Short Form Adjectives: Practical Insights and Usage Tips

Now it’s time to break down one of the most difficult topics in the Russian language – the short form of adjectives.

Russian adjectives (not all of them) have two forms: the full form and the short form. Short forms of adjectives in Russian are used to describe nouns directly in the sentence without the need for a separate linking verb.

Short form adjectives in Russian: real life example of usage

I find the topic of using short adjectives particularly challenging because it’s not always clear which form is best to choose. More precisely, we Russians know. But for foreigners, it can be difficult.

Let’s break it down using the adjective спокойный (calm) as an example.

If you say “Я спокойный“, it means you are a quiet person, it’s a characteristic of your personality. But if you say, “Я спокоен” it means you are calm right now.

It would seem that it is now clear in which cases to use this or that form. But it isn’t. Let’s take another example.

When we say “Он красив“, it sounds more formal than “Он красивый“. In writing, we will favor the short form, and when talking to a friend, we will choose the long form.

A completely different situation where the choice of the right form depends on entirely different factors.

So, there are two problems:

  1. We don’t know which specific adjectives have short forms and which don’t (well, yes, we know it’s qualitative adjectives, but it’s a very large group, and even if there is a short form, it’s not always used).
  2. If they do, we don’t know which one to use.

In this post, I’ll attempt to gather as many examples as possible of the use of short and long forms. This will help you understand how they function for the most commonly used adjectives.

See Also: 100 Common Russian Adjectives with Examples in Context

Forming Short Adjectives

Kickstarting our discussion, let’s uncover the principles behind crafting short form of Russian adjectives.

In simple words, we take an adjective and discard its ending. Sometimes letters are “lost” or changed along the way, so it is better to memorize the short forms of each adjective separately right away.

Visually, the process looks like this:

добрый → добр

богатый → богат

тихий → тих

готовый → готов

близкий → близок

полный → полон

согласный → согласен

Forming short adjectives in Russian

You may have noticed from the picture above that words typically undergo changes in the final letters when the stem consists of consecutive consonants. Occasionally, this alteration is accompanied by the presence of a soft sign.

I explain it this way: If we take the word ‘широкий‘ and remove the ending, we’re left with ‘широк‘. This resulting word sounds normal, so nothing changes.

However, in the case of the word ‘тёмный‘, when we drop the ending, we’re left with ‘тёмн’. Such a combination of consonants can be challenging to pronounce, so to enhance its pronunciation, we add an ‘e’, resulting in ‘тёмен‘.”

I hope you got the idea.

There are always exceptions though.

Adjectives like быстр, добр, кругл and прост also have consecutive consonants, but they sound OK. That’s why we don’t change them.

However, the adjectives хитрый and острый behave differently:

хитрый → хитёр

острый → остёр (остр)

Here’s some good news about short adjectives: they do not undergo changes based on case, thanks to their specific function in a sentence.

The bad news is that they do change in gender and number. So you have to memorize 4 forms at once.

For example, let’s take the adjective красивый (beautiful).

In its full form: красивый (masculine), красивая (feminine), красивое (neuter), красивые (plural).

In its short form: красив (masculine), красива (feminine), красиво (neuter), красивы (plural).

Quite easy, right? In the last three forms, just drop the last letter.

However, the adjectives that gain the letter “o” or “e” when forming the masculine form are a bit trickier: this additional letter is then dropped again when forming the feminine, neuter, and plural forms.

опáсный (dangerous) → опáсен (m.), опáсна (f.), опáсно (n.), опáсны (pl.)

ую́тный (cozy) → ую́тен (m.), ую́тна (f.), ую́тно (n.), ую́тны (pl.)

In these examples, the stress in the short forms remains on the same syllable as in the full forms. But that’s not always the case. There are adjectives in which the accent is shifted in the short forms.

пóлныйпóлон (m.), полнá (f.), пóлно (n.), полны́ (pl.)

вéрныйве́рен, верна́, ве́рно, ве́рны and верны́

голо́дныйго́лоден, голоднá, гóлодно, го́лодны and голодны́

до́брыйдо́бр, добра́, до́бро, до́бры and добры́

бли́зкийбли́зок, близка́, бли́зко, близки́ and бли́зки

дешёвыйдёшев, дешева́, дёшево, дёшевы

Not all qualitative adjectives have a short form.

Relative adjectives (words that denote a permanent attribute through relation to another object) have no short form or degrees of comparison. They can mean time, place, purpose, material, etc. Examples of such adjectives: деревянный, спортивный, городской, летний, дневной.

Same with derivative adjectives denoting an intensive degree of quality (such adjectives have the part -ущ-/-ющ-, -ейш-, -айш-, -ш-, -енн-): большущий, дорогущий, красивейший, малейший, низший, здоровенный, огроменный.

Some adjectives denoting colors do not have a short form either, or it is hardly used at all. You can’t say, for example, оранжев or розов.

As you can see, forming short forms of adjectives is not difficult. Now, let’s move on to the most challenging part – their usage.

See Also: List of Opposite Adjectives in Russian

Using Short Adjectives

Short form adjectives allow for more concise and direct descriptions of nouns within a sentence. They are an important part of Russian grammar and help to express attributes or characteristics about people, objects, or concepts.

Short forms function as the predicate in a sentence. While regular adjectives can come before nouns, the short form is usually used after.

Short and long form of an adjective in Russian: Usage

Usually, the following adjectives are used only in the short form:

  • я готов/готова (I’m ready)
  • я согласен/согласна (I agree)
  • я голоден/голодна (I’m hungry)
  • я доволен/довольна (I’m satisfied)
  • я спокоен/спокойна (I’m calm)
  • я прав/права (I’m right)
  • я должен/должна (I must)
  • я достоин/достойна (I’m worthy)
  • я виноват/виновата (I’m guilty)
  • я способен/способна (I’m capable)
  • я рад/рада (I’m glad)
  • я женат (I’m married)

In constructions with the pronoun “вы” in the singular and when politely addressing someone or describing a specific person, only the short plural forms are used. For example, будьте любезны/будьте добры (be kind), будьте осторожны (be careful); вы бледны (you are pale), вы так прекрасны (you are so beautiful).

General rules of usage, unfortunately, do not always apply to short adjectives. For example, it is commonly stated that short forms indicate temporary or impermanent attributes, while full forms denote permanent attributes. However, this is not always the case, as I mentioned earlier.

For instance, “он опасен” can convey both a temporary and a permanent attribute.

There are numerous similar examples.

Hence, it is advisable to analyze each adjective separately.

Let’s look at the use of the long and short forms of some Russian adjectives.

хороший (good) → хоро́ш, хороша́, хорошо́, хороши́

The difference in the use of “хороший” and “хорош” is not that big.

Both “хороший” and “хорош” are used to express the quality of being good or nice.

Этот фильм действительно хороший/хорош. – The movie is really good.

But if we’re talking about people, it’s better to use the long form.

Он хороший человек. – He’s a good man.

Because the short form of “хороший” can mean the exact opposite. Let’s look at the example dialogue:

Example of using the word хорош in Russian

A: Он украл у неё деньги и сбежал. (He stole money from her and ran away.)

B: Она тоже хороша. Помогала ему скрываться от полиции. (She’s good, too. Helped him evade the police.)

In this case, the word “хороша” means that the woman did no better than the robber because she was helping him. Often the short form of the adjective “хороший” is used in conversation for this very purpose – to emphasize someone’s guilt.

But the most common use of the short adjective is when we want to emphasize what or who someone or something is good for.

Автомобиль хорош для длительных поездок благодаря своим сиденьям. – The car is good for long trips due to its seats.

Кофе будет хорош для тех, кто сидит на диете. – Coffee will be good for those who are on a diet.

Она слишком хороша для него. – She’s too good for him.

интересный (interesting) → интересен, интересна, интересно, интересны

If the sentence is an impersonal construction, the short form is always used.

Прежде всего, мне интересен внутренний мир человека. – Firstly, I am interested in the interior life of human beings.

Нам интересен ваш опыт в этой области. – We are curious about your experiences in this area.

Ей не интересны пьесы, ей интересен ты. – She’s not interested in plays, she’s interested in you.

If we are discussing the perspective from which someone or something is of interest, the short form is also used.

Каждый из разделов книги интересен по-своему. – Each section of the book is interesting in its own right.

Проект интересен с позиции интеграционных решений. – The project is interesting from the position of integration solutions.

If you use the long form, the sentence will look like this: “Это интересный с позиции интеграционных решений проект“. However, the first option is preferable.

умный (smart) → умён, умна, умно, умны

Он умён и талантлив. (= Он умный и талантливый) – He is smart and talented.

Both forms can be used interchangeably, although “умён” would be more appropriate in a formal setting or in the literature, and “умный” would be more appropriate in an informal setting.

смелый (brave) → смел, смела, смело, смелы

Тогда я был молод, смел и голоден. (= Тогда я был молодым, смелым и голодным.) – Back then, I was young, gritty, hungry.

Same thing. Both “смелый” and “смел” can be used in most cases. Short form, however, sounds better in stories.

забавный (funny) → забавен, забавна, забавно, забавны

This adjective has also occurred to me mostly in its original form. Though perhaps I rarely read fiction. The short forms are more common there.

В трезвом виде я гораздо менее забавен. – I’m much less funny when I’m sober.

Formal and Informal Language

Let’s break down the adjectives that can be used in the short or long form, depending on the degree of formality of the language.

высокий (tall) → высок, высока, высоко, высоки

For example, we can say about a person: Он высокий (He is tall).

Can we say “Он высок“? Nah… Sounds awful.

Here are a few examples of how to use the short form. This is mostly formal language.

Уровень радиации слишком высок для жизни. – The radiation level is far too high to sustain life.

Туристический потенциал республики Беларусь весьма высок. – The tourist potential of the Republic of Belarus is very high.

Будьте осторожны – высока вероятность получения травм. – Be very careful as there is a high likelihood of you getting hurt.

большой (big) → вели́к, велика́, велико́, велики́

The word “большой” has no short form, so the form of the verb “великий” is used.

It also has a rather formal connotation.

В этом году урожаи и доходы особенно велики. – The growth and the income have been great this year.

маленький (little, small) → мал, мала, мало, малы

The use of the word “мал” is similar to the use of the word “велик”.

Экспорт кофе и какао ничтожно мал. – Agricultural exports of coffee and cocoa are virtually non-existent.

В старину тираж монеток был крайне мал. – In the old days the circulation of coins was extremely small.

Мал and велик are commonly used when talking about clothes:

Штаны тебе малы/велики. – Your pants are too small/big.

There’s is also the expression “от мала до велика” that refers to people “from the small (or young) to the great (or old).” It signifies the entire spectrum of ages or experience, representing all ages or stages of life.

быстрый (fast) → быстр, быстра, быстро, быстры

Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I heard the short form in everyday speech. Maybe I’ve never heard it.

If you want to know Russian at a basic or intermediate level, you are unlikely to ever need to use the word “быстр” anywhere.

трудный (difficult) → труден, трудна, трудно, трудны

The same as in the previous case. I think I’ve only heard the short form in the song, “Наша служба и опасна, и трудна…”. I guess it’s because the short form of an adjective is easier to use in poetry.

новый (new) → нов, нова, ново, новы

The short form is used only in formal language.

Вопрос о конце физики далеко не нов. – Questions about the end of physics are not new.

Идея использования биотоплива не нова. – The idea of using biofuel is certainly not a new one.

эффективный (effective) → эффективен, эффективна, эффективно, эффективны

The word itself is more formal, so the use of the short form is very common.

Метод эффективен, но должен проводиться опытным специалистом. – The method is effective, but should be carried out by an experienced specialist.

Инструменты планирования устарели и недостаточно эффективны. – The planning tools are out of date and not efficient enough.

Temporary or Permanent Attributes

Now let’s list the adjectives in which the use of the short and full forms depends on whether a temporary or permanent attribute is meant.

злой (angry; evil) → зол, зла, зло, злы

Я зол. – I’m angry (now).

Я был зол на него. – I was angry with him.

Он злой человек. – He’s an evil man.

If we are discussing a temporary attribute or a specific situation (with more details), we use the short form. If it pertains to a character trait, we use the long form.

However, in this case, even if the condition is temporary, we can say “Я злой”. But for the permanent attributes “зол” won’t do.

счастливый (happy) → счастлив, счастлива, счастливо, счастливы

Она счастливая. – She is happy. (She has a happy life, a permanent attribute)

Она счастлива. – She is happy. (now)

Я так счастлив, что встретил тебя. – I’m so happy I met you. (it talks about the specific conditions of happiness)

спокойный (calm) → спокоен, спокойна, спокойно, спокойны

Он спокойный. – He’s calm (it’s a personality trait).

Теперь я спокоен за свою безопасность. – Now I am calm about my safety.

грустный (sad) → грустен, грустна, грустно, грустны

You’re unlikely to hear “он грустный” or “она грустная” anywhere. “Он грустен”/”она грустна” sounds more appropriate.

But still, if you need to say that someone is sad, the more common option is using the verb: “он/она грустит“.

See Also: How to Describe Emotions in Russian

сильный (strong) → силён, сильна, сильно, сильны

Он такой сильный! – He’s so strong!

Она сильная личность. – She’s a strong personality.

Я не силён в математике. – I’m not good at math.

вежливые (polite) → вежлив, вежлива, вежливо, вежливы

Он очень вежливый. – He’s very polite.

Он всегда был вежлив с женщинами. – Was always courteous to the ladies.

ласковый (affectionate) → ласков, ласкова, ласково, ласковы

Я очень ласковая, и мой человек будет окружен океаном любви навсегда. – I am very affectionate, and my man will be surrounded by the ocean of my love for eternity.

Если муж ласков, это неспроста. – When a husband’s affectionate, something’s going on.

Дедушка не очень ласков с внуком, но мальчик все равно его любит и скучает. – Grandfather is not very affectionate with his grandson, but the boy still loves him and misses him.

заботливый (caring) → заботлив, заботлива, заботливо, заботливы

Она заботливая. – She’s caring.

Она очень добра и заботлива. – She is kind and caring.

Long or short form, doesn’t matter in this case.

Катя заботлива и внимательна к каждому пациенту. – Katya is very caring and attentive to every patient. (only short)

Я стала очень заботлива ко всем живым существам. – I’ve become very nurturing toward all living things. (only short)

Мои брат и сестра всегда жалуются, что я чересчур заботлива (=заботливая). – My brother and sister are always complaining that I’m too protective. (can be used both)

С ней легко общаться, она всегда заботлива, позитивна, внимательна и при этом очень практична. – It is easy to communicate with her, she is always caring, positive and attentive, and at the same time very practical. (can be used both, but the short forms are more universal here, suitable for any situation)

смешной (funny, ridiculous) → смешон, смешна, смешно, смешны

Usually “смешной” is used to mean funny, and “смешон” has a slightly negative connotation:

Влюблённый мужчина всегда немного смешон. – A man in love is always a little ridiculous.

занятой (busy) → занят, занята, занято, заняты

Я занятой человек. – I’m a busy person.

Я сейчас занят. – I’m busy now

внимательный (attentive) → внимателен, внимательна, внимательно, внимательны

Он очень внимательный. – He’s very attentive.

Она внимательна к деталям. – She has an eye for detail.

уверенный (confident) → уверен, уверена, уверено, уверены

Он слишком уверенный. – He’s too confident.

Он уверен в их победе. – He’s confident they’ll win.

больной (sick) → болен, больна, больно, больны

Он больной. – He’s a sick person.

Он болен. – He is sick.

жестокий (cruel) → жесток, жестока, жестоко, жестоки

Он жестокий. – He’s cruel.

Он очень жесток по отношению к своей жене. – He is cruel to his wife.

See Also: 50+ Russian Adjectives and Nouns to Describe Personality

These sentences showcase the use of short adjectives in Russian to describe various people, objects, and characteristics.

In simple words, short adjectives in Russian are like little words that describe nouns and agree with them. They have special endings to show if the noun is masculine, feminine, or neuter, singular or plural. The endings of short adjectives change to match the noun they describe.

Do you need to know all instances of short forms? If you require Russian for everyday communication, then no. However, if your goal is to have a strong command of written Russian, for instance, full immersion in this topic is indispensable.

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