Here's an overview of the Russian cases.
For more info:
Unlike in English, Russian grammar uses a case system. In Russian, there are six cases:
As you can see, using Russian cases involves the formation of different word endings in both nouns, adjectives. While this may seem complicated – and it is – the case system also opens up a certain beauty to the Russian language. Because of their word endings, the cases of Russian words are much more easily identifiable than in English. As a result, word order is typically not crucial to the meaning of a sentence in Russian.
Not being constrained so much by word order makes Russian an incredibly poetic language. The limitless opportunities for beautiful sentence structure have definitely contributed to Russian literature becoming so well regarded and powerful to consume.
The nominative case (именительный падеж) is the subject of the sentence. When you see Russian nouns and adjectives listed in dictionaries or on this site, they will be in the nominative case.
With the nominative case alone you can form many simple sentences. For example:
The accusative case (винительный падеж) is used for the direct object of the sentence – the thing or person to which or whom a verb’s action is being performed.
There are two important things to remember about the accusative case: animate objects in the masculine gender decline like the genitive case; and when using with prepositions of direction, the accusative implies motion.
For nouns and adjectives in the feminine and neuter genders, the accusative declines the same for animate and inanimate objects. However, for nouns and adjectives in the masculine gender, inanimate objects decline like the accusative case, and animate objects decline like the genitive case. For example:
The prepositions “в” and “на” combined with the accusative case denote direction. For example:
This contrasts with the meaning of “в” and “на” combined with the dative case, which instead denotes location in, rather than direction to.
The genitive case (родительный падеж) primarily indicates ownership or attribution – i.e. the word “of.” That means the genitive is also used to denote the apostrophe “s” we use in English. For example:
The genitive case is also used in the common impersonal construction of the expression “to have” – “у” + genitive. When you say “I have something” in Russian, you are literally saying “there is to me something.” For example:
Negative expressions in Russian use the negative case – literally meaning “not / none of something.” For example:
The genitive is used in numbers and quantities greater than one.
Numbers ending in one take the nominative or accusative. For example:
Дай мне двадцать один доллар. = Give me 21 dollars.
Один мальчик читает. = One boy is reading.
Numbers ending in two, three, four end in the genitive singular. For example:
Две рубля. = Two books.
Три собаки. = Three roubles.
Четыре газеты. = Four newspapers.
Numbers ending in five, six, seven, eight, nine, zero, and the teens end in the genitive plural. For example:
Мне восемнадцать лет. = I am 18 years old.
Десять долларов. = Ten dollars.
Сто рублей. = One hundred roubles.
Quantity words: words denoting quantity take the genitive plural as well. For example:
The dative case (дательный падеж) is used in Russian to denote the indirect object of a sentence to whom an action or object is given. Generally, this meaning corresponds to the English words “to” or “for.” For example:
Some verbs are followed by the dative case. For example:
Typically, the phrase “to like” in Russian is formed by the impersonal construction “нравится” + dative (literally, it is pleasing to someone).
In English, we say “I feel something.” In Russian, you say “there is some feeling to me” – “мне что-то.” For example:
In Russian, you don’t say “I have,” but instead “there are to me” however many years old. For example:
In Russian, the instrumental case (творительный падеж) denotes that the noun is an instrument “with” or “by” which the subject achieves an action. For example:
The object of some Russian verbs takes the instrumental case. Here are some common examples:
The preposition “с” (or “со” when followed by two consonants) means “with.” This common preposition has a number of common and colloquial uses in Russian. For example:
The instrumental forms of times of day and the seasons gives the general meaning of “in that period.” For example:
The prepositional case (предложный падеж) is used in combination with certain prepositions, i.e. “in,” “on,” “at,” and “about”
The prepositional case in Russian designates the place or where the object is, using the prepositions “в” and “на.” For example:
This is different from the meaning of the accusative case with these prepositions, which denotes movement towards something.
When you want to express something “about” someone or something, use the preposition “о” + prepositional case. For example:
Typically this will accompany these verbs:
The prepositional case is used to tell in what month something happened. For example: