The Russian Pronoun Declensions
The bad news is: Russian pronouns also decline and agree with the noun they modify or replace. The good news is: you already know how to decline most of the pronouns. With the exception of the 1st and 2nd person personal pronouns, pronouns decline according to the following general principle:
The Pronoun Declension Rule
- The nominative-accusative case endings of pronouns are the same as the nominative-accusative endings of nouns.
- The remaining pronominal endings are the same as the remaining adjective endings.
So, for example, the nominative and accusative neuter endings of это "this", are identical -o's, just like those in okno "window" (but unlike новое, the nominative and accusative neuter forms of the adjective meaning "new"). The nominative and accusative feminine are эта and эту, just like книга and книгу. The other cases of это, however, are этого этому этом этим in the masculine-neuter gender, just like the adjective новое "new": новое, новое, нового, новому, новом, новым.
The exceptions are the 1st and 2nd singular and plural personal pronouns, so let's start with them. They have to be memorized.
The Highly Personal Pronouns
The personal pronouns are irregular (in their vowel movements) but regular in their own way. They are called 'personal' pronouns because there are always at least six of them corresponding to the six grammatical 'persons', i.e. 1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person singular and plural. In English the personal pronouns are:
English Personal Pronouns Person Singular Plural 1st I we 2nd you you (all) 3rd he, she, it they
Just below are the Russian pronouns that correspond to English I, you, he/she/it, we, you (all), they. That is, they either refer to the participants in a conversation or replace a noun which is known to the speaker and listener.
Russian Personal Pronouns Person Singular Plural 1st я мы 2nd ты вы 3rd он, она, оно они
You must keep in mind that он, она, оно do not mean "he, she, it"; rather they simply reflect the gender and declension class of the noun they replace. So, an English-speaker would refer to a table as "it" and a book as "it". A Russian, however, refers to a table (стол) as он and a book (книга) as она because стол requires masculine agreement and книга requires feminine.
All of these pronouns decline in all six cases. However, the 1st and 2nd person singular pronouns decline similarly and the 1st and 2nd plural decline similarly. The stem of the third person pronoun (notice there is only one) is он- in the nominative singular and й- everywhere else.
Personal Pronoun Declensions:
1st & 2nd Persons
Case Singular Plural Nominative я ты мы вы Accusative меня тебя нас вас Genitive меня тебя нас вас Dative мне тебе нам вам Prepositional мне тебе нас вас Instrumental мной тобой нами вами
The paradigm above is a complete one, but keep in mind that the genitive of the personal pronouns is rarely used since the genitive sense is usually conveyed by the possessive pronouns. Otherwise, when you use these pronouns in positions where case is required, just as you have to adjust the ending of the noun, you have to use the appropriate case form of the pronoun. Here are some examples:
Я видела Сашу. I saw Sasha ['I' in the nominative] Саша видела меня. Sasha saw me ['I' in the accusative] Саша помогла мне. Sasha helped me. ['I' in the dative] Саша думала обо мне. Sasha thought about me ['I' in the prepositional] Саша говорила со мной. Sasha talked to/with me ['I' in the instrumental]
Take advantage of the syncretism of several cases. The dative and prepositional forms are identical in the 1st and 2nd persons singular and the genitive, accusative, and prepositional are identical in the 1st and 2nd persons plural.
Finally, you have to remember to insert and н before all the third person pronouns when the occur after prepositions.
Without Prep With Prep Я видел его.
I saw him.
Я иду от него.
I'm leaving his place.
Я видел её
I saw her.
Я иду от неё.
I'm leaving her place.
Я видел их.
'I saw them.
Я иду от них.
I'm leaving their place.
That's it. Now you know all about Russian pronouns that you need to speak the language fluently.
Your Personal Personal Pronoun Exercises
Here are a few exercises to test your grasp of the personal pronoun in Russian. Choose the correct case form of the pronoun listed to the right of the sentence and type it into the appropriate space.
The genitive forms of the personal pronouns are rarely used since their function coincides with that of the possessive pronouns. It is to these that we turn next.
Lexiteria LLC, Lewisburg, PA 17837
© 1996 Robert Beard