What are cases for and why are they important?

Cases in Russian is one of the most common pitfalls that students encounter during the learning process. While you can master intermediate or even advanced vocabulary, it might be still difficult to use the words with appropriate endings in a sentence.

First of all, you need to get your head around the concept. Interestingly enough, long time ago English language also used cases system. It became unnecessary later and naturally died out, because English language, unlike Russian, has a fixed word order. "A boy gave a sweet to a girl" is мальчик дал девочке конфету in Russian, but it can also be девочке мальчик дал конфету, and even конфету мальчик дал девочке. Just to show you how bad things can be, I'll give you yet another version of the same sentence: конфету девочке дал мальчик. Without according endings, it would be hard to understand what is going on in the sentence - who gave what to whom. When you know that the ending -е for feminine nouns corresponds to a Dative case, you also know that it signifies a receiver. Therefore, you will know that it is a girl who actually receives a sweet.

Actually, some remnants of the old cases system are well known to you. These are the pronouns her, him, them, me, us. We use them when they appear as an object in the sentence. The same is in Russian – we need cases whenever the word is an object, when there is some action applied to it.

So, the cases are important in order to convey the meaning and make sure that you are understood. They indicate a function and a relationship of the words in a sentence.

Nadezda Z. A Level Russian tutor, GCSE Russian tutor

2 years ago

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