Genitive Case in Russian

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.

Uses of the genitive case

Genitive with possesion and relationship

  • Possession
    • Брат Ивана любит читать газету. = Ivan’s brother loves to read the newspaper.
  • Relationships
    • Этот бывший член коммунистической партии и атеист уверовал после прочтения Библии. = A former Communist Party member and atheist, Zhao converted after reading the Bible.
  • The whole in relation to the part
    • Это берег реки. = This is the bank of the river.
  • The agent of an action or process
    • Это было первое выступление артиста в этой стране. = It is the artist's first presentation in that country.
  • Descriptive attributes
    • Час обеда настал и стол был накрыт. = It was lunchtime and every table was packed.
  • The second item in a comparison
    • Она моложе брата. = She is younger than her brother
  • The object of regret (with жаль)
    • Мне жаль денег на покупку сайта. = I wish I had the money to buy the site.

Genitive with numbers

The genitive is used in numbers greater than one.

Numbers ending in one take the nominative or accusative.

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Сколько тебе лет? = How old are you?
  • В Москве есть много достопримечательностей. = In Moscow there are many tourist sites.

Genitive with quantities

The genitive is used with many words denoting quantity in Russian. For example:
  • Маркс проигрывал много денег на бирже. = Marx lost a lot of money in the stock market.
  • Сколько лет Ричарду? = How old is Richard?
  • Это не просто несколько людей, имеющих определенные проблемы. = It's not just a few people that have some issues.
  • Этого времени хватает для значимых изменений. = This time is enough for significant changes.
  • Я зарабатываю достаточно для нас обоих. = Yes, I do. I earn enough for both of us.

Quantity words that use the genitive in Russian

мало = few много = many, much немало = not a little немного = not many, not much несколько = a few сколько = how many, so much столько = so many, so much достаточно = enough недоставать = to be insufficient скопить = to accumulate хватать / хватить = to be enough

Partitive genetive to say some of something

Generally, where you would use the word "some" in English, you should use the genitive case in Russian. For example:
  • Я выпил молока. = I drank some milk
  • Он налил гостям вина. = He poured his guests some wine.
  • Она хочет воды. = She wants some water.

Genitive meaning to have – “у”

The genitive case is also used in the common impersonal possessive 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:
  • У меня есть книга. = I have book.
  • У нее есть собака. = She has a dog.
  • У меня нет компьютера. = I do not have a computer.
  • У вас нет будет проблем. = You will not have any problems.
  • Genitive with negative constructions

    Negative expressions in Russian use the negative case – literally meaning “not / none of something.” This applies to all tenses: "нет" (there is not), "не было" (there was not), and "не будет" (there will not be).

    For example:

    • У меня нет книги. = I don’t have the book.
    • У нее нет собаки. = She doesn’t have a dog.
    • Его нет дома. = He isn’t home.
    • У меня не было денег. = I didn’t have money.
    • Летом в Техасе нет дождей. = In Summer there is no rain in Texas.
    • Я не вижу стола. = I do not see a (any) table. (Accusative would be fine here for the context of a specific table).
    • Он не прочитал ни одной книги. = He has not read a single book

    Genitive with adjectives

    As a general rule, you should use the genetive form of a noun in Russian if the adjective associated with it has a sense of being worthy (достойный), lacking in (лишённый), full (полный), or devoid (чуждый). For example:

    • Он нёс сумку, полную яблок. = He carried a bag full of apples.
    • Ведь каждый из номинируемых фильмов действительно достоин награды. = Each one of the nominated films deserves an award.
    • Мне больно это говорить, но ваш муж чуждый честолюбия. = It pains me to say this, but your husband has no ambition.

    Irregular phrases where the genitive end in "-у"

    It used to be much more common for masculine nouns which denoted substances to have two genitive endings: "-а/-я" and "-у/-ю." However, the use of this "-у" ending is decreasing, and it is almost always possible and correct to use the more typical "-а" ending for the genitie masculine.

    That being said, here are common phrases and idioms where the "-у" ending is still in full use for the genitive.

    до зарежу нужно = very necessary
    ни ражи = not once
    ни слуху ни духу = neither sight nor sound
    ни шагу назад = not a step back
    сбоку на бок = from side to side
    с глазу на глаз = tete-a-tet
    танвевать по упаду = to dance till you drop
    упускать из виду = to lose site of
    умереть с голоду = to die from hunger
    крикнуть с испугу = to scream with fright
    прыснуть со смеху = to burst out laughing

    Verbs that take the genitive

    Verbs that take the genitive case generally belong to four main categories:

    • Verbs of asking, waiting, seeking, or achieving
    • Verbs of fearing or avoiding
    • Verbs of depriving
    • Verbs denoting conformity or noncomformity
    • Касаться (to touch)

    Genitive verbs of asking, waiting, seeking, or achieving

    Some of these verbs only take the negative (bolded), some do not. As a general rule, if the verb denotes a general or abstract concept, use the genitive here.

    • добиваться успеха = to strive for success
    • достигать своей цели = to achieve one's aim
    • жаждать славы = to crave glory
    • желать счастья = to desire happiness
    • заслуживать пожвалы = to deserve praise
    • ждать ответа / приказа / режения = to await an answer / order / decision
    • искать возможности / помощи = to seek an opportunity / help
    • ожидать случая / автобуса = to wait for an opportunity / a bus
    • просить помощи / прощения = to ask for help / forgiveness
    • требовать внимания / прибавки / книг = To demand attention / an increment / some books
    • хотеть мира = to want peace

    To note, in well wishing phrases, they are in the negative case because the verb желать (to wish) is understood to be within them, even if silently.

    • Счастливого пути! = Have a great trip / bon voyage!
    • Счастливого Рождества! = Happy Christmas!
    • И вам того же! = And the same to you!

    Genitive verbs of fearing or avoiding

    These verbs typically take the genitive case in abstract contexts. Where the context is more specific, use the accusative.

    • бояться темноты / грозы = to be afraid of the dark / a thunderstorm
    • избегать неприятностей = to avoid trouble
    • пугаться грома = to be scared of thunder
    • стесняться общества = to shun society
    • сторониться недобрых людей = to shun wicked people
    • стыдиться своего вида = to be ashamed of your appearance
    • чуждаться дурной компании = to avoid bad company

    Genitive verbs of depriving

    Here, we're really just talking about the verb "to deprive" (лишать / лишаться).

    • лишать родительских прав = to deprive of parental rights
    • лишаться свободы = to be deprived of one's freedom

    Genitive verbs denoting conformity or noncomformity

    These verbs typically take the genitive case in abstract contexts. Where the context is more specific, use the accusative.

    • держаться мнения = to stick to one's opinion
    • ослушиваться приказа = to disobey an order
    • придерживаться точки зрения = to hold a point of view
    • слушаться совета = to heed advice

    Касаться (to touch)

    касаться стола / вопроса = to touch the table / on a question

    More info on the Russian cases

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