Learning Russian cases may seem difficult at first sight. And the popular opinion is the same. In fact, cases are the first thing that discourages many people from learning the Russian language. And a lack of quality resources and simple explanations only makes it worse.
But what if I tell you, that Russian cases are not as difficult as you were told? What if you can spend less time learning them?
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What is a grammatical case?
A grammatical case is an attribute of a pronoun, noun, adjective, participle, or numeral for reflecting different grammatical functions of a word in a sentence. This attribute is demonstrated by different endings in each of the cases.
There are grammatical cases in the English language too, but just a few, and only for pronouns. For example:
I – me, He – him, She – her, We – us, They – them. These are pronouns declined by cases.
In order to reveal what a grammatical function is, look at the sentence:
I sent him a letter – Я отправил ему письмо (Dative case in Russian)
I sent him to the shop – Я отправил его в магазин (Accusative case in Russian)
As you can see, in English we use the pronoun “him” in both sentences, because the English dative case matches with the accusative. But in Russian they are different. This is what the grammatical function of a word is, and why the cases are needed in the Russian language.
Which Russian cases do I have to learn?
Ideally, all of them. But don’t worry, all case endings are typical, you need to read many examples for every way of use.
Here are the 6 main Russian cases with quick descriptions:
Nominative case – an initial form of a word
Genitive case – designates a relation between objects
Dative case – indicates a direct object of an action
Accusative case – indicates an indirect object of an action
Instrumental case – designates an instrument of an action
Prepositional case – used only after some prepositions
There are also 5 additional cases, that you probably have not heard about yet, because their declensions usually match with the main 6 cases. But for full and easy understanding, I think it is crucial to learn these 5 too. Because most tutorials put them into “Exceptions” or mix them with the 6 main cases. However, they are complete cases. And they are even easier to learn.
Locative case – indicates a location of an object
Vocative case – used for calling someone
Translative case – designates a change of state of an object
Partitive case – designates a part of something
Waitative case – designates waiting for an object
Check out these lessons from our free Russian course to learn more:
How to memorize case endings
It is not necessary to memorize all endings at once. You, first of all, want to learn WHEN to use them, and then HOW to form them. Definitely, you need to know how to decline nouns, adjectives, and pronouns in each case. But not at once, it is much more effective to learn it along the way.
What I mean is, that you don’t want to memorize all declension groups of nouns and all case endings before learning when and which case to actually use. Learn about case endings along the way, not before.
How to actually learn them fast and not get confused?
Each case has a bunch of constructions, words, and prepositions after which it must be used. And each case should be learned consistently. Not all of them at once. Well, you can do it in one hour, in one day but don’t put all eggs into one basket.
By consistent learning I mean learning each case separately and profoundly. I don’t mean that you need to read a 200-page academic textbook on each of them, but figure out when and how to use every grammatical case. Do not learn which case to use after each preposition, but learn which preposition to use after the exact case.
Some Russian prepositions have more than one variant of translation and usage, that’s why for every variant they require a different case. For example, the preposition ЗА can mean either “behind” or “for”.
How to learn each case effectively
Let’s suppose you’re learning the Genitive case. You need to figure out after which prepositions it must be used which words, and in which constructions.
For example, the Genitive case must be used after the prepositions “Для, От, Из, После” (and many others), also at enumeration (i.e. after numerals), after the words Много and Мало and in other situations.
I would say that the biggest complication in cases is mastering the Genitive case because it has the biggest amount of prepositions and situations of use. Once you master it – everything else must be easy.
The key is not to confuse oneself with unstructured academic explanations, but learn each case consistently, reading a couple of examples for each preposition and way of use. This approach will save you a lot of time.
Also, there is another way to learn cases effectively. It is a reading/listening approach. Many Russian learners find it effective. Just read Russian texts (not hard ones like War and Peace), and pay attention to case endings. The more you read, the more examples sink in. It is a great way to combine my method of consistent learning.
Well, I am a native speaker of Russian and cases have never had to learn Russian as a foreign language. However, I learned the Finnish language, which has a lot of cases, and keep learning other Slavic languages that have the same cases but their rules of use don’t match.
How NOT to learn cases
Personally, for me the ineffective and inefficient approach looks like this:
Start from for example Dative case, learn 2 prepositions that require it, then switch to Genitive and learn 3 prepositions, then switch to learning case endings, then go to the Accusative case and ask why it has the same prepositions as Genitive and say that the Russian language has no logic.
How to learn Russian cases really fast and easily?
In order to explain each case as simple as possible, and give you all that you need to know about them, I wrote the book “Russian Cases – Made Simple” that will walk you through the process of understanding all Russian cases, when and how to use each of them.
Buy your copy now, and you will forget about the hardships that every Russian language learner faces.
- You will know all case endings of Russian nouns, pronouns, adjectives, participles, and numerals;
- You will be able to decline any Russian word in all cases;
- You will not need to read 400-page guides that would make you angry and self-confident;
- You will increase your vocabulary and reading skills;
- You will learn more than in any other guide to Russian cases from this book.
- You will learn about 5 additional rarely used cases that almost no teacher will tell you about!
Moreover, you will find a lot of examples for each explanation that will cover all your incomprehension and misunderstandings.
And 200 exercises to finally train your brain to use Russian cases without prior thinking.
Purchase your copy right now! It will cost you less than a coffee in Starbucks, and will improve your Russian language skills!
Russian Cases – Made Easy
The ultimate guide to one of the most complicated subjects of Russian language - Grammatical casesMore info →
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This Post Has 2 Comments
Under the heading “Which Russian Cases Do I Have To Learn” you write that the Dative Case indicates the direct object of an action, and that the Accusative Case indicates the indirect object of an action. Is this correct?
No, other way round.