In Nicholas J. Brown's book, The New Penguin Russian Course - A Complete Course for Beginners (1996), there is an exercise (27.5 if it matters) containing a sentence;

Девяносто пять процентов тех, кто участвовал в опросе, назвали Кларка Гейбла единственно возможным Реттом Батлером.


I. I assume that the last four words are in instrumental case because it is like a profession, to be this Ретт Батлер. (Question 1)

As it is written...

II. I believe that the two words I am inquiring about , единственно возможным (Реттом)..., are an adverb, followed by a long-form adjective used attributively. (Question 2)

I don't see a 'linking verb' so I assume that the adjective 'possible' is used attributively. (Question 3)

I can see that the adverb 'only' is modifying the following long-form adjective 'possible', but what would it mean if the adverb was replaced by a short-form adjective (I think two consecutive adjectives used attributively, maybe even predicatively, require the first adjective to be short-form. (Question 4)), therefore modifying the same noun 'possible' modifies, as in the following?

единственен возможным (Реттом Батлером)...

Since short-form adjectives are only used predicatively, would this be valid as there seemingly is no linking verb? (Question 5)

If I wrote it from scratch...

If I was going to make the sentence from scratch, can't both consecutive words единственно возможным actually be constructed attributively, as long-form adjectives (Question 6) and written as

_единственным возможным (Реттом Батлером)..._, 

as they both precede the noun (Ретт(ом) Батлер(ом)) they modify? (Question 7)

By this site, when to use the short form of an adjective?, I understand the temporal/permanence features of the long and short adjectives, and so there may be more permanence with 'only' in this case. (Question 8)

  • short adjectives are only possible in Nominal, since here we have Instrumental this form doesn't apply, that's besides its practical inapplicability to the adjective единственный Dec 9, 2018 at 19:26
  • 1
    i don't think it's useful to construe the adverb qualifying an adjective as another adjective, because while the adjective describes the noun the adverb describes the adjective, the construction can be presented as a sequence A+B+C where each member plays its unique role and which can't be replaced with a sequence B1+B2+C Dec 9, 2018 at 19:33
  • I'm using James S Levine Russian Grammar and I think all I see is that short adjectives are 'used predicatively after a linking verb, usually быть' Not sure if the author is implying Nominative only because he said 'usually'....
    – nate
    Dec 9, 2018 at 19:38
  • 2
    consider the English phrase unusually powerful ruler, where replacing the adverb unusually with the adjective unusual will ruin its meaning, because it's not the ruler who's unusual but the power he possesses Dec 9, 2018 at 19:38
  • 1

1 Answer 1


The Nominative case of the phrase under consideration is

единственно возможный Ретт Батлер

But the verb называть requires the following cases.

Называть кого-то/что-то (Accusative) кем-то/чем-то (Instrumental).

So, единственно is an adverb used as a particle, and единственно возможный/-ая/-ое is a set phrase. The word единственно has no declension.

The phrase единственно возможный is an attribute.

There are no short forms of anything in this sentence.

But still, we can discuss them. We can't replace единственно with единственен for two reasons.

First, we don't generally use this strange word. :) It sounds outdated and hard to say. And hard even to imagine where to be used betted than the full form единственный.

Second, in this phrase the notional characteristic is возможный, and единственно/единственный is a modifying word for it. In such cases it is pretty weird to use a short adjective. Besides, we can't shorten a particle.

However, it is possible to shorten the notional adjective, but usage of a shortened adjective requires some changes in the word order. A shortened adjective is not used attributively. The only variant possible is

Они считали, что такой вариант единственно возможен.

If we wanted to modify the phrase discussed, it could be единственный Ретт Батлер, который нам нравится, for example. Then, we could compose the phrase

"мы назвали Кларка Гейбла единственным Реттом Батлером, который нам нравится".


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.