Learn Russian grammar

Russian grammar is both simple and complex–as any other language. We value the opportunity to assist as you advance in learning Russian.

Before we begin grammar we invite you to also visit these resources as you study:

The Cyrillic alphabet learning tools are on this page.

The Russian numbers are essential.

The very best language resources to assist your Russian studies.

Russian Grammar:

It would be impossible to cover the entire scope of Russian grammar here so we’ll post some helpful tips from time to time and then point you to the best resources (many of them are free!) so that you can expand your abilities at your individual pace as needed.

Russian Punctuation – when to use commas:
This section on Russian Punctuation is authored by our friend Tamara, highly recommended by the Mendeleyev Journal as an excellent teacher of the Russian language. Her teaching website is: http://www.primelanguageservices.com
 Early Russian punctuation was based on Greek practice, since the Cyrillic alphabet is derived from the Greek; and by the 17th century several quite elaborate systems had evolved in different areas. Since the 18th century Russia has used a form of western European punctuation that has much in common with German practice: notably an even wider obligatory use of commas with subordinate and indeed coordinate clauses, and letter spacing (as well as italics) for emphasis. German quotation marks, French guillemots, and dashes may be used for direct speech.However, you need to understand at least the basic rules.Comma is used:1. After the name of the one you address to: Оля, принеси мне чай. Olya, bring me some tea.2. When enumerating something or describing something: У нас были белые, синие и красные карандаши. We had white, blue, and red pencils. Mind that you should not put a comma before the last item if there is an “и” copulative conjunction.3. After a parenthetic word: Однако, он бросил эту затею. However, he gave up the idea.4. Between two or more simple sentences consisting of a composite sentence if there is a conjunction between them. Нам удалось найти ключ, но мы не смогли открыть ворота. We managed to find the key but we failed to open the gate.5. Before and after the dangling participle: Он шел вдоль дороги, напевая какую-то мелодию. He walked along the road, singing some song.6. After an interjection: А, это ты… Oh, it’s you…

Russian Grammar Resources
– To our knowledge there is no finer primer on the Internet regarding Russian grammer than this one: http://www.alphadictionary.com/rusgrammar/
 All the parts of speech are presented in an easy to digest format. The author is highly respected Dr. Robert Beard, the former CEO of yourDictionary.com, a company which he founded with two partners in 1999. Dr. Beard has a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Michigan and taught Russian and Linguistics at Bucknell University from 1965-2000. He is the author of three books and many articles on linguistics.
This site is near exhaustive and used by professional teachers and students of Russian around the world. Best of all, it’s free!
– Here is a very helpful chart on prepositions, including a pronunciation guide: http://www.russianlanguageguide.com/grammar/preposition.asp
– On verbs and phrasing:
– For pronouns:
The Unstressed O rule:
So, when is an O an O? Sometimes it’s “ah” and sometimes it’s more like an “uh.”Here is a great link explaining in simple terms how this concept works: http://www.russian.ucla.edu/beginnersrussian/student/CH2/GSGCh1-2R.pdf
Can you read this? Begin your studies and soon this one will be easy!
Examples of grammar at work:
By Michele A. Berdy, language writer for the Moscow Times newspaper.

Сажать/посадить: to seat, plant, imprison, put

In English, I don’t have much occasion to use the verb “to seat.” In fact, I think the last time I used it was a year or so ago: “Even though we made a reservation, the maitre d’ didn’t seat us right away.”

On the other hand, in Russian I seat things all the time. That is, I use the verb pair сажать/посадить almost every day.

First of all, you use сажать/посадить when you are putting someone in a sitting position. Он посадил меня на диван и стал рассказывать о том, что случилось. (He seated me on the couch and began to tell me what happened.) Or: Я посадила ребенка к себе на колени и стала читать ему книгу. (I put the child on my lap and began to read him a book.)

And since you sit on airplanes, trains, cars and other forms of transport, you are “seated” when you board them. Hence the word посадка (boarding) and посадочный талон (boarding pass) and the announcements you hear at the airport: Идёт посадка на рейс … (Boarding flight number … ).

That’s what passengers do. But planes also “sit” or are “seated” — that is, they land: Самолёт садился далеко из терминала (The plane put down far from the terminal). Пилот посадил самолёт на Гудзон (The pilot landed the plane on the Hudson). And so when посадка is used to describe planes and not passengers, it means a landing: Боинг совершил аварийную посадку (The Boeing made an emergency landing).

Read the entire article at this link.

Rules of Russian Grammar:
– The 5-Letter Rule
After Ш, Щ, Ж, Ч, Ц, don’t write O if it’s unstressed; instead write e.
– 7 Letter Rule
This rule applies when forming plural nouns. After these consonants: г х ч ш ж щ k you make a noun plural by changing the ending letter to и (instead of ы). Example: juice сок becomes соки juices.
– The Hush Rule
After Ш, Щ, Ж, Ч, don’t write Я or Ю; instead use А or У.
Grammar lessons:
– This Basic Grammar lesson is taken from the blog “How To Learn Russian.”(http://howtolearnrussian.wordpress.com)Every noun in Russian has a gender. Unlike the Latin languages (French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, Portuguese, Catalonian etc.) which have just masculine and feminine, Russian has three genders. The extra is called neuter, a bit like German which has these three. Another thing that should be mentioned is that there is no word for the. That’s right, none of that confusing el or la or la or le stuff. So really, this won’t be too hard to remember.
The Main Rules
Masculine nouns: These all end in consonants.

Feminine nouns: These end in either -а or -я. This is easy to remember as they have that “ah” sound at the end.

Neuter  nouns: -о or -е. If there are any foreign cognates, for example меню, then the word is most likely neuter as well.

One last thing before we move onto the nominative is that if the noun is ending in ь, then it is either masculine or feminine.

The Nominative Case
If I was to say “the boy kicked the ball”, in Russian “the boy” will be in the nominative case because it is the subject of the sentence. The nominative is merely the subject of the sentence. You don’t need to learn nominative case endings as they are just what you find in a dictionary, and are the same as what’s listed in the gender section. What you do need to know is how to make them plural.

For both masculine and feminine nouns: Add an -i sound at the end. As Randy says, we’ll look into morphology a little later.

Neuter nouns: These need an -a sound at the end. Again, we’ll learn the specific ending when we get into morphology.

Here are pronouns in the nominative form:
Я – I

Ты – You (informal)

Он (m)/ Она (f)/ Оно (n) – he / she / it

Вы – you (polite/ plural)

Мы – we

Они – they


Masculine adjectives have an -iy sound as their ending.Feminine has an -aya sound.

Neuter end in either -ое or -ее

Plurals have an -iye sound

Review on Russian Nouns
Every Russian noun has a gender. There are three genders:

1- Masculine, (мужской род)

2- Feminine (женской род)

3- Neuter (средний род).

Look at the ending in the nominative (dictionary) case to tell the gender of a noun. The nominative case is the default case for words.

Masculine nouns end with a consonants or with й.

Feminine nouns end with а, я, or ия.

Neuter nouns end in е, о, or with ие.

As with any language there are exceptions so we’ll help with few of the more common ones.

– A few masculine nouns end in a or я; these are usually associated with male names or titles. You’ll see this with мужчи́на (man,) дя́дя́ (uncle,) де́душка (grandfather,) and this is very common with shortened nicknames of masculine names. Think of Sasha, Dima and others like Воло́дя, Бо́ря. These decline like feminine nouns.

– Neuter nouns ending in о or и are often borrowed from foreign languages. Examples include кинo, ко́фe, кафe, and and такси. These borrowed words do not decline.

– There are a handful of neuter nouns that end with я. These include вре́мя (time), зна́мя (banner), и́мя (first name,) се́мя (seed) and те́мя (crown.)

– There are a few nouns that can be either masculine or feminine. These few all end with which end in the soft sign, ь.

The Russian Vowels:

Russian has 10 paired vowels. In other words there are 5 vowel sounds but expressed in pairs, depending on whether the word needs a hard vowel sound or a soft vowel sound.

Hard Vowels
а  э  ы  у  о
Soft Vowels
я  е  и  ю  ё

So, how easy are they to learn? Very, because you have to learn only the 5 hard vowels and since they’re paired you simply add the English “y” sound to the beginning of each to form the pair.

Here is how it works:

a is a hard vowel. It is paired by adding a y to a and you have я (ya).

э (eh) is a hard vowel. Add y and we have e (ye).

ы (euh) is a very hard sound. It is paired with и (e). Okay, that is the only one you don’t add the y to on the front.

у (oo) is hard and we soften it by adding the y sound to make ю (like “you”).

o (oh) is a hard vowel and we make it soft by again adding the y sound which makes ё (yo).

Making Nouns Plural:

For nouns, add ы to the end of the words which end with a consonant. These are masculine nouns. Example: билет ticket becomes билеты tickets.

Nouns ending with a are feminine so to make it plural you drop the a and add ы instead. Example: зима winter becomes зимы winters.

Nouns ending with the soft sign (ь) or with я are feminine and so you drop those letters and change the ending to и for plurals. Example: melon дыня
becomes дыни melons.

Neuter nouns end either in o or with e. The o is changed to a and a noun ending in e is changed to я to make it plural. Examples: Regarding o, wine вино becomes вина wines. Regarding e (hard as so few nouns end with e), платье is a dress and more than one dress becomes платья.

There are exceptions. This exception is called the 7 Letter Rule:
After these consonants: г х ч ш ж щ k you make a noun plural by changing the ending letter to и (instead of ы). Example: juice сок becomes соки juices.

There there are exceptions with words that don’t change. Cafe is one example as it is кафе with either.

We hope that these resources on grammar are helpful to you.

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