Grammar -- Russian Cases

 Lesson comments

This lesson introduces a new grammatical concept of cases. Cases are as crucial in Russian, as word order is in English. When you speak English you just put the words in right order and get a correct sentence. In Russian, word order is not that important because cases tell what role nouns play in a sentence. As long as nouns take proper cases, you can arrange words in almost any order and still be speaking perfect Russian.

So, what are these mysterious Russian cases? Cases are the form nouns take depending on their function in a sentence. There are six cases in Russian: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, and prepositional. Depending on the gender, all Russian nouns follow the same pattern of ending changes in each of the six cases. The term used to talk about such changes in nouns is declension. We all know that memorizing the endings for all Russian cases might not be as exciting as drinking hot tea from a samovar in a company of your Russian friends but it's worth the time and effort.

Before we start learning the endings, let’s take a look at the meaning of the cases. Pay attention to how the feminine noun сестра (a sister) changes in the examples.

The nominative case

The nominative case is used to indicate the subject of the sentence. The subject is a grammar term for a person, place or thing perfoming the action or undergoing the state of being. In the sentence

Сестра читает.           The sister is reading.

the noun СЕСТРА is the subject and occurs in the nominative case. You should also know that all nouns appear in the dictionaries in the nominative case.

The genitive case

The genitive case indicates possession or relation. Putting a noun into the gentive case is the same as using apostrophe ’s or the preposition "of" in English.

Я знаю имя сестрЫ.            I know the sister’s name.

The dative case

To understand the dative case you should be familiar with the concept of indirect object. The term "indirect object" describes a person, place or thing towards which the action of the verb is being performed. For example, in the sentence

Брат дал сестрЕ билет.            A brother gave sister a ticket.

the sister is indirect object. The word СЕСТРА takes the dative case.

The accusative case

Before we start talking about the accusative case, you should understand the concept of direct object. The term direct object stands for a noun which the subject is acting upons. Take a look at this sentence.

Брат  видит  сестрУ.          A brother sees the sister.

Here the sister is direct object and the brother is the subject of the sentence. As you already know the noun БРАТ occurs in the nominative, while the noun СЕСТРА should take the accusative case. The accusative case is also used with prepositions to describe direction.

The instrumental case

The instrumental case is used to indicate an instrument that helps to perform an action. It might be also used to describe someone's job, or in combination with certain prepositions.

Я  живу с сестрОЙ.                 I live with the sister.

The prepositional case

The prepositional case is used to indicate the place or position. It is always used with prepositions.

На сестрЕ.                  On the sister.

Other sites that explain Russian cases: The Cases of Russian Nouns

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