Grammar 6--Simplified Tables of Russian Case Endings

The case tables in textbooks often make it look like nouns are declined in about ten different ways. Happily this appearance is deceptive. There are really only three main ways of declining nouns with only slight variations to account for hard and soft vowels and for the question of whether a noun is animate or not. Here are case tables in which we attempt to make this clear.

Nouns in the Singular


First Declension

(Masculine or Neuter)

Second Declension

(Generally Feminine)

Third Declension

(Always Feminine)

Nominativedo nothingdo nothingdo nothing
Accusativedo nothing for inanimate, genitive rule for animate append -уdo nothing
Genitiveappend -аappend -ы

append -ы which becomes -и

Prepositionalappend -еappend -е
Dativeappend -уappend -е
Instrumentalappend -омappend -ойappend -ю (-ь not absorbed)

Nouns in the Plural


First Declension

Not Ending in -ь

Second Declension

Third Declension

and First Ending in -ь

Nominative append -ы
Accusative append -ы for inanimate, genitive rule for animate
Genitiveappend -овlop off -аappend -ой (becomes -ей)
Prepositional append -ах
Dative append -ам
Instrumental append -ами





Genitive -ого


Prepositional -ом
Dative -ому-ым
Instrumental -ым-ыми

Construction of Soft Vowels

To achieve the same results as with a 'full' declension table, you must understand that each soft vowel is the equivalent of a corresponding hard vowel but with softness added in front of it. These tables illustrate the principle:

Vowels in Hard and Soft Form
Hard VowelSoft Vowel

Components of a Soft Vowel
Soft VowelShort ForOr For

Rule 1: When a declension rule requires you to add a hard vowel to the end of a word which ends in -й or -ь, you should combine the vowel with the -й or -ь to make a single soft vowel. For example:

        словарь + а = словаря

        But: театр + а = театра

Rule 2: If a declension rule requires you to add a hard vowel to the end of a word which ends in a soft vowel, the the existing vowel disappears, but its softness says behind to make the new vowel soft. For example:

        море + а = моря

Rule 3: Where a conjugation rule requires you to remove a final vowel (such as а or я) and that vowel is soft, you should remove only the hard part leaving a -й or -ь to represent the soft part. Leave -й after a vowel and -ь after a consonant. For example:

        копия - а = копий

        конюшня - а = конюшнь

        кастрюля - а = кастрюль

        баня - а = бань

        But: газета - а = газет

Exception: After г, к, х, ш, щ, ж, ч write и never ы, no matter what the above rules would otherwise require. For example:

        водка + ы = водки