What are the cases in Russian?
In Russian each noun, adjective, pronoun, and number can change their form depending on their function in the sentence.
They can have 6 different forms which are a grammatical category we refer to as a case.
In this article, I would like to show you what each of these cases is called and how are they used in the Russian language.
For more information about each case I’ve included an explanation video.
What is “a case” actually?
In this video Lucas and Jan discuss the topic of cases in the Slavic languages.
If we look for similarities in English, you can recognize how some words change their form in English as well, depending on their role in the sentence.
Observe at the following example:
I saw Mark. (The pronoun is in the role of a subject.)
Mark saw me. (The pronoun is in the role of an object.)
As you can see, the pronoun I has changed its form depending on its role in the subject. The same happens in Russian, only it’s a bit more complex.
There are 6 cases in the Russianlanguage:
Let’s look at a brief summary of each case and their function in the sentence:
#1 Nominative case
When you first start learning nouns, you learn them in their nominative case.
The subject in the sentence is always in their nominative case and it remains unchanged. It answers the questions who?, or what? (кто?, что?)
Девушка собирает цветы.
[A girl] [is-picking] [flowers].
A girl is picking flowers.
#2 Genitive case
You would use this case when you want to express or indicate possession or origin. It answers the questions whose?, or of what? (чей?, от кого?, от чего?).
This case exists in English as well. You would usually use the word of, or you would simply add “s” to indicate possession.
Это дом девушки.
[This] [house] [girl’s].
This is a girl’s house.
#3 Dative case
Dative expresses a goal or an intention. It indicates that something is being given to someone. It answers to the questions to whom?, to what? (кому? чему?)
Я дал мяч девушке.
[I] [gave masc.] [ball] [to-girl]
I gave the ball to the girl.
#4 Accusative case
The accusative case is normally used in the role of an object in the sentence. It answers to the questions whom or what (do I see)? (кого? что? (вижу))
Я ищу девушку.
[I] [am-looking-for] [girl].
I’m looking for a girl.
It it often used with prepositions of place to indicate a position, a place or surroundings where the action is taking place, answering the question “where?” (где?). It can also be used with the preposition “о” (about) and be applied to its object – “about what?” (о чём?, о ком?).
Мы говорим о девушке.
[We] [are-talking] [about] [girl].
We are talking about a girl.
The instrumental case indicates companionship. It answers to the questions with whom? with what? (с кем, с чем), and the word is most often accompanied by the preposition с (with):
Мальчик играет с девушкой.
[Boy] [is-playing] [with] [girl].
The boy is playing with the girl.
It can also be used to indicate the way something is being done, or the instrument being used to do something – without the с preposition:
Девушка трогает мяч рукой.
[Girl] [is-touching] [ball] [hand].
The girl is touching the ball with her hand.
(The word “hand” in the nominative case in Russian is “рука”)
I’ve already mentioned that nouns, adjectives, pronouns and numbers in Russian can change their form, depending on their role in the sentence, and this form is known as the grammatical case.
Changing these words through cases is called the grammatical declination.
The declination follows a couple of rules, and below I will give a couple of examples:
a girl – девушка – feminine noun
a boy – мальчик – masculine noun
the sky – окно – neuter noun
There’s no easy way around this but to memorize all the endings by heart.
However, memorizing these endings wouldn’t be a very effective method.
When you learn cases, or any other grammar rule, it’s very helpful to put it into context. You will remember a rule better when you understand the context in which it is used.
But, as what we at LangaugeBoost love to do is not focus on grammar but learn different phrases in which grammar appears, and then some rules on how to change different cases of the words will come to you naturally.
Besides the cases, Russian has quite complex verbs and grammar in general.
However, once you start learning Russian, or any other language, we at LanguageBoost like to encourage you to not get tangled up with the grammar too much at the beginning.
If you learn certain phrases and words, you will notice certain grammar patterns and will learn grammar without actually studying it.
Below are some pointers that can help you to make your language learning more effective.
#1 Get the right resources
I’ve already mentioned things to avoid, such as grappling with grammar right at the start. Some language books have lots and lots of grammar rules in them.
While this isn’t in itself bad, it can be very difficult to grasp the language well if you get stuck on memorizing grammar rules at the beginning of your learning, without even being able to use them. These types of books are best used to help you look up certain grammar rules when you need them.
Remember to choose the resources that focus on the important vocabulary and simple sentence structures first, which will help you to form many sentences on your own.
Resources for learning Russian might be scarce, but I’ve put together a list of great resources for you that can help you get started.
Learn the most important and relevant vocabulary first! In this series of videos you can learn the most important words in Russian.
#2 Make combinations
When you start learning a new language, the first thing that you will have to learn is words.
But, when you start studying vocabulary, don’t simply memorize words, but start combining them as soon as possible. Check out our other post where I’ve spoken more about the importance of making combinations.
In the meantime, let’s look at a couple of examples so you can see how powerful this method is:
Let’s say you’re learning new words. You first decide that learning basic greetings is important so you learn about 10 words. Now you know ten words, but you can’t make any combinations with them.
Next, you decide to learn the days of the week, so you know another 7 words, but you can’t make any combinations with them.
A better approach is learning words that you can combine right at the start.
Here’s how it works:
- The word ‘’I’’ in Russian is ‘’я’’.
Now you know: 1 word
and you can make 0 combinations.
2. The word for ‘’To want’’ is ‘’хотеть’’.
Now you know: 2 words
and you can make 1 combination.
3. And – I
4. You – Ты
Now try to translate the English sentences below into Russian:
I want and you want.
Я хочу и ты хочешь.
You want and I want.
Ты хочешь и я хочу.
Now you know: 4 words
and you can make 4 combinations.
Later you learn and add new words and keep making combinations of your own.
Using this method, you may have already noticed that the verb “хотеть” changes its form.
You can conclude that the endings in the present tense can be used on other verbs as well, and you have also learned a grammar rule without actually studying grammar.
If you learn words like учить (to learn), где (where), здесь (here), там (there) you will be able to make over 100 sentences…
#3 Learn certain phrases
Although it’s important to be able to make combinations as soon as possible, you will still need to memorize certain phrases to get you started.
So, learn how to say main greetings, how to introduce yourself, etc.
Привет! – Hello!
Добрый день! – Good day!
До свидания! – Goodbye!
Привет! Меня зовут Иван. – Hello! My name is Ivan.
Как тебя зовут? – What is your name?
Очень приятно! – Pleased to meet you.
You can find a short list of useful Croatian phrases with the audio pronunciation here.
#4 Find a good teacher
When learning Russian, it will help you a lot if you find a good teacher to help you out. A teacher can point out the grammar rules that are important to know and remember, and you can also practice speaking from day one.
One important thing to mention here is that you must find a teacher that has experience in teaching Russian as a second language. There are many teachers in Russian-speaking countries who teach Russian as a first language, but this is vastly different from teaching someone to speak from scratch.
Try to find a teacher on iTalki or another platform that offers online teaching lessons.
#5 Immerse yourself in the language
Language immersion doesn’t mean you must move to the country where the language is spoken.
If you already live in a Russian-speaking country, great! Use that to your advantage and force yourself to speak to locals as much as possible!
However, if you don’t live in a Russian-speaking country, you can still immerse yourself in the language. Surround yourself with books, videos, TV series, movies, music, podcasts in Russian, etc., so you can get used to hearing the language, and it will be easier for you to pick it up.
I hope this introduction to Russian cases has helped you get started or find the necessary resources to begin your language learning journey.
Remember, even though Russian may be complex, there are several benefits of learning this language. All you need is to find a strong motivation to keep you going when the going gets tough.
- Learn the most important vocabulary first
- Don’t get tangled up with grammar too much at the beginning
- Find a good teacher
- Stay motivated!
Feel free to share this article with a friend eager to learn Russian.
We are here to help you with your language learning journey. If you have any questions, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.
You can also check out our Jumpstart Russian course, which leverages the “Little Brick” method to teach you Russian from scratch and will make you finally start speaking Russian.
Удачи! (Good luck!)
About the writer of this acticle
Fabrício Carraro can speak 14 languages. On this website, he shares his language learning experience and helps people from all over the world to learn languages faster.
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