The Fox typewriter company from Grand Rapids Michigan once a market innovator and leader. They also produced specialty typewriters, such as this Russian-language layout. This model was produced ca. 1906-1917.

Russian MiniLesson: Russian Grammar Terms and Related Russian Vocabulary

Published: June 21, 2020

Russia’s стиль преподавания is different from what is typically found in the USA. While добрые преподаватели и строгие преподаватели occur in both Russia and America, it is much more common for Russian teachers to be прямолинейный and perhaps жёсткий.

Wrong Example: Преподаватель
Right Example: Преподаватель

Преподаватель may make seemingly sarcastic remarks regarding a student’s performance, for example. Writer Anton Chekhov described this in his 19th century novel A Boring Story, where an elderly professor of medicine tells his student, “По-моему, самое лучшее, что вы можете теперь сделать, это совсем оставить медицинский факультет. Если при ваших способностях вам никак не удается выдержать экзамена, то, очевидно, у вас нет ни желания, ни призвания быть врачом”.

On the other hand, a Russian teacher may be harsh because he/she is genuinely concerned about a student’s misfortunes, as if they are the teacher’s own failures. Many Russian teachers feel that he/she should be more than just an instructor, but should вдохновлять their students towards greater accomplishments. This is thus done by continually pressing students to do better.

US students are also often surprised to find that class schedules in Russian universities are often unpredictable, especially at the beginning of the semester. The university will shuffle rooms and professors to find times that work for them. A professor may задержать students a bit after the scheduled lesson time, or отпустить the class earlier. Пунктуальность is more flexible in Russia, and lateness, especially on the part of the professor, while not standard, is much more socially acceptable. However, at some point, the same professor might invite students to his/her home to discuss their theses in an informal setting over tea.

In terms of studying and teaching languages in Russia, students who are taking Russian lessons with teachers that don’t speak English, as well as people who may be tutoring English to Russian students, should be aware of some basic grammar terms.

I. Части речи

  • Имя существительное, or существительное for short
  • Имя прилагательное, or прилагательное for short
  • Глагол
  • Наречие
  • Местоимение
  • Союз
  • Предлог
  • Причастие

II. Имя существительное/существительное

Имена существительные can be исчисляемые or неисчисляемые, as well as единственное число or множественное число. Russian nouns also have родмужской, женский, средний. Unlike Russian, English has артикли, which are often used before nouns. Артикль can be определенный and неопределенный.

Nouns склоняются; groups of nouns have a specific склонение.

– Names of the Russian cases:

  • Именительный падеж
  • Родительный падеж
  • Дательный падеж
  • Винительный падеж
  • Творительный падеж
  • Предложный падеж

Именительный падеж is a прямой case, in that it is most often used to express the subject of the sentence; all the other cases are косвенный.

III. Глаголы

Verbs спрягаются, they have a спряжение. Russian verbs have three different времена настоящее, прошедшее, будущее.

When conjugating verbs, there are three different лица:

  • первое лицо: singular – я читаю, plural – мы читаем
  • второе лицо: singular – ты читаешь, plural – вы читаете
  • третье лицо: singular – он/она читает, plural – они читают

Verbs in Russian can be совершенный вид or несовершенный вид. English verbs, on the other hand, have the following aspects:

  • простое
  • продолженное
  • завершенное
  • завершено-длительное

English uses вспомогательные глаголы in question constructions (i.e. I speak English—Do you speak English?). Verbs in English can be either продолжительные глаголы or непродолжительные глаголы.

Verbs can be in the активный/действительный залог, or пассивный/страдательный залог. Russian tends to have more passive constructions and impersonal sentences, especially in formal speech. Безличные предложения express a state or action that occurs independently from the observer; grammatically speaking, this is either when the sentence has no subject (Темнеет – ), or when the sentence has a logical субъект, but no подлежащее субъект: Мне кажется.

Russian often uses subject-less and/or impersonal sentences that seem, to English speakers, to avoid accepting responsibility for decisions or actions: “Есть мнение….”; “Целесообразно….”

IV. Члены предложения

Every предложение has certain главные члены: подлежащее and сказуемое. In the sentence “Я изучаю русский язык”, “я” is the подлежащее, “изучаю” is the сказуемое, while “язык” is дополнение and “русский” is определение.

There are two types of objects: прямое дополнение and косвенное дополнение. In Russian, a direct object is a noun or pronoun in the accusative case without a proposition: читать книгу, увидеть его; sometimes a direct object is in the genitive case, if there is negation or to specify a part of the whole) – купить молока.

All other objects are косвенные, for example: укрыться одеялом, рад встрече.

In English, the direct object is the same as in Russian. A direct object receives the verb’s action: it is directly affected by the action. An indirect object, on the other hand, is the receiver of the direct object, and it usually comes just before it. In the sentence, “He gave his mother flowers,” “flowers” is the direct object, and “his mother” is the indirect object. An indirect object can also come after a preposition, most commonly “to”: “He gave flowers to his mother.” Indirect objects can also be the object of a preposition – a noun or a pronoun that completes the preposition’s meaning: “The cat is looking at the fish.”

Verbs express different наклонения. The изъявительное наклонение expresses real facts in the present, past, or future; the сослагательное expresses unreal or improbable actions; and the повелительное expresses a request or order.

V. Произношение

Ударение is the hardest thing for foreigners trying to master Russian произношение. Russian words have one ударный слог, and all other syllables are безударные слоги.

Интонация is easier to master, since it is generally subject to the same principles as in English. There are however, some important differences in the intonation patterns of both languages, especially in yes/no questions.

VI. Порядок слов

Unlike Russian, English has непрямой порядок слов in questions (Will you be at home this morning?), while порядок слов in Russian is somewhat flexible. There is, however, a slight change in meaning depending on word order: whichever part of the sentence is mentioned first is emphasized.

VI. Фразы

Фразеологизмы are tricky for learners of all languages. They are also called устойчивые словосочетания, and they are constantly being updated. For instance, some recent idioms are: “Все в шоколаде” and “Зависать”.

Словосочетание is a broader concept than фразеологизм. A словосочетание is composed of two words that have a logical and grammatical relationship; one word is the главное слово, and the other is the зависимое слово, such as “веселый человек“, where человек is the главное слово and веселый is the зависимое слово.

In terms of words and combinations, one should be familiar with синонимы and антонимы. Синонимы are words with the same or similar meanings, such as смелый — храбрый, сырой – мокрый, худой – тощий, while антонимы are pairs of words with opposite meanings. Each word in the pair is the antithesis of the other, such as правда— ложь, добрый — злой, говорить — молчать.

About the author

Andrei Nesterov

Andrei Nesterov

Andrei Nesterov leads SRAS' Research Services, performing remote archive research and consultations for researchers around the globe. Andrei graduated from Ural State University (journalism) and Irkutsk State Linguistic University (English). He also studied public policy and journalism at Duke University on a Muskie Fellowship and taught Russian at West Virginia University. As a journalist, he has reported in both Russian and English language outlets and has years of archival research experience. He has travelled Russia extensively and penned many stories on the “real Russia” which lies beyond the capital and major cities. Andrei also contributes news, feature stories, and language resources to the SRAS Family of Sites.

Program attended: SRAS Staff Member

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