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A Comprehensive Guide to the Russian Genitive Case

There is no doubt about it: Russian loves its case system, and with the whole language choosing to make sense using a case system rather than word order, it’s not going anywhere any time soon. Today, we’re going to take a good look at one of the most important components of this system: the Russian genitive case.

Do you want to know how to form the Russian genitive and when to use it?

Well, buckle up, because we are going to go on an adventure together.

General Rules for the Russian Genitive

The Simple Parts of the Russian Genitive:

In its most simplified sense, the Russian genitive gives us the idea of something coming from something else.

This includes:

Possession

  • собака отца  father’s dog
  • отец собакиthe dog’s father

The word in bold is the person that owns the other object.

Authorship

  • стихи А.С. Пушкина – the poems of Pushkin

The poems were written by Pushkin, therefore they are of Pushkin.

General ‘of’

  • тяготы повседневной жизни – the tribulations of everyday life
  • министерство сельского хозяйства – the Department of Agriculture

Quantity

When talking about quantity, we use the following indefinite numerals followed by the genitive:

  • много/много детей a lot of / not many children
  • мало/немало хлеба – a little / quite a lot of bread
  • несколько лет – a few years
  • достаточно/недостаточно денег – enough / not enough money
  • сколько рублей?  how many rubles?

We also use the genitive with the verb хватать/хватить – to be enough:

  • хватит времени – there will be enough time

Prepositions Taking the Genitive

The genitive is also used after a series of prepositions:

у next to, by (also used in the construction у меня, у тебя…) у стола

У меня есть сестра.

next to the table

I have a sister.

для for Тут для неё подарок. Here is a present for her.
из of, from Она из Англии.

Мой пиджак сделан из кожи.

She is from England.

My jacket is made of leather.

от from Когда вы в последний раз получили письмо от него? When did you last receive a letter from him?
без without Пожалуйста, перепишите это письмо без единой ошибки. Please copy out this letter without any mistakes.
до until, up to, to У него была борода до пояса. His beard reached his waist.

Verbs Taking the Genitive

Still with us? Good. There are also some verbs which tend to take the genitive. Unfortunately, like all the best parts of the Russian language, you will have to memorise them. Here are a couple for you:

добиваться / добиться to achieve, to obtain Мы добились успеха благодаря его помощи. We succeeded (achieved success) thanks to his help.
желать / пожелать to desire, to wish Я желаю вам самого большого счастья! I wish you all the best!
заслуживать to deserve Он вполне заслуживает наказания. He fully deserves punishment.

Got that? Excellent. Let’s move on, shall we?

The Slightly More Tricky Parts of the Russian Genitive:

Numerals:

Ah yes, numerals! The Russian genitive case loves numerals. So much so that the genitive case decides to have a little party and go absolutely bonkers depending on what number we use.

A very watered down explanation is this:

  • 1 – takes the nominative singular.
  • 2, 3, 4 – takes the genitive singular (any number that ends in 2, 3, or 4 also takes the genitive singular).
  • Anything other than 1, 2, 3, or 4 takes the genitive plural.

So it goes like this:

  • 1 кот – 1 cat
  • 3 кота – 3 cats
  • 56 котов – 56 cats
  • 56982 кота – 56982 cats (because it ends with a 2)

Right, let’s move onto the next sneaky beast…

The Partitive Genitive:

If you guessed that this might have something to do with parts of something, then you would be correct.

The partitive genitive in Russian is used when we talk about having part of something. When we talk about eating bread, we (usually) don’t mean we eat the entire loaf of bread. Russian also has to make this distinction, and so puts the object into the genitive.

Он съел хлеба. – He ate some bread.

Он съел хлеб.– He ate all the bread.

Он выпил водки. – He drank some vodka.

Он выпил водку. – He drank all the vodka.

However, Russian doesn’t like us to keep us too comfortable, so some of these partitive genitives have different forms than their normal run-of-the-mill genitives. These genitive forms are used with verbs, receptacles and indefinite numerals.

Nominative Genitive singular (normal) Partitive genitive Translation
лук лука луку onion
сахар сахара сахару sugar
чай чая чаю tea
суп супа супу soup
табак табака табаку tobacco

This happens largely with masculine nouns ending in consonants. Have fun with that!

How to Form the Genitive in Russian?

Well, you’ve got this far, I guess we should probably learn how to actually form the Russian genitive, shouldn’t we?

We will start with masculine nouns:

Nominative Genitive singular Genitive plural Translation
стол стола столов a table
звонок звонка звонков a bell
отец отца отцов a father
иностранец иностранца иностранцев a foreigner
нож ножа ножей a knife
англичанин англичанина англичан an Englishman
котёнок котёнка котят a kitten
спектакль спектакля спектаклей a play

Let’s have a closer look at this.

Стол is a hard-ending noun, therefore for genitive singular you add on, and for genitive plural you add on ев.

Звонок is a noun which ends in –ок, therefore the little о disappears between the н and the к for the genitive. This happens as a general rule with -ок, -ек and -ёк nouns.

Отец is a noun which has an end stress. Notice how that little e between т and ц disappears as well! Because this is an end stress noun, we have отцов in the genitive plural.

However, иностранец is a stem-stress noun. The е still disappears, but because you can’t have an unstressed о after a ц in the Russian language, we have иностранцев.

Because нож ends in a ж, our genitive plural ends in a -ей. This happens for all nouns that end in -ж, -ч, -ш, and .

Англичанин, and any Russian noun that ends in -анин or -янин follows the same pattern for genitive singular, but loses its final -ин in genitive plural.

Котёнок, being part of the -ок band of nouns, drops its –o in the genitive singular. However, it goes one step further and morphs into котят for the genitive plural. Anything ending in -ёнок or -онок (mostly the young of animals) follows this pattern.

Спектакль, being a masculine noun ending in -ь, ends in ей in the genitive.

Of course, we also have some lovely Russian exceptions for you to learn as well!

Nominative Genitive singular Genitive plural Translation
брат брата братьев a brother
лист листа листьев a leaf
стул стула стульев a chair
муж мужа мужей a husband
сын сына сыновей a son
друг друга друзей a friend

Next onto our neuter nouns in the genitive:

Nominative Genitive singular Genitive plural Translation
место места мест a place
море моря морей sea
поколение поколения поколений a generation
время времени времён time

Место, and other ending neuter nouns follow the same pattern: subtract the and replace it with an for the genitive singular, and leave the end with nothing for the genitive plural.

The море pattern gives us the formula for a ending. Replace thewith a for the genitive singular, and replace it with -ей for the genitive plural.

Поколение replaces the with in genitive singular, and in the genitive plural, it is replaced with .

Время, like all Russian neuter nouns ending in -мя, loses its final and replaces it with -ени for the genitive singular, and then for the genitive plural, replaces it with -ён, with the е morphing into a ё.

There are, naturally, a few exceptions:

Nominative Genitive singular Genitive plural Translation
дерево дерева деревьев a tree
крыло крыла крыльев a wing
перо пера перьев a feather, a pen
колено колена коленей a knee
плечо плеча плеч a shoulder
ухо уха ушей an ear
яблоко яблока яблок an apple

As an interesting side note, the Russian genitive plural of лето (summer) is the same as the genitive plural of the word for a year: 8 лет назад = 8 years ago. You can sort of see why.

Finally, feminine nouns:

Nominative Genitive singular Genitive plural Translation
панда панды панд a panda
жена жены жён a wife
девушка девушки девушек a girl
книга книги книг a book
земля земли земель earth
статья статьи статей an article
станция станции станций a station
стая стаи стай a flock, a pack, a shoal
кровать кровати кроватей a bed

The Russian genitive of feminine nouns is fairly straightforward, although following the spelling rules in Russian, all of the feminine nouns end in either or in the genitive singular.

With words which end in , like панда, the changes to a for genitive singular and disappears completely for genitive plural.

Девушка, being part of the Russian spelling rule (where ы can not follow a к) changes its genitive singular ending to an -и, and as it cannot have a шк together with no vowel, slips an –е- in between the ш and к.

Similarly книга, following the spelling rule of no ы after г, ends with a in the genitive singular and rids itself of the ending altogether in the genitive plural.

Земля, ending in a soft sound, ends in a with the genitive singular and replaces it with a soft sign (ь) in the genitive plural. Of course, because земль would sound awkward, it sneaks in a little -е- between its м and л.

Статья, and other nouns which end in -ья, replace their ending with ей, whereas станция and other nouns which end in -ия replace their endings in the genitive plural with -ий. Стая () and кровать () follow similar patterns.

Russian Genitive and Other Parts of Speech

Well of course, you’re all clued-up on nouns, but how about forming the Russian genitive for other elements of speech? Well, you’ll be glad to know that pronouns are a lot easier, as are adjectives. We’ll run through these quickly.

Adjectives

Russian adjectives in the genitive are incredibly simple. Firstly, masculine and neuter nouns end replace their respective -ый/-ой/-ий and -ое/-ее endings with -ого/-его depending on whether they’re hard-ending or soft-ending adjectives. Feminine adjectives in the genitive end with -ой/-ейand plurals, you’ll be glad to hear, end with -ых/-их across the board, with no deviation in gender.

Masculine Neuter Feminine Plural Translation
Nominative красивый красивое красивая красивые beautiful / handsome
Genitive красивого красивого красивой красивых
Masculine Neuter Feminine Plural Translation
Nominative синий синее синяя синие blue
Genitive синего синего синей синих

Pronouns

The genitive declension of Russian pronouns is straightforward, and after having gone through them a few times, they should stick in your mind very easily.

Personal Pronouns

Singular Plural
Nominative Genitive Translation Nominative Genitive Translation
я меня I мы нас we
ты тебя you вы вас you
он его he они их they
она её she
оно его it

Demonstrative Pronouns

Nominative Genitive Translation
этот этого this (masc.)
эта этой this (fem.)
это этого this (neut.)
тот того that (masc.)
та той that (fem.)
то того that (neut.)

Possessive Pronouns

Nominative Genitive Translation
мой моего my (masc.)
моя моей my (fem.)
мое моего my (neut.)
мои моих my (pl.)
наш нашего our (masc.)
наша нашей our (fem.)
наше нашего our (neut.)
наши наших our (pl.)

Твой (your, singular) declines in the same way as мой, and ваш (your, plural) declines in the same way as наш.

Его, её and их are indeclinable and invariable.

Interrogative and relative pronouns

Nominative Genitive Translation
кто кого who
что чего what
какой/какая/какое/какие какого/какой/какого/каких what kind
который/которая/которое/которые которого/которой/которого/которых who
чей/чья/чьё/чьи чьего/чьей/чьего/чьих whose

As you can see above, the pronouns decline very similarly to adjectives, and so they are a very easy formula to follow.


So, that brings us to the end of our genitive guide! I hope you have as much fun using the Russian genitive with ease as I do, because you will seriously impress those Russians when you demonstrate your excellent grammar!

Just remember, that nothing comes overnight, and Russians themselves slip up in their grammar, all it takes is practise, practise, practise!

Удачи!

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