Welcome to the first part of our introductory course to Russian grammar. This lesson will teach you how to get acquainted to Russian people, as well as some basic concepts of Russian grammar. If you aren’t familiar with the Russian alphabet yet, we’d highly recommend you to read our lesson on the Russian alphabet and pronunciation.
Здравствуйте! Как вас зовут? (Zdrahstvujte, kak vas zahvuht?)
Hello! What is your name?
Меня Владимир, а вас? (Meenya Vladihmir, a vas?)
My name is Vladimir, and what is your name?
Меня Андрей. (Meenya Andrej.)
I am Andrew
Очень приятно. (Ohtchen’ priyatno.)
Nice to meet you.
Откуда вы, Владимир? (Atkuhdah vy, Vladihmir)
Where are you from, Vladimir?
Из Москвы. А вы? (Ihz Mahskvyh. Ah vy?)
I’m from Moscow. And you?
Из Самары. (Iz Samahry)
I’m from Samara
Вы врач? (Vy vratch?)
Are you a doctor?
Yes, I am.
In Russian people address “Вы” (plural of “you”) to the people they do not know well or in case they’re being polite. Pay attention to the use of pronouns!
- The word “Здравствуйте” usually is pronounced as zdrahstvujte, so the letter “в” in the middle of the word is dropped out.
- The letter “Г” can sometimes produce the sound [v] like in words as сегодня (today), его (him/his). These exceptions should be remembered.
Personal pronouns in Russian are the following:
Ты (ty) შენ
He, she, it
The main thing you should notice is that there is no verb in most of the sentences. E.g. Меня Андрей. Из Москвы.
In these sentences the verb is not necessary. Unlike in English, the Russian sentence can exist without a verb. There’s no equivalent of the verb “to be”. The sentence «Из Москвы» literally says “From Moscow”, and this is OK in Russian. The same is true for “Меня Андрей”.
The other feature that you should notice is that the word order in Russian is very free. The relation between the members of the sentence is shown in their endings (we will speak about them a bit later) and thus if we take the sentence «Я читаю книгу», it can be put in the following ways:
- Я читаю книгу.
- Читаю я книгу.
- Книгу я читаю.
- Книгу читаю я.
All four sentences will mean the same only emphasizing one of the words.
Здравствуйте. Меня зовут Ирина. Я из Москвы. Я врач. (Zdrahstvujte. Meenya zahvuht Irihna. Ya iz Mahskvy. Ya vratch.)
Hello. My name is Irina. I am from Moscow. I am a student.
Сейчас я дома. Я читаю книгу. Книга интересная. Она называется «Гамлет». (Sejtchahs ya dohma. Ya tchitahyu knihgu. Knihga interehsnaya. Anah nazyvahyetsya Gahmlet.)
I am at home now. I’m reading a book. The book is interesting. It is called “Hamlet”.
hello, good afternoon, etc.
The Noun in Russian is rather a complex thing. There’s no article, but there are 2 numbers (singular and plural), 3 genders (feminine, masculine and neuter) and 6 cases (we’ll talk about them later in detail).
The main thing about a noun is the same as in all other languages. It shows the names of different things. So nothing unusual here.
Nouns in Russian have the following characteristics:
- and case.
The number indicates the quantity of objects and there are two numbers, singular and plural. We will speak about their formation a bit later.
There is also a very important distinction between animate and inanimate nouns: animate indicates something that is alive (a person or animal, but not a plant), inanimate – the rest of objects.
The gender indicates the grammatical gender of the noun. It can be the same as the real gender, for example the word мальчик (mah‘tchik, boy) is masculine and the word девочка (dehvahtchka, girl) – feminine. It’s important to remember the gender as it is necessary to put nouns in the correct case with the correct ending.
To identify the noun gender, look at the last letter of the word:
- If it is a consonant, or “й”, the word is masculine.
- If it is “а” or “я” it is feminine.
- If it is “о” or “е” it is neuter.
- If it is a soft sign “ь” then it could be either masculine or feminine. E.g. конь (kohn’, horse) is masculine and мышь (mysh’, mouse) is feminine. This will be discussed later on in this course.
There are several exceptions, but only because of physical gender. Still in most cases the gender is clear from the spelling of the word, so you won’t be much confused.
- Папа (pahpa) – daddy – Masculine
- Дядя (dyadya) – uncle – Masculine
- Дедушка (dyehdushka) – grandfather – Masculine
- Мужчина (muzhtchihna) – man – Masculine
- Кофе (coffee, pronounced as in English) – Masculine
Try to remember the noun gender:
- Книга – feminine gender, the final “a” indicates that, as in words картина, штанина, штанга. Final “a” usually indicates feminine gender.
- Имя – the final “я” indicates the same, the feminine gender, like стремя, племя.
Practice and try to identify the gender of the following words:
- Мама, бабушка, ветер, пальто, город, слава, стена, каштан, огород.
The other interesting and important part is the case system in Russian.
The case system can also be found in German, Latin, Greek and in Old English, among others.
Let’s compare the case system in Russian to what we have in English. If we take the English sentence
Alex gives the book to Alla.
We see that Alex is the subject, book is the object, and Alla an object as well. If we change the word order, the sentence will make no sense. In Russian the sentence will be:
Алекс даёт книгу Алле.
The endings in italics are the case endings, so the word order can be changed and the sentence will still make sense.
There are six cases in Russian.
- Nominative case: The subject of the sentence. (Alex)
- Accusative case: The object of the sentence. (book)
- Dative case: The indirect object of the sentence (Alla)
- Genitive case: Indicates ownership. (Alla’s book)
- Instrumental case: Indicates ‘with’ or ‘by means of’. (Alla writes with a pencil)
- Prepositional case: Used after certain propositions. (In, on, at, and about.)
At first, we will get acquainted with the Nominative and Accusative cases.
The Nominative case answers the questions Who and What (Кто and Что, Ktoh and Shtoh), and it indicates the subject of the sentence. There are no changes for this case.
The only changes will be in plural form. To make a noun in plural you should:
For masculine nouns:
- If the word ends in a consonant, add “ы”.
- Replace “й” with “и”
- Replace “ь” with “и”
For feminine nouns:
- Replace “я” with “и”
- Replace “ь” with “и”
- Replace “а” with “ы” (unless previous consonant is Г, К, Х, Ж, Ч, Ш, Щ then replace with “и”)
For neuter nouns:
- Replace “о” with “а”
- Replace “е” with “я”
- студент – студенты (student – students)
конь – кони (horse – horses)
- Семья – семьи (family – families)
книга – книги (book – books)
- Сердце – сердца (heart – hearts)
окно – окна (window – windows)
There are several exceptions. They will all be covered later in this course.
The Accusative case indicates the direct object of the sentence. It answers the questions Whom and What (see – what?) (Кого? Что?)(Kahgoh, Shtoh) and is formed in the following way:
For masculine nouns:
- If the noun in inanimate, there is no change.
- If the noun is animate and ends in a consonant, add “а”.
- If the noun is animate, “й” is replaced with “я”.
- If noun is animate, “ь” is replaced with “я”. (I see a horse – Я вижу коня)
For feminine nouns:
- Replace “а” with “у”.
- Replace “я” with “ю”.
For neuter nouns:
- Inanimate nouns do not change (almost all neuter nouns are inanimate).
- спорт remains: спорт (sport)
- музыка becomes: музыку (music)
- Москва becomes: Москву (Moscow)
- газета becomes: газету (newspaper)
- здание remains: здание (building)
- Вадим becomes: Вадима (Vadim)
To easier understand the Russian accusative case, take the following exercises.
Read the following words:
- Cities: Лондон, Париж, Москва, Нью-Йорк, Токио
- Countries: Россия, Англия, Корея, Китай, Франция
- Relatives: мама, папа, брат, сестра
Insert the missing letters:
Complete the dialogues:
_____, как вас зовут?
_____. А вас?
Андрей. Очень приятно.
_____, я врач.
Find the nouns in the Accusative case:
- Врач читает книгу. (The doctor is reading a book).
- Я знаю имя. (I know the name).
- Я видел папу сегодня. (I saw dad today).
- Я зову врача. (I’m calling a doctor)
Put the nouns in the plural form:
Now try to put them in the Accusative case.
Some new phrases to remember:
How are you?
Not so bad
Как Вас зовут?
Kak vas zavoot?
What’s your name?
My name is…
Try to practice saying these phrases.
Try to add them into the dialogues from the lesson.
Remember that the Russian «Привет» is very informal and can be used only with friends.
Questions for self-control
- How do we say “Hello” in Russian?
- How many genders do Russian nouns have?
- What are the personal pronouns in Russian?
- How many cases do Russian nouns have?
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