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August 20, 2020

Learn the Russian Nominative Case [Takes You Less Than 30 Minutes]

I didn’t even know what the Russian nominative case was until several months into learning Russian.

Cause let’s face it: if you know that the subject of a sentence should be in the nominative case + you know how to recognize it, you already know 80% there is to know about this case.

And you can learn that in 30 minutes.

Still, I’ve done my best to make this page a great guide if you want to learn all the ins and outs of the nominative case in Russian.

What if you just want to look at the declensions table for a quick reminder? Got that covered in the next paragraphs as well.

Let’s get started.

Russian nominative case cheatsheet

The reason to know the nominative case is so you can identify the subject of the sentence.

All dictionary forms are usually nominative case. Another reason to know the case is so you can identify whether a noun is masculine, neuter, feminine; singular or plural.

Here’s a quick overview of the endings of the nominative case:

  • If you already have experience, and just need a quick refresher, the following tables are enough.
  • If you’re relatively new to Russian, I recommend you go through this guide completely. That gives you a strong overview of the whole case.

Here are the tables of the Russian nominative case:

Nouns

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

Adjectives

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

Personal/Possessive 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

How to figure out if a noun is in the Russian nominative case?

The Russian nominative case is the easiest case in Russian.

That’s because it’s not really a case.

With that I mean that it does not change.

So you do not need to learn any new noun endings.

The nominative case indicates when a noun is the subject of a sentence.

Who or what is doing the action?

So if the sentence is:

Vlad goes to the cinema to watch a movie – Влад идёт в кино смотреть фильм.

Who is the subject?

Ofcourse, its Vlad.

Because HE is going to the cinema. 

In the following paragraphs I’ll show you the endings of nouns in the nominative case.

So when you are reading a sentence in Russian, it will be easy to find out who or what is doing the action.

Masculine nouns

You can easily find masculine nouns in the nominative case.

Here are the general rules:

  • If a noun ends 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, it’s masculine
  • 30% of nouns ending in ь, are masculine.
  • Nouns that do not end in any of the previous letters, but are obviously masculine (man, colleague, uncle etc), are also masculine

Now, if you want to turn a masculine noun into the plural form, you do the following:

  •     If the word ends in a consonant, add ы.
  •     Replace й with и
  •     Replace ь with и

There are also a couple of exceptions, that add an а to the end, you’ll need to learn them from memory.

Here are some examples of masculine nouns in the nominative case (singular and plural).

Nom. singularNom. pluralEnglishGender
столстолыTableMasculine
иностранециностранцыForeignerMasculine
звонокзвонкиCallMasculine

Feminine nouns

Feminine nouns in the nominative case are also easy to find.

You can recognize them:

  • all words ending in а or я are feminine
  • 70% of words ending in ь are feminine nouns

The plural feminine noun can be made by:

  •     Replace я with и
  •     Replace ь with и
  •     Replace а with ы (unless previous consonant is Г, К, Х, Ж, Ч, Ш or Щ, then replace with и)

Here are examples of feminine nouns in both the nominative singular and plural forms.

Nom. singularNom. pluralEnglishGender
пандапандыPandaFeminine
земляземлиEarthFeminine
станциястанцииStationFeminine
книгакнигиBookFeminine

Neuter nouns

Neuter nouns are among the easiest to recognize:

  • they end in о or е

There are some common exceptions, but they’re not a lot of them.

Making the plural here is also easy:

  • Replace о with а
  • Replace е with я (unless the last letter is a Г, К, Х, Ж, Ч, Ш, Щ, Ц, instead use А)

here’s a list of example nouns in the nominative neuter case (and how they look in the plural form):

Nom. singularNom. pluralEnglishGender
местоместаPlaceNeuter
поколениепоколенияGenerationNeuter
мореморяSeaNeuter

Adjectives

Russian adjectives in the nominative case are easy to recognize.

  • Masculine adjectives end in ый, ой or ий
  • Feminine adjectives end in ая or яя
  • Neuter adjectives end in ое or ее
  • Plural adjectives end in ые or ие

Some notes on these differences:

  • Most adjectives have hard stems, they end in ый, ая, ое, or ые 
  • Some have soft stems, they end with ий, яя, ее, or ие
  • If an adjective has its stress in the end, the masculine form ends with ой.

Here are some examples with the Russian adjectives in the nominative case.

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

Pronouns (personal/possessive/interrogative)

Pronouns are words that can be inserted in a sentence in place of a noun.

Vlad goes to the supermarket.

He goes to the supermarket.

This makes texts less repetitive and more interesting to read.

Here are the Russian personal pronouns in the nominative case:

Nom. pronounEnglish
яI
тыYou
онHe
онаShe
оноIt
мыWe
выYou plural
ОниThey

A possessive pronoun is when the pronoun indicates possession.

His book – его книга

Here are the possessive pronouns in the nominative case:

Possessive nom. (masc/fem/neut/plur)English
мой / моя / мое / моиMy
твой / твоя / твое / твоиYour
егоHis
ееHer
егоIts
наш / наша / наше /нашиOur
ваш / ваша / ваше /вашиYour
ихTheir

Interrogative pronouns are words that are used to ask a question.

Who is going on holiday? – Кто едет в отпуск?

Here I’ve also added some other pronouns, that you often find in Russian:

Interrogative pronounsEnglish
Чтоwhat
Ктоwho
Какой / Какая / Какое / Какиеwhich
Который / Которая / Которое / Коториеwhich/that/who
Этот / Эта / Это / Этиthis
тот / та / то / тиthat

When to use the Russian nominative case?

This case is the easiest case in Russian. That’s because the nouns do not change.

So you do not need to think about how a word changes its ending.

You can just use the dictionary form

Still, it’s important to know when you use the nominative case.

That helps you create correct sentences. It also helps you understand sentences better, as you know the function of the nominative case when you recognize it.

So let’s start with the most common situation when you use the nominative case:

Subject of the sentence

Vlad goes to the cinema – Влад идет в кино

Vlad is the subject here. He is going to the cinema.

So his name should be in the nominative case.

Any time you see a verb in a sentence, ask yourself who or what is DOING that verb?

That will lead you to the noun in the nominative case.

Is the same as

Another reason to use the nominative case is if you want to compare nouns, AND they are both the same.

This works in many ways, so I’ll just give you some examples here:

  • Мое имя Ари – My name is Arie
  • Он доктор – he is a doctor
  • Понедельник первый день недели – Monday is the first day of the week

Possessive

Another way the nominative can be used is when you indicate that you have something.

In Russian, the verb for ‘to have’ is иметь. 

You will rarely encounter this word.

So if you want to say “The man has a car”

Instead Russians say ‘’By the man is a car’’

у человека есть машина.

The person or thing that is owning, gets the preposition у + genitive case.

The thing that is owned, should be in the nominative case.

If you’re new to learning Russian, you can leave this for until you learn the genitive case.

Prepositions

Each Russian preposition has 1 (or more) cases that usually follow it.

Relatively few prepositions use the nominative case.

Still, there are a couple where you can find it.

Here they are:

  • За – this is used only in questions with что, with the meaning ‘what kind of’
    Что Влад за студент? – what kind of student is Vlad?
  • В – this is used only with the plural nominative case if a person joins an organisation:
    Дима пошёл в политики – Dima has become a politician

If this sounds a little confusing, that’s okay. It is. These constructions are rare. And especially as a foreigner, people won’t expect you to say them correctly.

I’ve included them for the purpose of having all nominative situations here on the page. 

Tips to learn the nominative case in Russian

This case should be the first case to learn if you’re new to learning Russian. 

In fact, most people start learning Russian, and only later figure out that the nominative case is actually a case.

Since when you’re starting out with simple sentences (я еду в Питер – I travel to Saint Petersburg), you don’t notice that words change from their dictionary form.

Just like in English, you take words as you know them and assimilate a sentence with them.

Only later, once you start making more complicated sentences and get acquainted with the accusative or genitive case, you figure out that the words you were already saying ALSO were in a specific case.

That’s when you look back, and try to learn more.

Here are some tips that will help you get a better grasp of the Russian nominative case:

The nominative case does not require specific attention

To learn this case well, it doesn’t require specific attention.

You just should know that it’s there. Then further general Russian practice will help you master it better.

Since this case is so common, all you need is to go over the tables on this page a couple of times.

And then you will meet all the common forms many times while watching Russian series, listening to music or (most importantly!) talking with people.

Ask yourself who/what is doing the action

Still, in the beginning it can be helpful to figure out when exactly the nominative case is used.

Since it’s mainly used to conjugate verbs, you’d do well to ask yourself constantly “who or what is doing the action here?”

Maybe you’ve had this when you were in high school with your native language? I know we had to look for the subject of each sentence in Dutch (even though we don’t have cases).

If this concept is new to you, or you’ve forgotten it, it’s a good thing to analyze most sentences.

First when you see the English sentence. Ask who is doing the action. Then you know which word in Russian should be in the nominative case. And you can then create the sentence better.

Learn to recognize the masculine/feminine/neuter forms of words

Knowing which gender a noun is, is a valuable skill in the future.

That’s because for the 5 other cases (prepositional, accusative, genitive, dative and instrumental), each gender changes their ending differently.

So it’s good to start off on the right foot.

Luckily, this is easy. 

90% of all the nouns fall under the following categories:

  • Masculine: ends 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: ends in а or я
  • Neuter: ends in a е or о

There are some exceptions of course, but if you focus on learning these ones, you will get far.

What’s next?

The nominative case is only the first step on your journey. 

If you’ve read any other posts on my site, you’ve found that the general order in which it’s best to learn cases is:

  1. Nominative
  2. prepositional
  3. accusative
  4. genitive
  5. dative
  6. instrumental

So I highly recommend you go over this page one more time.

Preferably with a notepad next to you, so you can copy the tables there. 

Writing something down always helps tremendously to remember it better.

Especially compared to just reading it.

Once you’ve copied everything, go check out the prepositional case.

And if you have any questions, let me know in the comments 🙂

Related Posts

Звонить/позвонить conjugation in Russian – to call (on the phone)

Why the Russian Sentence Structure Helps You Speak 60% More Fluently

The 63 Most Common Russian Prepositions (+ Examples)

All the Russian Possessive Pronouns in 1 Clear ‘Cheatsheet’

Author: Ari Helderman


I started learning Russian seriously in January 2016, and haven't stopped since. 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.

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