To build up Russian sentences, you must know what types of sentences exist. So, let’s talk about Russian syntax. In this post we look at the structure of Russian sentences and Russian sentence types.
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Simple and Compound Sentences
Sentences can be divided into two groups according to structure—simple and compound.
Я читаю книгу. (Ya chitaiu knigu.) – I’m reading a book.
Я читаю книгу, а он смотрит телевизор. (Ya chitaiu knigu, a on smotrit televizor.) – I’m reading a book, and he is watching TV.
The first sentence is simple. It has one subject (a person or an object that performs an action) and one predicate (the verb that denotes an action). In this case it is me who is reading.
The second sentence is compound. It has two subjects and two predicates. Two different people perform two different actions. We can divide this sentence into two independent ones:
Я читаю книгу. Он смотрит телевизор. (Ya chitaiu knigu. On smotrit televizor.) – I’m reading a book. He is watching TV.
Types of Compound Sentences
Let’s look at compound sentences in detail. They can be complex and compound.
Compound sentences have at least two subjects and two predicates. However, both parts of the sentence are equal. We can simply divide them into two parts without changing the meaning and end each sentence with a period.
Сегодня идёт снег, вчера снега не было. (Segodnya idyot sneg, vchera snega ne bylo.) – Today it’s snowing; yesterday it didn’t snow.
Complex sentences are different. They have a main clause and a subordinate clause, so one part depends on another. Without the main clause, the second, dependent clause no longer makes sense.
Он едет туда, где никто не бывал. (On edet tuda, gde nikto ne byval.) – He goes there, where nobody else has ever been.
In this sentence the first part is the main clause, while the second one is dependent—the subordinate clause. Why? The second part cannot exist without the first. The sentence “где никто не бывал” (gde nikto ne byval – where nobody else has ever been) doesn’t make sense on its own.
Let’s further examine complex sentences. There can be complex sentences of place, time purpose, condition, and consequence.
If the dependent clause contains information about time, then it is a complex sentence of time.
Я приду тогда, когда смогу. (Ya pridu togda, kogda smogu.) – I will come when I can.
If the subordinate clause explains a reason for the action performed in the main clause, it is a complex sentence of purpose.
Они пошли в лес, чтобы погулять. (Oni poshli v les, chtoby pogulyat’) – They went to the forest to walk.
As you can see, complex sentences can have one subject and two predicates or two subjects and two predicates. They can also have one main clause and two subordinate clauses.
Differences between English and Russian Sentence Structure
In terms of structure, Russian sentences are close to English ones. All these types of sentences exist in English as well.
I like chocolate because it’s tasty. – Я люблю шоколад, потому что он вкусный. (Ya liubliu shokolad potomu shto on vkusnyi.)
This is an example of a compound sentence of purpose in both languages.
However, Russian sentences differ. It’s not necessary for a sentence to have a subject, and Russian word order is flexible, unlike in English. All three sentences below mean “Ivan sat on a chair”:
Иван сидел на стуле. (Ivan sidel na stule.)
На стуле сидел Иван. (Na stule sidel Ivan.)
Сидел Иван на стуле. (Sidel Ivan na stule.)
In English, you cannot say, “Sat Ivan on a chair,” but you can in Russian.
Learn More about Types of Sentences in Russian
Building up sentences is crucial. If you find it too difficult to build sentences in Russian, learn about sentence structure in English first. Then, build up simple sentences in Russian, and join several sentences together by making complex or compound sentences. You can also first learn how to write sentences and then build them up in your mind to improve your spoken Russian. To speed up the process, learn Russian with a tutor.