If you’re thinking about starting to learn Russian or any other Slavic language, I dare to say that you should start from this article because I will explain how to save a lot of time. When it comes to starting learning, there is one thing that may intimidate a beginner. This is the Russian case system, considered the most difficult aspect of the Russian language, as well as other Slavic languages. And it really confuses learners, and takes a lot of time to master. Let’s take a look at what the cases are and how to save time and energy learning them.
What are the Cases in the Russian language?
The case is a grammatical attribute of a noun, adjective, pronoun, participle, or numeral that reflects its grammatical function, such as possession, location, an instrument of action, an object of action, and others. To make it more understandable, there are some cases of pronouns in English: you – me, he – him, they – them, these are examples of what the grammar function of cases is like. In Russian, as well as in all Slavic languages apart from Bulgarian (which doesn’t have cases), cases get applied not only to pronouns but to nouns, adjectives, pronouns, participles, and numerals.
In order to speak Russian, one must know how to use cases from the very beginning. However, what if we don’t dive deep into them and forget about cases?
Let’s try to speak Russian without using cases, let’s see what it would look like:
1. Большой пёс с острыми зубами прыгает через маленькую лису – A big dog with sharp teeth jumps over a small fox (with cases)
2. Большой пёс с острые зубы прыгает через маленькая лиса – A big dog with sharp teeth jumps over a small fox (without cases)
Can you see the difference? The cases used are: большой пёс – nominative case, с острыми зубами – instrumental case, маленькую лису – accusative case. This And in the second example, the incorrect one, all words are placed in the nominative case (which is the infinitive form of a word). And, the point is, ANY native speaker would perfectly understand the second sentence even without cases.
How to master the Russian language with cases
What I want to say, is you don’t really need to know cases for learning Russian. Definitely, you should learn them step by step, little by little, and acquire them naturally. However, don’t confuse yourself, and take just a small look at the instructions until you learn and master all other parts of grammar. Without cases, Russian would be logical and simple, like, any Romance language. And you don’t need to learn Cases while you’re learning the structure of the Russian language. You can speak without them and you will be understood, and you won’t be judged. I mean, you need to learn them but little by little, and you will master them without spending too much time exercising.
How I recommend learning and mastering cases: when you learn Russian, read simplified rules of case usage along the learning process, and don’t confuse yourself with them until you master everything else. Just use cases how you think they should be used. Just speak and don’t overthink it. And, along with the practice, every day (or how it’s better for you), read instructions about Russian cases, and do exercises. You can spend 10 minutes a day doing that.
I strongly recommend my book Russian Cases – Made Simple for that, where you will find the most detailed ways of word declension for all situations with all cases, whatever you want to say with hundreds of examples that will help you to memorize and apply it faster. Moreover, you will learn not only 6 cases that most Russian teachers would teach about, but also 5 other additional cases which will give you a complete image of the Russian case system.
And for learning Russian from scratch, my book Russian language in 25 lessons, or Russian Essential Grammar and Conversational Language, where you will find all you need to understand the structure of the Russian language, and also simplified instructions for cases.
The idea for this blog post was inspired by this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcYCT9wEUuU