Death by cases – the Russian grammar

Accusative or Prepositional

Here’s my background in languages – my mother tongue is Filipino, I have learned English since pre-school and I took Dutch classes for 15 months. I speak these languages everyday but none of them really ever bothered me so much with grammatical cases.

So what are grammatical cases? I leave you to Mr. Wikepedia to answer that. This much I know, Spanish language uses genders (like the Dutch het/de), German uses gender and four cases. The Russian language uses Cyrillic, has gender and uses six cases!!! And I have only learned (barely) three cases – the easiest is nominative and the two other, which have almost sent me to a nut house, are prepositional and accusative.

Here’s the short story when constructing a proper Russian sentence. You have to know your pronoun and your verb of motion, proper preposition, gender of the word, etc.

Here is an example which I have understood clearly today:

дети (subject) идут (verb) в (prepositional) школу (noun). они (pronoun) будут (verb) делать (verb) уборку (noun) в (prepositional) школе. (noun)

Translation: The children are going to school. They are going to clean the school.

In the example below, you basically have to ask the following questions:

Who? (subject and pronoun)
What are they doing, is it past, present or future? (verb)
Where are they going (location, activity, etc)
Are they going to walk or take transportation? (prepositional)
Are they going to an open or close space?(prepositional)
What is the gender of the noun (male, female, neutral or plural)
Does the noun have a soft sign or a hard sign? (for proper writing and pronounciation)

All these hang on each other. As you may notice, school (школa – female) had been changed twice in these sentences, школу and школе.


Well it is. So confusing and frustrating that it almost reduce me to tears earlier today.

What I am actually trying to say is, I have been here for two weeks and I feel like I have learned so little. I even studied it for a few weeks in Holland and yet I have to re-learn the lessons (and finally understood them clearly) and cannot even have a proper conversation on the street.

I have underestimated the Russian language completely.

Now my concern is, how am I going to sustain my study back home? I have a tutor yes, but will he be capable (and patient enough) to clearly explain to me all these things?

Of course the best way to move ahead is to go back to Russia.

So we all know now where my vacation days will be spent. Maybe I should work during my weekends so that I can go back here as soon as possible.

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  • Reply
    December 28, 2012 at 1:48 am

    Hello, in my experience with languages, movies and books help more than any rules and lessons. Movies and books that you like, of course. With subtitles as well as without. Originally in Russian, or dubbed, doesn’t matter. Watch English movies you already are familiar with dubbed into Russian. And watch Russian movies and cartoons.
    Thumbelina, awesome cartoon with English captions:
    Treasure Island with English captions:
    Comedy involving a “time machine”. Great translation, don’t mind the captions slightly laging behind:
    Horror movie from the 60’s. Based on Ukranian Folklore and actually scary:


    • Reply
      Dheza- The Weekend Traveller
      December 28, 2012 at 8:47 am

      Hi Olga, thank you very much for your tips. And oh for pointing out the wrong spelling in my other post. I meant of course young lady. Turns out I did not actually fully understand that incident. Bummer 🙁

      My teacher gave me movies to watch and I bought a small book for children that I can read while studying Russian in Holland. It really made a big difference when I came here because of going out on the street and practicing it. I still get very confuse whenever I go out and talk to people but it’s getting better. Too bad I am going back to Holland soon 🙁

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