July 9, 2009 | Russian

Russian Cases

Russian cases are crazy; even proper nouns change form.

I have discovered that even proper nouns change form in Russian. That would distress some of the people who take my (English) grammar and writing classes. For example, I get a lot of complaints from students about this kind of construction:

the Joneses’ house

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This is simply a plural possessive of a proper noun, but some of my students find it objectionable. They get almost angry about it. They seem to feel that this phrase changes the last name, Jones, into something else.

They might feel less irritable about it if they took a look at Russian, where there are six different cases for nouns—nominative, accusative, dative, genitive, instrumental, and prepositional—and so a name could go through many mutations depending on how it is used in a sentence. Even the noun Russia changes form depending on whether it is dative, accusative, etc.!

In Russian, no noun is safe.

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