Thursday, October 14, 2010

Russian Case Names Made Easier

Russian grammar is famously difficult. Most teachers think it is hard enough without learning all those grammar terms in Russian. After all, who needs to know how to say “dative case” as long as you know how to use the dative case, right?

Unfortunately, if you head out into the former USSR, you will probably have a hard time finding a tutor who speaks English fluently AND knows Russian language pedagogy. Most likely you will have a teacher with limited or no English. This is actually a great boon to your Russian skills, since it forces you to communicate in Russian with that person as much as possible. The only trick is learning those grammar terms in Russian.

So, without further ado, I present Russian case names and morphological mnemonic devices. (Try saying that 10 times fast!)

Note: Russians always use this specific order for cases. My Russian teacher in Armenia taught us this and I have always been grateful to her. In a pinch, you can just say the number of the case if you forget the name.

I. Именительный падеж

Nominative Case

This case name is pretty easy to remember. Именительный sounds like имя (name). What is it called when you name someone to the Supreme Court? You nominate them.

II. Родительный падеж

Genitive Case

The root род- is in lots of familiar words, like родина (homeland) or the phrase “Я родилась в ...” (I was born in...). Obviously it has to do with birth and origin, just like the root gen- in English. Think generation, genital, etc.

III. Дательный падеж

Dative Case

This one actually sounds like a cognate. Also, the verb дать means “to give,” and this is the case you use with that verb. What a cinch.

IV. Винительный падеж

Accusative Case

The root вин- is connected with guilt, as in the phrase “Я не виновата!” (I am not guilty!). What does a lawyer do to a guilty person in court? Accuse them of a crime.

V. Творительный падеж

Instrumental Case

The root твор- is probably not as familiar as the other ones, but it is used in one common word, творчество (creation or works). What do you use when you work? An instrument.

VI. Предложный падеж

Prepositional Case

I find this one slightly tricky to remember. The word for preposition is предлог. Пред- (or перед-) has the same meaning as the English prefix pre-, as in prepositional.

I hope that helps! And thanks to Dr. Ari Stern-Gottschalk for teaching me Russian morphology.


  1. If you want to remember the order of the cases, Russians use this mnemonic:

    Иван Родил Девчонку, Велел Тащить Пелёнку
    Ivan had a baby girl, and ordered (someone) to bring diapers.

    Иван - Именительный and so forth )))

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