The great cover up: Russian’s FOURTEEN grammatical cases

Although you may have heard that there are but six cases in Russian, this isn’t entirely true. In reality, modern-day Russian contains the remnants of between eight and nine additional cases, depending on who is counting (see for example A. Zaliznyak 1967 – p. 43-52, also the works of V. A. Uspensky 1957 – p. 11-18 and A. N. Kolmogorov ) and occasionally, native speakers of Russian will utter constructions which appear incongruent with what you may have studied in your textbook. Suffice it to say, the precise number of cases in Russian is the subject of some controversy amongst linguists.

Fortunately for Russian school-goers and language learners worldwide, the full-suite of cases that was taught to students of Russian language prior to the reforms introduced in the 19th century, were whittled down to just six cases. The reforms simplified Russian grammar significantly and the vast majority of grammatical mutations that words undergo in Russian can be learnt in the study of the six cases generally held to exist today. Learn more about those here . This means that you don’t need to study the lesser-known cases in order to become conversational in Russian and be understood by native speakers.

However, for the most curious of Russian language-learners, who dare to read on, we’ll explore eight of the so-called additional cases more out of inquisitiveness than necessity. These are:

1. the partitive case (also known as the second genitive case);

2. the abessive case (also known as the caritive, or privative case);

3. the expectative case;

4. the locative case (also known as the second prepositional case);

5. the vocative case;

6. the transformative case;

7. the adnumerative case; and

8. the ablative case.

1. The partitive case (партитивный падеж, количественно-отделительный, or второй родительный падеж)

The partitive case answers the question чегоof / from what?

Russian primarily makes use of the partitive genitive with nouns, adjectives, pronouns and numerals, when referring to having apart of something (translated into English as ‘some’, ‘any’, or ‘a few’). All uncountable nouns and verbs involving a request for, the consumption of, or an offer or provision of, a part of some substance, liquid, ingredient, or a specific quantity of similar objects, trigger the use of the partitive case.

For example, when we talk about eating ice-cream from a tub, a loaf of bread, a box of cereal, drinking tea, or using envelopes, stamps, matches and cigarettes etc, we generally have a certain quantity of the whole in mind. That is, it is unlikely that we intend to consume or use everything in one go. To clarify this, the noun is placed in the partitive genitive case in Russian. Note that the partitive case does not apply to animate nouns.

For example:

Would you like some juice? – Может, вам налитьсоку? (Literal translation: Maybe, (for) you (I can) pour juice?

As the spelling of nouns in the partitive genitive rarely differs from the standard genitive, it is generally not considered to be an independent grammatical case in the Russian language, hence you may hear reference to it as the ‘second genitive’.

However, the partitive genitive may call for the use of the endings or , instead of the standard genitive endings of or . For this reason, it does not completely align with the standard genitive case, but it may be described as a partitive function of the standard genitive case.

As can be seen below, these spelling changes typically occur with a limited number of singular masculine nouns of the second declension , ending in a consonant.

English translation

Nominative form

Standard genitive singular form

Partitive genitive form

onion

лук

лука

луку

soup

суп

супа

супу

sugar

сахар

сахара

сахару

tobacco

табак

табака

табаку

coffee (diminutive form)

кофеёк

кофейка

кофейку

cheese

сыр

сыра

сыру

honey

мёд

мёда

мёду

garlic

чеснок

чеснока

чесноку

sand

песок

песка

песку

snow

снег

снега

снегу

grapes

виноград

винограда

винограду

rice

рис

рисc

рису

tea

чай

чая

чаю

glue

клей

клея

клею

lighter

oгонь

огонька

огоньку

Compare the following:

She drank a cup of tea. – Она выпилачашку чая. (Standard genitive case spelling)

She drank a cup of tea. – Она выпилачашку чаю. (Partitive genitive case spelling)

Would you like a bottle of water? – Хотитебутылку воды? (Standard genitive and partitive genitive case spelling)

In the last example, there is no change in the form of the word water, whether the standard genitive is used, or the partitive genitive is used.

In modern Russian, the use of the partitive case over the standard genitive case is a personal choice as both refer to a portion of something. Barring an encounter with the grammar police, a native speaker is unlikely to object to, or notice a preference for either case. However, note that the genitive form is now preferred by what we might call the ‘intellectual’ class, for the purposes of indicating the partitive, with the partitive form being associated with informality.

Given the fact that the partitive genitive form largely coincides with the standard genitive form, there is often no way of telling which form is used by a native speaker until they construct a sentence using a word where the spelling rules differ.

For example:

Would you like some sugar? – Вы хотите сахар а? (Standard genitive case spelling)

Would you like some sugar? – Вы хотите сахар у? (Partitive genitive case spelling)

However, the standard genitive endings -a / are used when reference is not made to a specific quantity.

For example:

I can’t stand the taste of cheese. – Я не выношу вкус сыр a.

He doesn’t like the smell of honey. – Ему не нравится запах мёдa.

We don’t teach our students the importance of financial responsibility. – Мы не учим наших студентов важности финансовой ответственности.

The price of gold has fallen. – Цена золот а упала.

Both the standard genitive case and the partitive genitive case may follow a qualifying adjective , but the standard genitive is more commonly used.

For example (qualifying adjective in bold) :

He offered me a cup of strong, black tea. – Он предложил мне чашку крепкого черного чая.

I didn’t choose expensive tobacco. – Я не выбирал дорог ого табака.

The accusative case may be used instead of the partitive or standard genitive case forms when referring to the whole.

For example, to a family member you might ask for a portion of what they are eating:

Could I have some bread, please? – Дай (informal = give) мне хлеба, пожалуйста.

Whereas, at a bakery, you might request an entire loaf:

Could I have bread, please? – Дайте (formal = give) мне хлеб, пожалуйста.

In certain instances, the partitive genitive rather than the standard genitive, is necessary.

For example:

Russian

English translation

ни разу

never, not even once, not once

Выпьем чайку

Literal translation: Let’s drink tea

English equivalent: Let’s have a cuppa

без году неделя

Literal translation: A week without a year

English equivalents: To have little-to-no experience under one’s belt , to be wet behind the ears , to not know the ins and outs of something

Often used with negative connotations to describe those who are largely inexperienced in something, or unfamiliar with something.

Нашего полку прибыло.

Literal translation: Our regiment has increased in size.

English equivalent: Our group/team/circle has expanded.

Used to describe the growth of a class of persons with similar characteristics or a common bond. The types of people who might use it include a colleague following the recruitment of a new person, or an expectant mother in an expression of joy at the potential expansion of her family unit.

С миру по нитке

Literal translation: From the world by thread.

English equivalents: Little by little , step by step , gradually

The expression is likely to be used in a moment of great need, with the meaning that something will be obtained little by little from people who are willing to offer a helping hand.

Моя хата* с краю.

*This word is considered to be a feature of the speech of those who are not considered to be well-educated. The standard word for ‘home’ – Дом – is preferred.

Literal translation: My house is on the edge.

English equivalents: to be isolationist , insular , narrow-minded , closed-minded , to have parochial mindset

The expression is typically used with negative connotations about the group or person to whom it is applied.

Interestingly, in the past, Russians often employed the expression to describe the mindset of Ukrainians, with the meaning that Ukrainians do not concern themselves with the affairs of places they do not consider home, or matters outside of the family, their friendship circles, or sphere of work.

Беситься с жиру

Literal translation: To go crazy from fat.

English equivalents: To be dissatisfied with what one has, to behave immoderately, to overdo it, to be spoiled

The expression has a few shades of meaning. For example, it may refer to the endless desire for more, despite such fortune as having a great job, a great salary, a great life, a great network of family and friends, a solid relationship, etc. Yet another use is to criticise someone for excessive self-indulgence, e.g. if they purchase multiple things where one would do, or engage in gluttony. Additionally, it could be employed to describe a person who is spoiled from possessing too many things, leading an idle existence, or having a trouble-free life.

задать жару

Literal translation: to set the heat

English equivalent: to punish (someone, or something)

Поддать жару

Literal translation: to give heat

English equivalent: to actively encourage, spur on, or incite someone to take action, or take a decision

прибавить ходу

Literal translation: to add speed

English equivalent: to accelerate, to go more quickly

опустошить рюмку

Literal translation: to empty a glass of (something)

English equivalent: to down (a drink), to drink (something) quickly, to drink (something) like a fish

потерять из виду

Literal translation: to lose sight (of something)

English equivalent: to lose contact with somebody, to have no knowledge of somebody, to not take something into account, to forget about something, to disappear from sight

не видел от роду

Literal translation: to not see during one’s life

English equivalent: to never have seen such a sight before, to never have seen something before

бросился с перепугу

Literal translation: to be rushed with fright

English equivalent: to panic, to begin to do something in a rush out of fear

For example, rushing to clean up your home before a last-minute visit from guests.

(говорить / встретиться) с глазу на глаз

Literal translation: (to talk / meet) with eye-on-eye

English equivalent: (to talk / meet) one-to-one, face-to-face, in person, etc.

не иметь ни складу ни лад у

Literal translation: to have neither storage nor harmony

English equivalent: to be irrelevant, to be loosely connected, to make little-to-no sense

не иметь ни проходу ни проезд у

Literal translation: to have neither passage by car, nor passage by foot

English equivalent: to not have a means of passing, to be unable to gain access, to be unable to pass

быть без роду, без племени / Без род у и племени

Literal translation: without family, or tribe

English equivalent: to be without family ties, to lack a family, or support network

с часу на час

Literal translation: from an hour to an hour

English equivalent: any minute now, in a jiffy , within the hour, soon, shortly

Ни шагу назад! (The accusative case is preferred.)

Not a step back! / Don’t give up!*

A rallying cry stemming from an order given to the Red Army by Stalin, during World War 2.

For some masculine nouns, the partitive genitive is never used, as it sounds strange.

For example:

English translation

Russian (nominative case)

Russian (partitive genitive)

Russian (standard genitive)

I would like a glass of Sprite.

спрайт

Я бы хотел стакан спрайту.

Я бы хотел стакан спрайта.

I want to buy a kilogram of rose hips.

шиповник

Я хочу купить килограмм шиповнику.

Я хочу купить килограмм шиповника.

I would like an ice cube.

льда

Я бы хотел кубик льду.

Я бы хотел кубик льда.

He received a bag of coal from Santa .

уголь

Он получил мешок углю от Санты.

Он получил мешок угля от Санты.

I ate a piece of bread.

хлеб

Я съел кусок хлебу.

Я съел кусок хлеба.

Some masculine nouns can only be used with the partitive genitive case.

For example:

Russian

English translation

Щец* не желаете?

(*This is a diminutive of the word щей and it only exists as a plural form of the partitive genitive case).

Would you like some (cabbage soup / sauerkraut soup ) ?

Nouns in the partitive genitive and accusative cases, are the only ones which may be used as the direct object in a verb, though this is dependent upon the animacy of the noun in question and whether it is countable or uncountable .

In order to avoid the use of the partitive genitive, you would have to reformulate the sentence in such a way as to use the accusative case .

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2. The abessive case (абессивный паде́ж, лишительный падеж, изъятельный падеж, or каритив падеж)

Although it is frequently said that only the genitive case is used for the purposes of negation, this is not completely true, because the abessive case is also used to express the absence or lack of something, or someone. The same effect can be achieved in English through the use of the preposition without or with the suffix –less.

The abessive case models its declension pattern after the accusative case .

For example:

English

Russian (genitive case)

Russian (abessive case with accusative case endings)

The Government doesn’t have the right to do that.

Правительство не имеет на это права.

Правительство не имеет на это право.

They do not drink juice.

Они не пьют сока.

Они не пьют сок.

They do not know the whole truth.

Они не знают всей правды.

Они не знают всю правду.

The genitive and abessive cases are at times interchangeable.

For example:

English translation

Russian (genitive case)

Russian (abessive case with accusative case endings)

They do not know the truth.

Они не знают истины.

Они не знают истину.

I have never dealt with this before.

The word дела means business/dealings and is used as a singular noun in the Russian sentences.

Я никогда с этим дела не имел.

Я никогда с этим дело не имел.

We don’t see the benefit.

Мы не видим пользы.

Мы не видим пользу.

However, there are circumstances in which the abessive case is clearly preferred by native speakers…

For example:

English translation

Russian (genitive case)

Russian (abessive case with accusative case endings)

Literal translation: Don’t break your head trying to understand him!

English equivalent: Don’t rack your brain trying to understand him.

Не ломай головы, пытаясь понять его!

Не ломай голову, пытаясь понять его! (The accusative case is preferred.)

…in addition to instances where the genitive case is the only option which should be used.

English translation

Russian (genitive case)

Russian (abessive case with accusative case endings)

She came without friends.

Она пришла без друзей.

He slept without a heating pad.

Спал без грелки.t

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3. The expectative case (ждательный падеж)

The expectative case answers the questionsкого? – for whom? (animate nouns), чего? – for what? (inanimate nouns) and кого?who? (animate nouns) , что?what? (inanimate nouns)

If we are to accept that such a case as the ‘expectative case’ exists (which is not a view taken seriously by many grammarians), then it is said to apply nouns which are used to designate the object (that is, a noun or a pronoun) of a verb indicating a sense of desire, achievement, expectation, fear, removal, embarrassment, or apprehension.

For example:

English

Russian

to be afraid

бояться

to beware, be cautious, be afraid

остерегаться, опасаться

to be shy

стесняться

to wait

ждать

to expect, to anticipate

ожидать

to achieve

достигать

The expectative case generally resembles the genitive case , though some words adopt accusative case endings. There are some criteria which govern precisely how the noun following the verbs above ought to be inflected .

Accusative case endings would be used for both animate and inanimate definite nouns (that is, when a specific person or thing is referred to – e.g. the phone on the table).

For example:

English

Russian

I’m waiting for my sister.

Я жду сестру.

I am waiting for the bus number 111.

Я жду автобус № 111.

They are waiting for their grandma.

Они ждут свою бабушку.

The boy is waiting for his dad.

Мальчик ждёт своего папу.

Genitive case endings would be used for abstract concepts – e.g. love, indefinite nouns (where there is no specificity in terms of the person or thing referred to – e.g. a ball, i.e. any ball) and inanimate nouns. Inanimate nouns play a purely passive role because as they only refer to a place, thing, or idea, they are unable to perform any action; an agent must necessarily perform an action on their behalf, or do something which affects them.

For example:

English

Russian

She fears the consequences of contracting the virus.

Она опасается последствий заражения вирусом.

I’m waiting for a great love.

Я жду большой любви.

Her parents are waiting for a letter.

Её родители ждут письма.

To wait for the (right) weather by the sea.

In this idiomatic expression, explicit reference is made to the unpredictable nature of the weather in coastal regions. Generally, the saying is used as a critique against, or to encourage action from, those who expect something to happen with little or no effort on their part, the futile reliance on action from someone, or a specific state of affairs to come around.

Ждать у моря погоды.

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4. The locative case (местный падеж, локативный падеж, or второй предложный падеж)

The locative case answers the questions где? –where? and на чём? – on what?

The locative case provides information about the location in time and space of the subject, or an object expressed by a noun and is necessarily used with the prepositions вin (though sometimes at) and наon (also at in some cases), unlike the prepositional case which additionally features the prepositions oabout, concerning, regarding, при* – on, upon, or immediately after, in (the process of), whilst, or during X action and (rarely) поon, upon, immediately after, for.

In function, the locative case coincides to a great extent with the prepositional case and for this reason, it is often referred to as the ‘second prepositional’ case. However, there exists a special group of nouns, which diverge from the patterns established by the prepositional case .

Although the locative case is similar in form to the dative case (with the characteristic addition of –у to the end of a noun in the nominative case ), in the locative case the stress falls on the inflection for second and third declension nouns and the dative singular is almost always stressed on the stem of the noun.

The main function of the locative case is to indicate place – that is, to describe where someone, or something, is. In most cases, the suffix –у is added to the basic form of a noun found in the nominative case in order to construct the locative case and – е in order to construct the prepositional case .

The intended meaning of the preposition employed, determines whether the prepositional, or the locative case should be used.

As a general rule, the locative case (as opposed to the prepositional case ) is used to indicate location. Greville G. Corbett (2008) lists 128 Russian nouns, which possess a locative form with the classic inflection pattern –у, of which 33 are optional. Note that this number has been declining with time.

For example:

English

Russian (nominative case)

Russian (locative case)

Russian (prepositional case)

The doctor accepts home visitations.

дом

Врач принимает на дому.

Your dress is in the wardrobe.

шкаф

Твоё платье в шкафу.

The suitcase is on (top of) the wardrobe.

шкаф

Чемодан на шкафу.

You have a (bogey / booger) in your nose.

нос

У тебя козявка в носу.

The weekend is close.

Literal translation: the weekend is on our noses

нос

Выходные у нас на носу.

She bought meat on the bone.

мясо

Она купила мясо на кости.

There are many flowers in the garden.

сад

В саду много цветов.

There is a chair in the corner of the room.

угол

В углу комнаты есть стул.

On the corner of the phone, there was a scratch.

угол

На углу телефона была царапина.

I dropped milk on the floor.

пол

Я разлил молоко на

полу.

The ship is waiting for the goods at the port

порт

Судно ждёт груз в порту.

Судно ждёт груз в порта.

The tourists were taking photos on the bridge.

мост

Туристы фотографировались на мост у.

I collected my relatives at the airport this morning.

аэропорт

Сегодня утром я забрал моих родственников в аэропорту.

Your birthday comes but once in a year; enjoy your day!

год

Твой день рождения приходит только раз в году, наслаждайся своим днем!

I have a huge (spot / zit) on my forehead.

лоб

У меня огромное пятно на лб у.

Who do you think would win in a fight?

бой

Как ты думаешь, кто выиграет в бо ю?

The cake is baking in the oven.

печь

Торт выпекается в печи.

The students sat in silence as they took their exam.

тишина

Студенты сидели в тиши, когда сдавали экзамен.

Студенты сидели в тишине, когда сдавали экзамен.

(The prepositional case is preferred as the locative form is archaic.)

The virus was detected in the blood of the patient.

кровь

Вирус был обнаружен в кров и пациента.

The little boy read his books in the shade.

тень

Маленький мальчик читал свои книги в тени.

The side of my stomach hurts.

Literal translation: I have stomach pain on the side.

бок

У меня болит (живот) в боку.

in the mouth

рот

У старика было много золотых зубов во * рту.

*The prepositions в and во bear the same meaning, but the latter is preferred in certain contexts. Click here for to learn when to use в , or во .

I can’t stand seeing animals in captivity, so I never visit zoos.

плен

Я не выношу видеть животных в плен у, поэтому я никогда не посещаю зоопарки.

I feel like I am in paradise on this beach.

рай

Я чувствую себя как в раю на этом пляже.

Many senior executives were spotted at the company ball last night.

бал

Много руководителей высшего звена были замечены на балу вчера вечером.

His heart stopped.

(Literal translation: his heart froze in the chest)

сердце

Его сердце замерло в груди.

The plane came into view as it approached the airport.

вид

Самолет появился на виду, когда приближался к аэропорту.

We welcome you onboard and we hope that you enjoy the flight.

борт

Мы приветствуем вас на борт у и надеемся, что вам понравится полёт.

There is damage to the hull of the ship.

борт

В борту корабля есть повреждения.

My daughter likes to play in the snow.

снег

Моя дочь любит играть в снег у.

The concertgoer in the firstrow was screaming her head off (informal).

Literal translation: The concertgoer in the first row was screaming in (her) entire throat.

ряд

Зрительница в первом ряду орала во всю глотку.

We set off for the party at five o’clock in the evening.

Note that a number is required after the preposition в .

час

Мы отправились на вечеринку в пятом час у вечера.

I can’t get in(to) the room.

комната

Я не могу попасть в комнат у.

The hunting of deer in the forest is prohibited.

лес

Охота на оленей в лесу запрещена.

Sally sells seashells by the seashore.

берег

Салли продает ракушки на берег у моря.

Beavers burrow into the river bank.

Literal translation: Beavers burrow holes on the river bank.

берег

Бобры роют норы на берег у реки.

Her hair blew wildly in the wind.

ветер

Её волосы дико развивались на ветру.

The old man travelled to the farm in a cart pulled by a horse.

воз

Старик ездил на ферму на воз у, запряженнoм лошадью.

I love ice skating.

(Literal translation: skating on ice)

льда

Я люблю кататься на льду.

I placed a candle on the shelf.

полка

Я поставил свечу на полку .

Я поставил свечу на полке .

There are beautiful beaches in Crimea.

Крым

В Крыму есть прекрасные пляжи.

She lay in the meadow.

Note that the preposition used with meadow is ‘on’ in the Russian version.

луг

Она лежала на лугу.

Она лежала на луг е.

We met some famers in the steppe.

степь

Мы встретили несколько знаменитостей в степи.

I bought a dress on the net*.

*Internet

сеть

Я купила платье в сети.

The prepositional case , on the other hand, serves a number of functions, which include describing location using в and на, but also to mean about, concerning, in regard to, relating to, etc.

Compare the following:

English

Russian (nominative case)

Russian (locative case)

Russian (prepositional case)

I know a lot about the forest.

лес

Я много знаю в лесy.

This sentence would be flawed and for good reason too. As the locative case is primarily used in order to indicate the physical location of someone or something, it sounds like the subject of the sentence only knows a lot about the forest when physically present in the forest.

Я много знаю о лесе.

Some more examples of the various functions of the prepositional case are provided below:

English

Russian (nominative case)

Russian (locative case)

Russian (prepositional case)

The author spoke about her book at the event.

книга

На мероприятии автор рассказала о своей книге.

I’m at home.

дом

Я в дому.

Я в доме.

I was just thinking about you.

ты

Я как раз думал о тебе.

The bird sat on the dock.

док

Птица сидела на доке.

It was a beautiful day for tea in the courtyard.

двор

Это был прекрасный день для чая во двор е.

The children got in trouble for screaming in the hall.

зал

Дети попали в неприятности за то, что кричали в зале.

The vast majority of Russian nouns possess the same form in the locative case, as they do in the prepositional case and therefore the fact that one case is used instead of the other, is both indiscernible and of little consequence.

For example:

English

Russian (nominative case)

Russian (locative case)

Russian (prepositional case)

My mother works at the factory.

завод

Моя мать работает на завод е.

Моя мать работает на завод е.

The Spaso-Prilutsky Monastery is worth visiting in Vologda.

Вологда

Спасо-Прилуцкий монастырь стоит посетить в Вологде.

Спасо-Прилуцкий монастырь стоит посетить в Вологде.

The organisation works to protect wildlife in the seas around the world.

море (singular) / моря (plural)

Note that sea is used as a plural noun in the Russian example.

Организация работает для защиты дикой природы в морях по всему миру.

Организация работает для защиты дикой природы в морях по всему миру.

I am standing on the square – Where are you?

площадь

Я стою на площади – Где ты?

Я стою на площади – Где ты?

Is there Wi-fi in the room?

комната

В комнате есть Wi-fi?

В комнате есть Wi-fi?

Even if the locative and prepositional cases differ in form, it may be the case that both are acceptable alternatives.

For example:

English

Russian (nominative case)

Russian (locative case)

Russian (prepositional case)

It’s like searching for a needle in a haystack .

стог

Это как искать иголку в стог у сена.

Это как искать иголку в стог е сена.

The horse gave birth in the stable.

хлев

Лошадь родила в хлеву.

Лошадь родила в хлеве.

( Archaic )

I will be on holiday until the first of December.

отпуск

Я буду в отпуску до первого декабря.

Я буду в отпуске до первого декабря.

Locative case prepositions are not always immediately followed by a noun; adjectives are acceptable too.

For example:

English

Russian (nominative case)

Russian (locative case)

Russian (prepositional case)

I sat in the same row as the models at the fashion show!

ряд

Я сидела (в / на) одном ряду с моделями на показе мод!

The members of the audience in the last row could not see the performance very well.

ряд

Зрители (в / на) последнем ряду не очень хорошо видели выступление.

At times, the locative case is used figuratively.

For example:

English

Russian (nominative case)

Russian (locative case)

to be in a difficult situation, in trouble, in need, in poverty, without help, in dire straits, broke (slang)

Literal translation: in the shallow

For example:

Her family has been struggling since her husband lost his job.

мель

быть на мели

Example:

Её семья на мели, так как её муж потерял работу.

to be almost ready

Literal translation: to be on an oily surface (colloquial)

мазь

быть на мази

to be on the move, in progress

Literal translation: to be in movement

ход

быть в ходу

in a big way, (reflecting a) great stride, fashionable, popular

Literal translation: in a big movement

ход

в большом ходу

to nip something in the bud

Literal translation: To cut something off at the root (that is, before it is due to be harvested)

корень

пресечь на корню

to scoop everything up, to purchase all available quantities of goods.

Literal translation: to buy up something at the root

корень

скупить на корню

to do something several times a day

Literal translation: to do something several times on the day

День

делать что-то сколько-то раз на дн ю

to be tipsy, under the influence of alcohol

Literal translation: to be on the hop

хмель

быть во хмелю

to be in good standing with (у ком-то), to be in someone’s good books

Literal translation: to be on good account

счёт

быть на хорошем счету

to be among, amongst

Literal translation: to stand in the row

For example:

Chopin is one of the greatest composers of piano music.

ряд

стоять в ряду

Example:

Шопен – одно из первых мест в ряд у величайших композиторов фортепианной музыки.

to be big boned (to be stocky, broad-shouldered, or large in size)

Literal translation: to be wide in the bone

кость

быть широк в кости (informal, used in the spoken language) /

быть широкий в кости

to have meat on one’s bones

Literal translation: to have meat on the bone

кость

Иметь мясо на кости

to give in to (someone / something), or compromise

Literal translation: to go on reason

повод

пойти на поводу у (у кого-то/чего-то)

The concertgoer in the firstrow was screaming her head off (informal).

Literal translation: The concertgoer in the first row was screaming in (her) entire throat.

ряд

Зрительница в первом ряду орала во всю глотку.

Most nouns in the locative case do not end in a soft sign, though there are exceptions.

For example:

English

Noun – Russian (nominative case)

Russian (locative case)

To nip something in the bud

Literal translation: To cut something off on the root (that is, before it is due to be harvested)

корень

пресечь на корню

To scoop everything up, to purchase all available quantities of goods.

Literal translation: to buy up something on the root

корень

скупить на корню

to be in a difficult situation, in trouble, in need, in poverty, without help, in dire straits, broke (slang)

Literal translation: in the shallow

For example:

Her family has been struggling since her husband lost his job.

мель

быть на мели

Её семья на мели, так как её муж потерял работу.

to have meat on one’s bones

Literal translation: to have meat on the bone

кость

Иметь говядину на кости

to be tipsy, under the influence of alcohol

Literal translation: to be on the hop

хмель

быть во хмелю

to do something several times a day

Literal translation: to do something several times on the day

День

делать что-то сколько-то раз на дн ю

to be almost ready

Literal translation: to be in the ointment (colloquial)

мазь

быть на мази

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5. The vocative case (звательный падеж)

For the most part, the vocative case is an exclamation or interjection of sorts, aimed at attracting the attention of the person or thing being address. It is typically identified as a shortened form of the noun, though at times a custom ending may be applied. You are unlikely to encounter this case in anything but the most informal conversations, or in Russian literature where writers are apt to use it for an archaic touch. Interestingly, this case contains residual features of the old vocative case and also a ‘new’ vocative case, which has been in development since at least the mid-twentieth century.

Vocative case nouns can generally be divided into four groups:

(1) Colloquial versions of singular given names (the so-called new vocative );

(2) religious forms of address, found in Old Russian and Biblical texts;

(3) respectful, yet often archaic, forms of address – namely directed to members of the highest strata of society; and

(4) plural forms of address.

For example:

Short forms of names and terms of endearment

The new vocative form only applies to nouns (including names) ending in a vowel. Often, the vocative case form is derived not from the full name, but by nicknames – specifically, the truncated forms of full names. All that is required is the removal of the final vowel from the nickname.

English

Russian (nominative case)

Russian (vocative case)

Ann , come out! (vocative form of the name Anna)

Анна

Ань , выходи!

Tanush , come here! (vocative form of the name Tatiana)

Татьяна

Танюш , пойди сюда!

Asya (vocative form of the name Anastasia)

Анастасия

Ась!

Kat, Katya! (vocative form of the name Katerina)

Катерина

Кать!, Катья!

Vasya! (vocative form of the name Vasily)

Василий

Вась!

Саша (vocative form of the name Sasha, which itself is a diminutive form of the name Alexander)

Саша

Саш!

Pete! (vocative form of the name Peter)

Питр

Петь!

Kol! (vocative form of the name Nikolai)

Николай

Коль!

Len! (vocative form of the name Elena)

Елена

Лен!

Ol! (vocative form of the name Olga)

Ольга

Оль!

Vov! (vocative form of the name Vladimir)

Владимир

Вов!

Dim! (vocative form of the name Dmitry)

Дмитрий

Дим!

Mash! (vocative form of the name Maria)

Мария

Маш!

Grandma!

Бабушка!, Бабуля!

Баб!, Бабуль!

Grandad , come!

Дедушка

Дед , иди сюда!

Mum , dad is calling you.

Мама

Мам, тебя папа зовёт.

Dad!

Папа

Пап!

Uncle!

Дядя

Дядь!

Aunty!

Тетя

Тёть!

Child, Children / kids

Дитя, Дети

Детуль!

Darling!

Дорогая

Дорогуль!

Darling (Literal translation: kitty)

Киса

Кис

Dear, Kinsman, Beloved, Fam (colloquial, slang)!

Родитель

Роднуль!

Religious terminology

English

Russian (nominative case)

Russian (vocative case)

Father (God)

Отец

Отче

Lord (God)

Господь

Господи

God

Бог

Боже

My God

Мой Бог

Боже мой

Creator (God)

Создатель

Создателю

Jesus Christ

Исус Христос

Исусе Христе

Mother of Jesus

Богородица

Богородице

Virgin (Mary)

Дева

Дево

Saint

Святитель

святителю

Mentor Ambrose

Наставник Амброуз

Наставниче Амвросие (a saint)

Saint Pantaleon

Пантелеймон

Пантелеймоне

God forbid!

Боже упаси

Fathers! (priests), Oh my God!

Today, the word Батюшки is often used informally, with the meaning geez, or (my) goodness, or OMG.

Батюшки

Archaic forms of address

English

Russian (nominative case)

Russian (vocative case)

Lord, Master, Ruler

Владыка

Владыко

Wife

Жена

Жено

Dad

Батянь (informal)

Brother

Брат

Брате*

Sister

Сестра

сестре

Son

Сын

Сыне, Сынка

Daughter

дочка

(Short form of Дочь – daughter)

Доча

Girl

Дѣвица (pre-reform spelling derived from Old Church Slavonic )

Дѣвице (pre-reform spelling derived from Old Church Slavonic )

Friend

Друг

Друже*

Prince

Князь

Княже*

Doctor

Врач

Врачу*

Old man, elder

Старик

Старче*

Man (Consider the use of ‘man’ in American English: ‘Maaan, that’s annoying!)

Человек

Человече (colloquial, archaic)

Horse

Конь

Коню!

Plural forms of address

English

Russian (nominative case)

Russian (vocative case)

Girls

Девушки

Девчат

Guys, lads (chiefly UK), boys

Ребята

Ребят

Brothers

Братья

Братие

Fathers! (priests),

Today, the word Батюшки is often used informally, with the meaning geez, or (my) goodness, or OMG.

Батюшки

*Note that the vocative forms врачу – doctor, княже – prince, старче – elder, братие – brother, друже – friend, and Доча – daughter, may still be heard today.

An unusual aspect of the new vocative is that final consonants which shoulhmd be devoiced may be voiced, which contradicts a basic rule of pronunciation in Russian. Read more about voicing and devoicing here .

For the most part, today the majority of vocative case forms coincide with the nominative case. Curiously, the vocative has survived in other Slavic languages such as Ukrainian and Polish.

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6. The transformative case (превратительный падеж, транслативный падеж, включительный падеж, второй винительный падеж, or собирательный падеж)

The transformative case answers the questions в кого? – in whom, from whom?,во что? – into what, from what?

The transformative case reveals a transformation into someone or something, or denotes a movement from one state of being, or position, to another. As the case answers the questions of the accusative case, it has been described as a variant of the accusative. However, in form, it borrows from the plural endings of the nominative case . Notably, it is only used in oral communication.

There are some verbs which are commonly used with this case.

For example:

English

Russian

to go

пойти

to sign up, enroll

записаться

to get out

выбиться

to prepare oneself

готовиться

to ask

проситься

to mark

метить

to accept

принять

to choose

выбрать

English

Russian (nominative case)

Russian (transformative case)

I would have become a pilot, if not for my poor eyesight.

Literally: I would have gone to the pilots, if not for my bag eyesight.

лётчик

Я бы пошёл в лётчики, если бы не моё слабое зрение.

to take someone as one’s wife / to marry someone

жена

взять в жён ы

to take someone as one’s husband / to marry someone

муж

взять в мужья

to take accept as sons-in-law

зять (singular) / Зятья (plural)

взять в зятья

to be like a father

отец

годится в отцы

to be like sons (to somebody)

сын

годится в сыновья

to be fit to be a soldier

солдат

годится в солдаты

to run for president

президент

баллотироваться в президент ы

to run for mayor

мэр

баллотироваться на пост мэр а

to run as a minister of parliament

депутат

баллотироваться в депутат ы

to become a cosmonaut

космонавт

идти в космонавты

to accept (a girl) as a friend

Note that this term necessarily means a female friend.

подруга

взять в подруги

to go to the people / public

люди

выйти в люди

to promote (someone) to a director

директор

продвигать в директоры

to become a (janitor / cleaner / caretaker)

уборщик

пойти в уборщики

to become a teacher

учитель

идти в учителя

to go into welding / become a welder

сварщик

пойти в сварщики

to become a musician

музыкант

подался в музыканты

Let’s consider the first example: ‘ I would have become a pilot, if not for my poor eyesight. – Я бы пошёл в лётчики, если бы не моё слабое зрение.’ Note that the expression in Russian uses the plural form of the noun pilotpilots. If the word pilot were in the accusative case, the noun after the preposition в would be лётчиков. However, in practice, native speakers use a form which bears an uncanny resemblance to the nominative plural instead: лётчики.

However, do not be deceived. For starters, the nominative case does not follow a preposition. Secondly, the nominative case is used to indicate the subject of a sentence and лётчики is not a subject, but rather the direct object.

For these reasons, one can argue that there is indeed a transformative case, which – confusingly – answers the questions of the accusative case (кого – to whom? / что – to what?), but adopts the plural form of the nominative case .

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7. The adnumerative case (счётный падеж)

The adnumerative case answers the questions кого? who? or чего ?what?

The adnumerative case is a special form nouns acquire when used together with a numeral to indicate a particular quantity of something. In most cases, the adnumerative case is almost indistinguishable from the genitive case, hence its abolition in post-reform Russian.

The case works as follows:

n Nouns following the number one, or compound numbers ending in one (e.g. forty-one) are not affected by the transformative case and adopt singular nouns in the nominative case .

For example:

English

Russian (nominative case)

Russian (number + nominative case example)

I will be ready in an hour.

час

Я буду готова через час.

The house was built forty-one years ago.

год

Дом был построен сорок один год назад.

There were twenty-one people at her birthday party.

человек

На её дне рождения был двадцать один человек.

Therefore, although a couple of the examples above require plural nouns in English, in Russian, these nouns are provided in their singular form.

n When…

(1) the single digits two, three, or four;

(2) any compound numerals ending in these numbers; or

(3) the words half (0.5), one and a half (1.5), and both,

… appear in compounds and are in either…

(1) the nominative case ; or

(2) the accusative case (where the numeral serves to indicate the quantity of an inanimate noun),

…the adnumerative case reveals itself and these numerals take the singular endings of the genitive case . The noun following the numeral takes the genitive case too but whereas the stress in the genitive case falls on the root of a word, in the adnumerative case it falls on the suffix .

For example:

English

Russian (nominative case)

Russian (transformative case with genitive case singular endings)

Half of the population is male.

население

Половина населения – мужчины.

The bank interest rate is one and a half percent now.

процент

Процентная ставка в банке сейчас составляет полтора процента.

There are two museums in the village.

музей

В деревне есть два музея.

There are thirty-two books on the topic at the library.

книга

В библиотеке есть тридцать две книг и на эту тему.

Four families are missing following the floods.

семья

Четыре семьи пропали без вести после наводнений.

There are three teachers who are native speakers of English at the school.

учитель

В школе работают три учител я, для которых английский язык является родным.

The company has recruited forty-four drivers.

водитель

Компания наняла сорок четыре водител я.

Both of the boys were sent to the principal’s office.

мальчик

Оба мальчика были отправлены в кабинет директора.

n Any numbers ending in (1) the numeral five or greater, and (2) any numerals ending in eleven to fourteen (despite having 1, 2, 3 and 4 respectively as the final letter in a compound numeral), require the endings of the genitive case plural .

For example:

English

Russian (nominative case)

Russian (transformative case with genitive case plural endings)

There are five books on the table.

книга

На столе пять книг.

They’ll arrive in fifteen minutes.

минута

Они прибудут через пятнадцать минут.

Forty-six animals were saved from the forest during the wildfire.

животное

Сорок шесть животных были спасены из леса во время пожара.

Only fifty-five students in the school of 700 students, chose to study at university.

студент

Всего пятьдесят пять студент ов в школе из 700 студентов, выбрали учебу в университете.

There are eleven players in our football team.

игрок

В нашей футбольной команде одиннадцать игроков.

Two thousand and fourteen teenagers attended the protests.

подросток

Две тысячи четырнадцать подростков приняли участие в акциях протеста.

There were one hundred and thirteen pages in the textbook.

страница

В учебнике было сто тринадцать страниц.

The adnumerative case is used in conjunction with some units of measurement, where its form differs from the genitive case endings. Note that here, the use of the adnumerative case is informal .

For example:

English

Russian (adnumerative case)

Russian (genitive case following the rules outlined above)

five kilograms

пять килограмм

пять килограммов

eight bytes

восемь байт

восемь байтов

eight megabytes

восемь мегабайт

восемь мегабайтов

ten volts

десять вольт

ten grams

десять грамм

десять граммов

sixteen kilobytes

шестнадцать килобайт

шестнадцать килобайтов

one hundred amperes

сто ампер

The stress of nouns in the adnumerative and genitive case forms may differ.

For example:

English

Russian (adnumerative case stress)

Russian (genitive case stress)

Not even an hour has passed.

Не прошло и часá.

Не прошло и чáса.

two hours

два часá

два чáса

three hours

три часá

три чáса

to take two steps

сделать два шагá

сделать два шáга

to take three steps

сделать три шагá

сделать три шáга

to take four steps

сделать четыре шагá

сделать четыре шáга

one step is not enough

одного шагá мало

одного шáга мало

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8. The ablative case (отложительный падеж)

The ablative case answers the questions от кого? – from whom?,откуда? – from where?, or от чегоfrom what?

The case is similar in form to the genitive case and is typically used with the prepositions сwith, отfrom and изfrom. It reveals the starting point of a movement, from where something is derived, or from what something has been obtained.

For example:

English

Russian

I heard a noise coming from the forest.

Я услышал шум из лесу.

We brought some sausage from home.

Мы принесли сосиски из дом у.

I left the forest; there was bitterly cold.

Excerpt from the poem ‘ Peasant Children ’, by Nikolai Alexeyevich Nekrasov .

Я из лесу вышел; был сильный мороз.

They went from one lesson to another.

Они переходили с одного урок а на другой.

No matter what, I will do it.

Literal translation: Blood from (my) nose, I will do it.

Кровь из носу, я сделаю это.

*Note that the stress should fall on ‘ из and there is a degree of elision between the preposition and носу .

The ablative case form may sound somewhat dated and is typically only found in old Russian literary works.

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____

If you have been studying Russian for a while, are you surprised by the existence of any of these cases? Do they explain why certain declensions you hear are different from what you expected based on your study of the 6 undisputed cases you were taught? Leave any responses, queries or questions in the comments section below!

If you’re still keen to learn more about this topic, check out the work of some linguists and great Russian thinkers in the key resources section.

Key resources

Andrey Anatolyevich Zaliznyak, ‘Russian nominal verbosity’ (Moscow, Nauka: 1967)

Vladimir Andreyevich Uspensky, ‘On the definition of a case according to A.H. Kolmogorov’ in Bulletin of the Association, available here

Yevgeny Vasilievich Klobukov, ‘The semantics of case forms in modern Russian literary language (Introduction to the method of positional analysis)’ (Moscow, Moscow State University Press: 1986)

Igor Grigorievich Miloslavsky, ‘Morphology Modern Russian Language / Ed. В. A. Beloshapkova’, (2nd edition, Moscow: 1989), available here

Laura Alexis Janda, ‘Name-calling: The Russian ‘new Vocative’ and its status’ (2019), available here

Alexandra Beytenbrat, ‘Case in Russian : A sign-oriented approach’ (2015)

Paul V. Cubberley, ‘Russian: a linguistic introduction’ (2002)

Dean Worth, ‘Russian GEN2, LOC2 Revisited’ (Amsterdam, Rodopi: 1984)

Greville G. Corbett, ‘Determining morphosyntactic feature values’ in Case and Grammatical Relations: Studies in Honor of Bernard Comrie (Amsterdam/Philadelphia, John Benjamins Publishing Company (2008), available here and here

Ilya Borisovich Itkin, ‘The amazing history of the second prepositional case’ from “Public Lectures” Polit.ru, available here

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