The rule I refer to is this:

For numeral + adjective + noun in genitive case structures where the numeral-noun-adjective phrase is serving in a nominative case (e.g., the three little pigs went to the market):

The adjective that is placed between the numeral and the noun is:

in the genitive plural if the singular form of the noun is masculine or neuter


in the nominative plural if the singular form of the noun is feminine.

Source: ТРОЙКА, section 15.2, p. 486

Side Note: If you cannot access the link above (where you'll have to click "Next" a few times before you get to the correct page), the following is also from the book (although I added a few personal touches to enhance the learning process):

Here is why I ask the question:

I have tried a number of different combinations with "два" + adjective + noun in genitive singular, both with Google's Ngram and search engine and little to nothing has materialized. I've tried the Russian equivalents of "two" (using both "два" and "две")* + young/old + men/women/girls/boys/soldiers to no avail (with the exception of “два хороших мальчика” where I found a mere 1,050 Google total hits — not thousands of or millions of). When I compare frequencies of various English words to Russian words and then this exact phrase, it leads me to believe that there are other, more common ways of saying things like two good boys, three new cars, four little kittens, et cetera.

*I suppose I could have also attempted combinations with "three" or "four," but assumed that if I was having difficulty with just the numeral "two," that the road to discovery would only roll downhill from there.

As always, thanks in advance for sharing your knowledge on this topic.

  • 3
    Exception is numbers in second ten of every hundred: 12-14, 112-114, 212-214, etc - they are always full plural – Arioch Aug 21 '17 at 9:14
  • I might misunderstand the question, so sorry, if this is not what you are asking about, but an adjective + noun always share the case, IIRC. If you have a pair of an adjective + noun they can't be in different cases, you don't say "хороший человека" and so on – Dmitry Koroliov Aug 27 '17 at 19:25

Yes, this rule applies to animate nouns as well.

2/3/4 + старых/молодых + мужчины/мальчика/солдата for masculine or neuter.

2/3/4 + старые/молодые + женщины/девушки/кошки for feminine.

For feminine nouns you can also use the construction for masculine or neuter nouns (genitive plural) 2/3/4 + старых/молодых + женщины/девушки/кошки.

It won't be a mistake, but nominative plural (старые/молодые) is preferable.

This works for inanimate nouns too.

  • Good to know. To be honest, I have no idea how many Russian books have been added to Google's Ngram database/registry or what type, so that might have some influence and perhaps it is also possible that English speakers are more likely to refer to 2, 3, or 4 of something than Russian speakers (or speakers of other languages for that matter). – Lisa Beck Sep 1 '17 at 4:45
  • I don't doubt that the answer you have provided is true, but I'm still rather curious as to why I didn't find more real world examples of 2/3/4 + adjective (in the genitive plural for masculine and nominative plural for feminine) + animate noun. If you can cite a source or provide me with some links to real world examples (e.g., those found in reputable online newspapers or other publications), I'll give you the green checkmark. – Lisa Beck Sep 14 '17 at 21:06
  • 1
    @LisaBeck: два весёлых гуся, три белых коня, четыре чёрненьких чумазеньких чертёнка, google for those – Quassnoi Oct 1 '17 at 8:48
  • "For feminine nouns you can also use the construction for masculine or neuter nouns" - only for adjectives! the numeric pronoun retains feminine form anyway. Granted, those are only 1/2 pronouns, that have those different forms (один/одна & два/две), and starting with 3 the pronouns do not follow genders. But still, your initial claims is a bit too vague – Arioch Oct 9 '17 at 14:56

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