The Genitive Case in Russian

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In this lesson, you will learn how to use the Genitive Case.

There are many things to learn in this lesson, so to make things easier, I divided it into four parts:

  1. How to put nouns into the Genitive Case;
  2. When and how to use the Genitive Case;
  3. Adjectives in the Genitive Case;
  4. Possessive Pronouns in the Genitive Case.

If you already know any of these topics, you can go straight to the subject you need to learn by clicking on the titles above.

In this lesson, we won't discuss the Genitive Case in the plural because there is already a complete lesson about this subject here at Mighty Languages.

Genitive Case in the Plural

Nouns in the Genitive Case

If you don't know yet what cases are, they are basically special endings that we add to a word to indicate its function in a sentence.

In the Genitive Case, for example:

  • The word мама becomes мамы.
  • The word брат becomes брата.
  • The word платье becomes платья.

There are several situations in which you are going to use the Genitive Case in Russian, but first let's learn what endings you will have to add to nouns when using this case.

Changing, or declining, a noun is actually very simple. You just have to memorize a few rules.

The rules you are about to learn depend a lot on the gender of the noun. If you would like to learn more about gender in Russian, you can check out our complete lesson about it clicking here.

To make things easier, I divided all the rules into four patterns:

01) Letter А

Add А to masculine nouns that end in a consonant:

  • друг – друга (friend)
  • брат – брата (brother)
  • стол – стола (table)
  • кот – кота (cat)

When neuter nouns end in О, replace О with А:

  • письмо – письма (letter)
  • лето – лета (summer)
  • окно – окна (window)

In this lesson, I use many Russian words as examples. If you come across any word you don't know yet, you can look it up in our online dictionary.

In our dictionary, you will find all the forms of nouns, verbs and adjectives, as well as multiple examples.

02) Letter Я

When masculine nouns end in Й or Ь, replace these letters with Я:

  • музей – музея (museum)
  • герой – героя (hero)
  • учитель – учителя (teacher)
  • строитель – строителя (builder)

When neuter nouns end in Е, replace Е with Я:

  • платье – платья (dress)
  • поле – поля (field)

03) Letter Ы

When nouns end in А, replace А with Ы, regardless of the gender:

  • мама – мамы (mother)
  • газета – газеты (newspaper)
  • папа – папы (father)

There is one important detail in this situation. You will add И instead of Ы, if the last consonant of the word is г, к, х, ж, ч, ш or щ.

For example:

  • книга – книги (book)
  • рука – руки (hand)
  • вилка – вилки (fork)
  • удача – удачи (luck)
  • крыша – крыши (roof)

This spelling rule is used in many other situations in Russian, not only in the Genitive Case. Therefore, memorizing these 7 letters will be very useful.

As you practice, you will also notice that it's much easier to pronounce the letter И than the letter Ы after these consonants.

04) Letter И

When feminine nouns end in Ь or Я, replace these letters with И:

  • кровать – кровати (bed)
  • ночь – ночи (night)
  • неделя – недели (week)

And those are all the patterns you will use in the Genitive Case.

Besides nouns, we also have Genitive Pronouns. You will need them when the context is clear and you don't want to repeat words.

Genitive Case in Russian - Pronouns

Now let's take a look at when you should use the Genitive Case.

When and how to use the Genitive Case

We use the Genitive Case mainly in 6 situations:

  1. To indicate possession
  2. To indicate quantity
  3. After measure words
  4. To indicate part of a substance or liquid or an indefinite quantity
  5. After the negative word нет to mean that something doesn't exist or is absent
  6. After specific prepositions

Let's go over each of these situations.

01) To indicate posession

Have you noticed that, in English, when we want to say that someone is the owner of something, we use an apostrophe plus S?

In Russian, you will express the same idea by using the Genitive Case.

Here are some examples:

  • книга мальчика
  • (the boy's book)
  • тетрадь Маши
  • (Masha's notebook)
  • машина мужа
  • (the husband's car)

Note that it’s always the possessor that takes the Genitive Case and that the possessor comes after the possessed object.

02) To indicate quantity

We will use the Genitive Case after numerals: 2, 9, 14, 25, etc.

For example:

  • два друга
  • (two friends)
  • четыре человека
  • (four people)
  • три ручки
  • (three pens)

In Russian, we use the Genitive Singular after the numbers 2, 3 and 4, and the Genitive Plural for the rest of the numbers.

But keep in mind that you will use the Genitive Singular not only when the numbers 2, 3 and 4 are alone, but also when another number ends with them. Except for 12, 13 and 14.

I know this can be very confusing at the beginning, but with time and practice, you will naturally be able to distinguish between the Genitive Singular and Plural.

Let's take a look at more examples of numbers.

You will use the Genitive Singular after the numbers 2, 3, 4, 22, 23, 24, 32, 33, 34, 42, 43, 44, etc.

And you will use the Genitive Plural after the numbers 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 16, 25, 26, 27, 35, 38, 39, 45, etc.

So even if you have, for example, the number 10,523, you will use the Genitive Singular because it ends with the number 3.

We also use the Genitive Case with quantifiers. The most common ones are мало (few / little), много (a lot of / many), несколько (several / a few), сколько (how many / how much).

For example:

  • мало детей
  • (few kids)
  • сколько часов
  • (how many hours)
  • несколько яблок
  • (a few apples)

Note that the endings in these examples are a little bit different from the ones we just learnt. That's because these nouns are in the plural and the Genitive Plural has different endings.

You can check out our lesson on the Genitive Plural clicking here.

03) After measure words

We also use the Genitive Case after measure words, such as:

  • чашка (cup)
  • тарелка (plate)
  • бутылка (bottle)
  • кусок (slice)
  • литр (liter)

For example:

  • чашка чая
  • (a cup of tea)
  • литр молока
  • (a liter of milk)

4) To indicate part of something or an indefinite quantity

In English, when we are talking about an indefinite quantity or about part of something, we usually add the word some before the noun.

In Russian, however, you don't need to add any word. Using the noun in the Genitive Case is enough.

For example:

  • Он попил молока.
  • (He drank some milk)
  • Она поела торта.
  • (She ate some cake)

5) After the negative НЕТ to mean that something doesn't exist or is absent

When we want to say that something doesn't exist or is absent, in English, we usually use the structures there isn't and there aren't.

In Russian, all you have to do is use the word нет plus the noun in the Genitive Case.

For example:

  • Дома нет воды.
  • (There is no water in the house)
  • Здесь нет света.
  • (There is no light here)

06) After specific prepositions

After certain prepositions, you always have to use the Genitive Case.

This part may also seem complicated, but keep in mind that you don't have to memorize all the prepositions at once. Instead, try to learn them slowly as you practice your Russian.

The most common prepositions used with the Genitive Case are:

  • без (without)
  • для (for)
  • кроме (except)
  • вместо (instead of)
  • из (from)
  • с (from)
  • от (from)
  • у (by)
  • вокруг (around)
  • напротив (opposite)
  • внутри (inside)
  • до (before)
  • после (after)
  • около (near)
  • возле (near)

Here are some examples:

  • после урока
  • (after the lesson)
  • из магазина
  • (from the shop)
  • без телефона
  • (without the phone)
  • напротив дома
  • (opposite the house)
  • около реки
  • (near the river)
  • у окна
  • (by the window)

And those are the main situations in which you use the Genitive Case. Now, let's take a look at the genitive endings of adjectives.

Adjectives in the Genitive Case

Adjectives in the Genitive Case are much simpler than nouns because there are very few endings to memorize.

When it comes to adjectives, the most important thing is to pay attention to the gender of the nouns that they describe, because the ending of the adjective depends on the gender of the noun.

In Russian, nouns can have 3 genders: Masculine, Feminine and Neuter.

Adjectives with masculine nouns

1) Replace the endings ЫЙ and ОЙ with ОГО:

  • новый телефон – нового телефона
  • (a new phone)
  • большой дом – большого дома
  • (a big house)
  • молодой человек – молодого человека
  • (a young person)

2) Replace the ending ИЙ with ЕГО:

  • синий карандаш – синего карандаша
  • (a blue pencil)
  • хороший брат – хорошего брата
  • (a good brother)
  • горячий шоколад – горячего шоколада
  • (hot chocolate)

Note that when the last consonant of the adjective is К or Х, the adjective takes the ending ОГО instead of ЕГО:

  • русский человек – русского человека
  • (a Russian person)
  • тихий вечер – тихого вечера
  • (a quiet evening)
  • маленький ребёнок – маленького ребёнка
  • (a little child)

Adjectives with neuter nouns

Neuter adjectives take the same endings as masculine adjectives.

1) Replace the ending ОЕ with ОГО:

  • новое платье – нового платья
  • (a new dress)
  • большое окно – большого окна
  • (a big window)
  • тихое море – тихого моря
  • (a quiet sea)

2) Replace the ending ЕЕ with ЕГО:

  • хорошее лето – хорошего лета
  • (a good summer)
  • синее небо – синего неба
  • (a blue sky)
  • летнее платье – летнего платья
  • (a summer dress)

Adjectives with feminine nouns

1) Replace the ending АЯ with ОЙ:

  • новая квартира – новой квартиры
  • (a new apartment)
  • русская девушка – русской девушки
  • (a Russian girl)
  • большая комната – большой комнаты
  • (a big room)

Note that when the last consonant of the adjective is ч, ш, щ, ж and ц and the last syllable is not stressed, the adjective takes the ending ЕЙ instead of ОЙ:

  • свежая капуста – свежей капусты
  • (a fresh cabbage)
  • горячая вода – горячей воды
  • (hot water)
  • хорошая сумка – хорошей сумки
  • (a good purse)

2) Replace the ending ЯЯ with ЕЙ:

  • зимняя ночь – зимней ночи
  • (a winter night)
  • синяя футболка – синей футболки
  • (a blue T-shirt)
  • поздняя попытка – поздней попытки
  • (a late try)

Possessive Pronouns in the Genitive Case

Here are the possessive pronouns in the Genitive Case in Russian:


From the above table, you can see that the masculine and neuter forms coincide, and that the possessive pronouns его, её and их never change.

The situations in which you will use these pronouns are exactly the same as the ones you have just learnt.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • Она всегда покупает сладости для моего сына.
  • (She always buys sweets for my son)
  • Она нашла работу для твоей сестры.
  • (She found a job for your sister)
  • У нашего брата много машин.
  • (Our brother has many cars)

And that's all.

Now you know when and how to use the Genitive Case with nouns, adjectives and possessive pronouns in the singular.

Don't forget to check out our complete lesson about the Genitive Case in the Plural.