Немно́го о языке́ 3.3 Что чита́ют россия́не?

Case and Word Order in Russian and English.

A young woman
A young man
Э́то Ма́ша. Э́то То́ля.

As you look at the next series of pictures, read the captions. Indicate by clicking on the correct answer who is doing the liking (i.e., who is the “doer”), and who is receiving the affection (i.e., who is the recipient or object of affection).

Tolya watches Masha lovingly
Masha watches Tolya lovingly
То́ля лю́бит Ма́шу. Ма́ша лю́бит То́лю.
а) The person doing the liking is:
Tolya Masha
а) The person doing the liking is:
Tolya | Masha
б) The person receiving affection is:
Tolya | Masha
б) The person receiving affection is:
Tolya | Masha

Notice that the form of the name changes, depending on whether the person is the "doer" ("subject" in grammar terms) or the recipient of the action ("direct object" in grammar terms).

The "doer" (grammatical subject) in Russian is in what is called the nominative case. The nominative case is the same as the "dictionary form" that you have been working with. The "recipient" (direct object) in Russian is in the accusative case.

Who do you think is the “doer” in this sentence? Mouse over the correct answer

Ма́шу лю́бит То́ля.

In the next two slides select all the sentences that could be accurate captions for the pictures.

Masha watches Tolya lovingly Tolya watches Masha lovingly
а) Ма́ша лю́бит То́лю.
б) Ма́шу лю́бит То́ля.
в) Тол́ю лю́бит Ма́ша.
г) То́ля лю́бит Ма́шу.
а) Ма́ша лю́бит То́лю.
б) Ма́шу лю́бит То́ля.
в) Тол́ю лю́бит Ма́ша.
г) То́ля лю́бит Ма́шу.

Cases and Word Order: Summary

In English word order is relatively fixed, so the position of the word in the sentence tells us who is the doer of the action and who is its recipient. When we change the word order in English, we are changing the meaning of the sentence, swapping the roles of doer (subject) and recipient of the action (direct object).

Tolya loves Masha.                  Masha loves Tolya.

Russian word-order is flexible, so the roles of doers (subjects) and recipients of actions (direct objects) are distinguished by case endings only. Specific endings are associated with each case, and each case has a specific function or set of functions.

The doers of actions in Russian are generally in the nominative case.

The case that marks the recipients of the action (direct objects) is the Accusative case in Russian.

To understand and distinguish nominative and accusative in a sentence, think about who is doing the action and who is "receiving" it. For nouns describing people it may help you to use the English pronouns as substitutes, since they have different forms for subjects (I, he, she, we, they) and direct objects (me, him, her, us, them).

Ма́ша лю́бит То́лю. = То́лю лю́бит Ма́ша. = Masha loves Tolya (him).

Tolya is not the subject; in both versions he is the receiver of the action.

In the Russian sentence То́лю is in its direct object form (the accusative). Just as in the English sentence "Masha likes him," the word "him" cannot be the subject, so the form То́лю can also not be the subject.

Упражне́ние 1. Paying Attention to Case (Rather than Word Order)

Read the sentences below, and try to determine which word in each sentence is the subject (nominative case) and which is the direct object (accusative case). Mouse over the words to check your answers.

  1. Ми́шу зна́ет О́ля.
  2. О́ля зна́ет Ми́шу.
  3. Ми́ша зна́ет О́лю.
  4. О́лю зна́ет Ми́ша.

Comparing Nominative and Accusative Case Endings

The nominative case endings of nouns are the "dictionary forms" for nouns.  Almost all of the nouns that you have encountered in Units 1 and 2 have been in the nominative. As you already know, the nominative forms of:

The accusative case endings for

The nominative and the accusative of inanimate Russian nouns are presented in the table below. The places where the endings change between cases have been highlighted in grey.

Nominative case (subjects) Accusative case (direct objects)
Masculine ø = ø
  ь = ь
  Э́то журна́л. Я чита́ю журна́л.
  Вот но́вый слова́рь. Ты зна́ешь э́тот но́вый слова́рь?
Feminine а → у
  я → ю
  Вот хоро́шая кни́га. Я чита́ю кни́гу.
  Э́то ру́сская пе́сня. Я слу́шаю пе́сню.
Feminine ь = ь
  Э́то их дочь. Я зна́ю их дочь
Neuter о = о
  е = е
  Э́то ра́дио. Я слу́шаю ра́дио.
  Где сочине́ние? Я пишу́ сочине́ние.
Plural ы / и = ы / и
  Вот интере́сные кни́ги. Я чита́ю кни́ги.
Plural Neuter а / я = а / я
  Здесь но́вые слова́. Я зна́ю слова́.
  Вот сочине́ния. Я пишу́ сочине́ния.

Note: Nouns that refer to men, but end like feminine nouns (e.g., па́па, дя́дя, Ди́ма, Ва́ня) will have accusative forms in –у (and –ю). 
For example,
Ты зна́ешь его́ па́пу? = Do you know his dad?
Ты зна́ешь Ва́ню?  = Do you know Vanya?

Упражне́ние 2. Nominative vs. Accusative Endings

In all of the sentences that you will hear the last word is missing.  Pick the form of the word that grammatically completes the sentence.  Remember since Russian word order is flexible, the last word in the sentence may not be the direct object.

1. газе́та газе́ту
2. Ама́нда Ама́нду
3. Москва́ Москву́
4. ко́мната ко́мнату
5. пе́сня пе́сню
6. Са́ша Са́шу
7. Са́ша Са́шу

Verbs and their Complements

As you learn Russian verbs, you will need to learn not only their stems and what endings to put on them, but also what kind of phrases are used to complete their meaning. For example, the English phrase "I read" makes sense, but it doesn’t express a complete meaning yet.

I read the messages.

The word “messages” is the direct object of the verb and completes the meaning of the phrase. It is one possible complement (or completer) of the verb “read”. But the sentence could be made longer, with additional complements to the verb “read”.

I read the messages aloud to my friends.

Here the word “aloud” is a second complement of the verb, telling how the action is done;  “to my friends” is a third complement to the verb “read” telling to whom the action is done.

As you learn a new verb, you will need to learn how to express its possible complements. Sometimes a verb’s complements will be similar in English and Russian, with the verbs in both languages taking a direct object. For other verbs the English phrase cannot be translated literally into Russian. For example, the English the verb “listen” requires a preposition (listen to the radio), but the Russian verb слу́шай- takes a direct object in the accusative case with no preposition. Sometimes verbs that in English take a direct object (I play soccer) will need a prepositional phrase in Russian.

As you learn a new verb, learn the cases required to express its complements. The table below summarizes the kinds of complements for the verbs introduced thus far.

по-англи́йски по-ру́сски
Direct object in both languages I am reading a book. Я чита́ю кни́гу.
Other similar verbs:
do, make
tidy, clean
Other similar verbs:
English preposition; Russian direct object in ACC. I am listening to a song. Я слу́шаю пе́сню.
English direct object; Russian preposition I play soccer. Я игра́ю в фу́тбол.

Adjective endings in the accusative

In Unit 2 you learned that the adjective endings (basic endings: -ый /-ий, -ая, -ое /-ее, -ые/-ие) agree with nouns by gender (masculine, feminine, neuter) and by number (singular, plural). Adjectives will also agree with nouns in terms of case. That is, if a noun is the direct object in the accusative case, the adjectives that go with that noun will also need to be in the accusative case.

Fortunately, there is only one new adjective ending that you have to learn for the accusative case.  Adjectives agreeing with feminine singular nouns in the accusative will change their nominative adjective ending -ая to the accusative ending –ую.

In the accusative adjectives modifying neuter nouns and masculine and plural nouns that do not refer to people will keep the same endings as in the nominative case.

Nominative case(subjects) Accusative case (direct objects)
Masculine -ый/-ий/-ой -ый/-ий/-ой
Э́то но́вый журна́л. Я чита́ю но́вый журна́л.
Где большо́й англи́йский слова́рь? Он купи́л большо́й англи́йский слова́рь.
Feminine -ая -ую
Вот интере́сная кни́га. Я чита́ю интере́сную кни́гу.
Э́то ру́сская пе́сня. Я слу́шаю ру́сскую пе́сню.
Кака́я э́то газе́та? Каку́ю газе́ту вы чита́ете?
Вон тетра́дь. Я чита́ю ста́рую тетра́дь.
Neuter -ое/-ее -ое/-ее
Э́то интере́сное ра́дио. Я слу́шаю интере́сное ра́дио.
Э́то хоро́шее сочине́ние. Я пишу́ хоро́шее сочине́ние.
Plural -ые/-ие -ые/-ие
Вот интере́сные кни́ги. Я чита́ю интере́сные кни́ги.
Э́то больши́е зада́ния. Я де́лаю больши́е зада́ния.
Где ру́сские журна́лы? Я чита́ю ру́сские журна́лы.

Упражне́ние 3. Distinguishing Adjective Endings

You will hear a number of sentences each of which contains one adjective.  Mark the ending of the adjective that you hear in the sentence.  Thinking about the other words in the sentence and its overall meaning will also help you pick the right ending.

1. ий ая ую
2. ий ую ое
3. ая ую ые
4. ая ую ые
5. ий ую ое
6. ой ую ие
7. ая ую ие