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Take a clearly inanimate masculine noun, say подсолнух, and put it in a fable with anthropomorphic features. Now how should I put it in accusative?

Мы видели высокий подсолнух, когда он пришёл.....

Or

Мы видели высокого подсолнуха, когда он пришёл.....

подсолнух

  • Have a look at this discussion (and the links inside): How should I inflect animate nouns when - things are getting rather complicated when it comes to anthropomorphizing inanimate objects... – tum_ Mar 2 at 23:07
  • I like this question – Quassnoi Mar 2 at 23:10
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A flower is always a flower, a plant, and all the names of plant species are inanimate in Russian irrespective of how many anthropomorphic features the plant has, even in a fable, which means it will always have the Accusative case not equal to the Genitive case.

However, if Подсолнух is a proper name of a human, of a sentient plant with anthropomorphic features, or of any other animate being, then 1) it will be capitalized (Подсолнух), and 2) its Accusative case will be equal to the Genitive case.

Note, if you introduce подсолнух as a species different from the sunflower plant, e.g. if it will be, say, the name of an alien sentient species, then it will be used as animate, Accusative = Genitive. But in this case it will not be the same word as the usual Russian word подсолнух, the two words will be homonyms, and as the author you'll have to put effort into explaining the difference between the two species.

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  • I never read the original in Italian but I'd speculate that the translator(s) of Le avventure di Cipollino by Gianni Rodari had to solve a very similar task. All the characters there are various fruits and vegetables. In Russian translation they are all capitalized and treated as animate nouns. I also think that a genuine Russian fable would probably avoid such characters in the first place or... – tum_ Mar 2 at 23:37
  • .. would introduce some human names for all of them to avoid the grammatical inconveniences... – tum_ Mar 2 at 23:38
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    @tum_ - In Italian all those characters have their plant species names as their proper names which are capitalized, like in Russian translations. They behave exactly like humans, there's actually no difference from humans. A quite different situation would be in a fable about a war between, say, oaks and maples, trees growing in the forest, but that are able to talk and that have names like John, Billy, Mary, etc. "John the oak killed two maples" – "убил два клёна" (inan.) or "убил двух клёнов" (anim.) – this choice is really problematic, I'd choose the former, inanimate. – Yellow Sky Mar 2 at 23:55
  • @YellowSky another example - "убивает все микробы" from some advertisement – ratschbumm Mar 3 at 7:25
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The word "подсолнух" in accusative has the same form as in nominative - "подсолнух", without ending -a. "Мы видели - кого? что? - подсолнух". Not "подсолнуха", that would be a genitive form.

I see you're talking about anthropomorphic sunflower in a fairy tale setting, but I still wouldn't add -a ending because it's still a talking sunflower, not a human nicknamed Подсолнух, for example.

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