Updated: Oct 12, 2021
Learning Russian cases is considered a daunting task for many Russian language learners. The system of Russian declension is rather complex: nouns, all types of pronouns, adjectives as well as numerals should be declined depending on their grammatical number (singular or plural), gender and grammatical case. Overall, there are 6 cases in Russian language: Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, Instrumental and Prepositional. Bad news: you need to know them all if you want to speak Russian fluently and correctly. Good news: there are some great and efficient approaches to help you learn these cases without pain. The key to learning Russian cases is rather simple. You need to always learn them in context: from short stories, songs, dialogues, etc.
One of the most challenging and confusing Russian cases is the Genitive case. The key role of the Russian Genitive case is to show possession and ownership. In English we indicate this with an apostrophe (‘s), or the preposition 'of'. However, in Russian language this notion of possession goes beyond its definition and can be used in some situations when it's not obvious to see this connection. The functions of the Genitive case can be really tricky. To remember them better, you can associate the Genitive case with a house. Just look at the situations when we need to apply it:
Overall, you can see that all these situations have a lot in common and they are interconnected. We also need to use the Genitive case with certain prepositions and verbs that you should learn. There are a lot of situations that require the usage of the Genitive case in Russian. And, therefore, you need to master it as soon as you can to be able to start speaking confidently.
The first thing that you need to learn is how to change the endings to form the Genitive case from the Nominative case. Unfortunately, the majority of rules that you find on the Internet are really complicated as they don't show the overal picture and logic behind these endings. In addition, they illustrate only the endings without clear examples. Don't try to simply memorize the endings, you need to learn them with examples. Find below the table for singular nouns in the Genitive case. I have created these tables to help you learn these endings more easily. The Nominative case endings are highlighted in green while the Genitive case endings are highlighted in red. Note that the gender of a noun is a key factor in choosing the correct ending.
Endings for singular nouns in the Genitive case
Let's sum up the Genitive case endings for singular nouns and create a clear system out of it to make it more simple.
Before doing this, let's learn some important definitions:
A stem of a word – the whole word without ending
Soft consonants – consonants followed by the letters и, е, ё, ю, я and a soft sign. The letters ч, щ, й are always soft.
Hard consonants – all other consonants except for the soft.
You need to know what consonant stands in the end of the word stem to put the correct ending. Just look how simple it is!
To make it easier for you to remember these endings, memorize them in example sentences. You can create your own or use mine:
У президе́нта нет люби́мого геро́я (The President doesn't have a favorite character / hero).
У свекро́ви э́той же́нщины две ко́шки (The mother-in-law of this woman has two cats).
So, we know how to change endings for singular nouns in the Genitive case. But what about plural nouns in the Genitive case. Have a look at the table below.
Endings for plural nouns in the Genitive case
Let's now sum up the Genitive case endings for plural nouns and create a clear system out of it to make it more simple.
But as you could notice, it will be a more complicated system. We can divide these changes into two groups: when we remove a vowel at the end of the word and when we add something at the end of the word. Let's look at the rules!
Verdict: Remove it!
We remove the last letter of the word when it ends with a vowel sound. For example, подруга (a female friend) - подруг (female friends in the Genitive case).
It's very important to know the difference between a sound and a letter here. In Russian, there are 4 vowels that consist of two sounds: Е [й+э], Ё [й+о], Ю [й+у], Я [й+а]. Example word - яблоко [йАблака] - an apple
However, when it stands after a consonant it loses it’s [й] part and softens this consonant. And the softness in Russian is shown with the soft sign (ь) or with an apostrophe in transcription. Therefore, in words like няня [ньАньа or н'Ан'а] - a nanny, we need to remove the last vowel sound А, so we have a soft sign in the end - нянь [ньАнь or н'Ан'].
But what about the endings -ИЕ and -ИЯ? As you could see these endings change into -ИЙ in the Genitive case. So, you are probably thinking now that these are just the exceptions. But no, we also remove the last vowel sound in these endings. Let me prove it to you!
So, we have a word фобия (a phobia) which is transcribed as [фОбийа]. The last vowel sound is А, so we just remove it [фОбий]. You see, this is really that simple!
Just add it!
Let's now look at situations when we need to add an ending to plural words in the Genitive case.
We add -ЕЙ when a noun ends with ж, ч, ш, щ, ь. For example: врач – враче́й, прави́тель - прави́телей, свекро́вь - свекро́вей.
If it is a noun of a masculine gender, you need to use the rule of hard and soft stems. When a stem of the word ends with a hard consonant, we add the ending -ОВ: президе́нт - президе́нтов.
When a stem ends with a soft consonant or –Й (which is soft by default), we add –ЕВ: геро́й - геро́ев.
And there is also an ending -ЁВ which is quite rare in words but you need to know it anyway. We use -ЁВ when the stress relocates to the ending of the word: край (an edge)– краёв, бой (a fight) – боёв.
Let's summarize what we have just learned in a clear table:
Let's look at this example sentence that summarizes all the previous rules.
Среди́ мужчи́н мно́го изве́стных президе́нтов, враче́й и геро́ев без фо́бий (Among men there are a lot of famous Presidents, doctors and heroes without phobias).
*Words in bald are the triggers (words / prepositions that trigger us to use the Genitive case)
Again, you can create your own example sentences. They can be funny and simply hilarious. The most important is to make them memorable.
So, as you can see Russian Genitive case endings are not that hard to learn. There is a clear system that you need to hack and understand how it works. However, learning noun case endings is not enough. You also need to learn the case endings for adjectives and pronouns as they also decline together with a noun.
Endings for singular adjectives in the Genitive case
Let's sum up the Genitive case endings for singular adjectives andcreate a clear system out of it to make it more simple.
Rules for masculine and neutral adjectives:
If a stem ends with a hard consonant, change the ending to -ОГО:
Ex.: отли́чный -> отли́чного (excellent)
When a stem of a word ends with -ИЙ and a stem ends up with one of the special letters (г, к, х) - change the ending to -ОГО:
Ex.: ма́ленький -> ма́ленького (small, little)
However, if a word ends with a soft consonant, we should change the ending to -ЕГО:
Ex.: ра́нний -> ра́ннего (early)
Rules for feminine adjectives:
If a word ends with -ЯЯ, change this ending to -ЕЙ:
дома́шняя -> дома́шней (homemade)
If an adjective ends with -АЯ that goes after ж, ш, ч, щ change
this ending to -ЕЙ:
хоро́шая -> хоро́шей (good)
If a feminine adjective ends with -АЯ, change this ending to -ОЙ:
изве́стная -> изве́стной (famous)
Find below two example sentences to remember these rules.
Endings for plural adjectives in the Genitive case
It's very easy to form plural adjectives in the Genitive case since plural adjectives in the Nominative case can only have
2 possible endings: - ЫЕ and - ИЕ (all genders)
Adjectives ending with - ЫЕ
will have an ending - ЫХ in the Genitive case