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Nouns in Russian Language - Part I (Introduction)
Nouns are words that describe person, place, thing, animal or abstract idea. For example, in the sentence:
My father drives a car.
Nouns are 'father' and 'car'.
In Russian language nouns are modified according to number, gender and case.
Number can be either singular or plural, gender can be masculine, feminine or neuter and there are 6 cases in Russian language.
In English language you can easily create plural of a noun by adding 's' as suffix. In Russian language things are not as easy as you will see later in this text.
In Russian language every noun has a gender. There are rules to determine grammatical gender of a noun but there are also exceptions to these rules.
Gender of a noun will determine how to modify the noun for a certain grammatical case. It is not the only role of a noun's gender, but for now since this is a section about nouns let us just consider this role of noun's gender.
Cases are something that is probably the most complicated concept of the Russian language to the student that speaks only English. Old English had cases, but in contemporary English language you can notice cases and declension mostly in personal pronouns.
In English you can see the changes in personal pronoun 'I', that is changed to 'me', 'my' or 'mine' according to it's role in the sentence.
Cases are exactly that. When a noun has a different role in a sentence, that role is indicated by a change in the noun.
In Russian language there are six cases: Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, Dative, Locative and Instrumental.
To be able to properly use a noun in a sentence, you will have to know all variants of a noun for all cases in singular, and in plural.
That is in total twelve different forms of a single noun.
Like I said, cases in Russian language are probably the most complicated aspect of the Russian language.
First thing first. How can I know what is the gender of a noun in Russian language?
You must check the ending of a noun in nominative singular. Nominative singular is the form of a noun that is listed in dictionaries. You can think of a nominative singular as the basic form of a noun.
Here are the rules, but remember there are exceptions.
Nouns that end in nominative singular on consonant, -й or -ь are masculine
Examples are АВТОБУС(bus), ЧАЙ(tea) and УЧИТЕЛЬ(teacher).
Nouns that end in nominative singular on -а, -я or -ь are feminine
Examples are КУЛЬТУРА(culture), ГЕРМАНИЯ(Germany) and МАТЬ(mother).
Finally, nouns that end in nominative singular on -o or -e are neuter
Examples are ПОЛЕ(field) and ОКНО(window). Both have neuter gender.
Cases and declension in Russian language
Cases indicate the role of a noun in a sentance. If you want to use a noun in a sentance, you must first decide on the role of the noun and than modify the noun according to declension rules of the Russian language. Every case defines a certain role. In the table below you can see what each case represents.
When you look up a word in a dictionary, you will see the Russian translation in nominative singular.|
The nominative case indicates the subject of a verb:
My mother lives in London.
In this sentence 'mother' is the subject and is therefore in nominative singular.
The genitive case indicates the possessor of another noun:|
My father's car is stolen.
In this sentence 'father's' indicates the owner of a car so in the Russian language this word will be in genitive singular.
The dative case indicates indirect object of a verb:|
The man gave his daughter a book.
In this sentence 'daughter' is indirect object so in the Russian language this word will be in dative singular.
The accusative case indicates direct object of a verb:|
The man gave his daughter a book.
In this sentence 'book' is direct object so in the Russian language this word will be in accusative singular.
The instrumental case indicates an object used in performing an action:|
He shot it with the gun.
In this sentence 'with the gun' determines the object used in performin the action. In the Russian language this word will be in instrumental singular.
The prepositional case indicates a location:|
I live in Moscow.
In this sentence 'in Moscow' determines the location so in the Russian language this word will be in prepositional singular.
How to learn cases in Russian language
Learning all the rules for all cases might be too overwhelming for the beginner. I recommend learning subset of rules which you think is best for you. You can for example decide to learn the rules for one gender and then move on to the next gender. Or you can decide to learn rules for all genders but in singular. Later, you can move on to plural. Whichever approach you take you can use this test to see how well you are doing. You can customize this test so it can ask you only the rules that you have learned so far.
Remember that the rules apply most of the time, but not all the time. There are many exceptions to these rules. Exceptions are also included in Test nouns.