A homework question, exactly quoted,

В этот период у нас было много неожиданных трудностей.

but in reviewing my previous question, When to use 'не было' and 'не будет' regardless of person, gender, or number I am reassured that, without negation, the verb быть needs to agree in gender and number with the noun.

The last word, the noun, is feminine, but plural.

  • I believe that without много, the trailing adjective and noun would be nominative plural.


    I often think of verbs, prepositions, etc. affecting other words 'downstream', and yet it seems много affects the verb быть.

    Is this a fair assessment?

  • So should the sentence actually use были?

2 Answers 2

  1. Indeed были can be used without много, which ultimately changes the meaning of the sentence

В этот период у нас были неожиданные трудности. (no info on their volume)

  1. No. In the original sentence the subject is not неожиданные трудности but много (неожиданных трудностей), and naturally the predicate быть conforms to the properties of the subject. It's only natural for a subject to affect a predicate.

Subject can be either noun, pronoun, numeral or null. Here we have it as a numerical pronoun.

  • As много is an adverb (genderless), how does it match the neutral/neuter from of быть, as here было?
    – nate
    Mar 17, 2018 at 19:15
  • 2
    @nate много here isn't an adverb but a numeric pronoun and words of this class always assume neuter gender, много would be an adverb in a sentence such as я выпил много вина (HOW MUCH wine?) but a subject in a sentence много вина было выпито мной (WHAT was drunk?) Mar 17, 2018 at 19:21
  • Seems I need a more complete source than: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D0%BC%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE Thank you - that is very helpful!
    – nate
    Mar 17, 2018 at 19:34
  • @nate, if you're a fluent Russian reader please take a look at this article which describes principles of agreement between subject and predicate (bar paragraph 2.) Mar 17, 2018 at 19:42
  • 2
    Thanks for the link! (not fluent but will be) :)
    – nate
    Mar 17, 2018 at 19:48

In case there is an adverb describing quality (много, несколько, немного etc.) or a numerical, the verb быть must be in neutral singular, i. e. в автобусе было двадцать человек, у нас было несколько домов, в зоопарке было много животных. Same with сколько:

  • Сколько котов было у вас?
  • У меня было пять котов.
  • "Несколько ступенек стали продолжением садовой дорожки." search1.ruscorpora.ru/… Mar 17, 2018 at 21:10
  • Никакого отношения к тому, что я написал.
    – user31264
    Mar 17, 2018 at 22:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.