"eight dogs"

Translation:восемь собак

November 27, 2015

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Why does dog have a zero ending here?

[deactivated user]

    Because with numbers ending in 0, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14 we use the plural genitive form (пя́ть соба́к 'five dogs', пятьсо́т ко́шек '500 cats').

    For numbers ending in один (1) we use singular nominative ending: одна́ соба́ка 'one dog', два́дцать одна́ ко́шка 'twenty-one cat'. Nouns ending in 11 are exception, because they don't end in оди́н, 11 is оди́надцать so they end in дца́ть (a reduced for of де́сять 'ten', so we treat them like nouns ending in де́сять: i.e. use plural genitive form).

    For numbers ending in 2, 3, 4 (but not 12, 13, 14) we use the singular genitive form: две соба́ки 'two dogs', сто две ко́шки '102 cats'.


    This is so complicated it makes it funny. It could have been worse when you think about it: an ending if the dog is white, another if it's black, and yet another if it has spots :-)))


    It's too bad it's so complicated. If we get this wrong and use the wrong ending, will we still be understood by ordinary native speakers -- or will it confuse thm?

    [deactivated user]

      Don't worry about it, it will definitely be understandable! :)


      Why does Russian have two different endings for a plural noun? I understand from the comments below which numbers end as a plural and which don't, but it doesn't make sense to me.

      [deactivated user]

        tl;dr: it's illogical and related to language history.

        In the past, all Slavic languages had a dual number. For example, singular was «кот», dual was «кота» and plural was «коты». When dual number disappeared, it most cases it was replaced by the ordinary plural: so, instead of «кота» '[two] male cats' people started saying «коты» 'male cats' (originally «коты» means '[three or more] male cats').

        However, after numerals dual was used so often that people replaced it not with plural, but with the form that sounded similar to the old dual form: notably with genitive singular. However, no one really remembered why «два кота» is used only with the number 2, and «котов» is used with other numbers, so it somehow spread to numbers 3 and 4.

        The process wasn't all that uniform: you'll see that the cases for adjectives are even more twisted (we usually use genitive plural form of the adjective with genitive singular form of noun: два больши́х кота́ and not **два большо́го кота́{wrong}; however, for feminine adjectives we can use nominative plural, which is in fact more popular: две больши́е ко́шки 'to big female cats' or две больши́х ко́шки 'two big female cats', but not **две большо́й ко́шки{wrong}). This is because the dual forms were replaced with the similar sounding forms, and these forms were different for nouns, masculine/neuter adjectives and feminine adjectives.

        So, basically, Russian never completely got over the loss of dual number. But then the literary language appeared, and it froze most changes. People started imitating older writing: since older writing had this mess, we need to replicate this mess.

        Russian was going through the process of losing remnants of dual number, but that process was frozen and what we see if the middle of the conversion from one system to another: some dual forms were replaced with plural forms, but some remnants are still there, scattered across the language illogically.

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