Some basic rules of Russian grammar
As you know, communication in a relationship is important. It is as a matter of course for Western men that their Ukrainian woman should learn the language of their homeland. I agree with you, dear men. I speak German with my husband and our communication and marriage have become more deeper due to our frank and honest conversations (they would not be possible without my German knowledge). However, I believe that a man should learn at least some basic rules of Russian. Why? Because, in my opinion, a Ukrainian/Russian-Western relationship is not a one-way street and it is really important to learn the culture of your Ukrainian woman (and as you know, language belongs to culture). My husband is always trying to learn Russian, but he has not much success (Russian is quite complicated :().
But… He has learned the basics of grammar and about 100 words. And it is very important to me because in this way he shows an interest in my culture and can communicate a little with my relatives in Ukraine.
Some basic rules of Russian grammar
As in any language, ‘grammar’ is defined simply as the rules which govern the structure of a language and its use. Russian grammar may seem exceptionally complicated. Yet that is because, as does any language, it has many rules – but also many exceptions! 🙂
The basic building block of a Russian sentence is a common noun (person, place, or thing). E.g. “Я живу и работаю в Германии” (Ya zhivu i rabotayu v Germanii) → I live and work in Germany.
With Russian nouns, it is very important to take note of each’s ‘gender.’ Unlike in English, each Russian noun is either masculine (e.g. “мальчик” (mal’chik) → boy), feminine (e.g. “девочка” (devochka) → girl), or neuter (e.g. “солнце” (solntse) → sun); the classification of the gender determines other important aspects of a Russian sentence.
One needs to know the gender of all nouns in order to be able to form correct endings of additional words used to describe the noun. Luckily there are some easy rules to help you identify the gender of a noun. You will almost always be able to identify the gender by the letter(s) at the end of the word. Usually, masculine nouns end in a consonant; feminine nouns usually end in -a; neuter nouns generally end in -o or -e.
Russian Grammar Video: Gender of Nouns (Part 1)
Russian Grammar Video: Gender of Nouns (Part 2)
One of the most difficult aspects of Russian grammar, particularly for those who speak English as their first language, will be the understanding of ‘cases.’ While in English, there are strict rules about the order of words in a sentence, the Russian language doesn’t find word order to be exceptionally important – mainly because the cases determine the ending that a word will take. This ending will, in turn, tell you Who is doing What to Whom!
There are 6 Russian cases:
- The Nominative Case marks the subject (who is doing the action).
- The Genitive Case indicates possession.
- The Dative Case marks the indirect object (or the receiver of the action).
- The Accusative Case marks the direct object (or the object of the action).
- The Instrumental Case marks the instrument (or how the action is done).
- And the Prepositional Case marks the location (where the action takes place) or the topic being spoken about.
Video: Russian Cases
Now for some information on Russian numbers. Keep in mind that in Russian there are two numbering systems (just like in English!). First are the cardinal numbers (1, 2, 3) which are used to count. But also take note of the Russian ordinals, which are used for the determination of order (start to finish) and also commonly used for days of the month.
And lastly, though very importantly, pronunciation. The rules of pronunciation of Russian words are easier explained when spoken, but here we’ll outline some generalities. The good news is that Russian is a phonetic language – so what you see is (usually) what you hear. There are 20 consonants broken up into three groups: five are “hissing” sounds; nine are resonant noises that vibrate in the vocal cords; six are voiceless. And in the end, of course, it’s all in the accent!
With an understanding of these basic rules, you’re ready for Russian. In my next article, I will describe the basic rules of Ukrainian grammar. 🙂
Questions? Feel free to ask Krystyna, your Ukrainian dating expert 🙂 (s. here: Contact Krystyna)