Some of the most common phrases you'll use and hear in Russian revolve around expressing emotions, desires, and needs. Some expressive words in Russian, like I love (я люблю) and I want (я хочу), function just like in English. However, others, such as I like (мне нравится) and I need (мне нужно), operate under impersonal constructions with grammar that's a little different from what we use in English. Here's a rundown of how that works:
Phrases where you say "I love" (я люблю) and "I want" (я хочу) in Russian function just like those in English. The sentence structure operates either with an infinitive, like "I want to do something," or a direct object, like "I want something."
Using an infinitive with these verbs is fairly simple. Just add the infinitive after your main verb.
When constructing a sentence with a noun as a direct object of the verb's action, you have to put that noun in the accusative case
You have to conjugate the accusative case. For masculine and neuter nouns which are inanimate objects, like молоко (milk) and чай (tea), there is no change. For masculine nouns which are animate, like брат (brother), add the ending -а → брата. For feminine nouns, both inanimate and animate, add the ending -у: мама (mom) → маму.
For more information please see our section on the accusative case in Russian.
Here's how you use personal pronouns in the accusative case as direct objects with the sentences involving любить and хотеть.
Phrases were you say “I like” (мне нравится ) and “I need” (мне нужно) in Russian function with an impersonal construction that is different to how these phrases are constructed in English or phrases involving любить and хотеть work.
For these impersonal sentence structures, you can still add infinitives as per normal. However, instead of the subject of the verb affecting a direct object in line with the meaning in English, impersonal sentences in Russian have what we would consider the direct object of the sentence using a verb to affect the indirect object in the dative case.
Using an infinitive with impersonal constructions is simple. Just add the infinitive after the impersonal verb.
As brought up above, what we in English consider the object of the sentence in Russian is really the subject of the sentence.
In these sentences, notice how нравится is affected by the number (singular vs. plural), but not gender of the object / subject: нравится (sing), нравятся (plur). However нужно is affected by both the number and gender of the object / subject: нужен (masc), нужна (fem), нужно (neut), нужны (plur).
Here's how you decline мне нравится and мне нужно when you're talking about people.
Мне нравится is actually just one - though the most common - conjugated form of the verb, нравиться. Here's how it declines:
For мне нужно, you match the gender of the subject with the related нужно form.
Here are a number of common personal and impersonal constructions to express other emotions in Russian.
Expressing emotions with "я" decline according to your gender
Expressing emotions with "мне" do not decline