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Sorry to ask this question in English but my Russian isn't good enough yet to write about grammar.

Please consider the following sentences:

Мне нужна еда.

Мне нужно больше еды.

I don't understand why in the first sentence нужна (which I assume is the feminine short form of the adjective нужный) agrees in gender with еда whereas it doesn't in the second sentence.

I don't know whether нужно in this case is the neuter short form of нужный, or the invariable predicative adverb нужно.

I would greatly appreciate it if someone could explain to me the reasons behind that difference. Thank you in advance for your time!

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  • It’s really difficult to explain but we just talk like this 😂 The first sentence emphasis that food is necessary/needed The second one- I need more food Jan 25 at 18:06
  • @anna-rus-teacher it's not that difficult to explain, and you can check Sergey's answer as an example of how it can be done - also, you are not answering the question, it's not what OP asked, so I'm turning this into a comment.
    – shabunc
    Jan 25 at 18:14
  • Unfortunately while I appreciate Sergey's answer, it doesn't really let me know exactly what the word "нужна/o" is in those sentences! I'm really curious to know if it's some kind of predicative adjective (in which case it sorta makes sense that it would agree in gender) or a predicative adverb (which I thought were invariable). Русская грамматика иногда немного разлагающая... Jan 25 at 18:33
  • I myself am Russian, but I also do not know the answer to this question
    – ekkeee
    Jan 26 at 8:29
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As Sergey Slepov in his answer correctly noted, the subject of the first sentence is еда which is feminine so the predicate нужна agrees with the subject in the feminine. The things are quite different in the second sentence which is impersonal. The predicate of the 2nd sentence is нужно which means “[it is] needed”, the subject is implicit, мне is the Dative indirect object (“for whom?”), больше еды is another object where еды is in Genitive as it always is the case after больше.

The reason why нужно is in the Neuter gender is because it (as agreeable predicates always do) agrees in gender with the subject which is оно despite the fact that the subject is omitted. There are tons of similar constructions in Russian:

Плохо, когда холодно. — It's bad when it's cold.

Мне весело, если вокруг всем хорошо. — I'm happy if everyone around is alright.

In languages with cases, like Russian or Latin, first you've got to find the predicate of the sentence. Then you look for the Nominative subject (it can well be implicit, omitted in Russian, then you assume the subject is *оно ‘it’). Then look for objects, the direct object is in the Accusative case.

Больше еды cannot be the subject of the 2nd sentence, since it is in the Genitive case (Partitive Genitive, to be more specific), consider substituting it with another noun phrase:

Мне нужно денег.

Мне нужно воды.

Мне нужно дружеского взаимопонимания.

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The subject of the first sentence is еда which is feminine so the predicate agrees with the subject in the feminine.

The subject of the second sentence is больше еды. Adverbs such as много, мало (больше is the comparative of много) don't really have a gender of their own and when the need arises the predicate often takes the neuter form.

I don't know if "нужно" in this case is the neuter short form of "нужный", or the invariable predicative adverb "нужно".

I sometimes wonder about the same thing. The more I think of it, I come to the conclusion, does it really matter? The end result is the same. :)

An even more peculiar question is what number to use when много or мало denote a collection:

  • Много студентов пришло на лекцию.
  • Немного студентов решили задачу.

A few related links:

https://metodika-rki.livejournal.com/230607.html http://new.gramota.ru/spravka/letters/64-bolshinstvo

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  • Do you mean the subject can be in the Genitive case?..
    – Yellow Sky
    Jan 25 at 21:18
  • @YellowSky, the subject is больше which governs еды. Jan 25 at 22:13
  • Although one could say Мне нужно еды in which case I would have to admit that the subject is in the genitive/partitive case. Jan 25 at 22:28
  • Thank you very much for taking the time to write such a detailed answer! The links you provided are unfortunately too complex for me to be able to read them, but I appreciate it regardless. If нужно agrees in gender in those sentences, I'm guessing the only possibility is that it is as an adjective, since predicative adverbs (to my knowledge) don't agree in gender. Jan 26 at 12:05
  • @LouisFavier, I agree with YellowSky's answer. Нужно is an adverb serving as the predicate of the sentence and больше еды is an object. Saying it was a subject in the genitive case was plain heresy on my side. I suggest you give YellowSky's answer the green check mark. Jan 27 at 18:09

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