"Кошки здесь нет."
Translation:The cat is not here.
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Word order in Russian is very loose compared to English. Because of their case system, it is quite easy to tell what each word's function is in a sentence. In English, we don't decline words much at all, so we rely on word order to show what words do what in a sentence. For example, I could say "I am studying Russian on Duolingo" in English. "I" is in nominative, "Russian" is in accusative, and "duolingo" is in prepositional. In Russian, I could say "Russian study I on Duolingo" as long as I got my case declensions correct.
In this sentence, "нет" starts the genitive case, and "кошки" is in the genitive, so we can assume that нет and кошки go together. The verb "is" isn't really used much in Russian, but it's implied here. Здесь just means "here." You could word this sentence as нет кошки здесь too.
You have to know that the word order is not completely random. Sometimes you can change it without any change in the meaning, and sometimes you'll give the sentence another tone or even turn it into a nonsense.
- Здесь нет кошки. There is no cat here.
- Кошки здесь нет. The cat is not here.
- Кошки нет здесь. The cat is not here. A less common word order, emphasizing "not".
- Нет здесь кошки! There's no cat here! (I fail too see any cat here!)
- Нет кошки здесь! The cat is not here! (I looked for it and couldn't find it, I swear!)
- Здесь кошки нет. The cat is not here (but I'll keep looking for it elsewhere).
Note that some of these versions are pretty emotional and situational. At the beginner level, the first two orders would be enough.
Update: I wrote a post based on this example.
It's fine. She is describing how the meanings can have slight variance. Just like in English.
Even though "There is no cat here", "Here, there is no cat." and "No cat is here" have the same basic meaning, there is nuance and different emphasis.
The rule of this is actually quite regular across many languages "The most important information goes towards the beginning of a sentence."
It's not the only rule (for instance in English we often change our tone on the word we want to emphasize like "There is no cat HERE" or "There is NO cat here" since word order is more strict). This can help guide this kind of thinking though.
In this instance, how do native English speakers recognize this as genetive singular and not nominative plural (which both are "кошки")? "кошка черная" is not in genetive, and so you would not expect "кошка здесь" to be either. So, "кошки здесь" to me looks like "cats are here." Thanks for any help.
"кошкы" would be what you expect from just following grammar rules, however the sacred "spelling rules" take place here: you can never write кы, only ки. http://www.russianlessons.net/grammar/spelling_rules.php
No: нет always uses the genitive. Кошки is the genitive singular of кошка (plural would be кошках [EDIT: whoops my mistake, should be кошек]). It just happens that it looks exactly the same as the nominative plural (something that happens for almost all feminine words), but we know it cannot be nominative, because of нет.
The genitive plural is кошек. Кошках is the prepositional plural. https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D0%BA%D0%BE%D1%88%D0%BA%D0%B0#Russian
It's not a big deal, but I just want to put out that seeing the answer listed as: "The cat is not here."
my translation as:
"The cat is not here."
Was actually quite funny. Maybe the period at the end was too much? Perhaps my punctuation was punishing..? Well, either way. I wonder where the cat went...
There are two different words that look and sound the same, "кошки":
1) The nominative plural of the feminine noun "кошка", that is, cats in the plural as a sentence subject.
2) The genitive singular of the feminine noun кошка, that is, cat in singular meaning "of a cat" / "of cat" / "of the cat".
Grammatically in Russian you do not say "There is not cat" (making it the subject of the sentence), but something more like "There is not/none of cat" (so, genitive).
The sentence is not ambiguous because, as нет uses the genitive and not the nominative, кошки cannot be the nominative plural, and has to be the genitive singular. The genitive plural would instead be кошек, so нет кошек is the phrase for "there are not cats".
You can see all the 12 forms of each noun/adjective in Wiktionary: