animate neuter nouns

Discussion in 'Русский (Russian)' started by CapnPrep, May 2, 2007.

  1. CapnPrep Senior Member

    According to Wikipedia, the accusative case ending of neuter singular adjectives in Russian depends on the animate/inanimate distinction (just as for masculine singular nouns and adjectives: animate accusative = genitive, inanimate accusative = nominative).

    Could somebody illustrate this for me using an animate neuter adjective + noun combination?
  2. Q-cumber

    Q-cumber Senior Member

    If I got it right, the samples would be:
    Masculine gender:
    "Я вижу белый снег". ("a snow" - inanimate) , but "Я вижу белого кролика" ("a rabbit" - animate).
    I see a white snow vs I see a white rabbit
    Я слышу сильный шум. ("a noise" - inanimate), but "Я слышусильного тигра" ("a tiger" - animate)

    I hear a strong noise. vs I hear a strong tiger.
    Я кидаю красивый камень. ("a stone" - inanimate), but "Я кидаю красивого пса". ("пёс" - "a male dog" - animate).
    I throw a nice stone vs I throw a nice dog

    Neutral gender:
    Ты видишь белое пятно ("a spot" - inanimate) , but Ты видишь (-ого ???) Russian-speakers, help me please!!! -ого :)

    Does this give you an idea?
  3. cyanista

    cyanista законодательница мод

    You got it right, except for one thing: снег and кролик are masculine, not neuter. ;)
    EDIT: Afterwards Q-cumber added a few more examples to his post.

    What Wikipedia states is wrong. To my knowledge, all neuter nouns and adjectives always have a "nominative" ending in the accusative.

    Я вижу зеленое поле.(inanimate)
    Я вижу странное насекомое.(animate)
  4. CapnPrep Senior Member

    I guess that насекомое is an adjectival form. Are there any names of animals/people that are "real" neuter nouns (end in "-о" or "-е" in the nominative singular, and "-а" in the genitive singular)?

    Perhaps the Wikipedia rule is correct for indeclinable animate neuter nouns? (But then it may be hard to tell if they're neuter or masculine.)
  5. Maroseika Moderator

    But unfortunately sometimes you can't use any rule to decide what kind of accusative is applicable - it depends on the customary usage:

    Я вижу покойника, мертвеца, кадавра ("animated").
    Я вижу труп.

    Я вижу вирус.
    Я вижу микроба, макрофага, бактерию ("animated").
  6. Maroseika Moderator

    I can't imagine any.
    But for example старичьё, дурачьё are declined like unanimated nouns.

    By the way, we may use another way - figurative nouns. If we use unanimated masculine noun figuratively and with reference to a person, we still use it as animated:
    Ты - полный дуб (глупый).
    Я вижу в твоём лице полного дуба.
    But nothing like that if it is neuter:
    Ты - полное барахло (никчёмный человек).
    Я вижу перед собою полное барахло.

    We may conclude from this that neuter nouns are declined independently on the animation.
  7. cyanista

    cyanista законодательница мод

    Animate neuter nouns I can think of right now: дитя, создание, существо, чудовище.

    How do you mean??? Indeclinable nouns are not declined at all!
  8. Q-cumber

    Q-cumber Senior Member

    This rule isn't absolute, indeed. However, the words "покойник" and "мертвец" are usually treated in Russian as (ex)animated. ;) "Бактерия" is of feminine gender, thus
    the rule isn't applicable here. Not sure about "вирус", I think we can easily say "вижу вируса", provided I got a powerful microscope. :)
  9. cajzl Senior Member

    Once I read that there is a general rule for all IE languages:

    All accusative neuter forms are identical with the nominative ones. It is true for all numbers (singular, dual, plural) and for all declinable parts of speech.

    It works for Latin, Greek, Czech, ...
    I doubt that the Russian language is an exception.

    BTW, in Czech the inanimate masculine forms conform this rule as well.
  10. Q-cumber

    Q-cumber Senior Member

    I am also confused with this. :rolleyes: According to the rule meantioned it should end with "-ого" in an "animated case".
  11. CapnPrep Senior Member

    Right; that's what made me suspicious of the Wikipedia article in the first place. However, the IE nominative-accusative law is probably violated anyway for Russian plurals, because there I believe that it is true that the accusative form looks like the genitive form for animate nouns (even neuter nouns).

    ex.: Я вижу странных насекомых or Я вижу странные насекомые?

    But I am wondering about the form of the adjectives that accompany them. I am pretty sure that it would be strange to combine a genitive-like "-ого" adjective with a nominative-like "-о/-е" noun to form an animate accusative noun phrase (this is what the Wikipedia rules would suggest). But then maybe it wouldn't be so strange if the noun was indeclinable anyway.

    I don't know these words, but can I ask how you form the accusative case (with a preceding adjective, singular and plural)?
  12. cyanista

    cyanista законодательница мод

    I've just looked it up and there are no animate indeclinable nouns in Russian that would be neuter. Click

    Oh my god! :eek: It's getting complicated with plural! I think it is:
    Я вижу странное насекомое. - Я вижу странных насекомых.

    Я вижу юное создание. - Я вижу юные создания/юных созданий.

    Я вижу живое существо. - Я вижу живые существа/живых существ.

    Я вижу страшное чудовище. - Я вижу страшных чудовищ.

    So it's a "genitive" ending in plural after all.
    Создание and существо (both mean being, creature) are probably ambivalent, so they can take both cases. That's the best I can come up with so far.

  13. CapnPrep Senior Member

    That's great! "чудовище" is the perfect example.

    So I think the following two rules are valid, and they take care of all neuter nouns (and some others).
    1. For all neuter nouns (and adjectives): accusative = nominative in the singular.
    2. For all plural nouns (and adjectives): accusative = genitive (animate), accusative = nominative (inanimate).
    Of course there might be some hesitation about the animate/inanimate status of particular nouns in particular contexts.

    Thanks for your help, everyone! This was a very interesting discussion.
  14. cajzl Senior Member

    Many Slavic languages often use the genitive case for the object of a sentence. It does not necessarily mean that the accusative form = the genitive one.
  15. cajzl Senior Member

    as for Я вижу страшных чудовищ.

    "страшных чудовищ" is the accusative plural form only if this form is used in all situations in which the accusative is required (for example after preposions).
  16. cyanista

    cyanista законодательница мод

    You might be right, or perhaps there are two ways of looking at it. I'm not a Slavist and my knowledge doesn't suffice in this case. :eek:
  17. CapnPrep Senior Member

    OK, we can take an accusative-only preposition like про or через:
    через/про страшных чудовищ or через/про страшные чудовища?
    [I think most people would agree that the direct object of a transitive verb like видеть (without negation) is in the accusative case. Otherwise, we would have to say that transitive verbs sometimes combine with a genitive object, and sometimes an accusative (or nominative???) one.]

    [Edit: OK, you are right, there could be reasons (indefiniteness, partitivity) for putting a genitive object in an accusative context, but then this would normally apply to both animates and inanimates. The prepositional context is (hopefully) more reliable.]
  18. cajzl Senior Member

    In Czech the direct object is either in the accusative case or in the genitive case (in terms of the syntax it is the partitive genitive). The meaning is (slightly) different.

    Kup chléb (acc.) or chleba (gen.). Buy bread./Buy some bread.

    It is like in French: le pain vs. du pain

    But after prepostions we always use the proper case.
  19. Maroseika Moderator

    Quite the same system is in Russian, however "partitive" sense in the case of genitive usually is not felt and is not accounted by the natives.
  20. Q-cumber

    Q-cumber Senior Member

    I've found this article about animate / inanimate nouns in Russian.


    By the way, all the samples you provided are mentioned there.
    And this confirms cyanista's conclusion that Wikipedia's rule was false:
    PS I wonder, how can we ever talk Russian without knowing (remembering) all these complicated rules... :)
  21. CapnPrep Senior Member

    I updated the Wikipedia page in light of the information provided here. Further verification and contributions are very welcome. I notice that the same incorrect information about the neuter can be found in various places in the Wikibooks materials for learning Russian (in case anyone feels like making some changes there).

    I think examples like the following may convince cajzl and others that we are dealing with a genuine accusative noun phrase, even after verbs:
    Я вижу того молодого мужчину.
    This cannot be a genitive object, given the inflection of the noun (and no partitive interpretation is possible here, I guess).

    So the rule could be stated as follows:
    The animate/inanimate distinction is relevant for determining the accusative case form of the following words:
    • singular masculine nouns that are not part of the "-а/-я" declension class
    • all adjectives referring to any masculine singular noun
    • all nouns and adjectives in the plural
  22. Maroseika Moderator


    Sure, it is not. Partitive would be:
    Отрежьте мне вон того элегантного мужчины, пожалуйста.

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