll tell you about in the following step.
The expression that illustrates the first rule is: засмотреть до дыр_. This means to watch something a lot of times, over and over again, literally, to holes. I can say for example: Я засмотрела “Игры престолов” до дыр. (I watched “The Games of Thrones” so many times).
The phrase без дураков means seriously, no kidding. For instance: Давай без дураков! (Kidding aside!) It’s a good example of a noun in Genitive with a hard stem.
The accusative case is very interesting because here not only is the gender important, but also whether or not the object is alive is important (in other words if it is animate or inanimate). So, that the word студент (a student) will get one ending, while the word билет (a ticket) – will be completely different, despite the fact that both of them are masculine and end with -т.
You’ll be glad to know that this case doesn’t have many endings. So, here’s a typical table and the 8 rules it describes.
- Masculine inanimate nouns don’t change
- If a masculine animate noun ends with a consonant add а
- If a masculine animate noun ends with ь, replace it with я
- If a masculine animate noun ends with й, replace it with я
- Neutral nouns don’t change
- If a feminine noun ends with a replace it with у
- If a feminine noun ends with я replace it with ю
- Feminine noun ends with ь it doesn’t change
Let’s see what conclusions we can make here.
Conclusion 1 We don’t change anything for inanimate masculine or neutral nouns.
For example, in the sentence “Я люблю шоколад” (I like chocolate) the word шоколад is in Accusative but looks completely the same as in its Nominative form.
Conclusion 2 But what if we talk about someone alive (animate)? Then for the nouns that have a hard sound at the end of the stem, we add – a, and to the soft we add –я.
- студент – студента (a student)
- учитель – учителя (a teacher)
Let’s make a brief summary: masculine and neutral nouns don’t change if they’re inanimate. If they’re alive, we add -a or -я.
Conclusion 3 What about female nouns? In this group it doesn’t matter is an object alive or not. We change –а for –у, –я for –ю, and ь stays the same.
So, with the words математика и геометрия we can make the following phrase: Я терпеть не могу математику и геометрию (I hate math and geometry). That’s true by the way 🙂
Do you remember when to use the Accusative case? Right, its main task is to show the object of an action. That’s why the “favorite” verbs of the Accusative case are: любить (to like, to love), видеть (to see), and знать (to know) with the prepositions в, на, под, по (up to).
Let’s pick words to illustrate our conclusions.
Let’s create sentences with the words you’ve chosen.
Now you’ve got 3 sentences that illustrate 8 rules. Try them in practice!
- Я жду подруг(а). (I’m waiting for my friend) Подруга is a feminine noun, like the word девушка from the example. So, we change -a for –у: Я жду свою подругу
- Можно ваш карандаш (_)? (May I have your pencil?) Карандаш is not alive like шоколад, so we don’t change anything.
When it comes to plural forms of Accusative, the Russian language gives you a little gift. Inanimate objects in Accusative plural look as Nominative plural, and the animate ones, like the Genitive plural.
And that’s it!
Together we’ve covered a different way to memorise case endings, created examples, that will help to imprint proper word constructions to you brain.
Though case endings is the hardest part of the Russian grammar, we managed to put 75 rules in into less than 20 simple sentences! We looked at rules from a different angle and reduced the amount of work almost 4 times!
I hope that you didn’t skip quizzes, because my personal experience shows that they help a lot to commit to memory proper word forms.
My dear learners, I would be very glad to know if you still prefer traditional tables cramming or this method works for you better. Please, share in comments below!