Those Agreeable Russian Adjectives!
Nouns in English may be modified by adjectives (awesome nerd) or by nouns (high school nerd). In Russian only adjectives may modify nouns, which means that nouns and verbs must be converted to adjectives before they can modify nouns. The verbal adjective form is called a participle; adjectives from nouns are called 'relational adjectives'. In English, for example, one may say 'city transportation' but in Russian the word город 'city' must first be converted to an adjective, городской, before this phrase is possible: городской транспорт.
The important point to remember is that adjectives, whatever their origin, must agree with the noun the modify. They do this with the endings which are associated with the same cases and genders that nouns reflect in their endings. So if a noun has feminine gender and is in the genitive case, the adjective must be feminine and in its genitive case form, too. The phrase городской транспорт above is in the nominative (or accusative) case. But if 'by transportation' is транспортом in Russian, 'by city transport' must be городским транспортом and if 'about transportation' is о транспорте, then 'about city transportation' must be о городском транспорте. Notice that the adjective endings which correspond to the noun endings are not identical, and so must be memorized independently.
The Adjective Declensions (Hard Stem Variants)
Russian adjective declensions are based on the same set of cases but the endings are different and, rather than corresponding to declension classes as do the nouns, the adjective declensions vary according to agreement, as discussed in previous chapters. That is, there is a masculine-neuter, a feminine, and a plural adjective declension, which identify with noun gender and declension categories according to an agreement algorithm
Masculine-Neuter Adjective Agreement Case Masculine Neuter Nominative нов-ый [дом] нов-ое [дерево] Accusative Nom or Gen Nom or Gen Genitive нов-ого [дома] нов-ого [дерева] Dative нов-ому [дому] нов-ому [дереву] Prepositional нов-ом [доме] нов-ом [дереве] Instrumental нов-ым [домом] нов-ым [деревом]
Notice that the masculine and neuter agreement patterns are identical except for the nominative and accusative cases. Even here, however, the neuter nominative and accusative endings are identical, as are the masculine ones, if the noun they modify is inanimate. Next, let's look at the feminine agreement endings.
Feminine Adjective Agreement Case Endings Nominative нов-ая [книга] Accusative нов-ую [книгу] Genitive нов-ой [книги] Dative нов-ой [книге] Prepositional нов-ой [книге] Instrumental нов-ой [книгой]
Do you see what I see? With the exception of the nominative and accusative cases, all the feminine adjective agreement endings are the same! Boy, leave it to the russkies to simplify things to the max. Wonder what the plural paradigm looks like?
The plural paradigm looks very much like the plural noun declension in the oblique cases (all except nominative and accusative). In fact, the endings of the plural adjective and noun declensions are identical except that the vowel in the noun endings is a and the vowel in the adjective endings is ы.
Plural Adjective Agreement Case Endings Nominative нов-ые [книги] Accusative Nom or Gen Genitive нов-ых [книг] Dative нов-ым [книгам] Prepositional нов-ых [книгах] Instrumental нов-ыми [книгами]
Now You Try a Few
Here are a few fill-in-the blank exercises to check whether you are catching on. Simply make KOI8-Russian your document encoding default and make sure your KOI8 proportional font is installed. Then switch to your Cyrillic keyboard and type in the correct endings in the blanks below. Press the button so see if your answer is correct. The first example is a freebie. Pretend you typed in ом, push the button with your cursor and see what happens. You do the rest.
The Adjective Declensions (Soft Stem Variants)
The soft-stem adjective endings do not differ greatly from the hard-stem variants. In fact, if you have mastered the Spelling Rules, you already know the differences. You will recall that Russian has a 'hard' series of vowels, written after hard consonants and a 'soft' series, written after soft consonants. These rules apply to the adjective declensions exactly as they apply to the noun declensions. Of particular importance to the adjective declensions are the 7 Consonant Rule and the 5 Consonant Rule. According to the former, you never write ы after velars (к г х) or hushes (ш ж ч щ) but always write и. According to the latter, you write o after hushes and ц if it is accented and e if it is not.
Notice in the following table that the soft variant of ы is used after the hush ш and that suffixes beginning with o are used after this hush only if it is accented, i.e. in большой and not in хороший.
Masculine-Neuter Adjective Agreement Case Masculine Neuter Nominative хорош-ий [дом] больш-ое [дерево] Accusative Nom or Gen Nom or Gen Genitive хорош-его [дома] больш-ого [дерева] Dative хорош-ему [дому] больш-ому [дереву] Prepositional хорош-ем [доме] больш-ом [дереве] Instrumental хорош-им [домом] больш-им [деревом]
The feminine adjective declension is notable only for its use of the soft variants of the vowels. Look out for adjectives which end on soft consonants like синий 'dark blue', последний 'last, final', летний 'summer', весенний 'spring', осенний 'fall', зимний 'winter'.
Feminine Adjective Agreement Case Endings Nominative син-яя [книга] Accusative син-юю [книгу] Genitive син-ей [книги] Dative син-ей [книге] Prepositional син-ей [книге] Instrumental син-ей [книгой]
Since all the plural endings begin with ы, the only difference between its soft and hard flavors is that in the latter и replaces ы.
Plural Adjective Agreement Case Endings Nominative син-ие [книги] Accusative Nom or Gen Genitive син-их [книгах] Dative син-им [книгам] Prepositional син-их [книгах] Instrumental син-ими [книгами]
When you are fairly sure you know these variations, you may check yourself with the exercises below.
Why Don't You Try a Few More?
The adjectives in the following exercises all end on a soft consonant or a hush (ж ш ч щ), so you might want to review the 5-Consonant Rule and the 7-Consonant Rule before attempting these exercises. As in the previous examples, the first is a freeby. Pretend you typed in the suffix you see there, push the button with your cursor, and see what happens. Then you are on your own.
Well, if you can do all these exercises, you probably have a good idea of what is going on with adjective agreement. And now that you know the noun and adjective declensional endings, you might want to move on to the pronoun declensions, where you will find a pleasant surprise.
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© 1996 Robert Beard