Russian Language Grammar

    Usage of Adjectives

Long and Short Form

1. Both the long and short form may be used as predicates: Она очень красивая and она очень красива. The long form is found in expressions equivalent to the English "an old one," "a new one," "a good one," etc.

 Эта дорога очень хорошая. – This road is a very good one.

 In conversational Russian, the preference often goes to the long form, except in a few instances:

богат

rich

 

неправ

wrong

болен

sick

похож

like

виноват

at fault;  "sorry"

прав

right

голоден

hungry

свободен

free

готов

ready

согласен

agree

женат

married (said of a man)

счастлив

happy

жив

alive

сыт

full (not hungry)

намерен

intend(s)

занят

busy

доволен

pleased

здоров

well (in good health)

Also, to a certain degree, with:

красив

pretty, handsome

 

стар

old

молод

young

узок

narrow

слаб

weak

широк

wide

2. The short form sometimes – when logically possible – indicates a temporary condition, in contrast to a more permanent one conveyed by the long form:

Он болен.

He is sick.

Он больной.

He is a sick man.

3. Frequently, the short form has a relative value:

Квартира не маленькая, но для нас она мала.

The apartment is not small, but for us it is.

4. The short form is used with the subjects всё and это:

Всё ясно.

Everything is clear.

Это очень интересно.

It is very interesting.

5. The short form is used in certain set expressions: будьте добры – be so kind; будьте здоровы (meaning, occasionally: "goodbye" or "bless you" – when sneezing) (lit.: "be well," "be healthy"), etc.

6. The long form only is used in other set expressions – often in those with a figurative meaning:

    круглый год

    the year round

    на чёрный день

    for a rainy ("black") day

    больной вопрос

    a thorny (painful) question

    глубокая старость

    very advanced age

    свободное время

    free time

    прямой угол

    right angle

    скорый поезд

    express, fast train

    проливной дождь

    shower, drenching rain

    7. The usage of the long form prevails with colors. In fact, many adjectives pertaining to colors do not have any short form at all. Thus: голубой – azure, sky-blue; коричневый – brown; сиреневый – lilac, etc. Originally, related to nouns (голубь – pigeon; корица – cinnamon; сирень – lilac) – they still possess the characteristics of relative adjectives, i.e. no short form, for instance.

    8. The short and long forms are not used together as two attributives of the same noun. One may say: Она умна и красива or Она умная и красивая, but not "Она умна и красивая."

      Agreement Between Nouns and Qualifiers

      1. When nouns are qualified by more than one word (adjective, numeral), they may stand in the singular or in the plural:   Большой и маленький нож – a big and a small knife, or, Большой и маленький ножи. The usage of the singular apparently prevails.  It is used:

         (а)    When the logical connection between the attributes is in evidence:

      программа для начальной и средней школы (not: школ)

      program for the grade school and the high school

      глаголы совершeнного и несовершенного вида

      perfective and imperfective verbs

         (b)    When the idea of singularity is clearly present: не новый, а старый костюм – not a new, but an old suit;   русский или английский язык – the Russian or the English language.

         (c) Also, with ordinal numerals and possessive pronouns: между первым и вторым домом – between the first and the second house; Он написал моей и вашей сестре. – Не wrote to my and to your sister.

       2. In the reverse case (i.e., one adjective qualifying two nouns) the adjective may also be in the singular or in the plural. It has been claimed that, for example, "вкусный завтрак и обед" may imply that only the lunch was nice. Yet, "вкусные завтрак и обед" sounds uneasy. (Stylistically, the best may well be "вкусный завтрак и очень вкусный обед.")