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 прямолинейныйdirect and perhaps жёсткийharsh.

Преподавательthe teacher/professor 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”In my opinion, the best thing you can do now is to give up medicine altogether. If, with your abilities, you cannot pass the examination, it's evident that you have neither the desire nor the talent to be a doctor.

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 вдохновлятьinspire 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 задержатьhold back students a bit after the scheduled lesson time, or отпуститьdismiss the class earlier. Пунктуальностьpunctuality 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 существительноеnoun for short
  • Имя прилагательное, or прилагательное for short
  • Глагол
  • Наречиеadverb
  • Местоимениеpronoun
  • Союзconjunction
  • Предлогpreposition
  • Причастиеparticiple

II. Имя существительное/существительное

Имена существительныеnouns can be исчисляемыеcountable or неисчисляемыеnon-countable, as well as единственное число singular or множественное числоplural. Russian nouns also have родgenderмужской, женский, средний. Unlike Russian, English has артиклиarticles, which are often used before nouns. Артикльan article can be определенныйdefinite: the and неопределенныйindefinite: a/an.

Nouns склоняютсяdecline; groups of nouns have a specific склонениеdeclension pattern.

– Names of the Russian cases:

  • Именительный падежNominative case
  • Родительный падежGenitive case
  • Дательный падежDative case
  • Винительный падежAccusative case
  • Творительный падежInstrumental case
  • Предложный падежPrepositional case

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

III. Глаголы

Verbs спрягаютсяare conjugated, they have a спряжениеconjugation. Russian verbs have three different временаtenses настоящееpresent, прошедшееpast, будущееfuture.

When conjugating verbs, there are three different лицаpersons:

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

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

  • простоеsimple
  • продолженноеcontinuous
  • завершенноеperfect
  • завершено-длительноеperfect continuous

English uses вспомогательные глаголы helping/auxiliary verbs in question constructions (i.e. I speak English—Do you speak English?). Verbs in English can be either продолжительные глаголы continuous verbs or непродолжительные глаголыnon-continuous verbs.

Verbs can be in the активный/действительный залогactive voice, or пассивный/страдательный залогpassive voice. Russian tends to have more passive constructions and impersonal sentences, especially in formal speech. Безличные предложения impersonal sentences express a state or action that occurs independently from the observer; grammatically speaking, this is either when the sentence has no subject (ТемнеетIt’s getting dark – ), or when the sentence has a logical субъект, but no подлежащее субъектgrammatical subject: Мне кажетсяIt seems to me; in other words, there is not a noun in the nominative case; the subject is in an indirect case, such as dative.

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

IV. Члены предложения

Every предложениеsentence has certain главные членыcore parts: подлежащееsubject and сказуемоеpredicate. In the sentence “Я изучаю русский язык”, “я” is the подлежащее, “изучаю” is the сказуемое, while “язык” is дополнение and “русский” is определениеa modifier.

There are two types of objects: прямое дополнениеdirect object and косвенное дополнениеindirect object. In Russian, a direct object is a noun or pronoun in the accusative case without a proposition: читать книгуto read a book, увидеть егоto see him; sometimes a direct object is in the genitive case, if there is negation or to specify a part of the whole) – купить молокаto buy a little bit of milk.

All other objects are косвенные, for example: укрыться одеяломto cover oneself with a blanket—object in instrumental case, рад встречеto be happy to have met—object in dative case.

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 наклоненияmoods. The изъявительное наклонение indicative mood expresses real facts in the present, past, or future; the сослагательноеsubjunctive/oblique/indirect mood expresses unreal or improbable actions; and the повелительноеimperative expresses a request or order.

V. Произношение

Ударениеstress is the hardest thing for foreigners trying to master Russian произношениеpronunciation. Russian words have one ударный слогstressed syllable, and all other syllables are безударные слогиunstressed syllables.

Интонацияintonation 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 словinverted word order in questions (Will you be at home this morning?), while порядок словword order 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

Фразеологизмыidioms are tricky for learners of all languages. They are also called устойчивые словосочетанияset word combinations, and they are constantly being updated. For instance, some recent idioms are: “Все в шоколадеLiterally – everything is in chocolate, meaning 'Everything is perfect'” and “Зависатьto hang out”.

Словосочетаниеa collocation 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 словоcore word, and the other is the зависимое словоdependent word, such as “веселый человекcheerful person“, where человек is the главное слово and веселый is the зависимое слово.

In terms of words and combinations, one should be familiar with синонимыsynonyms and антонимыantonyms. Синонимы are words with the same or similar meanings, such as смелый — храбрый, сырой – мокрыйwet, худой – тощийskinny, while антонимы are pairs of words with opposite meanings. Each word in the pair is the antithesis of the other, such as правда— ложьtruth-lies, добрый — злойkind-wicked, говорить — молчатьto speak—to keep silent.

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

View all posts by: Andrei Nesterov