The Genitive Case in Russian: Rules of Usage

First of all, the Russian genitive case is used to show possession and where the person or thing belongs to or what it relates to. The English equivalent of the genitive case is the preposition “of”.

Uses of the Genitive

The nouns in the genitive answer several questions. I’ll make a list of them with example sentences.

У кого? (Who has?)

If you have something, you usually start with: “У меня есть… “:

– Ты читал “Войну и мир”? (Have you read “War and Peace?”)

– Да, в школе. У меня до сих пор есть эта книга. (Yes, at school. I still have that book.)

Меня” is the genitive case of “я“.

So, to say someone/something has something (or had/will have), we need the genitive and nominative case:

У него [genitive] есть жена [nominative]. – He has a wife.

У них [genitive] два сына [nominative]. – Thwy have two sons.

У моей собаки [genitive] короткий хвост [nominative]. – My dig has a short tail.

У её подруги [genitive] плохой интернет [nominative]. – Her friend has poor internet connection.

Вчера у моих соседей [genitive] была свадьба [nominative]. – My neighbours had a wedding yesterday.

У школьников [genitive] через месяц будут каникулы [nominative]. – Students will have school holidays in a month.

This is a very common way to express possession in Russian, so you have to learn the genitive case. But the point is that the preposition у needs that case all the time. And not only this preposition.

Кого? (Of whom?) / Чего? (Of what?) / Чей? (Whose?)

We can say we have something/someone or there’s something/someone. But we can also say that we don’t have and there’s no any. In this case, we use the genitive as well.

У меня [genitive] нет детей [genitive]. – I have no kids.

У него [genitive] не было времени [genitive]. – He had no time.

Здесь не будет никого [genitive]. – There will be no one here.

Там нет воды [genitive]. – There’s no water there.

So, the genitive case is used to decline nouns and pronouns that are missing or absent.

When we answer the question “Чей? (Whose?)”, we use the genitive:

A: Чей это нож? (Whose knofe is this?)

B: Это нож Саши. (It’s Sasha’s knife.)

Note that the possessor always follows the object it possess. But we can also say “Это Сашин нож” (It’s Sasha’s knife).

I’ll give you more examples:

проблема человека – problem of man

хвост лисы – tail of a fox

гнездо птицы – bird’s nest

друг семьи – friend of a family (family’s friend)

It can be used to show the relation between objects or when something is a part of the whole:

центр города – the center of the city (city center)

часть тела – part of the body

ножка стула – leg of a chair

берег реки – bank of a river

столица Франции – the capital of France

свойства папки – properties of a folder

банка мёда – jar of honey

Comparisons are also used with the genitive forms:

Медведь больше [кого? (than who?)] зайца. – Bear is bigger than hare.

Германия меньше [кого? (than what?)] Канады. – Germany is smaller than Canada.

Он старше [кого? (than who?)] меня. – He’s older than me.

Finally, when we ask the question “чего?”, we may use verbal nouns:

купание младенца – bathing an infant

строительство дома – building of a house.

чтение книг – reading books

От кого? (From whom?)

Examples:

подарок от мамы – a gift from mother

Я получил письмо от друга из Японии. – I got a letter from a friend of mine in Japan.

Я узнал о них от моего соседа. – I found out about them from my neighbor.

Мы найдем способ от него избавиться. – Then we’ll figure out how to get rid of him.

Советую держаться от них подальше. – I say stay away from them as much as possible.

Откуда? (From where?)

Examples:

Я пришёл с работы и сел в своё кресло. – I came home from work and melt into my chair.

Он вернулся с того света. – He’s returned from the dead.

Мы из Москвы. – We are from Moscow.

Я только что пришла от врача с судьбоносной новостью. – I just came back from the doctor with life-changing news.

Когда? (When?)

We use genitive with dates:

первого марта – on the 1st of March

двадцать пятого октября – on the 25th of October

шестнадцатого агуста две тысячи двадцатого года – on the 16th of August 2020

And periods of time:

Встретимся после обеда. – See you after lunch.

Он будет находиться под стражей до начала июня. – He will be in prison until the beginning of June.

Характер человека раскрывается во время кризиса. – The character of a society is revealed during times of crisis.

Он сверлит стену с утра. – He’s drilling the wall since the morning.

Сколько? (How many? How much?)

The genitive is used:

1. After cardinal numbers, except number one, wich is used with the nominative.

2 книги (singular) – two books [22, 32, 42, 52 and so on are also singular]

3 мальчика (singular) – three boys [23, 33, 43, 53 and so on are also singular]

4 ложки (singular) – four spoons [24, 34, 44, 54 and so on are also singular]

5 студентов (plural) – five students

10 машин (plural) – ten cars

2. After the words много (a lot, many, much), мало (few, little), немного (some; a little), несколько (several)

много проблем – many problems

мало денег – little money

немного сахара – a little sugar

несколько человек – some people

Сколько времени? Как долго? (How long?)

When we talk about time intervals (prepositions с… до (from… to)), we use genitive:

с утра до вечера – from the morning the till evening

с ночи до утра – from morning to night

с девяти до шести – from nine till six

Какой? (What; Which; What kind of?)

зелёного цвета – of green color

высокого роста – of high growth

Prepositions used with genitive

The genitive case is usually used with some prepositions. However these prepositions can be used with other cases as well.

Here’s the list:

  • для (for)
  • без (without)
  • у (at; by; near)
  • до (until)
  • от (from; of)
  • из (from; out of)
  • из-за (because of)
  • кроме (except; apart from)
  • против (against)
  • вместо (instead of)
  • около (near)
  • (не)далеко ( (not) far)
  • напротив (opposite)
  • посреди (in the middle of)
  • позади (behind)
  • вокруг (around)
  • мимо (past)
  • вдоль (along)

Examples:

напротив больницы – opposite the hospital

вдоль дороги – along the road

посреди улицы – in the middle of the street

для него – for him

вместо нас – instead of us

от начала до конца – from start to finish

See Also: Prepositions of place in Russian

Verbs used with genitive

бояться – to fear; to be afraid of

Я боюсь мышей. – I’m adraid of mice.

бить – beat; hit

Не бей его! – Don’t beat him!

добиваться/добиться – to achieve

достигать/достигнуть, достичь – to achieve; to reach

желать/пожелать – to wish

избегать – to avoid

искать – to look for, to search

просить – to ask

просить пощады – to beg for mercy

требовать/потребовать – to demand; to require

Some verbs are only used with the genitive if nouns designate abstract and indefinite objects. For example:

ждать – to wait

ждать автобус (accusative) – wait for a bus

ждать дождя (genitive) – wait for rain

ждать проблем (genitive) – wait for problems

хотеть/захотеть – to want

Я хочу этот торт. (accusative) – I want this cake.

Я хочу сладкого. (genitive) – I want (to eat) something sweet.

Я не хочу проблем. (genitive) – I don’t want problems.

How to form the Genitive case

We change endings of nouns and adjectives to make genitive case forms. You should also remember personal pronouns in the genitive case cause they are very different from the initial nominative forms.

But we’ll start with nouns.

Masculine nouns ending in a consonant add the ending :

  • дом – дома
  • спорт – спорта

Masculine nouns ending in and change their ending to :

  • конь – коня
  • клей – клея

Masculine and feminine nouns ending in -a change the final letter to or (-жа, -чa, -ща, -ша, -ка, -ха, -га):

  • папа – папы
  • мама – мамы
  • трава – травы
  • чаша – чаши
  • куча- кучи
  • улитка – улитки

Masculine and feminine nouns ending in change their ending to :

  • дядя – дяди
  • тётя – тёти
  • пуля – пули

Feminine nouns ending in change the final letter to :

  • боль – боли
  • бровь – брови
  • речь – речи

Neuter nouns ending in -o change their ending to :

  • стекло – стекла
  • колесо – колеса

Neuter nouns ending in  change their ending to :

  • поле – поля
  • яблоко – яблока

Neuter nouns ending in -мя (знамя, время, бремя, вымя, племя, семя, темя, имя, пламя, стремя) change the final letter to -ени:

  • имя – имени
  • пламя – пламени

See Also: How to determine the gender of a noun in Russian

Genitive case endings tables

Personal pronouns in Genitive:

Personal Pronouns in Genitive

Nouns endings in Genitive:

Nouns Endings in Genitive

Adjectives endings in Genitive:

Adjectives Endings in Genitive

Possessive pronouns in Genitive:

Possessive Pronouns in Genitive

Demonstrative pronouns in Genitive:

Demonstrative Pronouns in Genitive

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