Updated: 
October 13, 2021

Here’s the brutal truth about Russian cases:

There are WAY too many people thinking today that Russian cases are “incredibly difficult” to master.

They say “I can never figure out Russian cases, they’re just too confusing”.

But I disagree…

If you’re serious about learning the Russian language, you just need to very systematic with how you learn and approach Russian grammar.

Otherwise you’re taking the “cooked spaghetti approach” to learning Russian: throwing a bunch of tactics and courses against the wall and hoping something sticks.

Well today we’re going to discuss cases and show you approaches that almost guarantee you’ll find Russian cases easy and simple to master.

Keep reading to learn how…

Quick overview of all the Russian cases

Russian cases aren’t something you’ll figure out in 1 day. They’re the most difficult part of learning Russian grammar.

The process can take a while.

Still, one of the best ways to learn them, is to get a quick overview in the beginning. Then focus on 1 cases at a time.

There are 6 cases in Russian:

  • Nominative
  • Genitive
  • Dative
  • Accusative
  • Instrumental
  • Prepositional

Here’s an overview of what each of these cases means:

Nominative case: if you ask ‘who’ or ‘what’ is doing something in a sentence, you’ll find the nominative case. It’s the initial form of each noun, and dictionaries/apps show this form.

мужчина смотрит – the man watches

мужчина -> мужчина (no change)

Accusative case: the object of an action is in this case.

я читаю книгу – I read a book

книга -> книгу (а becomes у)

Genitive case: this case shows that something or somebody belongs to something/somebody. It can be translated as ‘of’ in English.

лист дерева – the leaf of the tree

дерево -> дерева (the о becomes an а)

Dative case: this case shows that something is given or addressed to an object or person.

я иду к стоматологу – I go to the dentist

стоматолог -> стоматологу (the у is added)

Instrumental case: this case shows an object that is used as an instrument.

я ем ложкой – I eat with a spoon

ложка -> ложкой (а becomes ой)

Prepositional case: used when something is happening in a place, or goes about something. This case is always used with a preposition.

я живу в городе – I live in a city

город -> городе (the е is added)

***

As you saw, each case has its own function in the sentence. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be able to easily see what the function of a word is in a sentence, and understand the corresponding case.

Also, there are a wide variety of prepositions and verbs that demand a certain case. When learning these prepositions and verbs, it’s always a good idea to remember the correct case.

Now, let’s dive a little deeper into the Russian grammar of cases:

In-depth overview

Below you find all the declensions for each case. Also, I’ve added how different adjectives and pronouns look in different cases, as you likely need those as well.

This is best used as reference, so don’t feel obliged to remember each of them at this very moment. 

It takes a while to learn each case correctly, and you need to reinforce your knowledge of Russian grammar knowledge by speaking the language.

Before diving into cases, it’s good to have a basic overview of when a noun is masculine, feminine or neuter. 

Learn here how to determine the noun of a Russian word.

A quick recap:

  • Masculine nouns ending in a consonant (б, в, г, д, ж, з, й, к, л, м, н, п, р, с, т, ф, х, ц, ч, ш, щ) or й.
  • Feminine nouns ending in а or я.
  • Neuter nouns ending in о or е.

Be sure to look up each word in the dictionary form (nominative case).

There are a few exceptions as well. You need to learn those. They’re not a lot, and often they’re obvious. 

For example, мужчина (man) ends in а, so you expect the word to be feminine. However, it’s easy to understand that a man is masculine. 

When figuring out the right case, the word behaves as if it’s feminine though. The gender is mainly important when adding adjective or conjugating a verb in past tense.

Let’s start with the nominative case…

Nominative case in Russian

The nominative case is used for the subject of the sentence. That means the person or object that is doing something. 

It’s easiest part of Russian grammar.

Some easy ways to find the nominative case:

  • who/what is doing something in this sentence?
  • which noun is being used to conjugate the verb?

The verb in a sentence is always conjugated to a nominative noun.

In the previous sentence, ‘the verb’ is in the nominative case.

Also, if you say “I am a doctor”, both ‘I’ and ‘doctor’ should be in the nominative case.

я врач – I am a doctor

Here is when you should use the nominative case:

  • for the main subject
  • default case to use outside sentences (dictionary entries, signs, etc.)
  • when saying an object/person is something.

The nominative case is the easiest case in Russian, as you do not need to change any ending. Just say the word how you learned it, and that’s enough.

That’s why the first case for virtually every Russian student is the nominative case. 

Though many people don’t even know it’s a case when they first meet it.

Here are some examples of the nominative case in Russian:

  • студент читает – the student reads
  • я говорю – I speak
  • полицейский кричит – the policeman screams
  • кот мяукает – the cat meows
  • ветер дует – the wind blows

Nouns in the Russian nominative case

Here you can see 10 words in the nominative case. Going through this list is a good exercise for forming plurals.

We won’t completely go over how to form plurals. Though here are the quick general rules how to form plurals:

For the Russian nominative case, you make a plural by using the letters “и“, “ы“, “я” or “а“.

You add an ы to masculine nouns.

For feminine nouns, you replace the я with и, and the а with ы (unless еру previous consonant is Г, К, Х, Ж, Ч, Ш, Щ then replace with и)

Neuter nouns ending in о change to а and е to я.

As you can see, with some words, the unstressed syllable before the final syllable get cut. This may seem difficult, but if you pronounce the word relatively fast a couple of times, you find that that syllable would get dropped because of the pronounciation.

Nom. singularNom. pluralEnglishGender
столстолыTableMasculine
иностранециностранцыForeignerMasculine
звонокзвонкиCallMasculine
местоместаPlaceNeuter
поколениепоколенияGenerationNeuter
мореморяSeaNeuter
пандапандыPandaFeminine
земляземлиEarthFeminine
станциястанцииStationFeminine
книгакнигиBookFeminine

Pronouns in the Russian nominative case

The following pronouns are in the nominative case. The possessive pronouns are words like ‘My / your / our’ etc. Just the Russian equivalent. They behave as adjectives, so мой can only be used before a masculine word.

For example мой дом (my house) is correct, so моя дом is INCORRECT. As the adjective does not match the word’s gender.

The middle column are the possessive singular pronouns.

Nom. pronounPossessive nom. (masc/fem/neut/plur)English
ямой / моя / мое / моиI
тытвой / твоя / твое / твоиYou
онегоHe
онаееShe
оноегоIt
мынаш / наша / наше /нашиWe
вываш / ваша / ваше /вашиYou plural
ОниихThey

Adjectives in the Russian nominative case

Adjectives in the nominative case are easy. They’re regular. The only thing to watch out for is if the nominative masculine form ends in ий, all the endings are made softer.

In practice this means that for these ‘soft’ verbs, the first letter after the stem becomes softer. Compare the first 2 adjectives with the 3 adjectives to see what I mean:

Nom. masculineNom. feminineNom. neuterNom. pluralEnglish
красивыйкрасиваякрасивоекрасивыеbeautiful
умныйумнаяумноеумныеSmart
синийсиняясинеесиниеblue

Example phrases with the nominative case

Here are some examples phrases that use the nominative case. See if you understand why a specific sentence works the way it works.

Every word in the nominative case has been bolded.

SentenceTranslation
Мальчик читаетThe boy reads
Мое имя АриMy name is Arie
Ветер дуетThe wind blows
Женщина красиваяThe woman is beautiful
Умный человек думаетThe smart person thinks

Genitive case in Russian

The genitive is often the first of the tough trio (genitive + dative + instrumental). While grasping the essence of this case is quite easy, it gets complicated because of the many different endings.

The plural endings change differently for female and male Russian nouns. Plus depending on the consonant before the ending, it can also make a difference.

In a nutshell: the genitive case is used to indicate possession.

You can compare it to the ‘s in English: 

Tom’s soccer ball.

Guys’ night out.

If a word is in the genitive case, you can often translate it as ‘of + noun’.

For example:

книга автора – the book of the author.

Author is автор. It’s a masculine noun, so it gets an ‘а’ added to its ending.

Let’s take a look at all the ending changes in the genitive case below

(the genitive has quite some exceptions, so be sure to look up the full declension tables below)

  • If a noun ends in a consonant (masculine nouns ending in: б, в, г, д, ж, з, й, к, л, м, н, п, р, с, т, ф, х, ц, ч, ш, щ or й), it gets an а.
  • If a noun is feminine (а or я), that letter changes to и or ы.
  • Neuter nouns ending in е or о, get an а.
  • Masculine plural nouns get ов or ев to their ending. 
  • Feminine plural nouns remove their а or change the я to й.
  • Neuter plural nouns remove their о or е.

Now, like I said before, there are quite some exceptions to this rule, so be sure to check the complete declensions tables below. There you’ll find the complete information.

This is quite some information to take in, so let’s check out some examples:

  • машина девушки – the girl’s car
  • президент россии – the president of Russia
  • окно дома – the house’s window

The genitive is also used for numbers. So after the number 2-4 you use the genitive singular. And after the number 5, you use the genitive plural version.

  • два дома – two houses
  • пять домов – five houses
  • три женщины – three women
  • три солнца – three suns
  • семь женщин – seven women
  • восемь солнц – 8 suns

Many verbs also require the corresponding noun to be in the genitive case. Virtually always when you see this word in a dictionary/list of words, it’s indicated that you should use the genitive case after.

Here are all the instances when to use the genitive case:

  • possession
  • numerals and quantifiers
  • negated verbs (which take direct objects in Accusative) to indicate total absence
  • some time expressions
  • prepositions: без ‘without’, вместо ‘instead’, возле ‘near’, вокруг ‘around’, впереди ‘ahead of’, для ‘for’, до ‘before’, из ‘from’, из-за ‘from behind’, от ‘from’, кроме ‘except for’, мимо ‘past by’, около ‘near’, после ‘after’, против ‘against’, среди ‘among’, у ‘by’, близ ‘near’, вдоль ‘along’, вне ‘outside’, внутри ‘inside’;
  • verbs: бояться ‘afraid of’, достигать ‘reach’, избегать ‘avoid’
  • adjectives: полный ‘full of’ (genitive noun)

Nouns in the Russian genitive case

Nom. singleGen. singleGen. pluralEnglishGender
столстоластоловTableMasculine
иностранециностранцаиностранцевForeignerMasculine
звонокзвонказвонковCallMasculine
местоместаместPlaceNeuter
поколениепоколенияпоколенийGenerationNeuter
мореморяморейSeaNeuter
пандапандыпандPandaFeminine
земляземлиземельEarthFeminine
станциястанциистанцийStationFeminine
книгакнигикнигBookFeminine

Pronouns in the Russian genitive case

Gen. pronounPossessive gen. (masc / fem / neut / plur)English pronoun
менямоего / моей / моего / моихI
тебятвоего / твоей / твоего /твоихYou
егоегоHe
ееееShe
егоегоIt
наснашего / нашей / нашего /нашихWe
васвашего / вашей / вашего /вашихYou plural
ихихThey

Adjectives in the Russian genitive case

Gen. masculineGen. feminineGen. neuterGen. pluralEnglish
красивогокрасивойкрасивогокрасивыхbeautiful
умногоумнойумногоумныхSmart
синегосинейсинегосинихblue

Example phrases with the genitive case

SentenceTranslation
Я сейчас у стоматологаI’m at the dentist’s right now
дом фермера был разрушенthe house of the farmer got destroyed
дочь моего друга уже ходит в школуmy friend’s daughter already goes to school
Я желаю вам счастья!I wish you happiness!
Он вполне заслуживает повышенияHe fully deserves a promotion

Accusative case in Russian

The accusative case is often the second case for most people. That’s because it’s one of the easier cases to learn (together with the prepositional).

A noun is in the accusative case, when something happens to it.

For example, я читаю газету – I read the newspaper.

газета, is usually written with an ‘а’ at the end. And that’s also how you find it in the dictionary.

Do you remember what gender and what case it is written?

If you said it’s a nominative feminine noun, you’re correct.

the accusative case is mainly important for the feminine Russian nouns.

That is because it does NOT change for masculine or neuter nouns.

Great, right?

So if the word for tree is дерево, and you want to say “I see the tree”, you’d say:

я вижу дерево – I see the tree.

дерево (tree) stays completely the same as in the nominative case.

Here are the main rules for the accusative case:

  • If a word ends in а or я, the ending becomes у or ю respectively.
  • If a noun is non-animate (meaning it’s not alive), it doesn’t change in the neuter or masculine forms.
  • If a noun is animate (meaning it’s alive), it works like the genitive case. 

This may be a little confusing, so let me explain.

With animate Russian nouns, we basically mean people and animals.

Let’s take the noun персик (peach):

я ем персик – I eat a peach.

See, it doesn’t change from the nominative case.

But now let’s switch it up…

My cat’s name is персик as well. 

(He’s red and fluffy, so a great name,, right? :))

Now I’m not going to eat him, so let’s say I hug him:

я обнимаю персика – I hug Peach

just like we spoke about in the genitive part, we now add an ‘а’, since Peach is in the accusative case and it’s animate.

So when else should I use the accusative case?

  • for direct objects
  • several specific time expressions
  • prepositions indicating motion: в ‘in(wards)’, на ‘on (top of)’, за ‘behind’, под ‘under’
  • other prepositions such as про ‘about’, через ‘over’, сквозь ‘through’

Curious how those work out in spoken Russian? Let’s look at some examples:

  • собака кусает кошку – the dog bites the cat
  • Увидимся через неделю – let’s see each other in a week
  • мы едем в германию – we’re traveling to Germany
  • мужчина любит женщину – the man loves the woman
  • Я вижу влада – I see Vlad
  • я ем завтрак – I eat breakfast

As you can see, in the first examples, each word ends in у or ю. So can you guess the nominative forms of those words?

They are: кошка – неделя – германия – женщина.

And for the one-to-last? 

влад. As it’s a guy’s name. So it’s an animate noun, which means that you need to add the ‘а’.

And the last one?

That one doesn’t change. As breakfast (завтрак) is an inanimate noun.

Nouns in the Russian accusative case

As you can see, only feminine nouns or animate nouns change.

Nom. singularAcc. SingularAcc. pluralEnglishGender
столстолстолTableMasculine
иностранециностранцаиностранцевForeignerMasculine
звонокзвонокзвонкиCallMasculine
местоместоместаPlaceNeuter
поколениепоколениепоколениеGenerationNeuter
моремореморяSeaNeuter
пандапандупандPandaFeminine
земляземлюземлиEarthFeminine
станциястанциюстанцииStationFeminine
книгакнигукнигиBookFeminine

Pronouns in the Russian accusative case

Since pronouns are always describing animate Russian nouns, the accusative pronouns are the same as the genitive pronouns.

With possesive pronouns however, it depends on whether the noun is animate or not.

Accusative pronounPossessive pronoun Accusative singular (masc/fem/neut/plur)English pronoun
меняInanimate: мой / мою / мое / мои
Animate: моего / мою / моего / моих
I
тебяInanimate: твой / твою / твое / твои
Animate: твоего / твою / твоего /твоих
You
егоInanimate: его
Animate: его
He
ееInanimate: ее
Animate: ее
She
егоInanimate: его
Animate: его
It
насInanimate: наш / нашу / наше / наши
Animate: нашего / нашу / нашего / наших
We
васInanimate: ваш / вашу / ваше / ваши
Animate: вашего / вашу / вашего /ваших
You plural
ихInanimate: их
Animate: их
They

Adjectives in the Russian accusative case

Accusative masculineAcc. feminineAcc. neuterAcc. pluralTranslation
Inanimate: красивый
Animate: красивого
Inanimate: красивая
Animate: красивую
Inanimate: красивое
Animate: красивого
Inanimate: красивые
Animate: красивых
beautiful
Inanimate: умный
Animate: умного
Inanimate: умная
Animate: умную
Inanimate: умное
Animate: умного
Inanimate: умние
Animate: умных
Smart
Inanimate: синий
Animate: синего
Inanimate: синюю
Animate: синюю
Inanimate: синее
Animate: синего
Inanimate: синие
Animate: синих
blue

Example phrases with the accusative case

SentenceTranslation
Я вижу врачаI see the doctor
Давай встретимся через неделюLet’s meet in a week
Студент читает интересную книгуThe student reads a book
Хватит меня бить!Stop hitting me!
Я иду на станцию метроI’m going to the metro station

Dative case in Russian

The dative case is one of the easier from the difficult cases (genitive, dative and instrumental). 

In a nutshell, it means “to + noun”. As in giving something to a person or object. 

I give a present to a friend – Я даю подарок другу.

друг is the nominative version of ‘friend’, and since it’s masculine it gets an у to its ending.

The dative case is also used with many verbs.

The most common one here is to like:  мне нравиться.

Literally it’s: to me appeals

Instead of I being the subject, like in English, I is in the dative case (мне – to me).

So if you want to say I like Moscow, you’d say: Moscow appeals to me.

мне нравится москва –  I like Moscow.

It’s the same as in Spanish: me gusta.

Some other rules when you should use the dative case are when:

  • indirect object – ‘to’ 
  • some time expressions
  • impersonal sayings: мне холодно – ‘I am cold’, lit. “to me (is) cold”
  • age: мне двадцать лет – ‘I am 20 (years old)’, lit. ‘to_me (is) 20 years’
  • prepositions: по ‘on’, к ‘to(wards)’, благодаря ‘thanks to’
  • auxiliaries: нужно or надо ‘need/must (to)’, можно ‘allowed’, нельзя ‘forbidden’
  • verbs: верить ‘believe’, помочь ‘help’, советовать ‘advise’, звонить ‘call’, удивить(ся) ‘amaze (self)’

The dative has relative easy endings compared to the genitive case. Here’s how the general rules works:

  • Masculine nouns get an у added
  • Feminine endings change from а or я to е or и
  • Neuter nouns ending in е or о, change this letter to у 
  • Masculine plural nouns get ам added
  • Feminine plural nouns add an м to their einding.
  • Neuter nouns switch the е or о for ам.

Again, check the full declensions tables below for a complete overview.

Nouns in the Russian dative case

The dative case is very regular. Only for feminine nouns ending in ия, does the ending differ a little from the rule.

Nominative singularDative SingularDative pluralTranslationNoun gender
столстолустоламTableMasculine
иностранециностранцуиностранцамForeignerMasculine
звонокзвонкузвонкамCallMasculine
местоместуместамPlaceNeuter
поколениепоколениюпоколениямGenerationNeuter
мореморюморямSeaNeuter
пандапандепандамPandaFeminine
земляземлеземлямEarthFeminine
станциястанциистанциямStationFeminine
книгакнигекнигамBookFeminine

Pronouns in the Russian dative case

Dative pronounPossessive pronoun Dative singular (masc/fem/neut/plur)English pronoun
мнемоему / моей / моему / моимI
тебетвоему / твоей / твоему /твоимYou
емуегоHe
ейееShe
емуегоIt
намнашему / нашей / нашему /нашимWe
вамвашему / вашей / вашему /вашимYou plural
имихThey

Adjectives in the Russian dative case

Genitive masculineGen. feminineGen. neuterGen. pluralTranslation
красивомукрасивойкрасивомукрасивымbeautiful
умномуумнойумномуумнымSmart
синемусинейсинемусинимblue

Example phrases with the dative case

SentenceTranslation
Я иду к стоматологуI’m going to the dentist
Дай мне кольцоGive me the ring
Тебе нравится изучать русский язык?Do you like learning the Russian language?
Полицейский вернул паспорт голландскому мужчинеThe policeman gave the passport back to the Dutch man
Когда вы собираетесь дать отчет своему боссу?When are you going to give the report to your boss?

Instrumental case in Russian

The instrumental case is one of the weirdest cases in Russian. You use it when you do something with something.

The thing that is the instrument in the case, gets put in the instrumental case.

(talking about obvious)

In general the instrumental case can be translated as “with/by + noun”

Я ем вилкой – I eat with a fork.

вилка changes to вилкой.

And this is the general rule for female nouns. а changes to ой.

The general rules for masculine/feminine/neuter are:

  • Masculine nouns get a ом added
  • Feminine nouns endings in а or я switch to ой/ей or ией
  • Neuter nouns add an м
  • Masculine plural nouns get ами added
  • Feminine plural nouns add an ми to their einding.
  • Neuter nouns switch the е or о for ами.

Check the full declension tables for more information below!

The instrumental case is applied when:

  • instrument used in the action or means by which action is carried out – ‘by’ (I. noun)
  • logical subject of passive clause: письмо написано Иваном – ‘the letter was written by Ivan’
  • secondary direct object: его считают студентом – ‘he is considered (to be) a student’
  • durational time expressions
  • verbs: интересовать(ся) ‘interest (to be interested in)’, пользоваться ‘use’, занимать(ся) ‘occupy (to be preoccupied with)’
  • associates of connective verbs: быть ‘be’, стать ‘became’, остаться ‘remain’, казаться ‘appear to be’, оказаться ‘turn out to be’
  • prepositions of position: за ‘behind’, перед ‘in front of’, над ‘above’, под ‘below’, между ‘between’, (вместе) с ‘(together) with’
  • adjective: довольный ‘pleased by’

If this sounds difficult, don’t worry. It is difficult.

The main important things to know for the instrumental case are

  • prepositions
  • a couple of verbs

But if you’re just starting out, just knowing the instrumental case comes after the prepositions с is good enough.

Nouns in the Russian instrumental case

Nominative singularInstrumental SingularInstrumentalpluralTranslationNoun gender
столстоломстоламиTableMasculine
иностранециностранцоминостранцамиForeignerMasculine
звонокзвонкомзвонкамиCallMasculine
местоместомместамиPlaceNeuter
поколениепоколениемпоколениямиGenerationNeuter
мореморемморямиSeaNeuter
пандапандойпандамиPandaFeminine
земляземлейземлямиEarthFeminine
станциястанциейстанциямиStationFeminine
книгакнигойкнигамиBookFeminine

Pronouns in the Russian instrumental case

Instrumental pronounPossessive pronoun intrumental singular (masc/fem/neut/plur)English pronoun
мноймоим / моей / моим / моимиI
тобойтвоим / твоей / твоим / твоимиYou
имегоHe
ейееShe
имегоIt
наминашим / нашей / нашим / нашимиWe
вамивашим / вашей / вашим / вашимиYou plural
имиихThey

Adjectives in the Russian instrumental case

Instr. masculineInstr. feminineInstr. neuterInstr. pluralTranslation
красивымкрасивойкрасивымкрасивимиbeautiful
умнымумнойумнымумнымиSmart
синимсинейсинимсинимиblue

Example phrases with the instrumental case

SentenceTranslation
мы с тобой едем на Ибицуwe and you are going to Ibiza
Я ем вилкой и ножомI eat with a fork and knife
Красное вино хорошо сочетается с красным мясомRed wine goes well with red meat
Самолет благополучно приземлился со всеми пассажирами на бортуThe plane landed safely with alle passengers on board
Вы хотите пойти в ресторан со мной?Do you want to go to the restaurant with me?

Prepositional case in Russian

The prepositional case! It’s the easiest case in Russian.

я в москве – I am in Moscow

It’s easy because it’s super obvious when to use it. And also how to use it.

You use the prepositional case when there is the preposition в, на or о.

You form the prepositional case by adding е to the ending of the word. 

(or in the case of some feminine Russian nouns a и)

Look:

  • Masculine nouns get a е
  • Feminine nouns ending in а or я, change into е or и 
  • Neuter nouns also change their into е
  • Masculine plural nouns get ах
  • Feminine nouns add an х
  • Neuter nouns switch their е or о for ах

Example:

Я живу в Голландии  – I live in Holland (Голландия)

Ты живешь в доме? – Do you live in a house? (дом)

So you always use this case, if an object is located in (в) or on (на) something. 

Also, if it’s about (о) something.

Я думаю о работе – I think about work.

This is usually one of the first cases in Russian that you’ll learn. And it doesn’t take much effort. Most people don’t even realize it’s a case, since it’s pretty obvious how to use it.

Nouns in the Russian prepositional case

Nominative singularPrepositional SingularPrepositionalpluralTranslationNoun gender
столстолестолахTableMasculine
иностранециностранцеиностранцахForeignerMasculine
звонокзвонкезвонкахCallMasculine
местоместеместахPlaceNeuter
поколениепоколениипоколенияхGenerationNeuter
моремореморяхSeaNeuter
пандапандепандахPandaFeminine
земляземлеземляхEarthFeminine
станциястанциистанцияхStationFeminine
книгакнигекнигахBookFeminine

Pronouns in the Russian prepositional case

Nominative pronounPossessive pronoun genitive singular (masc/fem/neut/plur)English pronoun
Мне моем / моей / моем / моихI
Тебетвоем / твоей / твоем /твоихYou
НёмегоHe
НейееShe
НёмегоIt
Наснашем / нашей / нашем /нашихWe
Васвашем / вашей / вашем /вашихYou plural
НихихThey

Adjectives in the Russian prepositional case

Genitive masculineGen. feminineGen. neuterGen. pluralTranslation
красивомкрасивойкрасивомкрасивихbeautiful
умномумнойумномумнихSmart
синемсинейсинемсинихblue

Example phrases with the prepositional case

SentenceTranslation
Я люблю ходить на вечеринки в синих брюкахI like to go to parties in blue trousers
Вы были в Красноярске?Have you been in Krasnoyarsk?
Мы путешествовали на самолетеWe traveled by plane
Я не учил русский в старшей школеI did not learn Russian in high school
Им нравится жить в большом городеThey like living in a big city

Russian Noun declension tables

In this table you can find all the endings and how they change. It’s a good reference, and helps you learn the Russian cases more easily.

Feminine noun declension table

SingularPlural
nominative-а -я, -ия-ы -и, -ии
accusative-у -ю, -июnom./gen. case*
genitive-ы -и, -ии∅**, -ь, -ий
dative-е -е, -ии-ам -ям, -иям
instrumental-ой -ей, -ией-ами -ями, -иями
prepositional-е -е, -ии-ах -ях, -иях

* If a feminine noun in the plural is inanimate, you treat it a the nominative case. If it’s animate, you treat is as the genitive case.

** ∅ means that you remove the а ending.

Every first ending in the row corresponds to the first ending in each other row. So a word ending in а (книга), becomes книге in the singular dative/prepositional case and книгами in the instrumental plural case.

Masculine noun declension table

SingularPlural
nominative∅ -ь, -й, -ий,-ы -и, -и, -ии
accusativenom./gen. casenom./gen. case
genitive-а -я, -я, -ия-ов -ей, -ев, -иев
dative-у -ю, -ю, -ию-ам -ям, -ям, -иям
instrumental-ом -ем, -ем, -ием-ами -ями, -ями, -иями
prepositional-е -е, -е, -ии-ах -ях, -ях, -иях

Neuter noun declension table

SingularPlural
nominative-о -е-а -я
accusative-о -еnom./gen. case
genitive-а -я∅ -й, -ей
dative-у -ю-ам -ям
instrumental-ом -ем-ами -ями
prepositional-е -е-ах -ях

Russian Adjective declension tables

This list may look scary. I encourage you to take a closer look. What do you see?

A lot of duplicates.

For feminine Russian nouns, the genitive, dative, instrumental case AND the prepositional case all use THE SAME adjective cases.

And for the same cases, the masculine and neuter forms are also the same.

Masc.Neut.Fem.Plur.
nom.-ый/-ий-ое/-ее-ая/-яя-ые/-ие
acc.nom./gen. -ое/-ее-ую/-ююnom./gen.
gen.-ого/-его-ого/-его-ой/-ей-ых/-их
dat.-ому/-ему-ому/-ему-ой/-ей-ым/-им
ins.-ым/-им-ым/-им-ой/-ей-ыми/-ими
pre.-ом/-ем-ом/-ем-ой/-ей-ых/-их

Russian Pronoun declension tables

The following are all the regular Russian singular pronouns:

IYouHeSheIt
nom.ятыонона́оно́
acc.меня́тебя́его́еёего́
gen.мнетебе́его́еёего́
dat.мне-ому/-емуему́ейему́
ins.мнойтобо́йимейим
pre.мнетебе́нёмнейнём

The following table depicts all the plural Russian pronouns:

WeYouThey
nom.мывыони́
acc.насвасих
gen.насвасих
dat.намвамим
ins.на́мива́мии́ми
pre.насвасних

Here is the full list of Russian demonstrative pronouns:

(Note: этот means ‘this’. You can remove the э everywhere to get ‘that’ (тот))

Masc.Neut.Fem.Plur.
nom.э́тотэ́тоэ́таэ́ти
acc.nom./gen. э́тоэ́туnom./gen.
gen.э́тогоэ́тогоэ́тойэ́тих
dat.э́томуэ́томуэ́тойэ́тим
ins.э́тимэ́тимэ́тойэ́тими
pre.э́томэ́томэ́тойэ́тих

Tips to rock Russian cases

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Getting to know all the Russian cases well, can be a long laborious process. 

That’s not to demotivate you. I’m sure anyone who’s serious about learning the Russian language is able to understand them well.

The problem lies there when you’re speaking.

After all, while trying to have a conversation, it’s as if you’re juggling 6 different-sized balls:

  • what should I say?
  • which word should I use?
  • how to pronounce it?
  • where is the stress?
  • how should I conjugate the verb?
  • and lastly… which case should I use for this noun?

Learning to speak the Russian cases correctly takes a lot of practice.

The better your overall Russian, the more mental bandwidth you have to focus on saying the cases correctly.

The more you practice speaking, the better things will go.

So if you make mistakes, don’t worry about it.

If you keep on practicing daily, it’s only a matter of time.

Below are X more tips to keep in mind when trying to learn the Russian cases…

Quick overview

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Be sure to have a quick overview at hand.

What do I mean?

Bookmark this page. Print the wikipedia page with all the case endings. Create a file on your phone with the stuff you find difficult.

You must have a simple document at hand that you can use to quickly refresh everything when you’re stuck.

The best way to learn cases in Russian is try and see if you can speak them correctly.

And every time you’re not sure, take out your case cheatsheet, and see what should’ve been correct.

Asking what the right case is, reviewing the correct case, and then speaking the sentence again is a surefire way to teach your brain the correct usage of Russian cases.

Focus on 1 case at a time

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If you’re learning, it’s important to take small steps.

Don’t aim to perfectly learn ALL THE 6 RUSSIAN CASES in just 1 little weekend.

That’s likely not going to happen.

You can get far in 1 weekend. You can learn most of the endings with a lot of effort in a short period of time.

But like we said before: smoothly implementing cases while speaking will take longer.

So what do you do?

You focus on 1 case at a time.

Let’s say you already understand the accusative, prepositional and (of course) nominative case.

You’re looking for a new challenge:

Hi genitive case 🙂

First you take a look at an overview of all the declensions of the genitive case.

Then you practice it in some simple conversations.

Then you keep practicing it, until you find that you more or less understand it without thinking.

This may take 1 to 4 weeks. Provided you practice speaking enough.

WARNING: don’t try to aim for perfection here. As foreigners, we will likely always be making some mistakes in cases. This is okay, and nothing to be ashamed of.

Once you understand the genitive case, add the dative or instrumental case.

Repeat this process until you understand all the Russian cases.

Don’t overestimate the importance of cases in Russian

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Cases are important to understand Russian. It’s an important part of the Russian grammar. Without cases, the flexible word order in Russian would be impossible to understand.

Now stop.

If you’re on this page, you are likely paying TOO MUCH information to the Russian cases.

This is good for a while, but I want you to understand that people will be able to understand you well even if you mess up a lot of cases.

Example?

я еду на автобусе (prepositional) в москву (accusative) – I travel by bus to Moscow

Now let’s randomly mess up the the Russian cases (the following sentences are incorrect from the point of Russian grammar):

я еду автобус (nominative) в москва (nominative)

я еду автобусу (dative) в москвы (genitive)

Even though these 2 sentences are incorrect Russian grammar, they still convey the meaning what you’re going to do.

You’re traveling by bus to Moscow.

Now, someone may think you’re traveling in Moscow on a bus. 

But one quick look at the situation will make it clear:

If you’re NOT in Moscow, you likely mean that you’re traveling to Moscow.

If you’re already in Moscow while saying this, and you’re walking around with an “I love Moscow” shirt, you likely mean that you’re taking the tourist bus to see Moscow’s tourist attractions.

So do your best to get all the cases right. But don’t try to aim for perfection, when you’re a beginner, and just want to have some simple conversations.

Read a lot

Reading is an easy way to visually practice the Russian cases. Why?

Because every sentence uses cases.

That means that every single sentence you read will have several opportunities to practice your understanding of the cases in Russian.

And if you ask yourself at the end of each sentence why every noun was specifically in which case, you train yourself to be more perceptive to cases. 

“What you focus on, grows.”

So the more you pay attention to cases in Russian, the easier it will be to distinguish them while reading/listening/speaking. And the better you become.

Listen a lot

Earphone, Music, Lifestyle, Listen, Listening

Just like with reading, the more you listen to correct spoken Russian, the better your understanding will become.

It’s no secret that listening is one of the best supplemental activities you can do to speak well.

I say supplemental, because just listening doesn’t practice your speaking skills.

But if you ARE practicing speaking, listening has a tremendous amount of benefits.

And getting a better understanding of the Russian cases, is one of them. 

Look. For example you’re watching an interesting modern Russian series (such as кухня). 

Every time you hear a phrase, try to think about the cases used.

вызовите шеф-повара! – call the chef!

Ask yourself why the words for chef cook (шеф-повара), look like they do? 

To call someone means to call for a person, so it’s an animate noun.

And the noun is in the accusative case. After all, it’s the object of the action.

So шеф-повара is in the genitive case (remember that animate Russian nouns in the accusative case look and behave like the genitive?).

Now think back how the genitive case looks like.

We add an a to the masculine nouns ending, right?

Yes!

So we now remove the а  from шеф-повара and we get шеф-повар. 

Correct. That’s the nominative case.

Now, this may seem like a long-winded thing to do for each sentence.

Though you’ll find that with practice this entire process happens in literal seconds.

And I don’t recommend you stop every 30 seconds with listening/watching to analyze every single noun (though you absolutely can if you want).

It’s more about creating a general awareness of words while listening.

The more attention you pay to this, the easier you’ll find the correct Russian cases when you’re speaking yourself.

Practice speaking while learning

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One of the best ways to learn how to speak well, is to do it a lot.

Чтобы говорить хорошо, нужно говорить часто – To speak well, it’s necessary to speak often.

Too many people just read sentences when they’re learning.

Are you one of them?

Did you just spoke the above phrase out loud when you were reading this article?

Or if you’re in a public space where that would be uncomfortable, did you at least try to pronounce it silently, still moving your lips?

If you did, good job 🙂

If you didn’t, I recommend you to start doing it more.

Like we spoke about before, Russian cases aren’t that difficult to understand after a couple of weeks of practice.

The problem comes while speaking.

And the best way to get better at picking the right cases while speaking… is to speak a lot.

You’ll find yourself fumbling for words in the beginning. That’s okay.

You quickly find out which cases go easily. And which ones we should pay more attention to.

That’s great. Now you can practice them more.

More speaking = more strengthening of the regions in your brain that make you speak well.

If it’s not clear yet, you absolutely MUST practice speaking if you want to speak well!

How?

Talk with a Russian friend.

Maybe your partner is Russian.

Online teachers.

By yourself.

I even heard from a lot of my younger subscribers that they like to practice while playing online video games. If you’re into that, why not?

Getting the Russian cases correct in your speech is just a matter of time if you’re practicing daily. 

FAQ

Which order do you recommend to learn the cases in Russian?

It depends a bit per person, but in general I recommend:

  1. Nominative
  2. Prepositional
  3. Accusative
  4. Genitive
  5. Dative
  6. Instrumental

Nominative first, as there’s nothing to learn. It’s the same as in English.

Then second the prepositional case, as it doesn’t really feel like a case. It’s more of if you say ‘in’ or ‘on’, then the noun gets an ‘е’ at the ending.

That’s something that’s easy to understand even if you’ve never heard about cases before.

The third case should be accusative, as it has relatively few changes. It’s a good introduction to the fact that words can change according to their function in the sentence. 

“If a word ends with an а sound, and you do something to it, just change it into у”.

Simple, right?

Then I recommend the genitive case as the fourth, as it’s just the most commonly used case.

You’ve already had a little introduction with the accusative, better to jump right in with the genitive and get it over with.

You don’t need to completely know every single form, before you continue. Just make sure you have a general understanding.

As fifth case, take the dative case. It’s pretty straightforward when you use it, and the changes are quite easy as well.

There are few exceptions, so this one should go smoothly after the genitive.

Finally the instrumental. The declensions aren’t that difficult, but knowing when to use it can take some time to grasp, as it’s more vague than other Russian cases.

So, to recap: nominative -> prepositional -> accusative -> genitive -> dative -> instrumental.

Important to remember is that it’s not black and white. It doesn’t hurt to get an overview of all cases in the beginning. But if you’re looking for a systematic approach to mastering the Russian cases, I’d go with this order.

How long will it take to understand all the Russian cases?

This honestly depends on your level of experience in Russian, your previous experience with a language that has cases (Latin, German, Polish or other Slavic languages), and your general level of intelligence.

Though I assume that with the latter one you’re above average if you’re here 🙂

Now we need to distinguish 2 level of understanding all cases:

  • theoretical understanding
  • practical understanding

It’s one thing to know in a controlled setting how the ending changes to a masculine noun in the genitive case.

It’s another thing to consistently do this correctly while speaking.

In general, you can understand most cases in Russian and how they change in about a month of focused practice.

The second one depends on how often you practice speaking. If you practice daily, it will take from half a year to a year, I’d say.

Maybe faster, maybe slower. Depending on how obsessive you are.

If you’re not practicing speaking (mistake #1 if you want to be fluent in Russian), it can take years. Or until you start speaking consistently 🙂

What’s a good resource to learn the Russian cases?

When I first started learning the Russian language, I did so listening to the audio lessons from Michel Thomas.

I really enjoyed that there the focus was NOT on learning the Russian cases. 

Rather, it focuses on building up your vocabulary and gradually introduces cases.

It’s originally a paid course, but someone has uploaded the first half of the introductory courses on YouTube (4 out of 8 hours), so I recommend you listen to those first:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DncfaIGQXgA

After that, I’d say any good audio course that teaches you vocabulary, Russian grammar, common expressions and has conversations should work.

About the Author Ari Helderman

My name is Ari Helderman and I help people learn Russian through videos and blog posts where I share my experience. I have been learning Russian since 2016. I often get mistaken for a native speaker these days, so I've learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn't if you want to speak Russian well.

  • is this part correct? “For example мой дом (my house) is correct, so моя дом is INCORRECT. As the adjective does not match the word’s gender.”

    • Yes, that’s correct. The adjective should always match the gender of the noun. So in this case it’s мой дом. If it would be ‘my book’ for example, it would be моя книга, as книга is a feminine noun.

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