A COMPLETE guide to the Nominative Case in Russian – именительный падеж

Questions: кто – who? / что – what?

The nominative case in Russian reveals the subject of a sentence. In Russian, it is the basic form of a noun or pronoun, which is provided in Russian dictionaries. The nominative case may also be referred to as the subjective case in English.

Barring creative writing, idioms and imperatives, sentences in the English language generally contain a subject (being either a noun or a pronoun) followed by a verb. As the form of nouns does not change according to case in English, it is necessary to understand what the subject is and the function that the subject performs.

As in Russian, the subject is the person, or thing of unidentified gender (such as a baby or animal), which performs an action, or to whom or which an action is directed. In other words, the subject identifies who or what does something, or to whom or what something is done to, in a conventional sentence. The action is expressed by the verb, the form of which may change in accordance with the grammatical gender of the subject in question (called a conjugation). In English, only irregular verbs such as to be, or the he / she / it form of regular verbs, change form for different subjects.

For example:

To be

I am

You are

He / she / it is

We are

You are

They are

Note that in Russian, the symbol ‘ –’ generally replaces conjugations of the verb to be in the present tense.

or

To want

I want

You want

He / she / it wants

We want

You want

They want

In Russian, every verb possesses its own unique ending in accordance with the subject in question.

For example:

To speak – говорить


Я говор-ю

Ты говор-ишь

Он / она / оно говор-ит

Мы говор-им

Вы говор-ите

Они говор- ят

When should I use the nominative case in the Russian language?

There are five circumstances in which the nominative case is used.

1. To express the subject of a sentence.

For example:

I speak English. – Я говорю по-английски.

Michael is learning Russian. – Майкл учит русский.

2. When a noun or pronoun is used alongside a verb, thereby forming a complex nominative predicate.

For example:

They bought a car. – Они купили машину.

Paul is reading a book. – Пол читает книгу.

3. In one-word sentences.

Although as stated earlier, English sentences generally consist of a subject and a verb, there are times when this is not necessary because the context makes it sufficiently clear who the subject is, or which action is, was, or will be performed. Both Russian and English share this trait.

Proper nouns used as subjects in the nominative sense, the objective sense and the vocative sense: Laura, Michael, London, Moscow, Paris, New York

Question words: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

Location words : here, there

Answ ering questions with a single noun: What time is it? Midnight.
Answering questions with objective pronouns:

For example, consider the difference between the two sentences below:

I saw my friend. – Я видел мой друг. (‘I’ is a nominative case pronoun)

My friend saw me. – Мой друг видел меня. (‘me’ is an objective case pronoun)

Nominative pronouns in English

Nominative pronouns in Russian

Objective pronouns in English

Objective pronouns in Russian

I

я

me

меня

you (singular)

ты

you (singular)

тебя (informal, singular)

he

он

him, it (masculine and neuter)

его

she

она

her, it

её

it

оно

it

See he and she above.

we

мы

us

нас

you (plural)

вы

you (plural)

вас (formal, or plural)

they

они

them

их

who

кто

whom

кого

whoever

кто бы ни

whomever

кем бы

4. In apposition, to provide further information about another noun (for example, to express its proper name, or a person’s title, following a common noun).

For example:

My friend the doctor , is very hardworking. – Мой друг доктор, очень трудолюбив.

The ‘World History’ channel is very interesting. – Канал “Всемирная история” очень интересен.

5. To indicate the subject complement

For example:

Maria is a teacher. – Мария – учительница .

Here, not only is ‘Maria’ in the nominative case by virtue of being the subject of ‘is’, but also ‘teacher’, because it is a subject complement , meaning it follows the linking verb to be and describes the subject.

When using the nominative case in Russian, there are certain things you should bear in mind in order to avoid making mistakes.

1. Ensure that there is agreement between the subject of the sentence and the verb.

For example:

Present tense conjugation of the verb ‘to go (by foot)’ in Russian

Nominative case personal pronoun (subject)

Verb conjugation

1st Person Singular

я

иду́

2nd Person Singular

ты

идёшь

3rd Person Singular

он / она / оно

идёт

1st Person Plural

мы

идём

2nd Person Plural

вы

идёте

3rd Person Plural

они

иду́т

They are going to the supermarket. – Они идут в супермаркет.

This is correct because идут is the correct conjugation of the verb ‘to go’ for the subject они.

You are going to the supermarket. – Ты иду́ в супермаркет.

This is incorrect because иду́ is NOT the correct conjugation of the verb ‘to go’ for the subject ты. The correct conjugation of the verb is идёшь. What was written in Russian, was akin to writing ‘you is going to the supermarket’.

2. Ensure that the gender of the subject and the pronoun match, as well as the gender of any adjectives.

In Russian, everything possesses one of three grammatical genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. This concept does not exist in the English language, with the exception of a few words inherited during the Norman conquest, such as blond (used to describe male hair colour) and blonde (used to describe female hair colour). As a result of the grammatical gender of nouns, it is essential to know precisely what grammatical gender a noun possesses because it affects the choice of pronoun, verb conjugation (as indicated in the first bullet point above) and adjectives used alongside the noun.

For example:

She is a beautiful woman. – Он красивый женщина.

This is incorrect because он is masculine pronoun and красивый is the masculine form of the adjective meaning ‘handsome, beautiful’. The comment was made about the beauty of a woman. Therefore, the correct sentence would be Она красивая женщина.

This article has covered pretty much everything there is to know about the nominative case – the easiest to master of the 6 grammatical cases used in the Russian language. All that is left now is for you to learn how to form the nominative case in Russian and you can find out all about that below.

Nominative case singular endings

Gender

Singular

Examples

Masculine

-ø* / -й / -ь

стол (table)

музей (museum)

лошадь (horse)

Feminine

-a / -я / -ь

ручка (pen)

кухня (kitchen)

ночь (night)

Neuter

-о / -е

дерево (tree)

солнце (sun)


*Means no vowel.

Nominative case singular endings

It is relatively easy to form the plural in English; we simply add the letter ‘s’. However, in Russian the plurals change in accordance with the grammatical gender of the noun. To make it easier to digest, I’ve broken it down into three simple rules below.

Masculine nouns

If the last letter is ending with a consonant, then add -ы.

For example:

English translation

Nominative singular in Russian

Nominative plural in Russian

cake

торт

торты

table

стол

столы

But

If the last letter ends in the partial vowel -й, replace it with -и.

For example:

English translation

Nominative singular in Russian

Nominative plural in Russian

museum

музей

музеи

tea

чай

чаи

Also, if the last letter ends in the soft sign -ь, replace it with -и.

For example:

English translation

Nominative singular in Russian

Nominative plural in Russian

dictionary, vocabulary

словарь

словари

Feminine nouns

If the last letter ends in the vowel -а, replace it with -ы.

English translation

Nominative singular in Russian

Nominative plural in Russian

newspaper

газета

газеты

visa

виза

визы

If the last letter ends in the partial vowel -я, replace it with -и.

English translation

Nominative singular in Russian

Nominative plural in Russian

surname

фамилия

фамилии

If the last letter ends in the soft sign -ь, replace it with -и.

For example:

English translation

Nominative singular in Russian

Nominative plural in Russian

exercise book

тетрадь

тетради

pain

боль

боли

Neuter nouns

If the last letter ends in the vowel -о, replace it with –а.

For example:

English translation

Nominative singular in Russian

Nominative plural in Russian

letter

письмо

письма

window

окно

окна

If the last letter is ending with the partial vowel -е, replace it with -я.

For example:

English translation

Nominative singular in Russian

Nominative plural in Russian

building

здание

здания

sea

море

моря

Important to remember!

1. The following nouns are always used in the plural. A more extensive list can be found here .

English

Nominative singular in Russian

trousers

брю́ки

jeans

джи́нсы

watch

часы́

money

де́ньги

glasses

очки́

2. The endings of the nouns below are irregular.

Masculine nouns

English singular

Nominative singular in Russian

English plural

Nominative plural in Russian

man

человек

men

люди

child

ребёнок

children

дети

friend

друг

friends

друзья

brother

брат

brothers

братья

son

сын

sons

сыновья

chair

стул

chairs

стулья

Feminine nouns

English singular

Nominative singular in Russian

English plural

Nominative plural in Russian

mother

мать

mothers

матери

daughter

дочь

daughters

дочери

sister

сестра

sisters

сёстры

tree

дерево

trees

деревья

3. Some words end in -а in the plural.

English singular

Nominative singular in Russian

English plural

Nominative plural in Russian

bank, coast

бе́рег

banks, coasts

берега́

camp

ла́герь

camps

лагеря́

city

го́род

cities

города́

director

дире́ктор

directors

директора́

doctor

до́ктор

doctors

доктор а́

eye

глаз

eyes

глаз а́

house

дом

houses

дома́

passport

па́спорт

passports

паспорта́

4. Certain words of foreign origin, which end in -о, -е, -и or -у are indeclinable; that is, their plural form is not different from the singular form. A more extensive list from which to locate these words can be found here .

English singular

Nominative singular in Russian

avocado

авокадо

cab, taxi

такси

cafe

кафе

cinema

кино

coat

пальто

interview

интервью

kangaroo

кенгуру

mango

манго

metro

метро

portfolio

портфолио

radio

радио

show

шоу

tattoo

тату

video

видео

videoblog

видеоблог

5. Just as in English, some nouns (predominantly those describing abstract concepts) are exclusively used in the singular form.

For example:

English singular

Nominative singular in Russian

beauty

красота

butter

масло

confidence

уверенность

creativity

творчество

friendship

дружба

happiness

счастье

honesty

честность

loyalty

лояльность

man (referring to mankind), human

человек

trust

доверие

water

вода

6. Some masculine nouns, names (including their diminutive forms) end in -a or -я and follow the declension patterns of feminine nouns. However, the adjectives and pronouns used alongside them must be masculine.

For example:

English

Russian

Alexander

Саша (diminutive form)

dad

папа

grandfather

дедушка

man

мужчина

Nikita

Никита (full name)

uncle

дядя

young person

юноша

7. Both masculine and feminine nouns may end in the soft sign -ь and there is no rule of thumb you can follow for determining the gender; you’ll simply have to search for the gender in a dictionary.

Masculine words ending in the soft sign -ь

English

Russian

Kremlin

Кремль

autumn

осень

rain

дождь

dictionary

словарь

Feminine words ending in the soft sign -ь

English

Russian

daughter

дочь

salt

соль

8. Some nouns do not possess a feminine form (typically those concerning professions).

For example:

English

Russian

engineer

инженер

lawyer

адвокат

doctor

врач

9. Some nouns are both masculine and feminine.


For example:

English

Russian

colleague

коллега

10. Some nouns are both masculine and neuter.


For example:

English

Russian

coffee

кофе

11. The gender of proper nouns (for example, the name of a city, a mountain, a newspaper, a magazine etc.) must adopt the gender of the common noun category it belongs to. Therefore, any adjectives should also be of the same gender.

For example:

Beautiful Rome! – Прекрасный Рим!

Rome is a city and city is a masculine noun in Russian, therefore Rome is also masculine.

A list of the top 500 Russian nouns, containing their gender, may be found here at MasterRussian.com.

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