https://www.duolingo.com/mosfet07

Russian numerals

The correct usage of the numerals is not the easiest thing in Russian. In this small article I tried to explain some general principles of forming complex numerals and using them with nouns and adjectives.

(Pictures are clickable)


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Forming compound numerals <1000
  3. What to do if we have a noun described by a numeral
  4. What to do if we have a noun and adjective both described by a numeral
  5. Forming compound numerals >=1000
  6. Using with people
  7. The age and the years
  8. Spelling
  9. Sources

Introduction

There are several kinds of Russian numerals:

  • cardinal ("оди́н", "два́")
  • ordinal ("пе́рвый", "второ́й")
  • collective ("дво́е", "тро́е")
  • fractional ("две́ тре́ти", "пя́ть ты́сячных")

numeral related words:

  • multiplicative adjectives ("одина́рный", "двойно́й")
  • counting-system adjectives ("двои́чный", "трои́чный")
  • collective adverbs ("вдвоём", "втроём")
  • time related adverbs ("одна́жды", "два́жды")
  • fractional nouns ("полови́на", "тре́ть", "че́тверть")
  • colloquial numeral names ("едини́ца", "дво́йка")
  • colloquial nouns ("дву́шка", "трёшка", "троя́к")
  • quantity words ("мно́го", "ма́ло", "не́сколько")

This article is about the cardinal numerals.


First of all, here are several theses:

  • All numerals are declined by case.
  • The numeral "оди́н" has masculine, neuter, feminine and plural (!) forms.
  • The numeral "два́" has masculine and feminine forms.
  • The other numerals serve all genders.
  • "оди́н" has a synonym "раз" for counting.
  • "ты́сяча" (1000) is also a feminine noun and has a colloquial form "ты́ща".
  • "ноль" (0), "миллио́н" (1000000), "миллиа́рд" (1000000000), etc., all are masculine nouns.

Russian has unique names for the following cardinal numerals:

  • 0 to 19
  • 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90
  • 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 700, 800, 900
  • 1000, 1000000, 1000000, etc. (SI prefixes)

Forming compound numerals <1000

1
Compound numerals

To form a compound numeral <1000 you need to write the numbers one by one:

  • 34: три́дцать четы́ре
  • 678: шестьсо́т се́мьдесят во́семь
  • 999: девятьсо́т девяно́сто де́вять

Within the compound numeral all words decline independently:

  • nom.: шестьсо́т се́мьдесят во́семь
  • gen.: шестисо́т семи́десяти восьми́
  • dat.: шестиста́м семи́десяти восьми́
  • acc.: шестьсо́т се́мьдесят во́семь
  • ins.: шестьюста́ми семью́десятью восьмью́
  • prep.: шестиста́х семи́десяти восьми́

The declension table
2


What to do if we have a noun described by a numeral

Here are some general facts about nouns:

  • Nouns decline by number, gender and case.
  • A noun may be masculine, neuter and feminine.
  • A noun may be animate (a cat) and inanimate (a table).
  • There are only a few animate neuter nouns in Russian (животное, существо, насекомое, etc.).
  • The nominative plural form of the feminine noun may be or may be not identical to the genitive singular form: "ко́шки"-"ко́шки", "горы́"-"го́ры" (it is important).
  • The accusative form of the animate noun is generally identical to the genitive form.
  • The accusative form of the inanimate noun is generally identical to the nominative form.

There are three exceptions to the last two rules:

  • Feminine and masculine nouns end with "а, я" have unique accusative singular forms.
  • Animate feminine nouns end with "ь" has the accusative singular form identical to the nominative singular form.
  • The accusative singular form of animate neuter nouns is identical to the nominative form.

The case and number of the noun are determined by the last word of the numeral (not the digit).

1) If the last word is "оди́н", use the corresponding singular forms:

  • nom.: шестьсот семьдесят один сто́л ("сто́л" is in nom.sg.)
  • gen.: шестисот семидесяти одного стола́ (gen.sg.)
  • dat.: шестистам семидесяти одному столу́ (dat.sg.)
  • acc.: шестьсот семьдесят один сто́л (acc.sg.)
  • ins.: шестьюстами семьюдесятью одним столо́м (ins.sg.)
  • prep.: шестистах семидесяти одном столе́ (prep.sg.)

"один" in plural is used as "only", "alone" or "some": I see only cats. They were alone. Some cats are black, others are white.
It's also used for pluralia tantum nouns ("ножницы", "штаны", "брюки", "ворота", "очки").

2) If the last word is "два", "три" or "четы́ре", use the genitive singular form in the nominative case and the corresponding plural forms for other cases except for the accusative. In the accusative case use the nominative construct:

  • nom.: шестьсот семьдесят два стола́ ("сто́л" is in gen.sg.)
  • gen.: шестисот семидесяти двух столо́в (gen.pl.)
  • dat.: шестистам семидесяти двум стола́м (dat.pl.)
  • acc.: шестьсот семьдесят два стола́ (=nom.)
  • ins.: шестьюстами семьюдесятью двумя стола́ми (ins.pl.)
  • prep.: шестистах семидесяти двух стола́х (prep.pl.)

There is an exception for the accusative case: if the numeral is EXACTLY 2, 3 or 4, for animate nouns use the genitive construct:

  • acc.: дву́х кото́в (=gen.)

3) If the last word is "пять" to "девятна́дцать", or the ten ("два́дцать" (20), "три́дцать" (30), etc.), use the genitive plural in the nominative case and the corresponding plural forms for other cases except for the accusative. In the accusative case use the nominative construct:

  • nom.: шестьсот семьдесят пять столо́в ("сто́л" is in gen.pl.)
  • gen.: шестисот семидесяти пяти столо́в (gen.pl.)
  • dat.: шестистам семидесяти пяти стола́м (dat.pl.)
  • acc.: шестьсот семьдесят пять столо́в (=nom.)
  • ins.: шестьюстами семьюдесятью пятью стола́ми (ins.pl.)
  • prep.: шестистах семидесяти пяти стола́х (prep.pl)

What to do if we have a noun and adjective both described by a numeral

An adjective agrees with the noun it describes in gender, number and case:

  • бе́лый ко́т (masculine), бе́лая ко́шка (feminine)
  • бе́лый ко́т (singular), бе́лые коты́ (plural)
  • бе́лая гора́ (nominative), бе́лой горы́ (genitive)

Here are some general facts about adjectives:

  • Adjectives decline by number, gender and case.
  • An adjective may be masculine, neuter, feminine and plural.
  • An adjective has two accusative forms: animate and inanimate.
  • The accusative animate form is generally identical to the genitive form.
  • The accusative inanimate form is generally identical to the nominative form.

There are two exceptions to the last two rules:

  • Feminine adjectives have one unique accusative form.
  • Neuter adjectives have one accusative form identical to the nominative form.

1) If the last word (not the digit) of the numeral is "оди́н", use the corresponding singular forms:

  • nom.: шестьсот семьдесят один бе́лый сто́л ("бе́лый" is in nom.sg.)
  • gen.: шестисот семидесяти одного бе́лого стола́ (gen.sg.)
  • dat.: шестистам семидесяти одному бе́лому столу́ (dat.sg.)
  • acc.: шестьсот семьдесят один бе́лый сто́л (acc.sg.)
  • ins.: шестьюстами семьюдесятью одним бе́лым столо́м (ins.sg.)
  • prep.: шестистах семидесяти одном бе́лом столе́ (prep.sg.)

2) If not, use the genitive plural form in the nominative case and the corresponding plural forms for other cases except for the accusative. In the accusative case use the nominative construct:

  • nom.: шестьсот семьдесят два бе́лых стола́ ("бе́лый" is in gen.pl.)
  • gen.: шестисот семидесяти двух бе́лых столо́в (gen.pl.)
  • dat.: шестистам семидесяти двум бе́лым стола́м (dat.pl.)
  • acc.: шестьсот семьдесят два бе́лых стола́ (=nom.)
  • ins.: шестьюстами семьюдесятью двумя бе́лыми стола́ми (ins.pl.)
  • prep.: шестистах семидесяти двух бе́лых стола́х (prep.pl.)

There is an exception for feminine nouns: if the last word is "два", "три" or "четыре" and the nominative plural form of the noun is identical to the genitive singular form, use the nominative plural form of the adjective in the nominative case:

  • nom.: шестьсот семьдесят две бе́лых козы́ ("бе́лая" is in gen.pl.)
    (nom.pl. is "ко́зы", gen.sg. is "козы́")
  • nom.: шестьсот семьдесят две бе́лые ко́шки ("бе́лая" is in nom.pl.)
    (nom.pl. is "ко́шки", gen.sg. is "ко́шки")

The summary table (numeral-adjective-noun)
3
4


Forming compound numerals >=1000

"тысяча" acts like a feminine noun and in order to form a compound numeral >=1000 you need to take the proper form of the numeral:

  • 1000: одна́ ты́сяча (the previous word is "оди́н", thus "ты́сяча" is in nom.sg.)
  • 1034: одна́ ты́сяча три́дцать четы́ре
  • 2000: две ты́сячи (the previous word is "два", thus "ты́сяча" is in gen.sg.)
  • 5678: пять ты́сяч шестьсо́т се́мьдесят во́семь (the previous word is "пять", thus "ты́сяча" is in gen.pl.)

The same is for masculine nouns "миллион", "миллиард", etc.

Declension of large numerals:

  • nom.: одна́ ты́сяча две́сти три́дцать четы́ре (ко́шки)
  • gen.: одно́й ты́сячи двухсо́т тридцати́ четырёх (ко́шек)
  • dat.: одно́й ты́сяче двумста́м тридцати́ четырём (ко́шкам)
  • acc.: одну́ ты́сячу две́сти три́дцать четы́ре (ко́шек)
  • ins.: одно́й ты́сячей двумяста́ми тридцатью́ четырьмя́ (ко́шками)
  • prep.: одно́й ты́сяче двухста́х тридцати́ четырёх (ко́шках)

If the first word of a large numeral is "один", even inside a compound numeral, it can be safely omitted in any grammatical case, especially in colloquial speech:

  • 1034: (одна́) ты́сяча три́дцать четы́ре (nom.)
  • 1000567: (одному́) миллио́ну пятиста́м шести́десяти семи́ (dat.)
  • 1001234: (оди́н) миллио́н (одна́) ты́сяча две́сти три́дцать четы́ре (nom.)

Using with people

5
The declension of "man", "woman", "child" and "person"

Use numerals as usual:

1) "мужчи́на" (man) is masculine in meaning, but it declines like a feminine noun (and has the unique accusative form); keep in mind that an adjective should remain masculine

  • nom.: два́дцать оди́н высо́кий (nom.sg.) мужчи́на (nom.sg.)

The masculine nouns "па́па", "дя́дя", "де́душка", "ю́ноша", "мальчи́шка", etc. are used in the same way.

2) "же́нщина" (woman) is feminine and has the nominative plural form identical to the genitive singular form

  • nom.: со́рок три́ высо́кие (nom.pl.) же́нщины (gen.sg.)
  • nom.: со́рок де́вять высо́ких (gen.pl.) же́нщин (gen.pl)

3) "ребёнок" (child) has the irregular plural form "де́ти"

  • nom.: две́сти оди́н высо́кий (nom.sg.) ребёнок (nom.sg.)
  • nom.: две́сти два́ высо́ких (gen.pl.) ребёнка (gen.sg.)
  • nom.: две́сти ше́сть высо́ких (gen.pl.) дете́й (gen.pl.)

4) "челове́к" (person) has the irregular plural "лю́ди" and two genitive plural forms: "челове́к" (I) and "люде́й" (II); use "челове́к" for the countable number of people, including "не́сколько" (several) and "о́коло" (about), and "люде́й" if the number is unknown

  • nom.: сто оди́н высо́кий (nom.sg.) челове́к (nom.sg.)
  • nom.: сто два высо́ких (gen.pl.) челове́ка (gen.sg.)
  • nom.: сто пя́ть высо́ких (gen.pl.) челове́к (gen.pl. I)
  • nom.: о́коло трёхсо́т высо́ких (gen.pl.) челове́к (gen.pl. I)
  • nom.: де́сять - два́дцать высо́ких (gen.pl.) челове́к (gen.pl. I)
  • nom.: не́сколько высо́ких (gen.pl.) челове́к (gen.pl. I)
  • nom.: мно́го (many) высо́ких (gen.pl.) люде́й (gen.pl. II)
  • nom.: мало (few) высо́ких (gen.pl.) люде́й (gen.pl. II)

The age and the years

6
The declension of "year"

"год" (year) is a masculine noun and has the irregular genitive plural form ("лет").

1) To specify the age of a person, use a (pro)noun in the dative case. Use the nominative singular "год" if the last word is "оди́н", the genitive singular "го́да" if "два", "три" or "четы́ре" and "лет" otherwise:

  • I am 41: Мне со́рок оди́н год (nom.sg.)
  • This man is 42 years old: (Э́тому) мужчи́не со́рок два го́да (gen.sg.)
  • She is 45: Ей со́рок пять лет (gen.pl.)

"год" ("го́да", "лет") is optional:

  • Мне пятьдеся́т се́мь (лет)

2) To specify the approximate age, use "ещё нет", "о́коло", "бо́льше", "ме́ньше" with a numeral is the genitive case and "приме́рно" or "почти́" with nominative (see "What to do if we have a noun described by a numeral" section to determine the case of "год"):

  • I am not 21 yet: Мне ещё нет двадцати́ одного́ го́да (gen.)
  • She is about 1 year: Ей о́коло одного́ го́да (gen.) or simply "Ей около го́да"
  • He is more than 93: Ему бо́льше девяно́ста трёх лет (gen.)
  • She is about 1 year: Ей приме́рно оди́н год (nom.)
  • He is about 2 years: Ему приме́рно два го́да (nom.)
  • You are almost 15: Тебе почти́ пятна́дцать лет (nom.)

3) To ask about the age, use "ско́лько", the dative case and the genitive plural "лет":

  • How old are you? - Ско́лько тебе́ лет?
  • How old is he? - Ско́лько ему́ лет?

4) Also, use the genitive plural "лет" to ask about a period of time:

  • How many years have you lived in Moscow? - Сколько лет ты живёшь в Москве?
  • How many years have you spent on it? - Сколько лет ты на это потратил?

5) The nominative plural "го́ды" and the genitive plural "годо́в" are used with ordinal numerals in plural or to describe a period of time or the age:

  • The 70s: Семидеся́тые го́ды (nom.)
  • The Music of the 70s: Му́зыка семидеся́тых годо́в (gen.)
  • My best years: Мои́ лу́чшие го́ды (nom.)
  • Declining years: Прекло́нные го́ды (nom.)

Spelling

Not strict rules but rather recommendations:

  • Numerals are frequently written in numbers: Ему 32 года.
  • But in the beginning of a sentence, numerals are written in letters: Тридцать два года он живёт в России.
  • Numerals below 10 are often written in full: Ему семь лет.
  • Large numerals can be shortened for ease of reading: 25 млн рублей. (25 000 000)

Sources

3 years ago

47 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/jvdn.aze
jvdn.aze
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My head is going to explode :) Thanks so much for this very detailed guide. It's going to be fun

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mosfet07

You can wait about a hundred years, and the numbers will cease to decline :) (at least in the oblique cases). This process has already begun. For example, you can often hear how people change only the last word in a compound numeral. And I can assure you that almost no one knows about that exception for feminine adjectives.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TimK77777
TimK77777
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I can make the last statement even stronger: almost no one (of native speakers) knows any rules. And that's true for any language.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Caversham
Caversham
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Слава Богу

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/piguy3
piguy3
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Forgive me if I am being thick-headed, which exception for feminine adjectives? When precisely nominative plural is preferred? [I seem to recall my Russian textbooks being at least somewhat hand-wavy in this regard]

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Shady_arc
Shady_arc
Mod
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When the number ends in два, три or четыре, there is variation in using adjectives with feminine nouns:

  • две больших коробки (adjective in the Genitive plural)
  • две большие коробки (adjective in the Nominative plural)

The recommended strategy is to use the Nominative plural but switch to Genitive plural if the Gen.sg form of the noun is not the same as its Nom.pl. form (e.g., сестры́ / сёстры, стены́ / сте́ны). Both are used if a preposition precedes the whole phrase.

  • you might have noticed that for many, many feminine nouns the Nominative plural is exactly the same as the Genitive singular (девочки, мамы, кошки etc.) They have the same ending, after all. Still, these forms can differ in stress and thus are not identical for some nouns.

If the adjective modifies the whole phrase (e.g., каждые две недели = every two weeks) most adjectives only use the Nominative plural form regardless of the gender of the noun. Целый, добрый, лишний, полный are a few exceptions: they are often used in the Genitive plural, too.

This is what the stylistic guides by Dietmar Rozenthal recommend.

There is variation in the use of adjectives in such situation, even in the speech of the same person. So "we usually put the adjective in the Nominative plural in две большие коробки" should be understood literally: usually we do but sometimes we do not.

  • except, the last rule I listed. That one is pretty rigid: I doubt any native speaker uses a different case in каждые две недели, каждые четыре минуты, каждые три года etc.
2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mosfet07

That:

There is an exception for feminine nouns: if the last word is "два", "три" or "четыре" and the nominative plural form of the noun is identical to the genitive singular form, use the nominative plural form of the adjective in the nominative case:

"две бе́лых козы́", but "две бе́лые ко́шки"

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Pawsycuddles

Considering you may not be a native English speak, this is very well written! Good job!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Chuggy370
Chuggy370
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Very detailed guide. Good job.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kosmozhuk

"time related adverbs ("одна́жды", "два́жды")" - are they really called so? They don't tell about time, they tell how many times something happened.

I would add that одна́жды may be interchanged with единожды.

Also I didn't quite see any mention of "раз" in the sense of "one" while counting. You may wish to update your guide.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mosfet07

Wiktionary:

од-на́ж-ды

Наречие, обстоятельственное, времени; неизменяемое

I didn't try to include the synonyms for every word, it's just examples.

"раз" added.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mosfet07

Pointing out typos, errors and mistakes in my terrible English will be highly appreciated.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EgorKonovalov

Good job! But, may be need to write about "one thousand", where "one" may droped? ex.: 1984 usualy say like: "тысяча девятьсот восемьдесят четыре", not like "одна тысяча девятьсот восемьдесят четыре"?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mosfet07

Forgot to mention this, fixed. Thanks.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/idahosundevil
idahosundevil
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You wrote 1982, but spelled 1984? :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EgorKonovalov

yep, my fail. fix.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Theron126
Theron126
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I wouldn't have known that you're not a native speaker from your "terrible" English.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mosfet07

Thanks!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mightypotatoe
mightypotatoe
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This is an incredibly detailed guide! Thank you for taking the time to put this together. I hope that the mods sticky this post.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Sialia2
Sialia2
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I really appreciate this - thank you!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/slogger
sloggerPlus
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This is super. It's one of the most complex areas of Russian grammar, and your explanations--especially the examples--will be very useful to me and anyone else who must deal with cardinal numerals. Thanks!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/cherub721
cherub721
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Wow!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Theron126
Theron126
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The rules here are enough to drive anyone raving mad... Thanks for taking the time to write out such a great detailed explanation, I hope this gets stickied.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mosfet07

So, how do you say "I ate 5374 red apples."?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Theron126
Theron126
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Я взрывался :-)

Я съел пять тысяч триста семьдесят четыре красных яблока?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/A_User
A_User
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Don't you want яблоки, not яблока?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Theron126
Theron126
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Genitive singular because it ends in четыре. I think.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mosfet07

genitive singular: (нет) я́блока

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/A_User
A_User
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OK, thanks (both of you)!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Theron126
Theron126
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Извините, я забыл, что они красные яблоки. Теперь правильно?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mosfet07

Yes, everything is correct. Except for "взорвался".

If you look at the 4th link from Sources, you will see in the comments that even natives constantly make mistakes when using numerals.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Theron126
Theron126
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Thanks! Why is взрываться wrong, is it imperfective aspect?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DreamingOdelia
DreamingOdelia
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Did you find a kindred spirit? :-)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DreamingOdelia
DreamingOdelia
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Theron

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mosfet07

I added the information about people and years.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mightypotatoe
mightypotatoe
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Thanks! There's one small spelling error though, the 70th should be the 70s.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mosfet07

Right. Fixed

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AnCatDubh
AnCatDubh
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Why isn’t this sticky?!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Theron126
Theron126
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I asked Shady_arc about a sticky, he thinks it's too advanced for learners at the level of most taking the course and I'm inclined to agree. But numbers confuse so many people that I think it would be good to have a shorter, simpler explanation stickied with a link to this for advanced learners.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mosfet07

I can simplify this by removing everything except for the usage of nouns and adjectives in the nominative case, but then there will be no difference from the Tips and notes in the "Time and Numbers" and "Numbers 2" skills.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mosfet07

Added spelling recommendations.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Immanueldavid

Thank you!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/lisa4duolingo
lisa4duolingo
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And here I've been asking some detailed questions about the Russian numbering system over at the Russian Language StackExchange. Perhaps I should have come here first! Oh well. Better late than never. I can't wait to thoroughly look over what you've put together here. Clearly you've put a lot of work into this and by the number of lingots you've accrued for it, I'd say others think so, too. From the content to the organization to the formatting, I would say they are well earned. You'll soon have some more.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mosfet07

Thank you too. Hope you get benefit from this little introduction. One of the reasons to write this was actually to help myself to sort these things out.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheophileFo

Hi, This is a very detailed explanation. However, it poses a question : I saw that some large numbers have two forms for the accusative. (двести becomes двести or двухсот, for example.) I guess this means that the former is used for the inanimate accusative, and the latter for animated nouns. But you only mentioned the numbers два, три, and четыре for this distinction in the accusative, where you explicitly said that this does not involve numbers ending in два, три or четыре. So the question that arises is : How does one say «200 cats» in the accusative ? And what about «202 cats» ?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Shady_arc
Shady_arc
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The Accusatives are:

  • 200 cats → двести кошек
  • 202 cats → двести две кошки

There is also a non-standard option "двести двух кошек", "двести двух актёров" and so on which you could occasionally encounter. To my ear, both the standard and the non-standard sound odd, so I would avoid such situations altogether.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mosfet07

200 falls into the "tens" category, so it should be like Shady_arc said:

  • (Я вижу) {пять, шесть, десять, двенадцать, двести, тысячу} (белых) кошек
  • (Я вижу) {двадцать, сто, двести, тысячу} две (белые) кошки

but

  • (Я вижу) {двух, трёх, четырёх} (белых) кошек

Declension of such great numbers of animate objects indeed sounds somehow odd in Russian.

This is painful, I know. I myself almost burned out my brain writing this.

1 year ago
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