I’ve heard a lot of complains. Russian language is too difficult. Russian grammar is too difficult. I’ve been learning Russian for 5 month and still can’t talk, etc.
I would like to explain why Russian grammar is like that. Probably nobody told you before. You are overwhelmed by grammar tables, vocabulary lists and quizzes, but still do not see the whole picture. When you don’t see the whole picture, you lose the point of learning.
And this is the key. When you understand the beautiful puzzle of Russian grammar you understand the language.
You can’t learn all Russian words. Even native speakers don’t know them. But you can learn all Russian grammar. The good news is that it is very logical!
Many learners of Russian focus on vocabulary, but it is the wrong way to start speaking. You will not be able to compose your sentences unless you understand how the words are connected in a sentence.
Let’s have a look at the logics.
The Logics of Russian Grammar
The way Russian Language works is amazing. On the one hand it is very logical. On the other hand it is a language of feelings, a language of attitude. You can express your attitude not only by intonation, but by the form of the words you use and by the sequence of words in a sentence.
It is also a language of contrasts.
Like Russian nature, sometimes we are frozen, sometimes we shine like July sun. This is reflected in a language. Using the same words in different forms we may sound rude and aggressive or we may sound warm and tender. There are no limits of tenderness in Russian. You can add more diminutive suffixes to make a word sound even warmer.
The tender Russian is a language of mamas and babushkas (grandmothers).
Ну что, касатик, проголодался? Иди, покушай.
What’s up, my precious? Are you hungry? Here is the dinner.
That is an approximate translation. There is no exact one. “Кушать” is the diminutive synonym of the verb “есть» (to eat). English does not have such shades of meaning. “Касатик» is just a tender masculine noun meaning “a precious one”.
Changing words order
Russian sentence is also flexible. I’ve heard some teachers of Russian who are not Russian speakers say that the word sequence does not matter. That’s not true! You can’t move the words in a random way. Changing the words order is an instrument to emphasize some word or to make your speech colorful.
For example you can tell to your girlfriend “Я тебя люблю” (I love you). But in some situation you may want to change the word order (Тебя я люблю). By doing this you emphasize the word тебя. It is you who I love (not Lena, not Masha!).
And you may also move the word “люблю” to the the first place. Люблю я тебя. You do this to emphasize the word “люблю”. I really love you, I do. As you can see, changing the words order changes meaning. And if you move the words in a random way the sentence may lose meaning at all.
A word in a sentence carries very much information. That is why all other words have to match. Otherwise it will not sound harmonious.
Solving the pazzle of Russian grammar
Let’s look at this sentence of 6 words.
I imagine if I was not a Russian speaker, the sentence would be a puzzle for me.
Веточки кустарника осыпаны гроздьями нежных цветов.
Vetochki kustarnika osypany grozdyami nezhnyh tsvetov
Sprigs of bush are strewn with clusters of delicate flowers.
The first step is to identify which word refers to which. What is it about?
There is only one noun in a nominative case and that is “веточки”
So it is definitely a subject.
And there is only one word indicating action and that is participle осыпаны (are strewn) (formed from the verb осыпать). So this is the predicate. “Веточки осыпаны” are the main words. This is what the sentence about.
The sequence of words and endings tell us which word refers to which.
What do we know from the ending?
Is it singular or plural?
What is the case?
Is it a noun or adjective or verb, etc.?
Active or passive voice?
1st word The subject is vetochki is a diminutive form of vetki. By adding a suffix ochk we express our attitude “nice springs”. It is a plural form of the noun веточка (Sprig)
2nd word kustarnika refers to vetochki. It is a genitive case of a noun kustarnik (bush). Possession puts this noun in a genitive case. Sprigs of bush. http://www.study-languages-online.com/russian-genitive-case.html
3rd word The verb осыпаны is a predicate that refers to the subject vetochki. It is a passive voice of the verb osypat’ (to strew). And as this predicate refers to a noun in a plural form we add the ending “ны” to form a passive voice in a plural form.
4th word гроздьями is an instrumental case of the word grozd’ in a plural form. It indicates the instrument to carry the action osypat’. http://www.study-languages-online.com/russian-instrumental-case.html
6th word цветов is a genitive case of the word цветы (flowers). We missed the 5th word «нежных» because it depends on the 6th.
“цветов” depends on the word «гроздья» (clusters of flowers) and indicates possession. That is why it’s a genitive case.
5th word нежных refers to the word “цветов”. As “цветов” is a plural form genitive case, we have to decline the adjective “нежный” in a plural form genitive case too. We do this by adding ending «ых». http://www.study-languages-online.com/russian-adjectives-declension.html
Master grammar by asking questions.
Asking questions is a good way to understand connections between words and identify cases of nouns.
Веточки чего(chego)? – Веточки кустарника. (Кого(kogo)? Чего(chego)? – genitive case)
Sprigs of what? – Sprigs of bush.
Усыпаны чем(chem)? – Усыпаны гроздьями (Кем?(kem) Чем?(chem.) – instrumental case)
Strewn with what? – Strewn with clusters
Гроздьями чего(chego)? – Гроздьями цветков (Кого? Чего? – genitive case)
Clusters of what? – Clusters of flowers
This example does not describe all Russian grammar, but if you understand it and check thoroughly the links you will be able to compose your own Russian sentence!
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask them in