Those Sexxxy Russian Nouns!
OOO Noun Irregularities OOO

1. The Genitive II. There is a small group of nouns, mostly referring to food, which use the suffix -y for the Genitive Singular. Not all nouns referring to food take this Genitive II ending, so you will have to memorize those that do.

The Genitive II (-y)
NomSg Genitive Gloss
сахар сахар-у sugar
рис рис-у rice
табак табак-у tobacco
сыр сыр-у cheese
чай ча-ю tea
шоколад шоколад-у chocolate

2. The Prepositional II. The second Prepositional case is marked by an (always) accented ending -y. However, this ending is not used with all the prepositions requiring the Prepositional case but only with the prepositions на and в. It is not used with the preposition o or any other preposition governing the Prepositional case. So one would say я видел его в саду 'I saw him in the garden' but мы говорили о саде 'we talked about the garden'.

Prepositional II (accented -y)
NomSg Prep II Gloss
пол на полу on the floor
сад в саду in the garden
лес в лесу in the woods
угол на/в углу on/in the corner
мост на мосту on the bridge
Дон на Дону on the Don
Крым в Крыму in the Crimea
край на краю on the edge
ряд на ряду in a line
год в прошлом году last year
порт в порту in port

3. Masculine Plurals on -a. The ending -a was originally a Dual Number ending, marking two objects when all Russian nouns had Singular, Dual, and Plural forms. For that reason, almost all masculine nouns which come in pairs (eyes, horns, banks of rivers) use this ending. Now, however, it is not only a wide-spread Nominative Plural ending, it is often attached to new words entering the language, so it is productive. Here are a few common nouns that it is used with.

Nominative Plural on -a
NomSg Plural Gloss
дом дома houses
поезд поезда trains
дом дома addresses
город города cities
цвет цвета flowers
лес леса forests
вечер вечера evenings
берег берега coasts, banks
голос голоса voices
рог рога horns
глаз глаза eyes
номер номера (journal) issues
доктор доктора doctors
профессор профессора professors
учитель учителя teachers

4. Masculine Nouns with Plurals in -ья. Nouns which take -ья as an ending are, fortuntely, few in number. Remember, however, that if a noun takes this ending in the Nominative Plural and the ending is accented, the Genitive Plural will be -ей (remove the soft sign); if the ending is not accented, the Genitive Plural ending will be -ьев.

Plurals on -ья
NomSg NomPl Gloss Genitive
брат братья brothers братьев
стул стулья chairs стульев
лист листья leaves листьев
перо перья feathers перьев
дерево деревья trees деревьев
звено звенья links звеньев
муж мужья husbands мужей
друг друзья friends друзей
сын сыновья sons сыновей

5. Masculine Nouns with the Singular Suffix -ин. There is also a subregular set of nouns with a singular suffix that disappears in the plural. Moreover, the Nominative Plural ending for these nouns is -e and the Genitive Plural ending is zero, i. e. no ending at all.

Nouns with Singular on -ин
Singular NomPl GenPl Gloss
англичанин англичане англичан Englishman
гражданин граждане граждан citizen
северянин северяне северян northener
южанин южане южан southerner
киевлянин киевляне киевлян Kievite

Otherwise, these nouns decline normally in the singular and plural.

6. Russian Family Names. Finally, you must keep in mind that Russian family names decline slightly different from other nouns in that they take mixtures of noun and adjective endings.

Russian Family Names on -ов & -ин
Case Masculine Feminine Plural
Именительный Горбачёв Горбачёва Горбачёвы
Винительный Горбачёва Горбачёву Горбачёвых
Родительный Горбачёва Горбачёвой Горбачёвых
Дательный Горбачёву Горбачёвой Горбачёвым
Предложный Горбачёве Горбачёвой Горбачёвых
Творительный Горбачёвым Горбачёвой Горбачёвыми

Notice the following. In the masculine, all the endings are noun endings except in the Instrumental. In the Feminine, all the endings are adjectival except for the Nominative and Accusative. In the Plural, all endings are adjectival except the Nominative.

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© 1996 Robert Beard