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Unbearable Russian Grammar: pluralization Options
Posted: Tuesday, September 29, 2009 2:05:33 PM

Rank: Member

Joined: 9/29/2009
Posts: 12
Location: Montenegro
Being a Russian native, I never gave a thought to how we Russians were handling pluralization. That is, until I was recently asked by a customer.

So, here we go.

A client asked: "Do you have separate words for singular and plural in Russian, e.g. would you have one word for 'comment' and another word for 'comments'?"

Our Reply:

Re your question, yes, there are 'comment' and 'comments' in Russian, e.g. there may be a comment on a report, or a comments column in a table. (But there isn't plural for 'bikini', or, say, 'kangaroo', as these are foreign words that do not end in a consonant or -a like Russian.

"Another question regarding pluralization:

"With regards to the Russian words if we need to pluralize a word such as "item" does the pluralization depend on the quantity of items that are being pluralized?

"Phrased in a more general way: Is there ever more than one way to pluralize a single Russian word?"

Our Reply:

* Yes...
When explicitly used with a counting number, the form for 2,3 and 4 items is identical to the singular genitive case.
For 5 - 20 items it's the plural genitive.

21, 31, ..., 101 ... = 1 - always singular (like '21 item').
22-24, ..., 102-104, 122-124 ... = 2 - 4
25-30, ... 105-120, ... = 5 - 20

So, we have 1 item (singular), 2,3 and 4 'item-a', 5-20 'item-ov'

* When not counted, then it's a singular 'item' and plural 'item-y', either subject to 6 cases including the nominative (original).

Our Reply 2:

-- I just realised that it's a noun only that is singular genitive, but an adjective to it would be plural genitive.
It is a plural adjective coupled with a singular noun, both genitive.

In addition, if the numbers 2, 3 and 4 are themselves in the genitive or other indirect case ("Of 2 items...") then the trailing adjectives and nouns will be all plural.

For example, if it's just "two red apples", the RED will be plural genitive, and the APPLES singular genitive.
But if "I think of two red apples", the RED will still be plural, and the APPLES also turn plural, both now in the instrumental case.

I guess we Russians don't get confused because 2, 3 and 4 end in a vovel, while 5-20 - in a consonant, and that reflects in the 'computer on top of shoulders'.

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Originally posted at

Maxim Buyakov
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