Lesson 6: Introduction to the Russian case system

Welcome to the sixth lesson in our beginner’s course. By now, you should be able to read in Russian, have picked up some basic vocab, and have a solid grasp of core grammar concepts related to the structure of Russian nouns, pronouns, and verbs.

In this lesson, we’re going to get acquainted with the Russian case system. There will be more lessons on the complexities of the Russian cases in the future. But by the end of this lesson you should know what are the main uses of each of the cases and what their endings are.

There are six cases in Russian: nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, instrumental, and prepositional. That means that across the singular and plural versions of a noun there are twelve separate forms to decline.

Now, that may sound extremely complicated compared to English. However, this case system actually gives Russian a beauty and nuance that allows you to describe the world with great specificty while playing around with a sentence’s word order.

For more information:

Go here for our main Russian cases page .

Go here for full declension tables of Russian nouns.

Go here for full declension tables of Russian personal and possessive pronouns.

Nominative

The subject of the sentence – i.e. the one who performs an action.

  • Кто это? Это Даша. = Who is this? This is Dasha.
  • Лондон – столица Англии. = London is the capital of England.

Accusative

The direct object of the sentence – i.e. the object of the subject’s action.

  • Я люблю свою маму. = I love my mother.
  • Я вижу их дом. = I see their house.

The accusative for animate masculine objects declines like the genitive:

  • Я люблю моега брата. = I love my brother.

The accusative is also used with the prepositions “в” and “на” to denote direction:

  • Я еду в Париж в эти выходные. = I am going to Paris this weekend.
  • Я иду на пляж. = I am walking to the beach.

Genitive

The genitive case indicates ownership or possession – i.e. something of something else, or something’s such and such.

  • Это кошка Саши. = This is Sasha’s cat.

The genitive is also used with the preposition “у” to mean “I have:”

  • У меня есть ручка. = I have pen.

The genitive is also used in negative phrases:

  • У меня нет книги. = I don’t have the book.

Dative

The indirect object of the sentence – i.e. to whom an action is directed.

  • Я помогаю Николаю. = I am helping Nikolai.
  • Они дают цветы Марии. = They give flowers to Maria.

The dative is also used with “нравиться” to say “to like:”

  • Мне нравятся плавать в бассейне. = I like to swim in the pool.

The dative is also used to express feelings:

  • Мне холодно / жарко / скучно. = I’m cold / hot / bored.

The dative is also used to say your age:

  • Мне двадцать лет. =  I’m 20 years old.
  • Ему двадцать семь лет. = He is 27 years old.

Instrumental

Indicates the instrument or means by or with which an action is performed.

  • Пишу письма ручкой. = I write letters with a pen.
  • Она режет курицу ножом. = She cuts the chicken with a knife.

The instrumental is commonly used with the preposition “с” to mean “with:”

  • Геннадий с Надеждой идут в кафе. = Gennadiy and Nadezhda are going to the cafe.
  • Я буду борщ со сметаной. = I would like the borsch with sour cream.

Prepositional

The prepositional case is used with a number of different prepositions. Most commonly, the prepositional is used with “в” and “на” to indicate location in, on, or at of an action as well as with “о” to mean “about:”

  • Она живёт в Берлине. = I live in Berlin.
  • На столе чистый лист. = On the table is a blank sheet of paper.
  • Им очень интересно говорить о погоде. = They are very interested in talking about the weather.

Declension of Russian nouns

So, heads up, there are a lot of Russian noun declensions to learn. However, don’t worry at all about memorizing them all immediately. For now, have a look at our page that has the full declension tables of Russian nouns. Give it a good skim and familiarize yourself with the three different Russian noun declension groups.

Declension of personal pronouns

Here’s how the personal pronouns decline. For reference, you can also check out our main pronouns resource page.

Singular personal pronouns

 IYouHeSheIt
Nomятыононаоно
Accменятебяегоеёего
Genменятебяегоеёего
Datмнетебеемуейему
Instмнойтобойимейим
Prepмнетебенёмнейнём

Plural personal pronouns

 WeYouThey
Nomмывыони
Accнасвасих
Genнасвасих
Datнамвамим
Instнамивамиими
Prepнасвасних

Declension of possessive pronouns

Here’s how the possessive pronouns decline. For reference, you can check them all out in our main pronouns resource page. 

Possessive pronouns actually are quite simple to decline.

  • его, её, and их do not decline
  • мой, твой, and свой decline the same
  • наш and ваш decline the same

Мой

 MascFemNeutPlural
Nomмоймоямоёмои
Accмой/моегомоюмоёмои/моих
Genмоегомоеймоегомоих
Datмоемумоеймоемумоим
Instмоиммоеймоиммоими
Prepмоёммоеймоёммоих

Наш

 MascFemNeutPlural
Nomнашнашанашенаши
Accнаш/нашегонашунашенаши/наших
Genнашегонашейнашегонаших
Datнашемунашейнашемунашим
Instнашимнашейнашимнашими
Prepнашемнашейнашемнаших

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