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The Declension of Adjectives in Russian


When you study a foreign language, you come across “difficult” words whose meaning you don’t know. Declension, conjugation, palatalization… Now try them in Russian – “склонение” (sklonenie), “спряжение” (spryazhenie), “палатализация” (palatalizatsiya). How does it sound?


The bad news is that you will definitely find these words in books that teach you Russian: they will be the names of chapters. The good news is that in this article we explain the meaning of the word declension in simple terms. We also explain how to apply this concept as you learn to speak Russian.

What Does Declension Mean?

The endings of adjectives change depending on the noun they describe. That’s declension.

  • Хороший день (khoroshii den’) – good day

  • Хорошего дня! (Khoroshego dnya!) – Have a good day!


Russian Adjective Endings According to Case, Gender, and Number

To identify the correct adjective ending, you need to know the number, the gender, and the case of the noun it defines.

In the nominative case, when the noun is

  • masculine singular, the ending of the adjective is –ый or –ий. важный день (vazhnyi den’) – big day вчерашний день (vcherashnii den’) – yesterday

  • feminine singular, the ending of the adjective is –ая or –яя. важная задача (vazhnaya zadacha) – important task вчерашняя ночь (vcherasnhyaya noch’) – last night

  • neuter singular, the ending of the adjective is –ое or –ее. новое полотенце (novoe polotentse) – new towel синее море (sinee more) – blue sea

  • plural, the ending of the adjective is –ые or –ие. важные дни (vazhnye dni) – big days вчерашние щи (vcherashnie shchi) – yesterday’s cabbage soup


In the genitive case, when the noun is

  • masculine singular, the ending of the adjective is –ого or –его. важного дня (vazhnjgo dnya) – big day вчерашнего дня (vcherashnego dnya) – yesterday

  • feminine singular, the ending of the adjective is –ой or –ей. важной задачи (vazhnoi zadachi) – important task вчерашней ночи (vcherasnhnei nochi) – last night

  • neutral singular, the ending of the adjective is –ого or –его. нового полотенца (novogo polotentsa) – new towel синего моря (sinego morya) – blue sea

  • plural, the ending of the adjective is –ых or –их. важных дней (vazhnykh dnei) – big days вчерашних щей (vcherashnikh shchei) – yesterday’s cabbage soup


In the dative case, when the noun is

  • masculine singular, the ending of the adjective is –ому or –ему. важному дню (vazhnomu dnu) – big day вчерашнему дню (vcherashnnemu dniu) – yesterday

  • feminine singular, the ending of the adjective is –ой or –ей. важной задаче (vazhnoi zadache) – important task вчерашней ночи (vcherasnhnei nochi) – last night

  • neuter singular, the ending of the adjective is –ому or –ему. новому полотенцу (novomu polotentsu) – new towel синему морю (sinemu moriu) – blue sea

  • plural, the endings of the adjective is –ым or им. важным дням (vazhnym dnyam) – big days вчерашним щям (vcherashnim shcham) – yesterday’s cabbage soup


In the accusative case, when the noun is

  • masculine singular and animate, the ending of the adjective is –ого or –его. родного брата (rodnogo brata) – blood brother cтаршего брата (starshego brata) – older brother

  • masculine singular and inanimate, the ending of the adjective is –ый or –ий. важный день (vazhnyi den’) – big day вчерашний день (vcherashnii den’) – yesterday

  • feminine singular, the ending of the adjective is –у, –ю, –ую, or –юю. важную задачу (vazhnuiu zadachu) – important task вчерашнюю ночь (vcherasnhniuiu noch’) – last night

  • neutral singular, the ending of the adjective is –ое or –ее. новое полотенце (novoe polotentse) – new towel синее море (sinee more) – blue sea

  • plural and inanimate, the ending of the adjective is –ые or –ие. важные дни (vazhnye dni) – big days вчерашние щи (vcherashnie shchi) – yesterday’s cabbage soup

  • plural and animate, the ending of the adjective is –ых or –их. родных братьев (rodnykh brat’ev) – blood brothers cтарших братьев (starshykh brat’ev) – older brothers


In the instrumental case, when the noun is

  • masculine singular, the ending of the adjective is –ым or –им. важным днем (vazhnym dnyom) – big day вчерашним днём (vcherashnim dnyom) – yesterday

  • feminine singular, the ending of the adjective is –ой or –ей. важной задачей (vazhnoi zadachei) – important task вчерашней ночью (vcherasnhnei noch’iu) – last night

  • neuter singular, the ending of the adjective is –ым or –им. новым полотенцем (novym polotentsem) – new towel синим морем (sinim morem) – blue sea

  • plural, the endings of the adjective is –ыми or –ими. важными днями (vazhnymi dnyami) – big days вчерашними щями (vcherashnimi shchami) – yesterday’s cabbage soup


In the prepositional case, when the noun is

  • masculine singular, the ending of the adjective is –ом or –ем. важном дне (vazhnom dne) – big day вчерашнем дне (vcherashnem dne) – yesterday

  • feminine singular, the ending of the adjective is –ой or –ей. важной задаче (vazhnoi zadache) – important task вчерашней ночи (vcherasnhnei nochi) – last night

  • neuter singular, the ending of the adjective is –ом or –ем. новом полотенце (novom polotentse) – new towel синем море (sinem more) – blue sea

  • plural, the ending of the adjective is –ых or –их. важных днях (vazhnykh dnyakh) – big days вчерашних щях (vcherashnikh shchakh) – yesterday’s cabbage soup

Note that plural nouns, no matter their gender, have the same endings.


How to Form the Correct Adjective in Russian

When you need to change the ending of the adjective, determine the number, gender, and case of the noun. Find the corresponding information above, and look at the ending the adjective must have.

  • Нам обещали (вкусный) обед. (Nam obeschal (vkusnyi) obed.) – We were promised a tasty lunch.

Let’s look at the noun “обед” (obed – lunch). It’s masculine, singular, and in the nominative case. Thus, the adjective “вкусный” (vkusnyi – tasty) should have one of the following endings: –ий or –ый. In this case, the ending –ый applies.

How do you know which of the two endings to choose? There are two types of adjectives, namely adjectives with hard stems, such as –в, –р, –п, or –н, and adjectives with soft stems, such as –н (ий), –ч, –щ, –ж, and –ш. The first ending refers to adjectives with hard stems, the second ending refers to adjectives with soft stems.

Different classes of adjectives may have different endings. For example, the declension of possessive adjectives (лисий – lisii – the fox’s) differs from the declension of adjectives with hard and soft stems. However, it’s better to learn the basics before studying the more complex aspects of the declension of adjectives.


How to Master Russian Grammar

Learn as many adjectives as you can. Decline them. Build up sentences. To get a full explanation of Russian grammar rules and practice, practice, practice, order a lesson with a tutor.

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