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A guide to -а, -я vs. -у, -ю distinction in Genitive

The Tips and notes on the Genitive skill say that

Due to historical changes masculine nouns take two sets of endings in Genitive case: -a, -я (countable or concrete objects) or -у, -ю (materials, substances and abstract nouns).

This is an attempt to give a little more detail since it is actually a bit more complicated.

-а, -я is used for:

  • nouns referring to people: студент – студента (student), Пол – Пола (Paul)
  • animals, trees and objects: кіт – кота (cat), дуб – дуба (oak), рюкзак – рюкзака (backpack)
  • months and days: липень – липня (July), понеділок – понеділка (Monday)
  • names of cities: Київ – Києва, Львів – Львова
  • measures: метр – метра (meter), тиждень – тижня (week), мільйон – мільйона (million), but рік – року (year), вік – віку (age)

-у, -ю is used for:

  • materials and substances: мед – меду (honey), сир – сиру (cheese) but хліб – хліба (bread)
  • abstract nouns: екзамен – екзамену (exam), голос – голосу (voice)
  • natural phenomena: сніг – снігу (snow), дощ – дощу (rain)
  • collective nouns: ліс – лісу (forest), гурт – гурту ([music] band), багаж – багажу (luggage)
  • buildings and institutions: будинок – будинку (building), університет – університету (university), but гараж – гаража (garage), млин – млина (mill)
  • geographical names: Китай – Китаю (China), Кіпр – Кіпру (Cyprus), Рейн – Рейну (Rhine) except some Ukrainian rivers like Дністер – Дністра
July 2, 2015



With rivers it's not about geographical location. Geographical names take "a" if they have stress on last syllable in genitive or have suffixes -ов, -ів (-єв), -ин (-їн). There are for example quite a few Russian rivers that follow this rule. Others take у. All cities, villages and planets take "a"


That's true. I did not include all the exceptions to make it simpler and limited to more common words.


I just decided to write a comment "just in case" :D

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