When someone asks a question along the lines:

Чей это кот? Чья это собака? Чьё это письмо? Чьи это очки?

I have the following two questions regarding the structure of these interrogative sentences:

1. What type of pronoun is чья/чей/чьё/чьи here? Is it a pronoun which replaces a noun, or a pronoun that replaces an adjective?

For example - "This is your car" -- here "your" takes the place of an adjective


"This car is yours" -- here "yours" takes the place of noun

So in these questions, does чьё/чья/чей/чьи mean "whose" in the sense of "Whose is this?" (replacing a noun) or "Whose car is this?" (replacing an adjective)?

2. I have an essentially analogous question about the function of "это" in this type of question.

In these questions, does "это" mean "this" in the sense of "Think about this" (takes the place of a noun) or "this" in the sense of "Think about this question" (takes the place of an adjective)?

My confusion is as follows: чей/чья/чьи/чьё declines with the noun in "...", but this isn't enough to tell us whether it is taking the role of a noun or adjective, because both of these types of pronouns decline the same in Russian -- i.e. "(Это) авто -- твоё." and "Это -- твоё авто." are both valid sentences, and "твоя" is declined the same way in both, despite the fact that it serves a different function in both.

But in German, one would have "Das Auto ist deins" and "Das ist dein Auto". In German one can tell from the declension of "dein" what function it is serving in each sentence, and from that infer what the function of "das" is (along with whether it is separated from the noun by the copular verb, which generally isn't used in Russian).

The only hint in Russian that allows one to differentiate between "Это авто твоё" and "Это твоё авто" (at least as far as I can tell) is the word order. But the rules for word order in questions are usually different from the rules for word order in regular sentences, so I really don't know what at all to make of "Чьё это авто". Hence any help would be greatly appreciated.

  • "Das Auto ist deines" is not correct.
    – Abakan
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 12:17
  • @Alex.S You're right, I thought "deins" was just an abbreviation for "deines" but it turns out that it is incorrect to use "deines" instead of "deins". I have fixed the post. Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 15:49

2 Answers 2


Russian is much easier than English or German in this aspect. We don't distinguish between posessive pronouns and adjectives (they are both called pronouns in modern English grammar btw). Neither have we different forms for them like my and mine. It will be мой,моя,мое in all cases,you will never make a mistake. As for Russian into English translating the rule is the same as in English. Just look whether you have a corresponding noun after the posessive in your sentence or not.

Это моя книга.--This is my book. Чья это книга?-- Моя.Whose book is this?--It's. mine.

  • This is correct but doesn't seem to answer my question -- would the translation be the equivalent of "your" or "yours"? Otherwise I don't understand how the various words in the sentence are acting. Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 20:43
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    See the examples and the last sentence. The functions in Russian are those of an adjective and a predicative.
    – V.V.
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 2:23
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    Чей это кот?--Whose cat is this? (Adjective )А кот чей?-Мой.(predicative )
    – V.V.
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 2:32
  • this makes sense -- one more question -- if "чья" is modifying "книга", why does the word order in this question separate them? Wouldn't "Чья книга -- это?" or "это -- чья книга?" make more sense because they don't separate the words in the noun phrase? Or is this just one of those things for which "that just is the way it is" even if it doesn't really make sense? Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 2:34
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    Это чья книга?и Чья это книга?--Both have the same meaning with a stress on чья.You don't need a dash, the word order functioning instead. Чья книга?is usually used without это in a dialogue when you point to the book.Funny, I never thought of "just the way it is" but that seems to be the case.
    – V.V.
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 2:43

not sure i fully understand the crux but i'll try to give an answer and hopefully it'll help to arrive at a conclusion

  1. in the presented questions the interrogative pronouns point at a possessor of the object in question who (the possessor) is expressed with a possessive pronoun or a noun in Genitive case in the answer


Чей это кот?

A1 (possessive pronoun)

Это наш кот

A2 (noun in Genitive)

Это кот соседа

there's an obsolete form, yet still understandable, where a possessive adjective is used instead of a noun

Это соседов кот

a modern variant with a regular adjective would be

Это соседский кот

although it's less specific than the former because it doesn't point at possessor's gender and number

that said, a female form of a possessive adjective is still very much in use

Это соседкин кот

BUT correspond the grammatical form of this interrogative pronoun must with the object and not with the possessor
it's essentially a possessive pronoun itself and these always correspond with the object

  1. Это here is an demonstrative pronoun, which technically could be replaced by pronouns declined in accordance with the object of the question

Чей это кот? = Чей этот кот?

Чьи это очки? = Чьи эти очки?

though it sounds somewhat artificial and is rarely used

But the rules for word order in questions are usually different from the rules for word order in regular sentences, so I really don't know what at all to make of "Чьё это авто".

in order to arrive at a function of noun (by your terminology) for это in the answer, a question must be worded in a specific way

Q. Этот кот, (он) чей? A. Этот кот - наш / Он - наш but a regular answer Это наш кот is equally valid

however in a reversed situation an answer Он - наш to a question Чей это кот? sounds awkward, because a purpose of such type of question isn't to find out whom out of several potential owners the cat belongs to, but just to find out in general who the owner is

  • I really appreciate this thorough and helpful answer. Unfortunately it has confused me somewhat more than before however; what does the fact that it is grammatically correct to decline "это" in these sentences mean about its function? I want to know which one of the two words "чей, это" is acting like a noun, and which one of the two words "чей, это" is acting like an adjective. Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 20:45
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    i'm afraid i don't quite understand what you mean by the function of a noun, because neither of these words is noun or plays its grammatical role, they're all pronouns, one is demonstrative - это while another is possessive interrogative - чей, the noun here is кот, Чей это кот? = Whos cat is this?, neither whos and this acts like a noun either, don't they? Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 21:03
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    a question Чей этот кот? has an overtone of inquiry about a specific cat out of a few, seeking to find out who the owner is of that specific cat while disregarding the rest, and этот helps to single out a cat from the group, therefore when inquiring about a random lonely cat pronoun этот would be misplaced unlike это Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 21:11
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    the word or a combination thereof in response to чей? will be a predicate in the answer, called составное именное сказуемое, a question turned statement would look as follows Чей это кот? - Наш это кот/Соседа это кот, the word order doesn't make it sound very natural, but it's passable, where наш кот & соседа кот are compound predicates, составные именные сказуемые Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 7:17
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    for the record a question Чей кот это? is understandable, albeit awkward, and will draw the same type of response as a more straightforward one; however if the question is worded as Этот кот чей? in the answer Этот кот - наш/Этот кот - соседский, the predicate is наш & соседский respectively Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 7:38

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