Learn Russian from the beginning!

Russian grammar for beginners: summary

Below you will find a brief summary of the main grammar points occurring in this course. Some important grammatical terms will also be explained.


A noun is the name of a person or thing, e.g. Tanya, magazine, time. Nouns are either masculine, feminine or neuter. In most cases it is possible to tell the gender of a Russian noun from its ending. Most masculine nouns end in a consonant. Feminine nouns normally end in -a or . Nouns ending in may be masculine or feminine - the dictionary entry will tell you which. The majority of neuter nouns end in -o or -e.
There are no words for 'the' and 'a' in Russian.
(See grammar in lesson 1.)


Nouns also have other endings depending upon their function in a particular sentence. There are six 'cases' in Russian for such functions.

Nominative case

The case required for the subject of the sentence; this is the form mentioned above and the one you will find in the dictionary, e.g.:

Поезд опаздывает. The train is late.
Медсестра устала. The nurse is tired.
(See grammar in lesson 1.)

Accusative case

The case required for the object of a sentence, e.g.:

Я читаю книгу / журнал. I am reading a book / journal.

When the object is a singular 'inanimate' noun, i.e. a thing, only the feminine changes.
With 'animate' nouns (people etc.), masculine nouns also change, e.g.:

Я люблю Пушкина и Достоевского. I like Pushkin and Dostoevsky.
(See grammar in lesson 3.)

Genitive case

The case used after most numbers, after the prepositions до (up to), для (for), без (without) and some others. It is also used after нет to mean 'there is no...', e.g.:

три билета до Москвы three tickets to Moscow
молока нет there is no milk
(See grammar in lesson 7 and in lesson 8)

Dative case

The case required for the indirect object, used after verbs such as дать (to give) (дайте мне... give me...), показывать (to show). It is also used to give somebody's age and in talking about feelings etc., e.g.:

Я показываю Нине книгу. I show Nina the book.
Сергею холодно здесь. Sergey feels cold here.
Тамаре двадцать лет. Tamara is 20 years old.
(See grammar in lesson 12.)

Instrumental case

Used after с meaning 'with', and after certain verbs, e.g. заниматься (to occupy oneself with) and стать (to become), e.g.:

бутерброд с колбасой salami sandwich
заниматься спортом to take part in sport
Она стала инженером. She became an engineer.
(See grammar in lesson 4 and in lesson 13 and in lesson 14.)

Prepositional case

Used after в/на meaning 'in/at', and о meaning 'about', e.g.:

Он живёт в Москве. He lives in Moscow.
Она работает на заводе. She works at a factory.
Мы говорим о литературе. We talk about literature.
(See grammar in lesson 2 and in lesson 15.)

Learning case endings

There are a lot of endings here. We have found that the best approach is to learn particular - useful - phrases. For example, if you remember: я читаю книгу (I read a book) and that the accusative is used, you will know the ending for other feminine nouns in the singular.


Pronouns (I, you, he, she, etc.) stand for a noun, e.g. Ivan met Sergey, and showed him the room. In Russian, pronouns also have different endings depending upon their function in the sentence.

Most useful are the pronoun as subject (the nominative case), as object (the accusative case) and as indirect object (the dative), e.g.:

Я русский. I am Russian.
Вы меня понимаете? Do you understand me?
Покажите мне, пожалуйста, эту книгу. Show me that book please.

Here are the other pronouns:


(See grammar in lesson 10.)


Adjectives are words such as interesting or beautiful which describe a person or thing. An adjective must have the same gender (masculine, feminine or neuter) and number (singular or plural) as the noun it refers to, e.g.:

красивый костюм a beautiful suit
красивая квартира a beautiful apartment
красивое платье a beautiful dress

Any adjective in Russian must also have the same case as the noun. The endings, unfortunately, are not the same as for nouns. We suggest at this stage you simply note and try to remember the words you have seen here.
(See grammar in lesson 1 and in lesson 6.)


Prepositions are words such as to, from, in etc. In Russian, prepositions take a certain case (never the nominative). Thus nouns following до (to) or без (without) have genitive endings.

Some prepositions may take two different cases depending on their meaning. В and на can mean 'in' or 'on'. If so, they are followed by nouns in the prepositional case. They can also mean 'to' if used with a verb indicating movement. Any nouns following will be in the accusative case.

- Где вы живёте?
- Я живу в Москве, но еду в Лондон.
- I live in Moscow, but I'm going to London.
- Я живу в Лондоне, но еду в Москву.
- I live in London, but I'm going to Moscow.

(See particularly grammar in lesson 2 and in lesson 8)


A verb is a word denoting action or being, e.g. she reads, he was. The simplest part of a verb is the infinitive читать (to read), быть (to be). This is the form you find in a dictionary. However, in any particular sentence the ending will change depending on who is the subject of the verb. There are two main types of verb endings. The infinitive of one type ends in -ать (or -ять), and the infinitive of the other ends in -ить (or -еть):
работать to work
я работаю
ты работаешь
он/она работает
мы работаем
вы работаете
они работают
говорить to speak
я говорю
ты говоришь
он/она говорит
мы говорим
вы говорите
они говорят

Sometimes verbs in Russian have -ся attached to these endings. Such verbs are either reflexive, that is they refer to an action which the subject of the verb is doing to him or herself, or they do not have an object, e.g.:

Я занимаюсь спортом I take part in (lit. I occupy myself) with sport
Магазин открывается в 8 часов The shop opens at 8 o'clock
(See grammar in lesson 9 and in lesson 13.)

Past tense

Talking about what you were doing in the past is very easy in Russian. There are only four endings depending on whether the subject of the verb is a masculine, feminine, neuter or plural noun. Thus: он(я, ты) работал, она (я, ты) работала, оно работало, они (мы, вы) работали.
(See grammar in lesson 11.)

Future tense

It is also straightforward to talk about what you will be doing in the future. The future of the verb 'to be' быть is used, followed by the appropriate verb in the infinitive, e.g.:

я буду работать
ты будешь работать
он/она будет работать
мы будем работать
вы будете работать
они будут работать

(See grammar in lesson 14.)

Imperfective / Perfective

Most Russian verbs have two aspects - 'imperfective' and 'perfective'. To talk about an action in general, or one that will go on for some time, perhaps be repeated, the imperfective is used. This is the one used in all the examples under the verb entries above and it is probably the more common.

However, to focus on one specific occasion, or on the result of a future or past action, the perfective must be used. Perfective verbs are often, though not always, formed by attaching a prefix to the imperfective verb, e.g.:

imperfective читать
perfective прочитать

A perfective verb has only two tenses - past and future.
Я прочитаю журнал means 'I shall read (and finish) the journal'.
Я прочитал журнал means 'I finished the journal'.

All perfective verbs are noted in the glossary.
(See grammar in lesson 14.)

Verbs of motion

Russian has a lot of them! There are separate verbs depending upon whether the travel is on foot (идти, ходить) or by vehicle (ехать, ездить). The choice between идти (or ехать) and ходить (or ездить) is generally clear: идти is used about movement in a specific direction, normally on a specific occasion. Ходить implies more than one direction, and is therefore used to talk about going somewhere frequently and about having gone somewhere - and come back, e.g.:

Я иду сегодня в кино. Я часто хожу в кино.
I am going to the cinema today. I often go to the cinema.
Вчера я ходил в театр.
Yesterday I went to the theater (and came back again!).
(See grammar in lesson 15.)


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