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Russian Numbers – Now With Cases! Posted by on Apr 1, 2010 in language, News, Russian for beginners, The Russian Emotion

Not too long ago we had a post here on the blog called “Russian Numbers 0 – 100”. No matter how useful this post might have been (and still is as you’ll see if you go back and read it again), I think I’m speaking for all of us when I say that it didn’t answer all our possible questions about Russian numbers. «А почему[And/But why?] Because Russian grammar has a little thing called «падежи» [cases] – six of them, if I’m not mistaken – and they affect everything else around them in Russian language: «числительные – не исключение!» [pl. numbers are no exception!]. But because this is a rather big subject to cover completely in one post, I won’t. Today I’ll try to explain the main rules by using an excellent idea was sent to me by one of our readers – «спасибо Эдварду!» [thanks to Edward!]. He sent me different sentences containing numbers from the main page of the Russian BBC along with the obvious question: «Как произносить?» [How to pronounce?]. Let’s see if we can clear up how to pronounce numbers in Russian in different cases today – or at least clear up a few points (not everything though, and I beg you to forgive me for this in advance, but as long as this blog is alive – that’s as long as I’ll be here to help you understand Russian/Russia better! patience!) in this regard.

«Придёт весна в Россию и в новом десятилетии второго тысячелетия…» [Spring will come to Russian also in the first decade of the second millennium].

I think you all already know by now that there were «два взрыва» [two explosions] «в московском метро» [in the Moscow subway] «в понедельник» [on Monday] «29 (двадцать девятого) марта» [the 29th of March]. Being as the sentences using numbers below were also taken from BBC Russian’s first page either yesterday (by Edward) or today (by me), many of them are connected with this painful experience. Just so you’ll know this while you read them and not be surprised that some of them are rather sad.

If something HAPPENS or HAPPENED on a certain date the case you should use is GENITIVE (both for the date and for the month). If it is just a ‘normal day’ (unlike Monday the 29th of March) then you use NOMINATIVE in NEUTER for the number like this: «Сегодня 1 (первое) апреля» [today is the 1st of April]. Note that the month is also in GENITIVE here!

Nominative: «Погибли, по официальным данным, 38 (тридцать восемь) человек» [Perished, according to official facts, 38 people].

Genitive: «собрались около 150 (ста пятидесяти) человек» [gathered approximately 150 people].

Accusative: «…за последние 20 (двадцать) лет» […for the past 20 years].

Genitive: «…около 40 (сорока) получили ранения» […around/approximately 40 were injured].

Genitive: «Погибли более 90 (девяноста) человек…» [Perished over 90 people…].

NOTE! As you’ve seen in the sentences above, the noun «человек» [man, adult male person; human being, person] changes in a special way in genitive plural after numbers – if it doesn’t turn into the plural form «люди» [people], that is, but that’s a whole other conversation. At first it looks like all is grammatically well with this particular noun: «два человека» [two persons] and «три человека» [three persons] and «четыре человека» [four persons]. But then comes the sudden blow: «пять человек» [five persons]! What happened? That’s right – NOTHING happened! And nothing will also happen to this noun even if you’ve got as many people as a hundred, look for yourself: «сто человек» [a hundred persons].

Accusative: «Мосгордума (Московская городская дума) отказалась сажать несогласных на 15 (пятнадцать) суток» [The Moscow Municipal Duma refused to imprison those who disagree for 15 days].

Genitive: «Около 7,5 (семи с половиной) млрд (миллиардов) акций банка» [Around 7,5 billions stocks of the bank] (originally this sentence had 7,7 billions in it – but I didn’t know how to write that number with letters. Anyone who can give a hand?).

Prepositional: «в 2010 (две тысячи десятом) году» [in the year 2010].

Prepositional: «в 2008 (две тысячи восьмом) и 2009 (две тысячи девятом) годах» [in the years 2008 and 2009].

Genitive + accusative: «с 1950-х (тысяча девятьсот пятидесятых) по 1980-е (тысяча девятьсот восьмидесятые) годы» [from the 1950’s to the 1980’s].

When it comes to how to pronounce years in Russian it is actually much easier said than done (pun intented!). Only the LAST number changes according to the case in question. Usually this case is the PREPOSITIONAL case and that’s why you’ll find the preposition «в» [in] before the year. That’s for sentences with ONLY a year in them, like the three examples above. But if you’ve got a date first, then the year has to be in GENITIVE – without any preposition! Compare the following two sentences: «его арестовали в 1937 (тысяча девятьсот тридцать седьмом) году» [he was arrested in 1937] and «его арестовали 15 (пятнадцатого) февраля 1937 (тысяча девятьсот тридцать седьмого) года» [he was arrested on the 15th of February 1937].

Prepositional: «В 27 (двадцати семи)-километровом тоннеле» [In a 27 meter long tunnel].

Dative + genitive: «к 28 (двадцати восьми) из 35 (тридцати пяти) разделов законодательства ЕС (Европейского союза)» [to 28 out of the 35 sections in legislation of the EU (European Union)].

I hope this was at least «немножко полезно» [a little bit useful]. Numbers in Russian together with the six cases – that is one of the hardest parts of learning this language. Once you start to understand the system here, then you can pat yourself on your shoulder – one of the most difficult areas of this language is behind you now! Congratulations. Oh, and I got to USE CAPS VERY MUCH in today’s post 😉

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  1. Edward:

    очень полезно! спасибо Josefina!

    As for how to write/say “seven point seven” (as we’d say in English for 7.7 – or 7,7 as many Europeans would write it) – I think I remember learning, in a long-ago Russian class, something like “семь и семь десятых” – but I could be wrong.

    And if that is right, to put it in the genitive, would it become

    Около семи и семи десятых миллиардов


    Около семи и семь десятых миллиардов?

    Can someone help?

    Thanks again,


  2. Martti:

    “Одна десятая (feminine)” stand for
    “One tenth part” in my dictionary…

    … “семь с семь десятаях” …


  3. Martti:

    “Одна десятая (feminine)” stand for
    “One tenth part” in my dictionary…

    … “семи с семь десятаях” …


  4. Alisa:

    If you say about = approximately = около (okolo)
    Около семи и семи десятых миллиардов

    If you say exact number:
    Семь и семь десятых

    I am Russian, but I teach English

  5. Louise:

    You see I’m a native Russian and Ukrainian speaker and maybe I will be able to help you.
    7,7 – in Russian we say “семь целых семь десятых”
    15,6 – пятнадцать целых шесть десятых
    129,3 – сто двадцать девять целых три десятых
    We use the word “целый” after number.
    So your sentence is translated as “Около семи целых семи десятых миллиарда”
    Sometimes we don’t say so formally. For example at home I use these forms:
    5,2 – “пять и два” (5 and 3) instead of “пять целых две десятых”
    21,8 – двадцать один и восемь (21 and 8) instead of “двадцать одна целая восемь десятых”.
    But don’t forget that these variants are not correct.
    To tell the truth I’m very glad to have found this site. I hope it will help me to study English and French.

  6. josefina:

    Спасибо спасибо большое спасибо всем! Теперь буду знать, и не надо больше переделывать предложения для того, чтобы было мне проще… Thanks!

  7. Roberta Taussig:

    In the second-to-last example, you write: «В 27 (двадцати семи)-километровом тоннеле» [In a 27 meter long tunnel].

    It looks to me as if километр got two case endings appended to it, -ов (genitive plural because it comes after 27) and -ом (prepositional singular adjectival because it comes after B).

    Please tell me this is a typo. Please tell me I don’t have to worry about multiple case endings on one noun. Please.

  8. Edward:

    @Roberta –

    I think километровом is a straightforward prepositional ending coming from the adjective “27 километровый” meaning “[a] 27-kilometre long [something]”.

    Don’t panic! No double-case endings, no genitive plurals.

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