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Animate/Inanimate Nouns with the Accusative Case

The accusative case is particular in the sense that masculine nouns have two possible endings depending if they are одушевлённые (animate) or неодушевлённые (inanimate). If they are animate, we follow the same rules as with the genitive case, and if they are inanimate, the nominative case.

  • вижу брата: I see my brother (animate noun = genitive)
  • вижу дом: I see a house (inanimate noun = nominative)

However, the division of nouns between animate and inanimate doesn’t match completely with the reality of living and non-living things in our world. There are several groups of words which are grammatically part of the “animate group”, but can’t be called living beings:

Nouns indicating a dead person: deadman, deceased, drowned person, etc.

  • видеть покойника (to see a dead person = genitive)

Names of mythical creatures: dragon, goblin, house spirit, mermaid, etc.

  • убить дракона (to kill the dragon = genitive)
  • увидеть домового (to see the house spirit = genitive)

Names of figures and accessories in some games: queen, knight, bishop (chess), ball (billard), jack, ace, king (cards game), etc.

  • отдать коня за слона (to give the horse for a bishop = genitive)
  • бить козыря (to trump a card = genitive)

Nouns refering to dolls: doll, puppet, matrioshka, etc.

  • наряжать кукол (to dress up dolls = genitive)
  • показывать марионеток (to show puppets = genitive)

Names of dishes prepare with meat.

  • есть жареного гуся, поросёнка, цыплёнка (to eat roast goose, pork, chicken = genitive)

In the opposite, there are cases where the grammatical form of inanimate nouns are not refering to inanimate objects:

Nouns denoting an number of people: army, crowd, delegation, friends, etc.

  • вести за собой народ (to lead the people = nominative)
  • видеть толпы (to see the crowd = nominative)

Nouns in plural, when used in special propositional constructions like:

  • пойти в солдаты (to become soldiers = nominative)
  • записаться в слушатели (to enroll in the army = nominative)
  • выйти в люди (to go to the people = nominative)
  • напрашиваться в друзья (to invite oneself to friends = nominative)

When talking about biology, we use genitive case for a professional speech, and nominative case for a general andusual speech.

Prossional speech: for virus, bacteria, fungi, larva, microbe, etc.

  • изучать бактерий (to study bacteries = genitive)
  • наблюдать микробов (to observe microbes = genitive)

Non-professional speech: for virus, bacteria, fungi, larva, microbe, etc.

  • изучать бактерии, вирусы (to study bacteries, viruses = nominative)
  • наблюдать микробы (to observe germs = nominative)

Елена Коновалова

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