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 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.

How to form the Russian genitive case?

The first part of this article will show you exactly how to form the genitive case. We go over nouns, adjectives, 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 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.

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.

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 in Russian 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 how to form the genitive case in Russian:

  • For masculine and neuter nouns, you add an а to the end.
  • For feminine nouns, ending in а or я, remove that letter, and change it for ы and 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 you remove the а, or 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 the regular nouns.

That is because there are less exceptions.

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

An example is the masculine adjective for big:

большой becomes большого.

The biggest surprise comes with genitive feminine adjective.

Why?

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

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 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 in Russian. 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 the 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 for 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, Russian people make mistakes as well with lesser known exceptions.

When to use the genitive case?

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

Most cases work very straightforward. 

Not the genitive case.

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

The genitive is one of the most common case (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 with 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 singular
  • neuter 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 any noun that is alive, and in the accusative case should be put in 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 require 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 require 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 require 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 taling 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 in Russian: I have an apple…

… you say: by me is an apple.

У меня есть яблоко.

The noun after у, should be in the genitive case. 

This may seem a bit counter intuitive, 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 Russian quantifiers:

Numerals are a little more tricky.

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

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

While this may seem easy, it’s quite demanding on your brain to 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 in Russian.

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 Russian, you find yourself using the more difficult construction more often.

3 tips to learn the genitive case

Since the Russian genitive case is the most difficult case to learn, here are some tips that help you master it.

Don’t try to learn everything at once

You have to learn quite some different rules for the genitive. That’s why you should take it easy

Start off learning the singular nouns ending. 

Just add an а to masculine nouns.

Change the о or е for an а with neuter nouns.

And change а for ы in feminine nouns.

Those are the general rules. If you speak those correctly on a consistent basis, you’re already halfway.

A big mistake many people make once they encounter the genitive case for the first time, is that they try to learn everything at once.

That’s just not going to happen.

Learn something small new + practice it till you are 80% proficient in it.

Then move on to the next part.

So you start with the simple general things that we spoke about a couple sentences back.

Then once you say those correct MOST of the time, you start paying more attention to the plural forms.

Repeat this until you say those correctly most of the time.

Now focus on the adjectives.

Repeat.

Only then focus on the exceptions.

It’s okay to get a quick overview of everything in the beginning. Just don’t feel as if you must understand everything at the same time.

Use it in your speech

Theory without practice is not worth anything.

You must use the Russian grammar concepts you learn while speaking to drill them down.

You find that it’s easier to learn the genitive singular for masculine if you spend 5 minutes coming up with sentences in your head. 

Or say them out loud.

It’s one thing to know how a word gets added an а at the end.

It’s another thing if you create a sentence that requires you to use the Russian genitive.

Creating is the keyword here.

It forces your attention at the right pieces of the puzzle, and creates a stronger neural connection. 

Which is exactly what you need to learn something new.

So always try to put into practice what you’re learning.

Preferable while speaking.

Bookmark a page with case tables

It’s no shame if you can’t remember all the declensions of the genitive case with just 1 look at them.

That’s why it’s a good idea to look at them often.

So I recommend you bookmark a page with an explanation table of the Russian genitive case.

It also works to get a full overview of all the cases, though it may be a bit overwhelming or distracting to see cases you haven’t yet learned.

Wikipedia is a good site.

Or bookmark this page.

Or create your own. 

Just take a sheet of paper and copy the table on this page. 

Then take a picture of it, so you have it with you all the time on your phone.

You don’t need a specific schedule when to look at it.

Just take a quick glance, whenever you feel you need it.

Or if you know you’re going to be speaking Russian in an hour, it’s a good idea to take a quick refresher look.

If you do want a routine to quickly learn the genitive case completely you can follow the program below.

2 week program to learn the genitive case for beginners

If you’re looking to get the genitive case down in your speech, the following 2 week program will help you a lot.

Requirements

  • You know at least the top 100 most common words in the Russian language
  • You understand the nominative case
  • You are able to form the prepositional case
  • You understand how to form feminine nouns in the accusative case

If you can put a checkmark at each of those, youre ready to follow the 2 week Russian genitive case program.

Here’s the 2 week Russian genitive case bootcamp:

Day 1: read this article twice

Day 2 – 3: pick the X words in the nominative case and write them down 5 times each in the genitive singular and genitive plural. Here are the words again:

Day 4 – 6: write down the personal pronouns in the genitive case (

Day 7 – 8: pick 2 adjectives and write them each for the following words: 

Day 9 – 11: create 10 different sentences every day, that involve the genitive case. They can be as simple as “The house of the mayor” (дом мэра). After writing each down, pronounce it out loud.

Day 12 – 13: read a short story every day. Preferably out loud. Make a mental note every time you see the genitive case. Here are 3 short stories (check at the end of the article to see the same stories but with the words in genitive case underlined)

Day 14: check your knowledge here with this test.

Story 1

Это история о мальчике, который ходит в самую большую школу всей деревни.

В понедельник он не делал домашнее задание для английского языка.

Во вторник собака соседей ела домашнее задание

В среду был день рождения его отца.

В четверг листья дерева упали.

В пятницу колесо автобуса стало плоским.

В субботу он отправился на самое большое озеро страны.

Воскресенье – последний день недели, поэтому он пошел в дом своих друзей, чтобы играть.

Translation below:

This is a story about a boy.

He didn’t do his English homework on Monday.

Neighbors dog ate homework on tuesday

Wednesday was his father’s birthday.

On Thursday the leaves of the tree fell.

On Friday, the wheel of the bus became wide.

On Saturday, he went to the largest lake in the country.

So he went to his friends’ house to play.

Story 2

дом моих друзей продается за 200.000 долларов

Вау, это много денег – какой размер дома?

Это 103 квадратных метра и у дома есть большой балкон

У балкона есть прекрасный вид?

Да, вокруг дома озеро и 7 высоких гор.

Translation below:

your friends’ house is on sale for $ 200,000

Wow, that’s a lot of money – what’s the size of the house?

It is 103 square meters and the house has a large balcony

Does the balcony offer a great view?

Yes, there is a lake and 7 high mountains around the house.

Final words on the Russian genitive case

It’s a difficult case to learn. But it’s a necessary case to learn.

It will take a while to master the fundamentals. 

The most important thing it to remember that since it’s the most difficult case to learn, every other case you learn after (and any other part of Russian grammar, really), is easier than this.

Do you have any tips that helped you learn the genitive case? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

***

Story 1 with genitives bold

Это история о мальчике, который ходит в самую большую школу всей деревни.

В понедельник он не делал домашнее задание для английского языка.

Во вторник собака соседей ела домашнее задание

В среду был день рождения его отца.

В четверг листья дерева упали.

В пятницу колесо автобуса стало плоским.

В субботу он отправился на самое большое озеро страны.

Воскресенье – последний день недели, поэтому он пошел в дом своих друзей, чтобы играть.

Story 2 with genitive bold

дом моих друзей продается за 200.000 долларов

Вау, это много денег – какой размер дома?

Это 107 квадратных метр и у дома есть большой балкон

У балкона есть прекрасный вид?

Да, вокруг дома озеро и 7 высоких гор.



P.S. If you want to improve your Russian on 'autopilot', my best recommendation is to just listen to 1 single Russianpod101 podcast per day (about 15 minutes). Ideally you do this when commuting to work to create a lasting habit. You can also take a daily walk. I did this for about 6 months, and it's the reason my Russian improved so quickly. There's a free 7 day trial with just an email address, so you're not risking anything. Give it a try and see how fast your Russian skills improve.


About the Author Ari Helderman

I started learning Russian seriously in January 2016. I created this site to help other foreigners speak Russian. You can follow my progress in Russian on my YouTube channel Ари Говорит по-русски.

  • Thank you for this wonderful overview…now I must be bold and ask you for more…nominative, accusative, dative, etc…..you are deeply appreciated, and may I only offer you: he who teaches also learns?

    • Ahah yes, before I wrote this guide I thought I knew the genitive case fairly well. Now I’ve got a complete new understanding of it! The other cases are on my list to write this summer as well. I started 2 weeks ago with the main cases: https://learntherussianlanguage.com/russian-cases/ and though to tackle the most difficult case first (genitive). Once the others are done, I’ll send an email update about it to everyone on the email list 🙂

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