Russian Language Grammar

    Collective Numerals

The collective numerals are similar in meaning to the cardinals, but their usage is limited.

Table of Collective Numerals

   (a)   

двое

two, “a couple of”

трое

three

четверо

four

пятеро

five

шестеро

six

семеро

seven

восьмеро

eight

Seldom used

девятеро

nine

десятеро

ten

   (b)   

оба

both (masc. and neut.)

обе

both (fem.)

Declension of Collective Numerals

Declension of двое, трое, четверо

NOM.

двое

трое

четверо

GEN.

двоих

троих

четверых

DAT.

двоим

троим

четверым

ACC.

(anim.)

двое

трое

четверо

двоих

троих

четверых

INSTR.

двоими

троими

четверыми

PREP.

двоих

троих

четверых

Пятеро, шестеро, семеро, etc. are declined like четверо.

 

Declension of оба and обе

NOM.

оба

обе

GEN.

обоих

обеих

DAT.

обоим

обеим

ACC.

(anim.)

оба

обе

обоих

обеих

INSTR.

обоими

обеими

PREP.

обоих

обеих

Usage of Collective Numerals

1.   The collective numerals are never used in compound numbers. Cardinal numerals must be used:   двадцать два мальчика – twenty-two boys.

2.   Collective numerals, such as двое, трое, are followed by the genitive plural of nouns:   двое мальчиков, трое студентов.

With personal pronouns, the collective numeral may be in either the nominative or the genitive:

Только мы двое были там.

Only we two were there.

Нас было двое.

There were two of us.

3.   These numerals are used chiefly with animate masculine nouns pertain­ing to persons:   двое мальчиков (or:  два мальчика) – two boys. With feminine nouns, cardinals are used:  две девочки – two girls.

4.   Feminine persons may be included in the number given by the collective numeral:

У неё трое детей:  два мальчика и одна девочка.

She has three children: two boys and one girl.

5.    Collective numerals may be used when speaking of kittens, puppies, etc.

    двое котят и трое щенят

    two kittens and three puppies

          But only:

    две кошки и три собаки

    two cats and three dogs

    6.    The only inanimate nouns used with these numerals are those which have no singular (pluralia tantum). But this usage of collective numerals is limited. One may say: двое часов – two watches; трое саней – three sleighs; and also: трое суток – three days and nights. However, other abstract nouns of the same class (выборы – elections; каникулы – vacations, etc.) do not combine with двое, трое, and so forth.

    7.    The usage of collective numerals with pronouns is again normally limited to male persons:

      Где ваши мальчики? – Все трое в школе.

      Where are your boys? – All three are at school.

      8.   To say that the usage of двое, трое, etc., is limited to the nominative case would be incorrect. Yet, there is no doubt that in many instances the oblique cases of два, три, четыре, etc., are definitely preferred.

        около трёх суток

        about three days (and nights)

        стена с четырьмя воротами

        a wall with four gates

        он пришёл с двумя детьми

        he came with two children

        9.    Оба and обе are followed by the genitive singular of nouns. In the oblique cases, the nouns have plural endings.

          NOM.

          оба товарища

          обе подруги

          GEN.

          обоих товарищей

          обеих подруг

          DAT.

          обоим товарищам

          обеим подругам

          ACC.

          обоих товарищей

          обеих подруг

          INSTR.

          обоими товарищами

          обеими подругами

          PREP.

          обоих товарищах

          обеих подругах

          Note:   It may be mentioned here that "оба" and "обе" mean two similar things or persons:   Я купил обе книги. – I bought both books. But with different objects, "и то и другое" is used:   Я купил и то и другое  (кресло и  шкаф). – I bought  both (the armchair and the cupboard).