I was given these sentences here so they can show me how flexible the sentence structure in the Russian language is (these sentences are supposedly similar):

  1. Кошка поймала мышь.

  2. Мышь поймала кошка.

  3. Поймала кошка мышь.

  4. Кошка мышь поймала.

  5. Мышь кошка поймала.

  6. Поймала мышь кошка.

For sentence number 2. it sounds more like the mouse caught the cat, even when I put it in Google Translate, Yandex translate, it says that the mouse caught the cat, and also I tried to make out sentences 3-6 but they just don't make sense.

Out of those sentences what is the first one you think of as a russian? i was told the most common was Subject-Verb-Object, which would be 1)

  • For 2) to be "the mouse caught the cat", it should be "мышь поймала кошку". Also, all that flexibility breaks with words which were borrowed more recently and don't get inflected, for example, "фламинго кинкажу поймал".
    – Headcrab
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 1:12
  • i'm not saying it's meant to be "the mouse caught the cat" , i'm saying it sounds like that.
    – Almonds812
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 1:20
  • 2
    But it does sound exactly like you're trying to say that mouse has caught a cat, only you're saying it incorrectly. Otherwise it sounds like Yoda-speak. Russian is not THAT flexible when it comes to the sentence structure. 5) and 6) also sound like Yoda-speak, and very much so. Only the first one sounds 100% regular. 3) is structured in way that will fit a children's poem or a fairy tale, but will sound odd in regular speech. 4) is Ok, but sounds a bit over-elaborate.
    – AR.
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 6:35
  • @AR. no, I can confirm - Russian is sufficiently flexible, and all these sentences are completely valid, and all of them have the same literal meaning, but slightly different accents on different words. For example, (3) could be used in something akin to a tale: "once upon a time (как-то раз), поймала кошка мышь". Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 21:42
  • 1
    And I can confirm otherwise. Just because you CAN do it, doesn't mean you SHOULD. Valid doesn't mean good. Despite technically being correct, those are mostly Yoda-like sentences.
    – AR.
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 4:44

4 Answers 4


For sentence number 2) it sounds more like the mouse caught the cat

No. A question chain here is:

         what has
  whom?   done?   
 ┌────┐  ┌────┐
 ▼    │  ▼    │ who?
Мышь поймала кошка

thus, мышь is an object and кошка is a subject. Now I will explain why I decided so.

See, here are three noun categories called declensions; each one has its own set of per-case and per-gender endings. The table below briefly explains the matter:

Table of declension of nouns in the Russian language

What can we take from the table?

  • мышь is 3rd declension where nominative and accusative have the same ending;
  • кошка is 1st declension with clear inter-case difference.

As a result, we skip мышь as an ambiguous word and rely solely on кошка that clearly is nominative, hence a subject. And by exclusion method мышь becomes an object.

So if Google Translate and Yandex turned the meaning inside out, it means they do not use such deep exclusion-based analysis, just caught the first ending and customized the rest of a sentence.

Side note: question chains is a great deal to mark up sentences. It allows you to easily associate six pairs of hint questions in English with a small bunch of endings, associated with individual genders and declensions. The endings though may be learned not directly but via sample words.

  • 1
    Maybe it will help to mention that we could use "мышка" instead of "мышь" to eliminate the ambiguity since "мышка" has different declension endings: in these sentences we will need to say "мышку" and everything will be clear. The whole initial example is around the word "мышь" which introduces all this ambiguity which is usually not present in such phrases.
    – ps_ttf
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 8:32

1,3,4 are the best to my mind. The first is neutral. The third introduces a story. The fourth is the most expressive way to underline the object. But all sentences are valid and can be used in certain situations.In numbers 4,5,6 мышь is stressed.

3)Поймала кошка мышь.(once upon a time a cat caught a mouse)

4) Кошка мышь поймала.(It was a mouse this time that a cat caught)mouse is stressed.

  • In english how would 3 and 4 be translated
    – Almonds812
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 4:57

2 is a tough case to understand straight, I don't think it's ever used. I can propose a context that can make it somewhat plausible:

"Ну что там поймала кошка?"

"Мышь! Мышь поймала кошка."


All the sentences mean the same, the choice depends on many things, like context, rhythm, style, etc..

In English just somebody eats somebody, and it's the word order which defines the subject and the object. But in Russian the subject is expressed by a noun or a pronoun in the Nominative case, whereas the object requires any other case but Nominative. And that case is defined by the verb. So, we can see, that in Russian the syntactic relations between words are not necessarily expressed by the word order.

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