What is the right way to pronounce большую?

The Wiktionary mentions both бо́льшую and большу́ю, what's the difference between them?

Is this a special case that you just have to live with?

2 Answers 2

  1. Большая (with the emphasis on the "а") — is the adjective "big" for feminine nouns, like большая победа (a big victory, a big win), большая машина (a big car) etc. большую in this case is the word большая in the genitive or accusative case.

  2. Большая (with the emphasis on the "о") — is a bit complicated. Roughly speaking, it's an equivalent of the word "bigger" in English, but with considerable catches:

    • it's used only when referring to something feminine, which/who is bigger out of several other things:

      Which car should I buy? Take a bigger one. -> Какую машину стоит мне купить? Возьми большую.

    • it's not used when comparing these things directly (as one can see, there is no word большая in that case):

      This car is bigger, than that one. -> Эта машина больше той

      NOT Эта машина большая той

The word большую in case 2 is the word большая in the genitive or instrumental case, likewise in case 1.

So to summarize, both ways are correct, because the words are different.

To summarize all the cases of this kind (большая — большая), here is the list (the adjectives here also have to be declined properly, this is only their initial form in the nominative case):

  • большой (big) / больший (roughly "bigger") — adjectives to use with the masculine nouns
  • большая (big) / большая (roughly "bigger") — adjectives to use with the feminine nouns
  • большое (big) / большее (roughly "bigger") — adjectives to use with the so-called "middle gender" nouns
  • 3
    It is very unusual to use "больший" for material things. "Bозьми бОльшую машину" sounds very unnatural.
    – Abakan
    Nov 29, 2017 at 10:49
  • @Abakan, I'm disagreeing. Even if the example with a car is unnatural (though I don't think so), I'm sure, you'll agree that there is the established expression "большая часть". Isn't the word "part" here a "material thing" as you said? Nov 30, 2017 at 5:47
  • It's not. And anyway "большая часть" (including synonyms of "часть") is almost the only case of using "больший". I doubt that you have ever heard "Возьми бОльшую" relating to any kind of physical thing in real life.
    – Abakan
    Nov 30, 2017 at 8:47
  • @Abakan, I consider the word "больший" as a synonymous way to say "тот, который больше остальных", "самый большой из …" etc. So I still insist, that that word is perfectly normal to use with anything at all. With physical things either. Please, consider a situation: you are observing several cars, which all are big. How can you refer to the biggest one? You can't just say "большая машина". So there are only two ways, essentially: "самая большая машина" (and its variations like "та, которая больше всех" etc.) and a shorter way — "большая машина" Nov 30, 2017 at 21:43
  • 1
    "Genitive or instrumental case" - accusative, surely??? You've got me worried that I've forgotten or misunderstood all my Russian grammar :)
    – David
    Nov 30, 2017 at 23:21

A compact explanation. These are two words of different meaning and stress position which doesn't vary with cases. Depending on case/gender, the two words may differ in spelling:

Большо́й (-а́я, fem.) means big.

Бо́льший (-ая, fem.) means the bigger (one/part - of whatever is available).

Бо́льшую is the accusative case (fem. gender, singular) of бо́льшая and большу́ю is the accusative case (fem. gender, singular) of больша́я (the spelling in the accusative/nominative coincides for feminine). The spelling here (fem. + singular) will differ for cases other than nominative/accusative: большо́й/бо́льшей.

As you can see, the stress position always corresponds to the initial adjective's meaning.

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