The Russian accusative case was the first ‘real’ case I learned 5 years ago.
I just learned the phrase: I want to drink beer (я хочу пить пиво)
The first sentence I spoke after that was: я хочу пить водка.
That made me feel clever. Until I figured out it’s dead wrong.
Correct sentence: я хочу пить водку.
Sounds difficult? It really isn’t. If you haven’t yet learned the accusative case in Russian, don’t worry… it’s the most simple case in Russian.
Even though it’s easier than the other cases to learn, it still takes some time to understand and remember all the nuances. So continue reading to learn how to master the Russian accusative case 🙂
Russian accusative case cheat sheet (nouns + adjectives)
In the following paragraphs you find the tables on how the declensions of the accusative case work.
See it as a quick cheat sheet.
- if you’re completely new to the accusative case, take a quick look and then continue reading the rest of the article for an in-depth guide on how and when to form the accusative case.
- if you’re more advanced, then these tables are likely everything you need. For more information/explanation on 1 specific subcategory, you can navigate to the category you need with the table of contents above.
How to form the Russian accusative case?
We start by discussing exactly how to form the accusative case in Russian. That means all the nouns, adjectives and pronouns (under pronouns we also take a look at the possessive, demonstrative, interrogative and relative pronouns).
The second part of the guide shows you exactly when you should use the accusative case.
Throughout the page, you find many different examples, and little tricks that help you learn the case better.
Especially examples are crucial to get more context around a specific instance when you should use the accusative case.
They’re also a great way to test yourself: can you figure out WHY this noun is in the accusative case?
If you actively force yourself to think about sentences, your brain gets the signal that it’s important to memorize it.
So be sure to check the examples well 🙂
About the accusative case
To be blunt: it’s the 3rd easiest case in Russian. Here’s the overview which case to learn when:
So if you don’t have knowledge of the previous 2 cases (nominative and prepositional), it’s good to check those out first before you continue.
A quick overview of when the accusative case is used:
A noun is in the accusative case if it’s the object of the sentence.
A good way to find out which word is in the accusative case is to ask the question:
“Who or what gets something done to it?”
I read the book. The book gets read, so the book is in the accusative case.
я читаю книгу.
Later on in the article we’ll discuss more instances when to use the Russian accusative.
For now, let’s discuss HOW the nouns change.
So the accusative case is used when a noun is the OBJECT of a sentence.
Why are you digging earth? – зачем ты копаешь землю?
What is the object of the sentence?
The nominative case of the earth is земля.
In the accusative case it’s: землю.
я changes to ю.
The great thing about the accusative case is that only feminine nouns change.
So if you use a masculine or neuter noun, the words stays the same in the accusative:
I buy a home – я покупаю дом.
дом stays дом.
There is a catch though:
If a word is animate, it changes according to the genitive case.
Animate means that it’s alive.
A quick example here:
Я ем персик – I eat a peach
Я обнимаю Персика – I hug Peach (my cat’s name is Persik))
If you’re first learning the accusative case, don’t pay attention to this at this point in time.
First learn the genitive case.
I will still add it here for reference.
Here are all the rules for inanimate nouns:
- Masculine and neuter nouns do not change
- Feminine nouns change their а or я for у or ю respectively
- Plural nouns don’t change
All animate nouns change according to the genitive case.
Masculine nouns change:
- singular- if the noun ends in a consonant, add а
- singular – replace й, with я.
- singular – replace ь, add я.
- plural – if ends in ж, ч, ш, щ, or ь then add ей
- plural – if ends in й or ц (stressed) add ев
- plural – all other masculine nouns end in ов
Feminine singular nouns behave the same as inanimate nouns. Feminine plural nouns behave as the genitive case:
- Singular feminine nouns change their а or я for у or ю respectively
- plural – if ends in а then drop а (no ending)
- plural – if ends in [consonant] я then ь
- plural – if ends in [vowel] я then й
- plural – if ends in ь then add ей
Here are some examples:
Adjectives always take the case of the accompanying noun in Russian. So a noun in the accusative case, has the adjective also in the accusative case.
We follow many of the same rules here as for the nouns:
- Inanimate masculine, neuter and all plural adjectives stay the same
- Any (Inanimate and animate) feminine singular adjectives change their ая or яя to ую or юю.
- Masculine, neuter and all plural animate adjectives take on the genitive case
- Мальчик видит большую птицу
- Студент читает интересную книгу
- Девушка целует своего парня
- Мы видели многих людей в Барселоне
Here’s the entire overview of adjectives in the Russian accusative case.
Pronouns are nouns that work as ‘placeholders’ for other nouns.
Vlad used to work in a factory before he got fired.
Vlad used to work in a factory before Vlad got fired.
What sounds better?
Before HE got fired, right?
That’s the use of pronouns.
Here’s the overview of all the pronouns in the accusative case:
Possessive pronouns are words that mean ‘his’, ‘her’ and ‘our’.
In Russian they behave like adjectives, so you they change according to the noun they represent.
our dog – Наша собака
don’t pet our dog – не гладь нашу собаку
Here’s an overview of all the Russian personal possessive pronouns in the nominative and accusative case:
Demonstrative pronouns are ‘this’ and ‘that’.
As you may have guessed, they also behave as if they’re adjectives 🙂
That person is weird – тот человек странный
Do you see that weird person? – ты видишь того странного человека?
The great thing is that этот and тот have the exact same declensions. Only ‘this’ has an extra э in the beginning.
Here’s an overview of the Russian demonstrative pronouns:
Interrogative and relative pronouns
Interrogative pronouns are basically question words that point at a noun.
They can also be used as a connection between sentences.
the book that I bought – книга, которую я купил
Here’s an overview of all the interrogative and relative pronouns in the accusative case.
When to use the accusative case in Russian?
It’s straightforward when to use the accusative case. That’s why it’s the easiest case to learn.
Below you find all the reasons why a noun is in the accusative case.
Direct object of the verb
This is the most obvious reason why you meet an accusative noun.
If a noun is a direct object of a verb, it looks like this:
Subject + Verb + Object.
- я читаю книгу – I read a book
- Он покупает дом – He buys a house
- Полиция бьет мужчину – The police hits the man
- Она гладит свою кошку – She pets her cat
- Ты ешь кашу – You eat porridge
So the main meaning of the accusative case is to designate a person or thing to whom or which an action is being done.
Going TO something/somewhere
If you’ve learned the prepositional case before, you know that the prepositions в and на mean ‘in’ or ‘on’ a place. Here they require the prepositional case.
Now it gets a little tricky.
The same 2 prepositions can also mean that you need the accusative case.
But only if it implies a movement. Going TO somewhere.
Can you spot the difference?
- Я в москве – I am in moscow
- Я еду в москву – I go to moscow
москва is a feminine noun. In the first sentence it’s in the prepositional case.
In the second sentence it’s the accusative, because you are going to Moscow.
Some more examples:
- я на работе – I’m at work (prep.)
- я иду на работу – I go to work (acc.)
It’s a straightforward usage of the accusative here. But it takes a while to ‘build’ this rule into your spoken Russian.
Most prepositions trigger just one case. With на or в you always need to think it through.
People still understand you perfectly if make mistakes here, so don’t worry.
Except for the 2 prepositions in the previous paragraph, there are more prepositions that trigger the accusative case.
The problem here again is that most of these prepositions can trigger multiple cases.
Though each of them is connected with movement.
Here are all the movement prepositions that trigger the accusative case:
- в: (in)to
- на: (on)to
- за: [to] behind
- под: [to] under
- по: up to
- с: about
- про: about
- о: against
- сквозь: through
- через: through, across
Here are examples of each preposition and what to look out for:
|в||я еду в москву – I travel to Moscow|
|на||Я иду на работу – I’m walking to work|
|за||Он пошел за лестницу – He went behind the stairs|
|под||Человек нырнул под воду – The man dove under the water|
|по||Я по шею в работе – I’m up to my neck in work.|
|с||Он размером со своего брата – He is like his brother in size.|
|про||Ты опять говоришь про работу? – Are you talking about work again?|
|о||Он бьется головой о стену – He’s hitting his head on the wall|
|сквозь||свет сиял сквозь воду – the light shined through the water|
|через||Пуля прошла прямо через ногу – The bullet went straight through his leg|
Time expressions are tough in Russian. They use a mixture of the prepositional, accusative, genitive, dative and even instrumental case.
All this requires its own complete lesson.
(I will make one in the future)
Here’s the quick overview in which situations you require the accusative case:
- to indicate the duration how long a verb lasts: Мы работали там целую неделю/пять часов/долгое время – We worked there a whole week/five hours/a long time.
- to indicate the duration of a period of time after the verb has ended: Она поехала в деревню на месяц – She drove to the country for a month
- to indicate in how much time the verb starts: Я позвоню ему на работу через неделю – I’ll call him at work in a week
- to indicate the verb happens every period. You use a modifier like каждый for this: Мы встречаемся каждую неделю/каждый день/каждый вечер – We meet every week/every day/every evening
- to indicate the frequency of the action in a specific time frame (раз в ….): Я хожу в кино раз в неделю/два раза в месяц/пять раз в год – I go to the movies once a week/two times a month/five times a year.
- to indicate a punctual time that is less than one week: Митя придёт в пять часов/в субботу/в ту же минутку – Mitya is coming at five o’clock/on Saturday/this very minute.
5 Tips to learn the accusative case
The accusative case in Russian can be difficult, if you’ve never learned another language that has cases.
If your native language is English, Spanish, Dutch, French or Italian, the only thing resembling cases are some personal pronouns.
- I go to see her.
- She goes to see me.
So it will be a shock to learn about the accusative case.
If you’ve learned another language with cases before (or if it’s your native language), then the Russian accusative won’t give your too much problems.
Let’s go over my 5 tips that help you master the accusative case…
Learn it as your first ‘real’ case
Remember the case difficulty order I gave you in the beginning?
I do not consider the nominative and prepositional ‘real’ cases to learn.
With the nominative nothing changes.
And the prepositional has some changes, but they can be learned in 2 hours. It’s the introduction to the real cases.
The accusative is the first case that offers difficulties.
But not as difficult as the last 3 cases.
That’s why I highly recommend you focus on the accusative case before learning any other cases.
In practice, 80% or more of your usage of the accusative is changing the а/я sound to an у/ю sound.
The other 20% are animate nouns that require the genitive case.
Which brings us to the next tip:
First inanimate nouns
Learn inanimate nouns first.
Inanimate is everything that’s not a living being.
- дом – house
- книга – book
- море – sea
- дерево – tree
- машина – car
- стул – chair
- кожа – skin
- глаз – eye
- солнце – sun
Words like skin and eye may be confusing as they are PART of a living being. Still, they’re considered as inanimate.
It’s best to learn these words first, as three quarters of them do not change in the accusative case.
Only feminine nouns change.
So to speak 80% of the entire accusative case in Russian correctly…
… you only need to know when to change an inanimate feminine noun ending.
And you can learn this in a short period of time. Integrating into you spoken Russian may take longer, but that happens every time you bring theory into practice.
So, what should you do after learning this?
Leave animate nouns for when you’re learning the genitive case
Once you have the inanimate nouns under control, I want you to switch to the genitive case.
That’s because all the animate nouns (except for feminine singular) of the accusative decline exactly like the genitive case.
So it makes sense to focus your attention there.
In fact, I recommend you to view the accusative rules for animate nouns as something extra to learn WHILE focusing on the genitive case.
That way you keep everything as organized as possible in your mind.
This is going to be a longer process than the first part of the accusative, since the genitive case is the most difficult case in Russian.
So if you don’t get most of the rules in the beginning, don’t worry. It will come with time and practice.
Write it down
An easy way to improve your memory is to write things down.
It seems like the more effort you put into memorizing something, the better it works.
Have you ever tried making an elaborate visual mnemonic to remember a word?
I have, and chances are it never leaves you.
The downside is that it takes you 5+ minutes (or longer) to come up with something.
Just reading something is also not that effective.
Remember in high school just going over lists of information? That didn’t work too well either.
So I propose that if you want to learn the declensions of the accusative case well…
… you write them down.
Simply taking the part you struggle with most, and committing to copying the table every day for a week, will do wonders.
You don’t need to do anything fancy, just:
- pick a sheet of paper
- write on top “Russian accusative personal pronouns” (or whatever you struggle with)
- copy the table once per day.
- after 3 days, try if you can write the complete table from memory
- if you have more than 80% correct, perfect. You’ve passed.
- less than 80%? Repeat copying the table for 3 more days and repeat the test on the 4th day.
Why not focus until you have 100% correct? Because you learn those other forms by trial and error while speaking anyways. And we want to avoid perfectionism.
The faster you can convey what you’re trying to say to a Russian person, the better.
Mistakes will fix themselves.
Lack of speaking practice won’t.
Talking about speaking…
Speak out loud
While reading the examples on this page, did you read them out loud?
Or if you are in a public place, did you quietly move your lips to say the words?
It may seem like a small thing to do, but it has serious benefits to your spoken Russian.
It also helps you remember better.
After all, the main goal is to remember the accusative case WHILE speaking.
So if you let your mind get used to pronouncing the sentences correct, it helps you remember them better.
It’s also a simple thing to do. You’re reading the sentence already anyways. So why not add a little more effort for 2X the results?
Fourteen day bootcamp to learn the accusative case
If you want to learn the accusative case (and if you got to this point in the article, I assume you want to), you can follow this 2 week bootcamp.
There are some requirements though:
- you understand the 100 most common words in Russian
- you know what the nominative case is
- you can form the prepositional case for singular nouns
If you answered ‘yes’ to all 3 requirements, let’s go!
Day 1: read this article twice
Day 2 – 3: pick the 5 example inanimate words in the nominative case and write them down 5 times each in the singular and plural accusative case. Here are the words again: стол – солнце – книга – земля – бумага
Day 4 – 6: write down the personal pronouns in the accusative case
Day 7 – 8: pick 2 adjectives (красивый – синий) and write them each for the following words: стол – солнце – книга – башня – вода
Day 9 – 11: pick the following 5 example animate nouns in the nominative case and write them down 5 times each in the singular and plural accusative case. Here are the words again: врач – женщина – Егор – Даша – Мария
Day 12 – 13: create 10 different sentences every day, that involve the accusative case. They can be as simple as “I read a book” (я читаю книгу). After writing each down, pronounce it out loud.
Day 14: check your knowledge here with this test.
Conclusion on the Russian accusative case
It’s an easy case compared to all the other cases. That’s why you do best to learn it as the 3rd case. Start with the inanimate nouns. Once you understand those, you can switch to the genitive case. Or dive deep into the animate nouns.
In the end you do best to understand at such a level that you speak it correct in around 80% of situations. After that continued practice and monthly revision will get you closer and closer to perfection.
What’s your opinion on the accusative case? Do you find it easy or difficult?