The Nominative Case in Russian: Usage and Examples

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The nominative case in Russian—именительный падеж (imeNEEtelny paDYEZH)—is the basic case and serves to identify the subject of a verb. All nouns and pronouns in Russian dictionaries are given in the nominative case. This case answers the questions кто/что (ktoh/chtoh), which translate as who/what.

Quick Tip

The nominative case in Russian identifies the subject of a sentence and answers the questions кто/что (ktoh/chtoh), meaning who/what. Its equivalent in English is any noun or pronoun that is the subject of a verb.

When to Use the Nominative Case

The nominative case can be dependent or independent.

Independent Nominative Case

The independent nominative case can be used as:

  • The subject of a sentence (fulfills the nominative function)

Examples:

- Автобус подъехал. (afTOboos padYEkhal)
- The bus arrived.

- Лампа зажглась. (LAMpah zazhGLAS')
- The lamp/light came on.

In both of these sentences, the noun is in the nominative case and is the subject of the sentence.

  • A noun or pronoun in a one-word nominative sentence (fulfills the nominative function)

Examples:

- Ночь. (noch)
- Night.

- Зима. (zeeMAH)
- Winter.

  • A vocative, that is, a word or a sentence that is used to address someone directly, usually by their name, using intonation to include emphasis or specific meaning.

Examples:

- Наташа, возьми трубку. (naTAsha, vaz'MEE TROOPkoo)
- Natasha, pick up (the phone).

- Лёша! (LYOsha!)
- Lyosha! (affectionate or shortened form of the name Alexei)

Dependent Nominative Case

The dependent nominative case is used as:

  • Part of a complex nominative predicate, meaning that a noun or a pronoun is used together with a verb to form a predicate. Sometimes the verb itself is replaced with an em dash.

Examples:

- Конец – делу венец. (kaNYETS - DYEloo VYEnets)
- All is well that ends well.

- Он – учитель. (OHN - ooCHEEtel')
- He is a teacher.

  • As an additional nominative (приложение - prilaZHEniye), which is a noun or a pronoun that adds information to another noun, including proper names.

Examples:

- Мой коллега-англичанин не любил опаздывать. (moy kaLYEga-angliCHAnin ny lyuBIL aPAZdyvat')
- My colleague the Englishman didn't like to be late.

- Журнал "Нью-Йоркер" напечатал её статью. (zhoorNAL New-Yorker napyCHAtal yeYOH stat'YUH)
- The New Yorker Magazine published her article.

Nominative Case Endings

What Are Declensions?

Before we look at the endings in the nominative case, it is important to understand what we mean by declensions in the Russian language. Most Russian parts of speech, including nouns, are declined by numbers (singular/plural), cases, and sometimes genders. When deciding which ending to use when declining a noun by case, you should look at what declension it is rather than what gender, as it is the declension that will determine the correct ending.

There are three main noun declensions in Russian:

  • 1st Declension: Includes all feminine nouns that end in а/я as well as masculine and common nouns that end in а/я when in the singular nominative form.

Example:

- девочка (DYEvachka)
- A girl

  • 2nd Declension: Includes masculine nouns that have a "zero ending" in the singular nominative form and neuter nouns that end in о/е in singular nominative form. A "zero ending" is an ending that is not present in a word's current form, although other endings are present in the word's other forms.

Example:

- конь (singular, masculine, ending in a "zero ending"). (kon')
- A horse

  • 3rd Declension: Feminine nouns with a zero ending in the singular nominative form.

Example:

- печь (singular, feminine, ending in a "zero ending"). (pyech)
- A stove

Additionally, a group of nouns that change their endings outside of the usual rules are called heteroclitic and can be considered to form a "fourth" declension.

Declension (Склонение) Singular (Единственное число) Examples Plural (Множественное число) Examples
First declension -а, -я семья (semYA) - family, feminine

папа (PApa) - Dad, masculine

 
-ы, -и семьи (SYEMyee) - families, feminine, plural

папы (PApy) - Dads,
masculine, plural
Second declension "zero ending," -о, -е стoл (stol) - table, masculine, "zero ending"

окно (akNOH) - window, neuter



 
-ы, -и, -а, -я столы (staLYH) - tables, masculine,plural

окна (OKnah) - windows, neuter, plural

 
Third declension "zero ending" ночь (noch) - night, feminine, "zero ending" ночи (NOchi) - nigths, feminine, plural
Heteroclitic nouns время (VRYEmya) - time, neuter времена (vyremeNAH) - times, neuter, plural

Examples:

- Наша семья любит отдыхать на море. (NAsha syemYA LYUbit atdyHAT' na MOrye)
- My family likes to go on vacation to the seaside.

- Дверь медленно отворилась. (dvyer' MYEDlena atvaREElas')
- The door opened slowly.

- Мы долго бродили по городу. (my DOLga braDEEli pa GOradoo)
- We wandered around the city for a long time.

- Наши папы - учителя. (NAshi PApy - oochityeLYA)
- Our Dads are teachers.

- Печь еще долго теплилась. (pyech yeSHO DOLga tyepLEElas')
- The stove remained warm for a while longer.

- Какие теплые ночи здесь! (kaKEEye TYOPlyye NOchi zdyes')
- The nights are so warm here!

- Времена сейчас такие. (vryemeNAH syCHAS taKEEye)
- These are the times now.