Russian/Grammar/Accusative case

The Accusative case is the second most common grammatical case in Russian. It is mainly used to identify a word as being the object of a verb, such as the word 'him' in the sentence "She likes him". In English, this is denoted by the objective case. Other uses of the accusative case are after some common prepositions, such as в + acc, 'into', or на + acc, 'onto'.

UsageEdit

As mentioned above, the primary use of the accusative case is to denote the object of a verb. The indirect object ('I write a letter to you ') is denoted by the dative case. English has a case called the objective case, so called because it denotes the object of verbs. However, words in the English objective case are largely the same as when they're the subject of a verb (i.e., in the subjective case). Thus, English uses word order to denote what's the subject and object of a verb: though 'cats' and 'dogs' remain the same in "cats hate dogs" and "dogs hate cats", word order denotes which is the subject and which is the object.

In Russian, there is a very definite case system which denotes what's what in a sentence. Since Russians don't have to rely as much on word order to convey grammatical information, they can move words around more freely than in English. Word order instead denotes emphasis; whatever is on the end of a sentence is what's being emphasised. That said, Russians typically use a 'Subject Object Verb' construct by default, placing emphasis on the verb. So you would often see the sentence "I speak to her" as Я ей говорю, even though other permutations like Ей говорю я or Я говорю ей are grammatically correct.

In practice, though you can use the 'Subject Verb Object' system of English and still be understood, it pays to be aware that Russians don't always construct sentences that way. Thus, a good understanding of the Russian case system is essential.

I like dogs - Я люблю собак - English 'SVO' word order; usual Russian word order
I like dogs - Собак люблю я - Emphasis on 'I'
I like dogs - Я собак люблю - Emphasis on 'like'
I like dogs - Я люблю собак - Emphasis on 'dogs'; same as English word order

The other use of the accusative case is with two major prepositions: в and на. When followed by the accusative case, в means 'to' or 'into', as in 'I walked into the house' (Я шёл в дом), and на means 'onto' or 'toward', as in 'I walked onto the street' (Я шёл на улицу). However, both prepositions can also use the prepositional case: в + prep means 'in' or 'at', as in 'I lived in London' (Я жил в Лондоне), and на + prep means 'upon' or 'at', as in 'It's on the table' (Оно на столе). The accusative and prepositional uses are similar, though generally the accusative case denotes direction ('I walked towards the hotel'), while the prepositional case denotes location ('I stayed at this hotel').

I walked towards the hotel - Я шла в гостиницу - note the use of the accusative ending
I lived at the hotel - Я жила в гостинице - note the use of the prepositional ending
He walked onto the roof - Он шёл на крышу
He is on the roof - Он на крыше

NounsEdit

The accusative case is a peculiar case in Russian, as it makes a distinction that other cases do not. Specifically, if a masculine word denotes an inanimate thing ('table', 'chair', etc), then it remains the same as the nominative. If, however, a masculine word denotes a person or animal ('man', 'son', 'cow', etc), then the case uses the endings of the genitive case. For plurals in the accusative, no matter what gender the word, they are also split: any plural word that's inanimate is identical to its nominative plural form, while animate plural words follow the rules for the genitive plural. Some examples highlighting this distinction are as follows:

This chair is brown - Этот стул коричневый - Nominative of an inanimate noun
I made a chair - Я де́лал стул - Accusative of the noun
This cat likes me - Этот кот любит меня - Nom. of an animate noun
I like this cat - Я люблю этого кота - Acc. of the noun
These women like me - Эти женщины любят меня - Nom. of an animate, plural, feminine noun
I like these women - Я люблю этих женщин - Acc. of the noun

So, masculine nouns denoting inanimate objects in the accusative case are the same as in the nominative case. If they're animated nouns, they follow the genitive rules, which are: add , and replace and with .

Neuter nouns, regardless of animation, also keep their nominative forms in the accusative case.

Feminine words are the only words to have their own accusative ending: becomes , and becomes . Feminine nouns ending in the soft sign do not change.

To form the plural of an inanimate word, use the nominative rules: add or replace with or , and neuter nouns change -o to and -e to . If the word is animate, regardless of gender, use the genitive plural: drop and , convert or append ending consonants with -ов, -ев, or -ей, and replace with or .

This summary table splits the masculine and plural forms into to sections, the left being the inanimate form, the right being the animate form.

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Accusative As nom. +a,
As gen.
у, ю, ь о, е
As nom.
ы, и, etc
As nom.
ов, ев, etc
As gen.

Examples:

  • Dogs don't like cats - Собаки ненавидят котов
  • Cats don't like dogs - Коты ненавидят собак
  • I drove to the museum - Я поехал в музей

AdjectivesEdit

Adjectives change to fit the noun they modify, taking on their noun's gender, number, and case. This also includes animation: adjectives modifying inanimate masculine nouns keep their nominative form (ый, ий, and ой), while animate masculine adjectives take on their genitive form (ого and его).

Neuter adjectives also keep their nominative form (ое).

Feminine adjectives in the accusative case have the ending -ую - this is easy to remember, as it's the two endings of feminine nouns in the accusative.

Plural adjectives take on their nominative form (ые and ие) when modifying inanimate nouns, and their genitive form (ых and их) when modifying animate nouns, as you might have guessed.

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Accusative ый, ий, ой
As nom.
ого, его
As gen.
ую ое
As nom.
ые, ие
As nom.
ых, их
As gen.

Examples:

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Personal PronounsEdit

Personal pronouns conjugate as follows:

Nominative Accusative
I/me Я Меня
We/our Мы Нас
You Ты Тебя
You Вы Вас
He/him Он Его
She/her Она Её
It Оно Его
They/them Они Их

Notice that the third-person singular masculine and neuter pronouns are the same word, его, and, like the genitive adjectival endings -ого and -его, are pronounced ye-VOH. The third-person personal pronouns, его, её, and их, are the same as those in the genitive. Finally, if it's a preposition (i.e., в + acc or на + acc) that calls the accusative, then the three third-person pronouns have the suffix н-: Я еду к нему, 'I'm walking towards him'.

Examples:

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Possessive pronounsEdit

Possessive pronouns act like adjectives, changing to suit the noun they modify, and thus, in the accusative case, make a distinction between animation. Like before, masculine and plural pronouns are split into inanimate forms on the left, and animate forms on the right.

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
My Мой Моего мою Моё Мои Моих
Your (informal/single) Твой Твоего твою Твоё Твои Твоих
Our Наш Нашего нашу Наше Наши Наших
Your (formal/plural) Ваш Вашего вашу Ваше Ваши Ваших

For the third-person, the masculine and neuter possessive pronouns are the same as the personal pronouns: его. The feminine is её, and the third-person plural is их. These do not decline according to the gender or number of the modified noun.

Examples:

I want his cat - Я хочу его кота
I want his cats - Я хочу его котов

PrepositionsEdit

As well as the two major prepositions, в and на, there are a total of ten prepositions that can call the accusative case: в, на, за, под, по, с, про, о, сквозь, and через. Мany of these can also call other cases to denote other things.

Direction of motion, в, на, за, & подEdit

Four prepositions refer to the direction of movement, and generally answer the directional question, Куда?, "Where (are you going)?". They can also call either the instrumental or prepositional case to answer the location question, Где?, "Where (are you)?". In depth, these four are:

  • В, 'into' - as discussed earlier, this preposition states that something is moving into something else, such as 'I walk into the building'. It can also call the prepositional case to say you are in somewhere, such as 'I'm in the theatre'.
  • На, 'onto' - as discussed earlier, this denotes onto which something is moving, such as 'I'm landing onto the roof'. Like в, if it calls the prepositional, it states what you are upon: 'I'm on the roof'.
  • За, 'behind' - this denotes that you are moving to the rear of something, as in 'I'm walking behind the building'. If it calls the instrumental case, it denotes that you are behind something, as in 'I'm behind the building'.
  • Под, 'under' - like за, this denotes that you are moving to the underside of something. By calling the instrumental case, it denotes that you are under something, as in 'I'm under the bridge'. Под also has three minor, unrelated uses for which it calls the accusative case: to denote something as being 'designated' for something else ('That bar is designated for celebrities'), to denote something fake ('artificial furniture', под обстановку), or to denote an approximate time ('around the evening', под вечер)

The remaining six: по, s, про, о, сквозь, черезEdit

The remaining six prepositions operate as follows:

  • Про, 'about' - this preposition means 'about', in the same way as о + prep does. So, 'Let's talk about me!' can be translated as either, Давайте говорить обо мне! (о + prep), or, Давайте говорить про меня! (про + acc).
  • С, 'about' - this preposition denotes an approximate number, as in 'I stayed there about a week'. When stating specific numbers, such as "I have five apples", Russians normally say, У меня есть пять яблок. To approximate the quantity, simply reverse the number and object: "I have about five apples" is У меня есть яблок пять. However, as Russian omit the word 'one', to say 'about one', you use с + acc: "I have about one apple" is У меня есть с яблоко.
  • По, 'up to' - this means 'up to' in the context of the extent of an object's involvement, relative to some other object. For example, 'I'm up to my neck in work' is Я по шею в работе. It is also used in the same way as по + dat to denote several verbal objects: "Dad gave the kids two apples each" - Папа дал детям по два яблока.
  • О, 'against' - this means 'against' in a physical sense, such as 'They hit their ball against the tree'. О + prep means 'about', in the same way as про + acc.
  • Сквозь, 'through' - this denotes the object through which another passes, as in 'The ball went through the window!'.
  • Через, 'through'/'across' - the final preposition has two main meanings. The first is synonymous with сквозь + acc, meaning 'through', and the second is to move 'across' something, as in 'I walked through the woods' - Я шёл через лес. The verbal prefix пере- is synonymous with this preposition, so через can be omitted when a verb with this prefix is used. For example, both of the following are grammatically correct: 'I crossed the street' - Я перешёл через улицу, Я перешёл улицу.

Most information on Russian accusative prepositions was derived from here.




Last modified on 19 May 2013, at 10:44