External Resources Edit
Alphabet 1 Edit
We'll start with some simple sentences right away. Russian does not have articles, nor does it normally use the verb “to be” in the Present tense.
AN EM-DASH IS USED INSTEAD OF "THE VERB “TO BE” BETWEEN THE TWO NOUNS: «МОККА — КОФЕ» ("A MOCHA IS COFFEE"). Edit
Russian uses a version of the Cyrillic Alphabet. Many letters look similar to their Latin counterparts. As Cyrillic typography was remodeled around 300 years ago, both alphabets have a similar style.
For information on how to install a Russian keyboard layout, please click here.
To switch Duolingo from Latin transliterations to Cyrillic, click the little Aa-Яя switch near the top of the screen during a lesson.
LETTERS AND SOUNDS Edit
К, О, М, Т, А sound similar to their Latin counterparts (to be more precise, "о" is the sound in "more"). However, in handwriting and typed italics, the letter Т can look rather like a lower case 'm' in the Latin alphabet. E.g. in the verb просить (to ask for, to request), т = t.
Е actually sounds more like "ye", as in "yell", not as in "Hear ye, hear ye!" (this will work for now; it's more complicated after a consonant).
В sounds like 'v', Б sounds like 'b'. Н is "n" and И is "i" ('eeh'). The remaining letters are included in the table below:
|Ёё⁰ (your)||Вв (vase)||Бб (bed)|
|Ээ (red)||Нн¹ (nap)||Дд¹ (dab)|
|Уу (soon)||Хх² (Bach)||Гг (gap)|
|Ии (meet)||Йй (yes)||Лл¹ (nil)|
|Юю (you)||Рр (trilled R)||Пп (poor)|
|Ыы³ (hit)||Сс (Sam)||Зз (zebra)|
|Яя (yard)||Фф (photon)||Цц (cats)|
|Жж⁴ (seizure)||Шш⁴ (shun)||Щщ⁴|
|Чч (cheer)||Ъ and Ь⁵|
- ⁰ Ёё The umlaut-like double dots are optional in writing. Syllables containing this letter are always stressed.
- ¹ т, д, н, л are pronounced near your teeth
- ² х('kh') is somewhat similar to the H in "hue". It is like making the "sh" sound, only it is pronounced where you make the "K" sound.
- ³ ы has no equivalent in English. It is an "eeh"-like sound, but less distinct, sounds closer to "e" in "lover", and has your tongue deeper that in "heat" or "hit".
- ⁴ for ш and ж your tongue is lower than in English and slightly bent back. Щ has all your tongue raised—it is a longer and more hissy sound. Ч corresponds to щ (i.e. a bit different than "ch")
- ⁵ ъ and ь are separators and have no sound.
Л can have a flat top, like П, or a pointy top like А (it comes from the Greek Λ). Д and Л have a similar top in many fonts, though it's up to the designer. Handwritten Д looks like D, and д like a gor a д (the last two affect the italic shapes).
An Italic Г in lower case usually looks this: г.
Image here not available.
That's it with the introduction! We will discuss reading words in more detail in later skills.
P.S. In our notes, we use an accute accent to show you the stress (e.g., ра́дио). It is a standard practice in Russian textbooks for little children or foreign learners—and, generally, the most common way of marking the position of the stress.
BASICS 1 Edit
WELCOME TO OUR COURSE! Now you are ready to proceed to the main part of the tree!
We are happy that you have chosen our Russian course. Just to make it clear, we are using American English in this course—but don't worry, we will accept all versions of English where appropriate. Just be careful around expressions like "bathroom" or "1st floor", because these may mean different things than what you are used to.
As for Russian, we teach the standard language, which is based on the variation spoken around Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and we stick to the usage typical of these cities. Do not worry, though: for more than one reason Russian is rather uniform over the territory of Russian (still, there is some variation in pronunciation and a few items of everyday vocabulary). We try to stay neutral in style, with occasional trips into formal and informal language.
CASES AND WORD ORDER Edit
Russian is an inflected language, so the forms of nouns and modifying adjectives correspond to their role in the sentence.
These forms are called cases. Russian has 6 cases: Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, Prepositional, Dative and Instrumental. The Nominative is the dictionary form; as for the others, we are going to cover them gradually, one by one.
This allows for a more loose word order. But not random! A typical word order is subject—verb—object. “Old” information (the things you tell about) is normally closer to the beginning of the sentence which is probably why pronouns are often found closer to the beginning of a sentence than a noun would be :
I know him. → Я его́ зна́ю. I know Maria. → Я зна́ю Мари́ю. That includes words like “here”, “in this way”, “then” and so on.
Unlike English, adverbs are NOT universally grouped at the end. So pay attention to the typical positions for the expressions of time, place and manner. Eg. “very much” is typically in the end-position in English, but in Russian it is just before the thing that is "very" or “very much”:
She likes to read very much = Она́ о́чень лю́бит чита́ть Good luck!
VOWEL REDUCTION Edit
Like in English, vowel letters aren't all pronounced just like in the alphabet. In Russian, unstressed syllables have vowels reduced:
А and О become the same uh-sound И and Е (Э) become the same sound similar to "i" in "hit" Я actually becomes an i-like sound, not an uh-like (except in a few words). This also affects "а" after ч,ш,щ,ж or ц in many words (sadly, not all). So, when a vowel is not stressed, it becomes weaker, somewhat shorter, and also some vowels become indistinguishable.
The unstressed syllable is strongest just before the stress. In all other places it is even weaker than that (though, some long words, especially compounds, may acquire a secondary stress). This makes the system different from the English one, where stronger and weaker syllables tend to alternate.
MORE ON THE CASE SYSTEM Edit
For now, we only study simple sentences that either use the dictionary form, the Nominative case, or use the Accusative (direct object of an action), which has the same form for many classes of nouns.
The case is defined by its use. Nevertheless, these forms have names, usually calques from Latin that reflect some typical use (but not the only one):
Nominative (subject) Accusative (direct object) Genitive ("of" something) Prepositional (place or topic) Dative (recipient, "indirect" object) Instrumental (means of action) As you can see, these names are of little use until you know what sentence, verb or preposition requires that you use that particular form.
some nouns of foreign origin are indeclinable, i.e. all their forms are the same. This includes words like метро, Дженни or кафе.
PHRASES 1 Edit
Russian has a more informal greeting «Приве́т» and a more formal «Здра́вствуй(те)». Here, we focus on the first, since it is the shorter one.
When on phone, use «Алло́» (Алё).
«Пожа́луйста» (please) has another popular position in the sentence—namely, after the verb (more on that later).
• you can also use «пожа́луйста» as a reply to "thanks", meaning "You are welcome!"
HOW ARE YOU? Edit
The phrase for "How are you?" literally means "How are your affairs (the stuff you do)?"
No one uses it as a greeting, i.e. you are not expected to use it with people you barely know (or those you know, for that matter). And be prepared for a person to actually tell you how they've been doing. ;)
GOOD MORNING! Edit
Morning typically starts at 4 or 5 a.m., afternoon at noon, evening at 5 p.m. (at 6 for some) and night at 11 or at midnight.
You only use "Good night" (Споко́йной но́чи) when parting before sleep (or saying your goodbyes really late, so it is implied you or the listener are going to bed soon after).
If you are advanced enough to have noticed oblique forms used in some phrases—you are right! Greetings and other similar expressions are often shortened versions of longer phrases, where words still retain their forms. For example, «Споко́йной но́чи» probably replaces the longer «Я жела́ю вам споко́йной но́чи!» (I wish you a peaceful night). Needless to say, the full version is never used.
BASICS 2 Edit
I HAVE A CAT Edit
English prefers to express ownership and “possession” with the verb “have”. In Russian “existence” is almost universally used instead (in the official/academic style «иметь» to have is OK to use).
Use it like that:
У A есть X ~ by A there is an X → A has an X The owner is in the Genitive case (more on that later) while X is formally the subject. For now we will only study the Genitive form for some pronouns.
YOU HAVE WONDERFUL EYES! Edit
Omit ”есть” if the existence of the object is obvious or not the point — very typical for describing traits or a number of objects (“Tom has a beautiful smile/large eyes”, “She has a very fat cat”). This also applies to expressing temporary states and illnesses (“She has a migraine”).
I EAT/ SHE EATS Edit
In English, the only way a verb changes in the present tense is that you add -s for the 3rd person singular. In Russian, all 6 forms are different and fit two regular patterns.
However, eat «есть» and want «хоте́ть» are two of the four verbs that are irregular (that is, do not strictly follow any of the 2 patterns).
Note that the "present" tense is formed from one stem and the "past" and infinitive from the second one. In general, these two are slightly different. For now, don't worry about the infinitive stem.
HARD AND SOFT Edit
Russian consonants are split into two groups of 15, which are pronounced in two different ways, palatalized (aka "soft") and non-palatalized (aka "hard"). We'll stick to the shorter "soft" and "hard" (sorry).
When a consonant is "soft" it means than you pronounce it with you tongue raised high; for "non-palatalized" consonants it stays low. Russian orthography has its history but, long story short, you can tell the "softness" of a consonant from a vowel letter spelled afterwards:
А, Ы, У, Э, О follow "hard" consonants
Я, И, Ю, Е, Ё follow palatalized ones
If there is nothing after a consonant, the soft sign Ь is used to show the softness. In consonant clusters palatalization is predictable from the softness of the last consonant. We aren't teaching it here. These days the trend is to only "soften" the last consonant in most clusters, while a hundred years ago some clusters were palatalized even without any obvious reason.
To show you how it works, here is an example, using an ad-hoc transcription:
же́нщина = [жэнʲщиᵉна] стена́ = [стʲиᵉна] or [сʲтʲиᵉна] There are dictionaries («орфоэпический словарь») that show the recommended pronunciation of words and contain general pronunciation rules, too.
Some consonants let your voice come out immediately (voiced) while others wait for the release of the consonant and only then let your voice escape (unvoiced). In Russian there are 6 pairs of such consonants: Б/П, В/Ф, Г/К, Д/Т, Ж/Ш, З/С.
whenever one of these consonants (except В) follows another, the second overrides or reverses the voicing of the first: сд = [зд], вс= [фс]
the end of the phrase is unvoiced: этот клуб [клуп] rules apply between the word boundaries, too Х, Ч, Ц, Щ also play this game, even though Russian lacks letters for their voiced partners ([ɣ], [дж'], [дз], [ж'ж']). They will devoice the preceding consonant or become voiced themselves.
UNLIKE UKRAINIAN, RUSSIAN ONLY USES [Ɣ], [ДЖ'] AND [ДЗ] AS VOICED VARIANTS OF Х, Ч, Ц. UKRAINIAN HAS THEM AS FULL-FLEDGED CONSONANTS—THE ONES THAT ARE AN INTRINSIC PART OF A WORD AND CAN APPEAR ANYWHERE.
PHRASES 2: NAME AND POLITE "YOU" Edit
THOU ART Edit
Russian makes a distinction between ты, singular "you", and вы, plural "you" (y'all). The latter also doubles for "polite" you, with verbs also in plural. And don't forget that the "excuse" in "Excuse me" is a verb!
Use ты with friends and your family members
Use вы with adult strangers, your teachers and in other formal interactions (at the store, the doctor's, the airport etc.)
People use вы with those who are much older
Nobody is "polite" toward kids
CONTRARY TO WHAT MANY NATIVE SPEAKERS HAVE COME TO BELIEVE IN THE LAST TEN OR FIFTEEN YEARS, THE POLITE "YOU" IS NOT AUTOMATICALLY CAPITALIZED IN RUSSIAN, AND NEVER WAS. SUCH CAPITALIZATION IS USED IN SOME FORMAL STYLES.
GRANDSON, SON OF GRAND Edit
As you might know if you ever read any Russian literature, Russians have three names; their first name and their surname—just like you have—and a patronymic (отчество), which is based on their father's name (отец = father). A very common 'polite' pattern is to use a person's first name and a patronymic:
Ива́н Иванович, вы за́няты? = Ivan Ivanovich, are you busy?
In this course, name+patronymic are always used with the polite вы-form.
WHAT IS YOUR NAME? Edit
«Как вас зову́т?» is literally "How (do) they call you?"
Russian has a casual diminutive form for many common names, : Ива̓н→Ва́ня, Мари́я→Маша, Алекса́ндр(Алекса́ндра)→Са́ша, Евге́ний(Евге́ния)→Же́ня, Еле́на→Ле́на, Алексе́й→Лёша, Пётр→Пе́тя. Needless to say, there's no "politeness" with these, but they are often used with some degree of affection.
EXCUSE ME... Edit
Russian has two very common polite patterns for questions that English does not:
negative questions give a shade of "by any chance": «Извини́те, вы не зна́ете Михаи́ла?» = Excuse me, do you happen to know Mikhail?
"Please tell" when asking for information: «Скажи́те, пожа́луйста, где музе́й?» = Excuse me, where is the museum?
THANK YOU Edit
«Спаси́бо» is the word. A fancier option would be «Благодарю́!» (a form of the verb «благодари́ть», "to thank"), though quite a number of people use it, if only for variety.
Here is how the Nominative Plural is formed.
|most consonant-ending masculines||ы/и||столы́, ма́льчики|
|some consonant-ending masculines||а/я||доктора́, глаза́|
(so, the plural «я́блоки» is actually an uncommon way of doing it)
There are some irregular plurals too.
SPELLING RULES Edit
Or maybe not. Sometimes Russian forces your choice of vowel to spell or pronounce after a certain letter.
The 7-letter rule: Whenever you make any form of a word, and you need to write И or Ы, check this:
after К, Г, Х and Ш, Ж, Щ, Ч always use И
These are velars ("back" consonants) and hushes. For hushes, it is merely a spelling convention, owing to their former "soft" status. For velars, it is true to their pronunciation — i.e., these consonants always use the palatalized И where another consonant would use Ы:
страна́ → стра́ны
строка́ → стро́ки
Of these seven consonants, «К» should be your main concern for now. A lot of nouns have it as a suffix or a part of their suffix, forcing you to remember this rule.
The 8-letter rule: Whenever you make any form of a word, and you need to write А, У or Я, Ю after a consonant, follow the rule:
after К, Г, Х , Ш, Ж, Щ, Ч and Ц, always use А or У
WHERE IS IT? Edit
Russian words take different forms depending on their role in the sentence. These forms are called cases. A few forms may look the same (cf. "frequent rains" vs. "It rains often").
These forms have names (mostly calques from Latin) that describe some "prototypal" use of such case: Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, Prepositional, Dative and Instrumental. For you, these are just tags: the use is what defines a case.
As of now, you know the NOMINATIVE case: the dictionary form of a word. This form acts as the grammatical subject of the sentence, the "doer". It is also used for both nouns in "A is B" structure:
Мой па́па ест.
Том — мой брат.
You also know a few Genitive forms (у меня) but that's it. For now, we will tackle something easier.
PREPOSITIONAL CASE Edit
When we talk about things being somewhere, we typically use в(in) or на (on) with the Prepositional form of the noun. It doesn't work when you mean motion to that place!
The Prepositional case (a.k.a. Locative) is the only case that is never used on its own without a preposition, even though only four or five prepositions ever use it:
Я на конце́рте. = I am at a concert.
Я в шко́ле. = I am at (in) school.
ви́део о шко́ле = a video about school
Unlike English (“at/in school”), in Russian each "place" is associated with just one preposition. The rough overall rule is: use “в”(in, at) when talking about buildings and places with certain boundaries and use “на” (on, at) when talking about open spaces or events:
в до́ме (at home), в шко́ле (at school), в ко́мнате (in the room), в теа́тре (in the theater), в кино́ (at the cinema), в университе́те (at the university)
на ули́це (in the street, outdoors), на пло́щади (at the square), на конце́рте (at the concert), на уро́ке (at the lesson), на кора́бле (on a ship)
When you mean physically being inside/on top of some object, there is little ambiguity. "Places", unfortunately, require memorization.
PREPOSITIONAL ENDINGS Edit
Here is the rule that covers most nouns:
feminine nouns ending in ь take -и
nouns ending in -ия, -ий or -ие also take -и (so that they end in -ии instead)
all other nouns take -е
WHAT ABOUT ME AND MY FRIENDS? Edit
Use “у + Genitive” when talking about being at some person’s place: Да, я у дру́га = Yeah, I am at my friend’s place.
The room with a toilet is туале́т. In this course, we stick to the North American "bathroom", even though a room with a bath is, technically ва́нная (it has ва́нна, "a bath"). Still, in Russian you would not ask for a "bath-room" unless you really mean it.
AND WHAT IF I GOTTA GO AWAY? Edit
We’ll deal with that later. But the pattern is consistent. When you are somewhere, going to that place and going away from that place, use the following triplets:
|в + Prep||в + Acc||из + Gen|
|на + Prep||на + Acc||с + Gen|
|у + Gen||к + Dat||от + Gen|
For example, if the place is used with на, the correct prepositions for the three uses are на–на–с.
"SPELLING RULES" Edit
Note how plurals of «соба́ка» and «ко́шка» end in И: соба́ки, ко́шки, even though you might expect А to turn into Ы.
There are some restrictions on which consonants are used with which vowels when making word forms. Here are the rules for и, а, у vs. ы, я, ю:
use only И, not Ы, after к, г, х/ ж, ш, щ, ч
use only А, У after к, г, х/ ж, ш, щ, ч and ц (and never use Я, Ю after them)
К, Г, Х are called velar consonants (i.e. made in the back) and Ш, Щ, Ж, Ч are often called hushes. The latter do not show palatalized/non-palatalized pairs in modern Russian, so the spelling rule does not affect pronunciation anyhow. It's just a convention.
FLEETING VOWELS Edit
It is not too important for you at the moment, but you may notice how О and Е sometimes appear in consonant clusters or disappear from them. For example:
Э́то лев. = This is a lion.
В зоопа́рке нет льва́. = There isn't a lion at the zoo.
Later you will encounter the Genitive plural (often used with numbers and words like "many" or "few"), which shows a simple pattern for -к-suffixed feminine nouns that do not have a vowel before "-ка":
много кошек = many cats
много девочек = many girls
много уток = many ducks
много тарелок = many plates
As you can see, the vowel (О or Е) depends on whether the previous consonant is palatalized or not. Hushes behave as if they were palatalzed, despite Ж and Ш having lost this quality in the modern language.
GENITIVE 1 Edit
In Russian “I have” is expressed by «У меня (есть)» structure. The owner is in the Genitive case.
"The of-case". It is one of the most universal cases. How do you make the forms? Here is the regular pattern:
|ENDING||Genitive sg.||soft stem|
|zero-ending masc, -о/-е neut||сок / молоко||сока / молока|
A zero ending means that the word ends in a consonant or a soft sign (which is just a way to show the final consonant is "soft"). In the Nominative singular, a Russian word can only have the following endings: а, я, о, е, ё or nothing ("zero ending").
GENITIVE OF NEGATION Edit
If you use «нет» to say that there is "no" something or you do not have it, the object is always in Genitive:
У меня́ есть я́блоко → У меня́ нет я́блока
Здесь есть рюкза́к → Здесь нет рюкзака́.
MAJOR USES Edit
"of" (possession): яблоко мамы = mom's apple
"of" (amount): чашка чая, много чая = a cup of tea, a lot of tea
A huge number of prepositions requires this case. Yes, «у меня есть», «У неё есть» only use «меня» and «неё» because «у» wants Genitive.
For он, она and оно Genitive doubles as a non-changing possessive "his", "her", "their": его, её, их.
initial «н» is used for him/her/them with the majority of prepositions (doesn't affect possessives)
INDECLINABLE NOUNS Edit
A little side note: some nouns of foreign origin are indeclinable. It means that all their forms are the same. Foreign nouns that end in о/е become like that (кофе, метро, радио, резюме), as well as all nouns that do not fit into Russian declension patterns (see above).
This includes female names that end in anything other than А or Я. A few -ь-ending names are an exception (Любовь and Biblical names like Юдифь).
So, all of the following names are automatically indeclinable: Маргарет, Мэри, Элли, Дженни, Рэйчел, Натали, Энн, Ким, Тесс, Жасмин.
I AM AWAY Edit
Russian also uses the Genitive to state that someone is "away", "not there": Мамы сейчас нет. In English such use would correspond to "There is no mom at the moment", or even "There is no me now". We are not hard on that particular construction in the course, but it is important to know it all the same.
Added bonus: when a verb directly acts on a noun, the noun is called a direct object and is in Accusative. In Russian, only -а/-я feminine nouns have a unique form for it. Others just reuse Genitive or don't change the word at all (Nominative)
Russian uses.... let's call it "consistent" negation. It means that in negative sentences you are required to use "nothing" instead of "anything", "nowhere" instead of "somewhere" and so on. Let's meet the first of these pronouns:
У меня ничего нет. = I don't have anything.
Она ничего не ест. = She doesn't eat anything.
You'll also notice that, unlike standard English, Russian has no rule against using double negatives.
POSSESSIVES AND GENDER Edit
RUSSIAN POSSESSIVES Edit
There isn't much to say about words like "my" or "your" in Russian.
his/her/their do not change: его́, её, их (and they don't get an initial Н after prepositions!)
my/your/our roughly follow an adjectival pattern, i.e. they copy the gender and the case of the noun they describe. Just like этот:
Unlike English, no distinction is made between my and mine, her and hers etc.
Pronunciation: in «его», as well as in adjective endings and "сегодня" the letter Г is pronounced В. It is a historical spelling.
GRAMMATICAL GENDER Edit
Nouns in Russian belong to one of three genders: feminine, masculine or neuter. If a noun means a person of a certain gender, use that one. For all other nouns look at the end of the word:
|ending in Nom.sg.||gender||examples|
|"-а/-я"||feminine||ма́ма, земля́, Росси́я, маши́на|
|consonant||masculine||сок, ма́льчик, чай, интерне́т, апельси́н|
|"-о/-е"||neuter||окно́, яйцо́, мо́ре|
|"-ь"||feminine or masculine; consult a dictionary||ло́шадь, ночь, мать, любо́вь / день, конь, медве́дь, учи́тель|
IF THERE'S A SOFT SIGN, IT ISN'T POSSIBLE TO PREDICT THE GENDER, AT LEAST, NOT ACCURATELY. HOWEVER, ABOUT 65-70% OF THE MOST USED NOUNS THAT END IN -Ь ARE FEMININE. ALSO, YOU CAN LEARN THE COMMON SUFFIXES ENDING IN A SOFT SIGN THAT PRODUCE A WORD OF A PREDICTABLE GENDER. THEY ARE:
-ость/-есть, -знь → feminine
-тель, -арь, -ырь → masculine
ALL NOUNS WITH -ЧЬ, ЩЬ, -ШЬ, -ЖЬ AT THE END ARE FEMININE. THE CONVENTION IS TO SPELL FEMININE NOUNS WITH A SOFT SIGN AND MASCULINE ONES WITHOUT ONE: НОЖ, ЛУЧ, МУЖ, ДУШ. IT DOESN'T AFFECT PRONUNCIATION, ANYWAY.
As you know, the Genitive case has lots of uses in Russian.
One of them expresses an amount of something:
чашка чая = a cup of tea
тарелка риса = a plate of rice
корзина яблок = a basket of apples
With mass nouns it is also used to express "some" unspecified amount of that stuff when used instead of the Accusative:
Я хочу воды = I want (some) water.
Дайте, пожалуйста, риса. = Could I have some rice, please? (literally, "Give me, please, some rice").
Хочешь сока? = Want some juice?
Note that this usage is only characteristic for situations when you ask or hypothesize about using "some or other amount" of a substance. You cannot actually say that you are drinking "воды" right now—but you can say that you want some (or that you sipped some in the past—with a perfective¹, of course).
ЧАШКА ЧАЮ Edit
«Чай» has an alternative Partitive form «чаю»:
Хочешь чашечку чаю? = Want cup of tea?
It is optional. Actually, many short masculine nouns that denote substances used to have such form. However, «чай» is, probably, the only one where the form is immensely popular in spoken speech and does not sound old-fashioned or downright archaic.
Russian differentiates between a number of drinking vessels. Стака́н is what you call a "glass" in English: typically, a cylindrical vessel made of glass, with no handle. However, if you mean a measurement unit (quite popular in cooking), it corresponds to the English word "cup". In Russian you use do not a cup or rice or flour: you use a "glass" of rice or flour.
a beer or a wine glass is «бока́л»
a smaller wine glass is «рю́мка»
¹ PERFECTIVE IS AN ASPECT. RUSSIAN HAS VERBS OF TWO FLAVORS: THOSE THAT DENOTE "PROCESSES" AND THOSE THAT MEAN "EVENTS" (EVENTS ARE NEVER USED IN THE PRESENT). I WOULD ARGUE THAT ASPECT IS THE MAIN CULPRIT FOR CONSUMPTION VERBS HERE. YOU CAN WANT "ВОДЫ" FOREVER, BUT YOU AREN'T "DRINKING" IT AT ANY SPECIFIC MOMENT. SEMANTICALLY, "SOME" WATER ONLY BECOMES A REAL AMOUNT WHEN YOU ARE DONE, NOT WHILE YOU ARE STILL AT IT.
ACCUSATIVE: THE DIRECT OBJECT Edit
Until now, you've been using the base form of the word in sentence like «Он ест яблоко».
Actually, whenever a verb, like "read", "cut" or "want" acts directly on some noun, the latter is a direct object. Such nouns take the Accusative case.
Only feminine nouns ending in -а / -я have a separate form. «Мама» is a good example of this class :
ма́ма → ма́му
Neuter nouns and feminine nouns with a final -ь (e.g., «мы́шь») use the Nominative form.
Now we are left with masculine nouns ending in a consonant (сок, медве́дь, брат). They use the same form as in Nominative or Genitive:
living beings ("animate") copy the Genitive
objects ("inanimate") stay Nominative
in plural this rule applies to all types of nouns
|— (masc.)||neuter||-ь (fem.)|
|-у/-ю||Nom. / Gen. Nominative||Nominative|
With "substances"(mass nouns) Genitive may be used instead to convey a meaning of "some" quantity.
VERBS THAT TAKE A DIRECT OBJECT ARE CALLED TRANSITIVE. UNFORTUNATELY, SOME VERBS THAT ARE TRANSITIVE IN RUSSIAN ARE NOT TRANSITIVE IN ENGLISH ("WAIT") AND VICE VERSA ("LIKE").
I WANT SOME Edit
Russian has two main verb form patterns, which we are going to introduce soon. Unfortunately, the verb «хоте́ть»(to want) is irregular and mixes both. On a brighter note, it is a very common verb, so you'll memorize it eventually.
The other notable thing is that it does not have a strong connotation of 'need', unlike the English verb '"want". Similarly, the Russian verb for "give"(да́ть) is totally OK for polite requests. Just use it with «пожа́луйста».
the one the 'giving' is directed towards is NOT a direct object in Russian. It is called an indirect object and takes the Dative. We'll deal with it later.
VERBS IN THE PRESENT 1 Edit
Е- AND И- CONJUGATION Edit
The verbs in Russian change according to person and number. Each form has a different ending. There are only two patterns (apart from some phonetic changes).
|x||endings||Е- / И- examples|
|я||"-ю" (у)||чита́ю, пишу́ / говорю́, ви́жу|
|ты||"-ешь" / -ишь||чита́ешь, пи́шешь / говори́шь, ви́дишь|
|он/она́||"-ет "/ -ит||чита́ет, пи́шет / говори́т, ви́дит|
|мы||"-ем" / -им||чита́ем, пи́шем / говори́м, ви́дим|
|вы||"-ете" / -ите||чита́ете, пи́шете / говори́те, ви́дите|
|они́||"-ют"(ут) / -ят (ат)||чита́ют, пи́шут / говоря́т, ви́дят|
We will learn these one by one. There are only four stems with irregular conjugation. The verbs хоте́ть, дать, есть, бежа́ть and all their derivatives follow neither the Е- nor the И-conjugation exactly.
Note that if the endings are stressed, Ё replaces Е. Fortunately, a non-past form has only 2 options:
fixed stress – on the stem (чита́ю, чита́ете, ви́жу, ви́дит) or on the ending (стою́, стои́т, стои́шь)
"я"-form has a stressed ending (Я пишу́). The stress falls on the stem everywhere else (ты пи́шешь, она пи́шет..)
A verb uses one stem to form Infinitive and Past tense forms. It uses the 2nd one, similar, for the non-past forms and the imperative. So you cannot predict all forms from the infinitive. You can make a good guess, though.
In this course we use the American English definitions:
за́втрак = breakfast, a morning meal
обе́д = lunch, a midday meal
у́жин = dinner, an evening meal
THE INFINITIVE, LIKES, AND DISLIKES Edit
I LIKE/I LOVE ? Edit
In Russian, you can express liking things and activities pretty much the same way as in English, with similar verbs. The usage differs a bit, though.
A a rule of thumb, «Я люблю́» means "I love" only when directed at a single person (or animal). Otherwise, it's just "I like".
"LOVE" люби́ть means a stable, lasting feeling (note the phonetic change for the 1st person singular: "люблю"). A normal, transitive verb, i.e. used with the Accusative. Use it for loving an individual or liking some things/people/activity in general (verbs take infinitive). Very much preferred in negations of such activities (i.e. "don't like to wait")
"LIKE" нра́виться means moderate "liking" something or someone, often something specific. Not transitive! The thing liked is the subject, acting indirectly on a person: «Мне нра́вится стол» = I like the table.
note that «Мне нра́вится стол» works in a similar way to the English verb "to seem": "The table seems good to me". The sentence is built as though the table "transmits" the feeling towards you. While rare in English, in Russian, this is pretty typical for feelings and experience to be expressed that way («Мне хорошо́»).
INFINITIVE «НРА́ВИТЬСЯ» AND 3RD PERSON SINGULAR «НРА́ВИТСЯ» ARE PRONOUNCED EXACTLY THE SAME, HOWEVER, FOR THE SAKE OF CONSISTENCY THEY ARE SPELT DIFFERENTLY (MOST INFINITIVES END IN «-ТЬ», SO -ТЬ + СЯ = -ТЬСЯ, NATURALLY)
When you refer to generic things and activities, both verbs can be used but «люби́ть» is mildly more useful.
MAY I? Edit
Possibility and/or permission are often expressed with words мо́жно and нельзя́.
Здесь мо́жно жить. = One may live here.
Здесь нельзя́ есть. = One cannot/should not eat here.
The English translation may vary. You can specify the person for whom the permission or recommendation applies, in the Dative (but you do not have to):
Мне нельзя́ спать. = I should not sleep.
Нам нельзя́ мно́го есть. = We should not eat a lot.
P.S. the -ся at the end of "нра́вится" is a reflexive particle and comes after the ending (in verbs, use -сь after a vowel, -ся after a consonant) . Technically, a reflexive verb is one where the subject of the verb acts on itself. As you can see, often this is not always reflected clearly in the meaning. «Нра́виться» is one of those verbs that are reflexive "just because".
Don't worry about it too much for now, as we'll be tackling reflexives in more detail further down the tree.
«для»(for) always takes Genitive nouns
Food offers a delicious intake of mass nouns. Russian has them massed up even where English does not!
so карто́шка(potatoes), лук(onions), шокола́д are mass nouns in Russian
and you may recall that mass nouns may be used in Gen. instead of Acc. if you mean "some quantity":
Купи́ сы́ра/карто́шки. = Buy some cheese/potatoes.
The formal word for potato is карто́фель (German speakers, rejoice), but it's hardly ever used in speech. Use «карто́шка» instead.
The word for tomato is помидо́р. There is also the word тома́т, but it is
the plant's name, pretty formal; look on pricetags the base stem for derivative products:
тома́тная па́ста = tomato paste
посуда is a word for different containers used for cooking , consuming and further storage of food. English, sadly, does not have the exact equivalent. However, it is obviously "dishes" that you wash and "cookware/tableware" that you buy.
VERBAL WISDOM Edit
In this skill, we used perfective verbs for "cook", "cut", "wash". The reason is simple: that's the verb you'd use when you want a single specific action, often with a result—rather than referring to "activity" (activity may be fun but, in some cases, pointless).
More on that later. For now, just go with the flow.
ADJECTIVES BASICS AND SPELLING Edit
In Russian adjectives agree with the nouns they modify in gender/number and case. Out of 24 combinations only 12 forms are different. This system is completely regular, with no change of stress. The endings have “hard” and “soft” variants depending on the stem (for example, ый/ий or “ая/яя”).
Here is the Nominative and Genitive for “classic” hard- and soft-stem adjectives ("new"/"blue"):
|fem||но́вая/си́няя чашка||но́вой/си́ней ча̒шки|
|masc||но́вый/си́ний дом||но́вого/си́него до́ма|
|neut||но́вое/си́нее окно́||но́вого/си́него окна|
|pl.||но́вые/си́ние ча́шки||но́вых/си́них ча́шек|
note that masculine and neuter merge in all their forms different from the Nominative one (their Accusative will be the same as the Gen. or the Nom. depending on animacy). In the Nominative there is also -ОЙ masculine ending: большо́й (“big”). Only for ending-stressed adjectives.
ОГО/ЕГО are historical spellings: г actually sounds like [в]
unstressed -ая(яя) /-ое (ее) sound identical in standard Russian: си́няя and си́нее have no difference in pronunciation.
The following universal rules of Russian spelling will give you the rest of the endings for any adjective you ever meet (there exist 4 patterns at most):
After Г-К-Х (“velars”) and Ш-Щ-Ж-Ч (“hushes”) use И and never Ы
After Ц , Г-К-Х (“velars”) and Ш-Щ-Ж-Ч (“hushes”) use А, У and never Я, Ю
After Ц and Ш-Щ-Ж-Ч (“hushes”) use Е when unstressed and never О.
А VS. И Edit
In Russian, и is used to show similarity. Otherwise you should use а, which shows contrast. To be more specific, here are the typical patterns:
Я мальчик, а ты девочка. = I am a boy and you are a girl.
Я работаю в кафе, а ты в школе. = I work in a cafe, and you (work) in a school.
Я люблю спать, а ты нет. = I like sleeping, and you don't.
А ты? = And you? → often used to indicate a question.
ЗАТО (NEGATIVE, ЗАТО POSITIVE) Edit
A conjunction used for "compensating" for something unpleasant with something that, you imply, is good:
У нас нет молока, зато есть хлеб = We don't have milk but we do have bread.
Мальчик ещё не умеет писать, зато хорошо читает. = The boy cannot write yet but he reads well.
Not exactly the best thing to translate into English ("on the other hand"? "but at least"? "thankfully?"), so it is not often used in this course.
ХОТЯ ('THOUGH') Edit
Much like the English though/even though/although. It is often combined with "и" before the predicate (which is sometimes directly after «хотя»):
Он здесь, хотя (он) и не знает ничего.= Он здесь, хотя (он) ничего и не знает. = He is here, even though he doesn't know anything.
This conjunction has a rather interesting use, to show when someone perceives someone else's action:
Я ви́жу, как она́ танцу́ет. = I see her dancing.
Они́ слу́шают, как музыка́нт игра́ет. = They listen to the musician playing.
For а, there is also "narrative" contrast pattern, largely absent from this course (but not from real-life Russian):
На столе чашка, а в чашке чай. = There is a cup on the table, and the cup has tea in it.
Он здесь, а это значит — воды нет. = He is here, and that means there's no water.
Такси — это машина, а машины не всегда хорошо работают. = A taxi is a car, and cars do not always work well. (here, you are making your point by introducing a new thought "unexpected" by a listener)
THERE IS Edit
WORD ORDER Edit
To say "there is/are" in Russian, do the following:
say THE PLACE
then the verb (if any)
then THE OBJECT
«есть» is not used, unless the sentence really has to emphasize the existence of the object. Some examples:
На столе́ ло́жка. = There is a spoon on the table.
На сту́ле ма́льчик. = There is a boy on the chair.
В до́ме никого́ нет. = There is no one in the house.
На столе́ лежи́т ко́шка. = A cat is lying on the table.
In the Present tense no verb is necessary; in the past, you would at least need a form of "to be". Note that even in the present Russian still uses verbs like "is situated", "stands", "lies" way more often than would be considered normal in English.
The most natural translation into English is a structure like "There is an apple on the table" or "An apple is on the table". The emphasis is on the object, not on the place.
Actually, such a sentence answers the question of WHAT is in the said place. For out-of-the-blue sentences about objects that have nothing unique about them it matches what English THERE-IS sentences are for. So this is what we have in this course.
The initial position of a "place" inside the sentence holds for many other structures, too. Whenever the place is not a part of the "message" of your sentence, it is usually somewhere at the beginning (that is, if the place frames your description of an action rather than providing crucial information).
If the whole point of uttering a sentence is telling someone about the place then, naturally, it takes the sentence-final position:
За́втра я в Нью-Йо́рке. = I am in New York tomorrow. (not somewhere else)
You don't have to translate verbs like "to stand" and "to lie" literally when they refer to objects. Such use is not, by a wide margin, nearly as standard in English as it is in Russian:
На столе́ стои́т ча́шка. = A cup is ("stands") on the table.
In English "to be" is perfectly fine, so we accept that.
Russian makes a distinction between being somewhere (тут/здесь, там) , going there (сюда, туда) and coming from there (отсюда, оттуда)—so naturally question words follow suit:
Где? = Where (at)?
Куда? = Where to?
Откуда? = Where from?
WHAT OR WHAT ARE YOU? Edit
Russian uses «Кто»(who) when asking about identity and occupation and «Что» is used for objects rather than people. Since Russian nouns have cases, кто and что also change depending on their role in the implied sentence. As you will discover a little bit further down the tree, «Кто» behaves rather like a masculine adjective.
|Nom.||что||кто||чей, чьё, чья ,чьи|
|Gen.||чего́||кого́||чьего́, чьего́, чье́й, чьих|
|Acc.||что||кого||Gen/Nom; «чью» for Fem.|
|Prep||чём||ком||чьём, чьём, чьей, чьих|
ПОЧЕМУ? AND ЗАЧЕМ? Edit
Почему is used when asking a question about a cause of some event or action. It is a question that looks back at the past.
Зачем starts a question about the purpose of some action or some event that can have one. It is a question that looks towards a desired future.
In a few regions of Russia (Tatarstan, for example) people may use зачем for both questions if their usage of Russian is influenced by a major local language that makes no distinction between the two. In Standard Russian these are two clearly separate entities.
PEOPLE 1 Edit
директор is usually the main boss, akin to CEO in English. Also the Principal or Head Teacher of a school.
ученик is a school student or a "follower" or "disciple" of some "teacher" in a more spiritual sense. AmE speakers may confuse it with "студент", which is strictly a college-level student.
коллега is your first word of common gender, i.e. its gender depends on who you are referring to.
AROUND YOU Edit
DO THAT THE ENGLISH WAY Edit
To express the idea of speaking some language, or something being written in that language, Russian has adverbs literally meaning "Russian-ly", "English-ly" etc.. :
Я не говорю́ по-ру́сски. = I do not speak Russian.
Вы говори́те по-англи́йски. = Do you speak English?
They are formed from -ский adjectives by attaching по- and changing the tail to bare -ски: по-ру́сски, по-италья́нски, по-япо́нски, по-вьетна́мски, по-америка́нски, по-францу́зски and so on.
And remember, these words actually mean something done "in a certain way", so «суши по-американски» (American-style sushi) should not surprise you!
LOCATIVE 2 Edit
A relatively small group of short masculine nouns have an accented -у ending with в/на in the meaning of place (and only then):
Мы в аэропорту́. = We are at the airport.
Я сплю́ на полу́. = I sleep on the floor.
Our course has about a dozen of them (there are about 100 in the language). Also, there exists a very small group of feminine nouns, all "-ь"-ending, that have a stressed Locative-2 ending:
Твой сви́тер в крови́. = Your sweater is covered in blood.
All these nouns use their normal Prepositional form with "о" and "при".
This word is used with qualities that manifest "totally"— usually with negatives:
Он совсе́м не рабо́тает. = He doesn't work at all.
Том совсе́м не ест. = Tom doesn't eat at all.
Мы совсе́м бли́зко. = We are really close (i.e. almost there).
It comes from «ме́жду» + «наро́ды», i.e. "between"+"peoples", which is quite literally "international".
The loanword «интернациональный» means the same but has quite limited use in certain combinations like "international team" or "international debt" (mostly these are from political contexts). This course largely avoids this word.
Probably, "international team/orchestra" etc. is the context where you must use «интернациональный»).
The word for an "animal" is a nominalised neuter adjective, and its case forms follow adjectival pattern. Of course, its gender is fixed:
Это живо́тные. = These are animals.
Я люблю́ живо́тных. = I like animals.