Declension (in Russian Склоне́ние) — is the change of endings of Russian nouns, pronouns and adjectives. All Russian nouns belong to one of the 3 declension types there are. If you compare English nouns to Russian nouns, English nouns decline only to distinguish singular from plural forms (a ride vs. two rides). In Russian language declension changes endings of words based on cases and number.

Why do we need to know types of declension? Because they help to understand how a noun's endings are going to change in different cases.

Let's study the declension of singular nouns. There are three types of declension. Feminine and masculine nouns with endings -а, - я in the nominative case fall into the first declension :

  • Feminine - голова, армия,басня, капля (a head,an army, a fable, a drop)

  • Masculine - бродяга, дядя (a tramp, an uncle) and

  • Common gender (could be both) - задира, забияка, ябеда (close meaning badass, bully, an informer)

In the table below you can see how first declension singular nouns change their endings. There are two types of endings depending on whether the stem of the noun is soft (басня) or hard (волна) :

 

1st declension

 


Case Ending (singular) Hard Stem Soft Stem -ИЯ Ending
Nominative -а, -я, -ия голов-а басн-я парт-ия
Genitive -ы, -и голов-ы басн-и парти-и
Dative -е, -и голов-е басн-е парти-и
Accusative -у, -ю голов-у басн-ю парти-ю
Instrumental -ой, -ей голов-ой басн-ей парти-ей
Prepositional -е, -и о голов-е о басн-е о парти-и

 

 

NOTE : In Russian literature you will find nouns in the instrumental case used with endings  -ою, -ею  along with -ой, -ей.   For example, За весной следует лето. = За весною следует лето.

 

Masculine nouns with zero endings and neuter nouns with endings with -o, e in the nominative case fall into the second declension. Чемодан (a case) & затмение (an eclipse) are good examples. Take a look at the table below, read the words out loud and see how the 2nd declension works.

2nd declension

 


Case Ending (sgl) Hard Stem
Soft stem
-ие -ий
Nominative zero ending/ -o/ -e/ -ий, -ие телефон [] дел-о тролль [] 
счасть-е течени-е  
магний []
Genitive -а, -я телефон-а дел-а тролл-я счасть-я течени-я магни-я
Dative -у, -ю телефон-у дел-у тролл-ю счасть-ю течени-ю магни-ю
Accusative -я, -о, -е, -ий, -ие телефон [] дел-о тролл-я счасть-е течени-е магний []
Instrumental -ем, -ом телефон-ом дел-ом тролл-ем счасть-ем течени-ем магни-ем
Prepositional -е, -и о телефон-е о дел-е о тролл-е о счасть-е

о течени-е

о магни-е


 

And the last declension we have to look at is the 3rd one. To this declension belongs feminine nouns with zero ending in the nominative case (тень, глушь, лень).There are 2 forms - a soft and a hard one. But the difference between them you'll only see in the plural. In the singular there're the same.

 

3rd declension

 

Case Ending (sgl) Soft Hard
Nominative - (zero ending) тень[]

глушь[] 

Genitive

-и

тен-и глуш-и
Dative

-и

тен-и глуш-и
Accusative

- (zero ending)

тень[] глушь[]
Instrumental

тень-ю глушь-ю
Prepositional

о тен-и

о глуш-и


 

This covers the declension of nouns in the singular. However we have to mention some exceptions. In Russian you will find nouns ending with -мя: время, племя etc. These endings date back to Latin origin -en which transformed with time: so you say знамя - к знамени (not к знамю!). Interestingly, the Latin ending -er (indicating relatives) gave birth to 2 words in Russian : мать - к матери, дочь — к дочери. In English you will find the words child (ребёнок) and children (дети) formed using that same ending -en.