The question of verb agreement with numbers is complicated because numbers, ironically, do not have the category of number in Russian. I mean, "three" does not have a singular or a plural, it does not have any tag whatsoever to classify it as a singular or plural, it is just "THREE".
In practice, the choice of the form of a verb depends on what you see and how the sentence is structured.
- with много, мало only singular is used
- if there is an adjective or a participle in plural modifying these "things", plural is way better (У меня учатся три студента, приехавшие из Китая)
- if you want to count these persons as a whole, and not emphasise how they are separately taught by you, singular is preferred. It makes sense if you name the number of students you have. If you want a more individual flavour, use plural.
- using singular emphasises the "passivity", so with things it is preferred (e.g, "В комнате стояло пять столов")
- if the number ends in "один", usually you use singular, but not if the verb means the action that is by nature collective (kiss, quarrel, discuss etc.)
- plural is also better if the actions are clearly separate. For example if you mention that people "write" or "make" something, and it extremely obvious that each of them works on something of their own—otherwise it would not make much sense ("Персонажей озвучили 10 актёров" ~ 10 actors provided voices for the characters → each character was, probably, voiced by no more than one actor)
Such great explanation, but right this moment my brain is hurting! I am still keeping up with learning 20 new Russian words per day (as per my New Year resolution to learn 2000 words in four months) with another app so grammar usage and understanding is suffering at the moment... :(
Singular seems to be used when a specific number is given. You could translate literally as something like "with me is studying a three of students". If the number wasn't given, it was just "with me are studying students" you would use plural.
This is the pattern I've observed, somebody else can probably explain it better than I can.
It's a very interesting question. )))
The same pattern is valid for "До конца дня остается 3 часа" (3 hours are left until the end of day)
It becomes even more interesting if we change the verb to the Past form:
У меня училОСЬ три студента
До конца дня осталОСЬ 3 часа
Neuter gender of singular )))
after some time of thinking about it I have concluded that such ctrange behavior can be observed in those cases when the word "всего" (alltogether, only) is implyed:
У меня учится (всего) три студента - I have (alltogether) three students.
До конца дня остается (всего) три часа - (Only) three hours are left until the end of day
It probably depends on the emphasis. If you're emphasizing that there are three of them, then it's the singular учится три. If you're emphasizing that you have students, then it's plural учатся три студента.
My question is whether студента changes to студенты in the plural учатся три студенты.??
I have the same question. This seems to me to be a relatively rare case where a literal translation of the у меня formulation (with suitable word order adjustments) yields a perfectly natural sounding English sentence carrying the correct meaning.
"Three students are studying with me" in English can carry two implications depending on context - that I am their teacher, or that I am a fourth student. Obviously only the first would apply here. But I can't see why it's excluded.
According to Wiktionary, у, as a preposition taking the genitive case, can be used to mean at/ by/ near or in the possession of, the latter meaning being much more frequent on Duolingo so far. In this sentence, as there's no possessed object expressed, I think it has the former meaning. Correct me if I'm wrong!
You might say that the whole phrase "three students are studying" is attributed to "I".
With living beings у is virtually never used in the spatial sense ("beside"), and even with things the structure of the sentence can unambiguously suggest that "has" might be a translation. Actually, with some types of "places" even в and на express the meaning better rendered by a have-sentence in English:
- В доме нет лифта. = lit. There is no elevator in the house. = The house does not have an elevator.
- В ядре гелия два протона и два нейтрона. = lit. In a helium nucleus there are two protons and two neutrons. → A helium nucleus has two protons and two neutrons.
Some sentences expressing a situation relevant to a "possessor" (at the time the sentence is about) use seemingly disconnected у-phrases at the beginning. The sentence in the title is of that type. Some other sentences like that:
- У меня умерла кошка. ~ My cat died.
- У стула отвалилась спинка. ~ The chair's back broke off.
- У меня возникли некоторые сомнения на этот счёт. ~ I have come to doubt that matter somewhat (lit. "At me, some reservations appeared on that account" )
Note how in the last sentence it is quite hard to come up with a passable translation that has "my" or "I have"—even though a similar sentence "У меня некоторые сомнения на этот счёт" is easily translated as "I am having certain doubts on that account".
Also not how all of these sentences essentially describe a situation that affects the possessor quite directly (if your cat just died, you possibly feel sad; if a chair's back broke off, the chair is of limited use).
Thanks for your comprehensive answer.
It was the seeming disconnectedness you mentioned that first confused me. I thought you would need a specific form of the Russian verb for such constructions, as you need the present participle in English in order to say "I have three students studying". Using the indicative of the verb and assuming that "у меня" translates as "I have" made the English literal translation sound like "I have three students are studying".
After reading your comment I started to become aware that "I have" is far from being the translation that perfectly describes the logic behind "у меня". If we stick to the more elementary non-verbal translation "at me" and we give it a possessive meaning, then no such sentence is contradictory.
By the way, for some of the disconnected y-phrases, there is an exact equivalent in Romanian using "at + possessor's name" [У стула отвалилась спинка. - La (=at) scaun (i-)a căzut spătarul.], but while the Romanian language considers those structures highly informal or mildly vulgar and prefers using the dative form of the possessor instead [Scaunului i-a căzut spătarul.] or the genitive without preposition [Spătarul scaunului a căzut.], Russian has maintained them and extended their use.
An additional question: Три студента учится у меня. = Three students are studying at my place.?
Regarding your last example: I would use the plural verb (учатся) and, maybe, switch to collective трое студентов.
When we are using "stylistically neutral" word order in Russian, verb goes first when BOTH the verb and its subject are the message you want to convey. That's why "У меня есть..."-sentences are inverted, and that's why the sentences in the title has учится before три студента. It is quite clear that the number of the students is the information you express, which also makes you prefer the singular verb.
However, when you start with the students and wish to clarify where they are studying, plural sounds way more natural. This includes the case when you want to say that three students are at your place, and the rest of the students are somewhere else. I would use the following wording:
- Три студента учатся у меня / Трое студентов учатся у меня.
Now, you may ask what the core of the problem is. The thing is, Russian numerals do not have a grammatical number. Therefore, the assignment of a singular or a plural verb is decided by what general rules native speakers have grown accustomed to (native speakers, probably, do want to feel that their speech makes sense). There is no formal reason to assign plural or singular because phrases like "много людей" or "четыре стула" lack any innate markers of grammatical number.
Collective numerals (двое,трое etc.) can also use a singular or a plural subject depending on emphasis and the structure of the sentence. Here singular would sound a bit unnatural, though, if the number is emphasized ("Of all students, three are studying at my place") it sounds OK to my ear.
It could be either way. У меня учится три студента, "At my place [class/classroom/lecture/subject], three students are learning/studying." Or,
"In my possession [figuratively speaking] are three students studying." Or,
"I have three students studying [implying my being their teacher]".