How to Use Word Endings in Russian Cases

Greetings, Verbling Community!

My name is Vadim Onufriev, and I'm a Russian teacher here on Verbling.

I want to tell you about noun endings used in the formation of Russian cases. While cases might be one of the most daunting aspects of the Russian language, I can assure you that you will better grasp cases after reading this article and following my advice.

I will show you how to form each of the six cases’ endings – and afterward you’ll be able to do it by yourself!

Let’s start.

What are declensions?

All nouns in Russian can be divided into 3 big categories. We call these groups “Склонение”. That means “declension”.

Why are declensions important? If you know the group to which your given noun belongs – the first, second or third declension – you can choose the case’s ending correctly! Nouns are grouped into three declensions by their gender and ending in nominative case.

First declension (1 скл.)

  • Female gender nouns:
- End with –а or –я;
- Examples: мама, тетя, кошка, жена;
  • Male gender nouns:
- End with –а or –я;
- Examples: папа, дядя, юноша, мужчина;
  • Neuter gender nouns:
- NEVER belong to the first declension

Second declension (2 скл.)

  • Female gender nouns:
- NEVER belong to the second declension
  • Male gender nouns:
- End with every letter except –а or –я;
- Examples: конь, лес, пень, крокодил;
  • Neuter gender nouns:
- Every noun of this gender always belongs to the second declension (usually –о or -е);
- Examples: поле, море, озеро, лето, стадо

Third declension (3 скл.)

  • Female gender nouns:
- End with every letter except –а or –я (usually –ь);
- Examples: дочь, тень, лень, вечность;
  • Male gender nouns:
- NEVER belong to the third declension;
  • Neuter gender nouns:
- NEVER belong to the third declension

Can you group the following words into their corresponding declensions?
Кошка, мыло, старик, бег, нож, речь?

Now, just look through this big table. Don't be scared. Endings for every word are separated by the “-” sign.

Table 1. Cases in the Russian language.

| Падеж | 1 скл., Ед.ч., Singular |1 скл., Мн.ч., Plural |2 скл., Ед.ч., Singular |2 скл., Мн.ч., Plural| 3 скл., Ед.ч., Singular |3 скл., Мн.ч., Plural|
|Именительный Nominative Кто? Что?|жен-а земл-я слуг-а забияк-а |жен-ы земл-и слуг-и забияк-и| закон- конь- сел-о пол-е гений- настроени-е | закон-ы кон-и сел-а пол-я гени-и настроени-я |ель мышь | ели мыши |
|Родительный Genitive Кого? Чего? |жен-ы земл-и слуг-и забияк-и |жен- зем-ель слуг- забияк- | закон-а кон-я сел-а пол-я гени-я настроени-я | закон- ов кон-ей сел- пол-ей гени-ев настроени-й |ел-и мыш-и | Ел-ей Мыш-ей|
|Дательный Dative Кому? Чему? | жен-е земл-е слуг-е забияк-е |жен-ам земл-ям слуг-ам забияк-ам | закон-у кон-ю сел-у пол-ю гени-ю настроени-ю | закон-ам кон-ям сел-ам пол-ям гени-ям настроени-ям | ел-и мыш-и | Ел-ям Мыш-ам |
|Винительный Accusative Кого? Что? |жен-у земл-ю слуг-у забияк-у |жен- земл-и слуг- забияк- | закон- кон-я сел-о пол-е гени-я настроени-е | закон-ы кон-ей сел-а пол-я гени-ев настроени-я | ель- мышь- | Ел-и Мыш-ей |
|Творительный Instrumentál Кем? Чем? |жен-ой земл-ёй слуг-ой забияк-ой |жен-ами земл-ями слуг-ами забияк-ами |закон-ом, кон-ём сел-ом пол-ем гени-ем настроени-ем | закон- ами кон-ями сел-ами пол-ями гени-ями настроени-ями|ель-ю мышь-ю | Ел-ями Мыш-ами|
|Предложный Prepositional О ком? О чём? | жен-е земл-е слуг-е забияк-е | жен-ах земл-ях слуг-ах забияк-ах |закон-е кон-е сел-е пол-е гени-и настроени-и | закон- ах кон-ях сел-ах пол-ях гени-ях настроени-ях | ел-и мыш-и | Ел-ях Мыш-ах |
Did you notice that in spite of different endings in the nominative case row, the words within any given cell have almost the same endings?

This is the most important thing!

It means, if you know the declension (either the first, second, or third), in Table 1 you can find a word that has the same ending and gender in the nominative case row. Then you can be sure that in every case your given word plus the one you find in Table 1 will have the same endings.

For example:

You want to put the word “машина” in the accusative case. Firstly, to which declension does “машина” belong? This is the first declension (female gender, ends with –a, singular). Find a cell that coincides with the “first declension (singular)” column and the “nominative case” row. This is the cell with words: жена, земля, слуга, забияка. Which of these words have the same endings as “машина”?
Yes, - "жена"! So, in the accusative case, “машина” and “жена” will have the same ending – -у.
That’s why “машина” in the accusative case is “машину” (just like the ending in “жену”).


All you need to know is how to derive the declension of every word.

Here are the steps you need to take to correctly change the case of any noun:
  1. Find the declension group to which your given word belongs (in the nominative case, singular form).
  2. Find a cell in Table 1 with the same declension column (in the singular) and the nominative case row.
  3. Find the word with the same gender and the same ending in this cell.
  4. Find the ending of the found word in the given case.
  5. Use this found ending with your given word in the given case.

I know it looks very complicated, but if you understand it, you’ll master Russian cases in no time.

Good luck!



About the author:

Vadim is a Russian teacher on Verbling. His pedagogical approach is aimed at presenting the Russian language in a holistic rather than disjointed way. Vadim has extensive experience leading seminars and webinars in both Russian and English, and has won competitions related to general knowledge of the Russian language and reading Russian poetry.
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