Russian Language Grammar

    Qualitative, Relative and Possessive Adjectives

Qualitative Adjectives

Qualitative adjectives express a characteristic which may be possessed in variable degrees: маленький дом (small house); холодная вода (cold water);  большое здание (large building).

Relative Adjectives

Relative adjectives express a characteristic which cannot vary in degree and which is related to a noun: деревянный дом (wooden house); вечерняя газета (evening paper); уличное движение (street traffic).

Note: The characteristic difference between nouns and related adjectives is apparent here in all three Russian expressions, but only in the first English example.

Possessive Adjectives Pertaining to Persons

1. Possessive adjectives ending in -oв or -ев arе formed from masculine nouns.

Examples:

отцов дом

father's house   

князева жена    

prince's wife

Their usage is quite obsolete; in present-day speech they are replaced by constructions with the genitive:  дом отца, жена князя. A few set expressions remain:

Дамоклов меч

the sword of Damocles

Гордиев узел

Gordian knot

адамово яблоко

Adam's apple

ахиллесова пята

Achilles' heel

Авгиевы конюшни

the stables of Augias

крокодиловы слёзы

crocodile tears

2. Possessive adjectives ending in -ин are formed from feminine nouns, or masculine nouns ending in the nominative in -a or -я. They are used in current speech, frequently with diminutives.

Колин брат

Kolya's brother

Катина сестра

Kate's sister

дядин дом

uncle's house

папины часы

father's (daddy's) watch

In their declension, the masculine and neuter adjectives have alternate forms in the genitive and in the dative. The second variant given in the table below is used more frequently than the first.

Declension:

 

Masculine 

Feminine 

Neuter 

NOM. 

Колин 

Колина 

Кoлино 

GEN. 

Колина

 (or: Колиного) 

Колиной 

Колина

 (or: Kолиного) 

DAT. 

Колину

 (or: Колиному) 

Колиной 

Колину

 (or: Колиному) 

ACC. 

Nom. or Gen. 

Кoлину 

Колино 

INSTR. 

Колиным 

Колиной 

Колиным 

PREP. 

Колином 

Колиной 

Колином 

 

 

Plural 

NOM. 

Колины

GEN. 

Колиных

DAT.

Колиным

ACC.

Nom. or Gen.

INSTR.

Колиными

PREP.

Колиных

Adjectives Ending in -ий, -ья, -ье, -ьи

A small number of adjectives, ending in -ий, -ья, -ьe, or -ьи, are formed from names of animals, fish, birds and sometimes from persons.

Examples:

волчий хвост

wolf's tail (from волк)

медвежья охота

bear hunting (from медведь)

воронье гнездо

crow's nest (from ворона)

рыбачьи лодки

fishermen's boats (from рыбак)

They are declined as follows:

 

 Masculine

Neuter

Feminine

Plural

NOM.

волчий

волчье

волчья

волчьи

GEN.

волчьего

волчьего

волчьей

волчьих

DAT.

волчьему

волчьему

волчьей

волчьим

ACC.

Nom. or Gen.

волчье

волчью

Nom. or Gen.

INSTR.

волчьим

волчьим

волчьей

волчьими

PREP.

волчьем

волчьем

волчьей

волчьих