The Genitive Case in Russian: Usage and Examples

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The genitive case in Russian—родительный падеж (raDEEtylny paDYEZH)—is the second case out of six and answers the questions кого (kaVOH)—"whom" or "of whom"—and чего (chyVOH)—"what" or "of what." The genitive case indicates possession, attribution, or absence (who, what, whose, or what/who is absent) and can also answer the question откуда (atKOOda)—"from where."

The Russian genitive case is equivalent to the English genitive, or the possessive, case.

Quick Tip: Genitive Case

The genitive case in Russian identifies the object of prepositions such as "of" and "from" and shows possession by the subject. It answers the questions кого (kaVOH)—"whom" or "of whom"—, and чего (chyVOH)—"what," or "of what."

When to Use the Genitive Case

The genitive case is an indirect case and has several important functions, but the main one is indicating possession. Other functions of the genitive case include usage with cardinal numbers, description, location, time, and some prepositions. We will look at these in more detail below.

Possession

The most important function of the genitive case is showing possession. There are two ways the genitive case can work here: showing who does or does not have something, and indicating what/who is missing.

Example 1:

- У меня нет кошки. (oo myNYA nyet KOSHki)
- I don't have a cat.

In this example, the pronoun я (ya)—"I"—is declined in the genitive case, becoming меня. This serves to show that the subject of the sentence ("I") is the one who does not have a cat.

The noun кошка (KOSHka)—cat—is also in the genitive case and shows that the cat is the object that is absent or which the subject doesn't possess.

Example 2:

- У меня есть собака. (oo myNYA YEST' saBAka)
- I have a dog.

In this example, only the pronoun я needs to be declined. This is because the object—собака—is not absent, and therefore can be used in the nominative case.

As you can see, the genitive case is only used to decline nouns and pronouns that are missing or absent. However, when the noun or the pronoun is in the position of the subject of a sentence and is the one that has or does not have something/someone, then the noun/pronoun is declined in the genitive case.

Cardinal Numbers

The genitive case is used for the singular form of cardinal numbers 2, 3, and 4. It is also used for the plural form of cardinal numbers from 5 onwards. Additionally, the genitive case is used with quantities, such as many, few, a little, a lot, and several.

Examples:

- Четыре персика. (chyTYrye PYERsika)
- Four peaches.

- Несколько женщин. (NYESkal'ka ZHENshin)
- Several women.

- Литр молока. (LEETR malaKA)
- A liter of milk.

Description

The genitive case can also be used when describing something or someone.

Example:

- Машина красного цвета. (maSHEEna KRASnava TSVYEta)
- A red car (literally: a car of the red color).

Location

Sometimes the genitive case can indicate location. Usually, this happens when the location is at someone's place or place or work (у—oo).

Example 1:

- Я сейчас у стоматолога. (ya syCHAS oo stamaTOlaga)
- I'm at the dentist's right now.

Time

The genitive case can also be used to indicate time.

Example:

- С утра шёл дождь. (s ootRAH SHYOL DOZHD')
- It had been raining since the morning.

With Prepositions

Some prepositions are used with the genitive case, too. These include: у (oo)—at—, вокруг (vakROOK)—around—, до (doh/dah)—until—, для (dlya)—for—, около (OHkala)—near/by—, кроме (KROme)—apart from—, мимо (MEEma)—by/past—, без (byez)—without.

Example:

- Идите прямо до магазина, а потом налево. (iDEEte PRYAma da magaZEEna, a paTOM naLYEva)
- Go straight ahead until the store, then turn left.

The Genitive Case Endings

Declension (Склонение) Singular (Единственное число) Examples Plural (Множественное число) Examples
First declension -и (-ы) палки (PALki) - (of a) stick
дедушки (DYEdooshki) - (of a) granddad
"zero ending" палок (PAlak) - (of) sticks
дедушек (DYEdooshek) - (of) granddads
Second declension -а (-я) друга (DROOga) - (of a) friend
окна (akNAH) - (of a) window
-ей, -ов, -ий, "zero ending" друзей (drooZEY) - (of) friends
окон (OHkan) - (of) windows
Third declension ночи (NOchi) - (of a) night
 
-ей ночей (naCHEY) - (of) nights
Heteroclitic nouns времени (VREmeni) - (of) time "zero ending," -ей времён (vreMYON) - (of) times

Examples:

- У дедушки нет палки. (oo DYEdooshki NYET PALki)
- The old man/granddad does not have a stick.

- Надо позвать друзей. (NAda pazVAT' drooZEY.)
- Need to call (my/our) friends.

- У меня нет на это времени. (oo meNYA NYET na EHta VREmeni)
- I don't have time for this.