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The Accusative Case in Russian: Who, What, and Where

The accusative case is one of the six cases in the Russian language. Nouns in the accusative case answer the questions “кого?” (kogo? – who?), “что?” (chto? – what?), and “куда?” (kuda? – where?). In this post we explain the Russian accusative case and tell you how to use it. To improve your understanding of Russian grammatical cases, learn Russian grammar with a teacher.

Understanding the Accusative Case

We use the accusative case to form simple sentences with nouns that answer the questions “кого?” (kogo? – who?) and “что?” (chto? – what?).

  • Девочка читает (что?) книгу. (Devochka chitaet [chto?] knigu.)

  • The girl reads a book.

  • Мальчик зовёт (кого?) маму. (Mal’chik zovyot [kogo?] mamu.)

  • The boy calls his mother.

When to Use the Accusative Case

When you name an object to which an action is directed, you need to use the accusative.

  • Мама готовит (что?) завтрак. (Mama gotovit [chto?] zavtrak.)

  • Mom cooks breakfast.

In this sentence, “мама” (mama – mom) is the subject, and the word is used in the nominative case. The word “завтрак” (zavtrak – breakfast) is the object, and it’s used in the accusative case.

When you talk about direction, you also need to use the accusative. In this case, the noun will answer the question “куда?” (kuda? – where?).

  • Я лечу (куда?) в Торонто. (Ya lechu [kuda?] v Toronto.)

  • I fly to Toronto.

  • Я еду (куда?) на работу. (Ya edu [kuda?] na rabotu.)

  • I drive to work.

Peculiarities of the Accusative Case

Distinguishing between cases can be particularly tricky for non-native speakers of Russian. However, the distinction lies in the function of the noun.

The Accusative vs. the Nominative Case

The accusative case is often confused with the nominative, because inanimate nouns in the accusative case have the same endings as nouns in the nominative case.

  • Я пишу письмо. (Ya pishu pis’mo).

  • I write a letter.

The word “письмо” (pis’mo – letter) is used in the accusative case.

  • Письмо написано студентом. (Pis’mo napisano studentom).

  • The letter was written by a student.

Here “письмо” (pis’mo) is the subject of the sentence; thus, it is in the nominative case. As you can see, nouns in both cases have exactly the same ending: “–о” (o).

To differentiate between the nominative and the accusative cases, remember that nouns in the nominative case are always the subject of the sentence. Conversely, nouns in the accusative case are always subordinate parts of the sentence.

The Accusative vs. the Genitive Case for Animate Nouns

Animate nouns in the accusative have the same endings as in the genitive case.

In the accusative case:

  • Мы ждём гостей. (My zhdyom gostei.)

  • We’re waiting for the guests.

In the genitive case:

  • Это пожелание гостей. (Eto pozhelanie gostei.)

  • This is our guests’ request.

To distinguish between the accusative and the genitive cases, remember that the genitive case is always used to denote possession.

Understanding the Intricacies of Russian Grammar

Many students find Russian grammatical cases particularly challenging, but learning typical examples of situations when you need to use the accusative case helps. To simplify the learning process, practice your Russian grammar with a teacher who can help you get it right from the beginning.

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