I have learned that when expressing possession in Russian, the object you possess is in nominative case and genitive case when it is not (i.e. you don't have it). So based on that, I'd say the former is correct, however I have been seeing the second one as well (especially when expressing "an amount", e.g. a lot, little etc.).

I want to say "Right now, I only have little time"; however, I keep seeing two translations for that.

Which one of the two is correct, or if both are, when is the latter used? I haven't found anything on that unfortunately.

4 Answers 4


"Сейчас у меня есть мало времени" sounds grammarically correct, but it is lexically strange. We don't say so. It can fall into two meanings, each of them expressed separately.

1) I am short of time = I don't have enough time.

У меня мало времени.

That really means that I don't have time.

2) I have some time, I can do something quickly.

У меня есть немного времени.

That means that I do have time, though not so much, but I'll try and do the thing for which I have it. If you say

У меня есть время,

it means you are free to do what you are planning.


Сейчас у меня есть мало время is not correct. However, сейчас у меня есть время would be perfectly fine.

The fact is we use the Genitive with мало (as well as with немного):

У меня мало денег.

У нас немного ресурсов.

У неё мало хороших оценок.

So, сейчас у меня есть мало времени should be OK. But we usually omit есть when using мало. So, we'd say У меня есть деньги but У меня мало денег; У меня есть время but У меня мало времени.

Interestingly, if we use немного, есть sounds quite natural: У нас немного времени (the fact that you have not much time is emphasized); У нас есть немного времени (the fact that you have not much time is emphasized).


The second one is correct, except one thing.

It's much better to use совсем немного instead of мало here, or just omit the verb есть:

Сейчас у меня есть совсем немного времени.
Сейчас у меня мало времени.


Сейчас у меня [есть] мало времени

is correct as already pointed out, save for the use of the verb есть, which here is only implied.

In this sentence Genitive case stems from the relationship between the quantitative pronoun мало and the noun время and not from the implied verb есть.

So without the pronoun the case is Nominal as expected and with the verb есть intact

Сейчас у меня есть время

However with the pronoun мало, which is the bare subject of the sentence, the Genitive form of время -> времени answers the question (мало) чего? - (little) of what?

Likewise with other quantitative pronouns много, немного, немало, столько, несколько, сколько?, also чуть-чуть and полно́ which function as pronouns, and with synonyms of those.


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