Sunday, November 04, 2007

Nominative vs. Genitive

I thought we should go over when those cases are actually used, now that we've covered how to decline nouns in a couple of cases. (Well, singular nouns, at least. Plural nouns are a different matter. The first time I asked my Russian 101 teacher how to decline the genitive plural, he just laughed at me.)


This is the case used for the subject of a sentence or clause. In the sentence "The factions soon agreed," "The factions" are the subject of the sentence, so they would be in the nominative case.

Another common use of the nominative case is with the verb "to be." In the sentence "I am your father," "I" is the subject of the sentence. However, the verb "to be" is acting like an equals sign which equates the things on both sides of it. In the same way that "I = your father," both sides of the "equation" are in the nominative case. This is true for positive statements using "be," "am," "are," "is," "was," "were," "have been," etc.


The genitive is basically the case of possession and parts. In English, it's commonly translated with the preposition "of." In the phrase "Brother of Jared," "of Jared" would be in the genitive case. In English, we can also express this as "Jared's brother," but it would come out the same way in Russian as before (брат Иареда).

The genitive has many other uses, which will be discussed in future posts.

For homework, give the case that would be used for the word or phrase in brackets in each of these sentences:


[Howl's] Moving Castle [Genitive]
[The customer] glared. [Nominative]
There was [the sound] [of wheels]. [Nominative, Genitive]

It was [a small room].
[The stones] [of the floor] were stained.
[Sophie] folded her skinny arms.
There was [a scarecrow] at the door.
[Howl] explained in great detail.
[The footman] passed them on to a page boy in red velvet.
[The reason] was [Princess Valeria].
She could see the window [of her old bedroom], up above the shop.
[Sophie] looked out of the window.
It could have been [a lump] [of cinder].
She had climbed into [Sophie's] lap.

Extra credit: Give me two more sentences with nominative and genitive words or phrases underlined.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Re: Cases, part 5

I've been focusing on the genitive case because the accusative case is identical to either the nominative or genitive forms for all masculine and neuter nouns. However, the accusative and genitive cases are distinct for feminine nouns. I think I'll still keep going with the genitive case, though, just to be consistent.

According to our lovely chart, feminine nouns end in either "-ы" or "-и." If the feminine noun ends in "-я" or "-ь," then the genitive ending is "-и." If the feminine noun ends in "-a," then the genitive ending is "-ы." Oh, and remember that Spelling Rule #1 applies. (Well, Spelling Rule #2 applies, too, but it's a moot point.)

For homework, give me the following feminine words in the genitive case:


For extra credit, explain to me why Spelling Rule #2 is a moot point.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Re: Cases, part 4

On to the neuter case!

According to the chart, neuter singular nouns in the genitive case can end in "-a" or "-я," just like the masculine case. The basic rule is that neuter nouns which end in "-o" change that last vowel to "-a" and nouns which end in "-e" change that last vowel to "-я." However, at this point I must introduce you to two of Russian's Spelling Rules. (There's also a third one, but it doesn't apply in this situation.) This is one of them:

1. Stems terminating in г, к, х, ж, ш, щ are never followed by ы, ю, я, but by и, у, а [respectively].

2. Stems terminating in ц are never followed by и, ю, я, but by ы, у, а [respectively].

In our situation, this means that if we have a noun which end in "-гe," "-кe," "-хe," "-жe," "-шe," "-щe," or "-цe," the "-e" cannot change to "-я," but has to change to "-a."

So. Look at the noun, see if it ends in "-o." If it does, replace that letter with "-a" to form the genitive singular. If the noun ends in "-e," check first to see if the spelling rule applies. If the rule does apply, then change the "-e" to "-a." If the rule doesn't apply, change the "-e" to "-я."

For homework, give me the genitive singular forms of all of these neuter singular nouns:


Friday, October 05, 2007

Re: Cases, part 3

As promised, here are some more posts about forming the accusative case. According to the chart, the accusative form of masculine singular nouns is identical to the nominative form for inanimate objects, and identical to the genitive form for animate objects. Masculine singular nouns in the genitive case end in either "-a" or "-я." If the noun ends in "-ь" or "-й," in the nominative case, that letter is stripped off and replaced with "-я." If the noun ends in any other consonant, then add "-a" to form the genitive case. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, it's that simple.

Here's your homework. Give me the genitive singular forms of all of these masculine nouns in the nominative case:


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Re: Cases, part 2

I haven't found any Russian declension tables on the internet that I really like, so I've reproduced this table from A Comprehensive Russian Grammar:

I-oм / unstr. -ем / str. -ём-ой/-ей/-ёй-ью-ами/-ями

I know that it's really dense. Don't worry about understanding all of it right now; I'll spend the next few posts going over it and showing you how it works and what the inherent patterns are.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Re: Cases

"I understand that masculine animate nouns don't change."

Actually, you've got this backwards. Masculine animate nouns do change; inanimate ones don't. Happily, there's a logic behind it, so this isn't just something to memorize.

Remember that Russian word order is very fluid because of its highly inflected case endings. There's a subtle difference in emphasis in sentences like "The flowers are on the table" and "On the table are the flowers," but both are equally grammatical. This flexibility extends to sentences like "человек укусил кролика" ("The man bit the bunny rabbit"), which can also be written "укусил кролика человек" or "кролика укусил человек" without a fundamental change in meaning. In situations like this, where you have two animate nouns, it's pretty important to know who is biting whom, since the nouns could come in either order. If it was a pairing of animate and inanimate: "человек укусил бутерброд" ("The man bit the sandwich"), the object is inanimate, so its ending doesn't change, but the man is the only one in the sentence who could be doing the action, so the meaning is still clear.

Does that make sense? (More to follow . . .)

Monday, September 17, 2007


I'm working on learning case endings, and I'm stuck on the accusative case. I understand that masculine animate nouns don't change. The same applies to neuter nouns. My problem lies with feminine nouns, I think. Feminine nominative nouns end with -a and -я. In the accusative case, they end with -y, -ю, -ь, or -ию, right? I just don't know when to attach which ending. For instance, книга becomes книгy. My book told me that one, so I'm confident about it. Same thing with неделя - it becomes неделю. Does that mean that я always becomes ю, and a always becomes y? I haven't found any hard and fast rules for this, so I'm still a bit unclear on it.

This is my second time learning a language with cases, admittedly, so I shouldn't be having this much of a problem with it, but it's been ages since I've even thought about Latin.