How to Learn the Russian Genitive Case (Most Difficult Case in Russian)

By Ari Helderman
October 11, 2022

The Russian genitive case is the scariest case in Russian.

  • Дом твоих друзей продается за 200.000 долларов.
  • The house of your friends is being sold for 200.000 dollars.

This is a sentence in the genitive case.

The main problem with the Russian genitive case is that it has more different forms than other Russian cases.

Especially the genitive plural can be a difficult part of learning Russian grammar

Also, the Russian genitive case has a great deal of different ‘triggers’.

You use it to demonstrate possession, with 10+ different prepositions, negation, and ALSO numbers and quantifiers.

That’s scary.

Don’t worry though. This article will guide you exactly on how to learn the genitive case in Russian.

After reading this article, you’ll be surprised how much you’ve learned in a short period of time.

Let’s get started.

Genitive case in Russian:
The Russian genitive case shows possession of the subject. It’s also required for prepositions like ‘of’ and ‘from’. It answers the questions: “кого (of whom)?” and”чего (of what)?”. It is considered the most difficult case of the Russian language.

How to form the Russian genitive case?

The first part of this article will show you exactly how to form the Russian genitive case. We go over nouns, adjectives, and pronouns (and all the possessive, demonstrative, interrogative, and relative pronouns).

The second part of the article shows you exactly in which situations you should apply the Russian genitive case. 

I’ve also added many examples since those are tremendously helpful if you want to get a solid understanding of the genitive case.

Finally, I’ve added an effective roadmap and timeline that you can follow to improve the speed at which you will master the genitive case: Russian nouns in this case will be easy after you’ve read this article.

A word of warning: the Russian genitive case is in my (and many others’) opinion the most difficult case.

That’s not because it’s unclear when you should use it.

No, that part is easy. (Better say ‘easier’ 🙂 )

But the Russian genitive has quite some exceptions, and generally just more forms and declensions than other cases.

So don’t worry if after reading this article, your head spins with new information.

That’s okay.

Take your time.

Watch this video where I tell you in Russian (with English subtitles) 9 reasons why Russian is actually easy to learn.

Nouns

You use the genitive case in Russian mainly when saying something is ‘from someone’. So if you want to say in English: The house is from Vlad.

In Russian, you say дом Влада.

Now, Vlad is just Влад. But when something is from Vlad, you add an а to the end.

That’s because Влад is a masculine noun (just like Vlad himself).

Here’s a short general overview of 80% of words on how to form the genitive case in Russian:

  • For masculine nouns and neuter nouns, you add an а to the end.
  • For feminine nouns, ending in а/я, remove that letter, and change it for ы/и  respectively.
  • For genitive plural masculine nouns, you add ов.
  • For genitive plural neuter nouns, remove the о.
  • For genitive plural neuter nouns, add a й after the е.
  • For feminine genitive plural nouns ending in а, remove the а. If these feminine nouns end in я, change the я for й.

Some examples are

машина девушкиthe girl’s car
президент россииthe president of Russia
окно домаthe window of the house
пещера волковthe cave of the wolves

Looks like any other Russian case, right?

Well, not entirely correct.

As there are quite some exceptions to these Russian grammar rules.

For example. if a masculine noun ends in a stressed й or ц, the ending becomes ев, instead of ов

And when feminine nouns ending in 2 consonants drop their last а, they often add an о or е for easy pronunciation: 

  • девушка – девушек
  • голландка – голландок 

While speaking, however, you barely notice the difference between the о or е, since it’s unstressed. So don’t worry about this rule.

Here is an overview of ALL the rules to make the Russian genitive case:

Masculine nouns ending in the genitive:

  • genitive singular- if the noun ends in a consonant, add а
  • genitive singular – replace й, with я.
  • genitive singular – replace ь, add я.
  • genitive plural – if ends in ж, ч, ш, щ or ь then add ей
  • genitive plural – if ends in й or ц (stressed) add ев
  • genitive plural – all other masculine nouns end in ов

Here’s a short overview with examples of each rule.

NominativeGenitive si.Genitive pl.Translation
столстоластуловtable
медведьмедведямедведейbear
падежпадежападежейcase
иностранециностранцаиностранцевforeigner
волкволкаволковwolve

Feminine nouns ending in the genitive:

  • genitive singular – replace а with ы.
  • genitive singular – replace я with и.
  • genitive singular – replace ь with и.
  • genitive plural – if ends in а then drop а (no ending)
  • genitive plural – if ends in [consonant] я then ь
  • genitive plural – if ends in [vowel] я then й
  • genitive plural – if ends in ь then add ей

Here’s a short overview with examples of each rule.

NominativeGenitive sinGenitive pl.Translation
женщинаженщиныженщинWoman
ситуацияситуацииситуацийSituation
ночьночиночейNight
книгакнигикнигBook
земляземлиземельLand
станциястанциистанцийStation
кроватькроватикроватейBed

Neuter nouns ending in the genitive case:

  • genitive singular- replace о with а
  • genitive singular – replace е with я
  • genitive plural – if ends in о then drop о (no ending)
  • genitive plural – if ends in е becomes ей
  • genitive plural – if ends in ие becomes ий

Here’s a short overview with examples of each rule:

NominativeGenitive si.Genitive pl.Translation
местоместаместplace
мореморяморейsee
поколениепоколенияпоколенийgeneration
плечоплечаплечshoulder

Adjectives

Adjectives in the Russian genitive case are difficult as well.

Luckily, they’re less difficult than regular nouns.

That is because there are fewer exceptions.

Also: genitive masculine AND neuter adjectives change in the same way. That means that you have fewer things to remember.

An example is the masculine adjective for big:

большой becomes большого.

The biggest surprise comes with the genitive feminine adjective.

Why?

Because those adjectives behave the same for the prepositional, dative, instrumental, and genitive cases.

Example for the word big again:

большая becomes большой

Chances are you’ve already learned the prepositional case, so this one will be easy for you.

Now, plural adjectives are a little different, but still behave the same whether they’re with a feminine, masculine, neuter, or plural noun.

большие becomes больших.

Here’s an overview of a couple of adjectives for the Russian genitive case:

BeautifulMasc.Neut.Fem.Plur.
Nominativeкрасивыйкрасивоекрасиваякрасивые
Genitiveкрасивогокрасивогокрасивойкрасивых
BlueMasc.Neut.Fem.Plur.
Nominativeсинийсинеесиняясиние
Genitiveсинегосинегосинейсиних

Pronouns

Cases of pronouns in Russian often have a lot in common with how nouns and adjectives decline.

So ‘big’ in the masculine genitive case is большого. And ‘his’ is его. 

Both end in –го. 

You’ll recognize them pretty easily.

Still, there are quite some exceptions. Especially when talking about the personal pronouns.

That’s why I’m just going to give you an overview here.

You’ll just need to learn this by heart.

(which isn’t difficult, since these are among the most common words spoken. Going over this table 5 – 10 times and using them in spoken Russian often is enough to understand them well).

NominativeGenitiveTranslation
яменяI
тытебяyou
онегоhe
онаеёshe
оноегоit
мынасwe
вывасyou
ониихthey

If you’re already familiar with the Russian accusative case, then you already know these words.

Possessive pronouns

Possessive pronouns in the Russian genitive have a lot in common with adjectives.

They’re basically adjectives.

See if you can see the similarities in the table below:

NominativeGenitiveTranslation
моймоегоmy (masc.)
моямоейmy (fem.)
моемоегоmy (neut.)
моимоихMy (plur.)
нашнашегоOur (masc.)
нашанашейOur (fem.)
нашенашегоOur (neut.)
нашинашихour (plur.)

Demonstrative pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns are basically like adjectives (again). They mean ‘this’ or ‘that’, and their conjugation goes together with all the adjective rules.

Here’s an overview of all the demonstrative pronouns in the Russian genitive case.

NominativeGenitiveTranslation
этотэтогоthis (masc.)
этаэтойthis (fem.)
этоэтогоthis (neut.)
этиэтихthese (plur.)
тоттогоthat (masc.)
татойthat (fem.)
тотогоthat (neut.)
тетехthose (plur.)

Interrogative and relative pronouns

Interrogative and relative pronouns are words such as ‘who’ (кто), ‘what’ (что), which (какой), what kind (который), and whose (чей).

They behave like regular adjectives.

(I hope by know you can already understand which gender each form of какой/чей etc. has 🙂 )

NominativeGenitiveTranslation
ктокогоwho
чточегоwhat
какой
какая
какое
какие
какого
какой
какого
каких
what kind
который
которая
которое
которые
которого
которой
которого
которых
who
чей
чья
чьё
чьи
чьего
чьей
чьего
чьих
whose

Exceptions

In general, the Russian language isn’t too much of an ‘exception’ language. That doesn’t mean that you won’t encounter any exceptions though 🙂

Here’s a list of common exceptions (the exceptions can mainly be found in the plural genitive):

NominativeGenitive
singular
Genitive
plural
correct
Genitive plural
expected
Translation
коленоколенаколенейколенknee
стулстуластульевстуловchair
дереводеревадеревьевдеревtree
перопераперьевперfeather/pen
облакооблакаоблаковоблакcloud
деньгиденегmoney

While there are some more exceptions, most of the time it’s okay if you make a mistake in them while speaking. People will still perfectly well understand you. Often, Russians make mistakes as well with lesser-known exceptions.

When to use the Russian genitive case?

The main difficulty of the Russian genitive is in the number of rules that it has and exceptions.

Most cases work very straightforwardly. 

Not the genitive case.

Not only do you need to think carefully about HOW the words change, you also need to take into account WHEN you need the Russian genitive case.

The genitive is one of the most common cases (apart from the basic nominative case) in the Russian language.

So let’s dive into the main situations when you need to use the Russian genitive case:

Ownership

This is the main function of the genitive. To indicate ownership.

What do we mean by ownership?

That a thing belongs TO someone or something.

Easy example?

The house of Vlad:

дом Влада.

The person or thing that is the owner is put in the dative case.

This can go on for several levels.

So for example: the car of the wife of the boss of your manager:

машина жены начальника вашего менеджера

Accusative animate nouns ending

If you’re reading about the accusative case, chances are bit you’ve already learned the accusative case before.

It’s a logical progression, since the accusative case is way easier.

But, there’s one thing you probably don’t know yet.

If an animate noun is in the accusative case AND it’s:

  • masculine genitive singular
  • neuter genitive singular
  • or plural of any gender

… the noun and adjectives should also be in the genitive case. So:

I see Vlad – Я вижу Влада

Don’t hit your kids – Не бейте своих детей

It’s good to pet your cat – Хорошо погладить своего кота

So for any noun that is alive, and in the accusative case you should use the genitive case.

(except for feminine nouns in the singular accusative case, as that case has its own declension).

Russian prepositions that use the genitive

The Russian language has a ton of prepositions. And the good (or bad, depending on  your perspective) thing is that each of them requires a specific case.

Here’s a short list of all the prepositions in Russian that use the genitive case:

  • без
  • для
  • до
  • из
  • из-за
  • из-под
  • кроме
  • от
  • с 
  • со
  • у
  • около
  • вокруг
  • недалеко от
  • позади
  • напротив
  • посреди
  • мимо
  • вдоль

Most of these prepositions always use the genitive case. Though there are some that can have a different case. 

This is quite advanced, except for the prepositions с, which usually requires the instrumental case

Only if the meaning here is ‘’from something’’, then you use the genitive:

сколько с меня? – how much of/from me? (meaning: how much to pay?)

Russian verbs that use the genitive case

There are also a lot of verbs that require the Russian genitive case with it. 

There’s no single direct way to recognize these verbs, though you will often find “+ gen.” written next to the verb in any dictionary or word app.

Here’s a list of some common verbs that you use the Russian genitive with:

  • просить
  • хотеть
  • требовать
  • искать
  • ждать
  • ожидать
  • достигать
  • желать
  • бояться

The only thing here is that you ONLY use the Russian genitive if you’re talking about a noun that is abstract and indefinite.

So…

Мы ждём новостей (genitive) – we are waiting for news

But…

Мы ждём машину (accusative) – we are waiting for the car.

Another thing here is that some nouns can behave in both ways:

  • я хочу воду (accusative) – I want water
  • я хочу воды (genitive) – I want some water

Using the genitive case here is native level advanced though, so you’re better of saying the accusative with most of these verbs unless it’s completely obvious it’s about something abstract.

To say ‘to have’

There is a word in Russian to say ‘to have’ (иметь), but it’s not used in the way English uses it.

If you want to say: I have an apple…

… you say: by me is an apple.

У меня есть яблоко.

The noun after у, should be followed by the genitive case. 

This may seem a bit counterintuitive, but you’ll find that it’s easier to get used to than you think.

Another example: the old oak tree has a sickness.

У старого дуба есть болезнь.

Старый дуб means old oak tree. And it changes to старого дуба in the genitive case.

Here are some examples:

  • у меня есть велосипед – I have a bike
  • у большого человека большой дом – the big person has a big house

(Some expressions for the verb иметь are “I have in mind” – я имею в виду and ….)

There is not

If you want to say “there is X”, you say есть Х. X should be in the Russian nominative.

If you want to say “there is no X”. You say: “Нет Х”.

Х should be in the genitive case. Of X is nothing.

So let’s say “I don’t have an apple”

у меня нет яблока.

Влад and яблоко are both in the genitive case.

Here are some more examples of how the Russian genitive is used to negate something.

  • нет помидоров – there are no tomatoes
  • Я не вижу дома – I don’t see the house
  • почему нет свежей рыбы? – why is there no fresh fish?

Numerals and quantifiers

Another instance when you should use the Russian genitive is after numbers and quantifiers.

A quantifier is a word that indicates that there’s a certain amount of something.

Some English examples.

A lot of X.

How much X.

Here are some examples of quantifiers:

Numerals are a little more tricky.

  • After the number 1, you use the nominative case.
  • From numbers 2 to 4 you use the genitive singular
  • After number 5 you take the genitive plural.
  • With mixed numbers, such as 21, 74, and 1003 you use the last number to choose the right case.

(Also, the number 1 behaves like an adjective in the nominative. It changes its ending depending on the noun gender)

While this may seem easy, it’s quite demanding on your brain to do this correctly while speaking.

But when speaking, people will understand you even if you make mistakes in which genitive you use.

Even if you don’t use any case at all and say for example I want 5 hamburgers:

Я хочу 5 бургер (correct: бургеров)

The guy at the check-out desk understands you perfectly well that you want 5 burgers.

Check out these sentences with quantifiers and see if you understand why a specific case is used:

  • сколько денег стоит машина? – how much money does the car cost?
  • 8 деревьев стоят вдоль дороги – 8 trees stand along the road
  • 3 вора воровали в этом магазине на прошлой неделе – 3 thieves were stealing in this shop last week
  • я хочу пить много воды – I want to drink a lot of water

Comparisons

Making comparisons is easy.

You take any verb. Remove the ending. Add ее.

The elephant is smarter than the mosquito. 

Слон умнее комара.

And the noun after the comparison should be in the Russian genitive.

It’s also possible to make comparisons with the word чем.

Слон умнее чем комар.

But then the noun after the comparison stays in the genitive case.

I recommend you use this comparison combination in the beginning.

It’s a lot simpler to use than adding the genitive case.

Later once you get more experience and get an intuitive feeling for the Russian grammar and language, you find yourself using the more difficult construction more often.

What should you do next?

Learning Russian does NOT need to be difficult. All you need is a solid plan that helps you improve the following things daily:

  • vocabulary
  • grammar
  • listening skills
  • speaking skills

That's ALL you need. If you can do this for a couple of weeks, you’ll already be making great progress in your Russian skills.

And the best part? If you improve a little bit every day, soon these practices will become daily habits.

And then you will start making progress on autopilot.

This means that learning Russian is now a part of your daily routine. So you won’t even need discipline anymore to get yourself to practice.

If you like the idea of this, but don’t know where to start, go here for more information.

About the Author

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.

Ari Helderman

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