I know how to use possessive pronouns in Russian:

Это моя книга.

I also know how to describe a person's possession:

Это книга подруги.

But how do I combine two persons, such as in this example:

I want to give this book to my girlfriend's mother.

I don't know what to search for. How is this called in linguistic terms?

Which linguistic cases do I use here for the words girlfriend and mother?

My guess would have been:

Я хочу подарить эту книгу маме моей подруги (на Рождество).

4 Answers 4


You guess is absolutely correct, technically there's an other valid option:

Я хочу подарить эту книгу подругиной маме.

But while this is grammaticaly valid talking of specifically word подруга it's very unlikely one will choose second form over the first one - подругиной sounds clumsy.

But I've mentioned this because in some cases, for instance, with personal names, it's exactly the opposite, second form, like in:

Я хочу подарить эту книгу Лениной маме.

is more preferable compared to

Я хочу подарить эту книгу маме Лены.

  • 2
    I think it's a matter of taste. Personally, I wouldn't use this form (Лениной маме). It only works for diminutive names, so it's mostly used colloquially. Nov 13, 2017 at 18:51
  • I have seen that before with personal names, e.g. in Где будет отдыхать семья Светланы в выходные дни?. At first, I was unsure about that sentense and thought it's the family's name, but then I realized its actually a first name, thus "the family of Swetlana". Thanks for pointing that out as well. Nov 14, 2017 at 9:53

Your guess is both grammatically correct and idiomatic:

Я хочу́ подари́ть э́ту кни́гу ма́ме мое́й подру́ги (на Рождество́).

You used the dative case for ма́ма -> ма́ме 'to mother' and the genitive case for подру́га -> подру́ги 'of girlfriend.'

You can stack up genitives to describe more complex relations:

Подру́га бра́та однокла́ссника мое́й сестры́

My sister's classmate's brother's girlfriend OR

The girlfriend of the bother of the classmate of my sister

Nowadays most people prefer де́вушка to say girlfriend. Thus your sentence would be:

Я хочу́ подари́ть э́ту кни́гу ма́ме мое́й де́вушки.

If you get married, you'll be entitled to call her mother тёща. Mentioning just this word alone to a Russian (or Google) can get you lots of jokes.

  • Thank you Sergey. I accepted shabunc's answer, because it is more to the point, slightly better readable and he simply answered first. Though, I appreciate your effort and the additional information you provided. I would accept both answers, if I could. Nov 14, 2017 at 9:58
  • 2
    @user1438038 My pleasure. I added another answer because I felt that a few points from your question needed addressing: "how do I combine two persons" and what grammatical cases can be used. Glad you liked my answer. Nov 14, 2017 at 16:17
  • @user1438038, Sergey has noted a very important point here about the word "girlfriend". In modern Russian подруга does not imply, oh well... a girlfriend relationship, it's just a female friend. Nov 15, 2017 at 12:53

Я хочу дать эту книгу матери моей девушки.


A possible option:

Я хочу подарить эту книгу моей (будущей) тёще.

(I want to give this book to my future mother in law.) It may sound a bit kinky, but uses the feature of Russian that in-laws can be called by one word.

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