In English, we use an apostrophe to show possession. Russians play by other rules. To understand possession in Russian, we need to introduce the genitive case, as it is the primary way to express possession. To understand the finer points of Russian grammar, study Russian with a RussianTutoring.com teacher.
The Genitive Case
The genitive case is used to express possession. Nouns or pronouns in the genitive case answer the questions “кого?” (kogo – of whom?) and “чего?” (chego – of what?). To form the genitive in Russian, first determine the gender of the noun and then add the appropriate ending to the word. An ending is the last letter or two in a word, and it can fall after the suffix. It shows the grammatical form of the word, its number, and its case.
For masculine nouns, use the endings “-а” and “-я.”
When a noun ends in a consonant, just add “-a”: отец – отца (otets – otsa) – dad.
When a noun ends in “-й” or “-ь,” add “-я.”: чай – чая (chai – chaya) – tea.
For feminine nouns, use the endings “-ы” and “-и.”
When a noun ends in “а,” replace it with “ы”: машина – машины (mashina – machiny) – car.
If you see “-я” or “-ь” at the end of the noun, replace it with “-и”: ночь – ночи (noch’– nochi) – night.
For neuter nouns, use the endings “-а” or “-я.”
When a noun ends in “-o,” use “-а”: окно – окна (okno – okna) – window.
When a noun ends in “-е,” use “-я”: море – моря (more – morya) – sea.
If you want to say, for instance, that the flat belongs to your friend Ivan, you say, “квартира Ивана” (kvartira Ivana) – Ivan’s flat. If the flat belongs to Maria, it’s “квартира Марии” (kvartira Marii) – Maria’s flat. In Russian, the object that is owned comes first, before the owner.
See more examples below:
Долина реки (dolina reki) – valley of the river
The word “долина” (dolina) is an object that belongs to the river, so the river is the “owner.” “Река” (reka) is feminine, so we replace the ending “-а” with “-и.”
Кружка чая (kruzhka chaya) – cup of tea
The word “кружка” (kruzhka) is an object that is “possessed” by its owner—tea. “Чай” (chai) is masculine and ends in “-й,” so we need to use the ending “-я” to form the genitive.
Personal Pronouns in the Genitive Case
Look at the list of personal pronouns and how they change their form in the genitive:
я (ya – I) – меня (menya)
ты (ty – you) – тебя (tebya)
он (on – he) – его (ego)
она (ona – she) – её (eyo)
мы (my – we) – нас (nas)
Вы (Vy – you) – Вас (Vas)
они (oni – they) – их (ikh)
Это его дом. (Eto ego dom.) – This house is his.
Это ее книга. (Eto eyo kniga.) – This book is hers.
With a lot of practice, you can master the use of the genitive case in Russian. For detailed information about the six Russian grammatical cases, including the genitive case, contact one of our tutors for a Russian lesson.