I have two questions about expressions of number of people in Russian:

  1. Once when buying tickets at кассы, I heard the expression "три взрослых". I thought with numbers 2-4, we use the genitive singular form. So why is it not "три взрослого" here?

  2. Another time when me and my friends entered a restaurant, I heard the waiter say "четверых", which I guess is the genitive form of "четверо". Can anyone explain to me why we use the genitive case here?

Thank you!

  • 3
    For 1: it could be an omission: Три взрослых [билета, пожалуйста]. For 2: It's unclear, the only thing I can come up with is mishearing plus an usual omission [Столик] **на** четверых, [пожалуйста]. Dec 29, 2017 at 1:26
  • Thanks for your answer! I'm still a bit confused, though. For 1, why do you use "взрослых " in "Три взрослых билета"? Isn't билета here in genitive singular, but then взрослых is in genitive plural? For 2, I actually heard this expression more than once. So after "Столик на...", do you use genitive of a collective numeral? Thanks a lot! Dec 29, 2017 at 4:21
  • I am using this intuitively, so a proper grammatical answer is hard for me, I am sort of reasoning backwards. It's три, and not пять, so it's not "mass plural", but this "few ones" plural. In this case два билета, три билета is nominative and accusative (they coincide). (But: пять билетов.) In the second example, my bad, I still omitted too much. It's Столик на четверых человек. Ellipsis is hard! Dec 29, 2017 at 13:49

1 Answer 1

  1. The 'genitive singular' rule only applies to nouns. For adjectives (or nouns that decline like adjectives e.g. запята́я) it's genitive or nominative plural: два взро́слых биле́та, два ста́рых дру́га, две мировы́х войны́. On the choice between the genitive and the nominative for adjectives, see this question.

  2. You normally ask for a table for a number of people: сто́лик на четверы́х, пожа́луйста! The preposition на calls for an accusative which matches the genitive for animate nouns/numerals. (In your case the waiter might have preempted your request with "Сто́лик на четверы́х?") If you are asked: Ско́лько вас? (How many of you?), you reply in the nominative: че́тверо.

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