1

In the following sentence:

В детской мало (вещь).

I'm not sure if I should use genitive singular (вещи) or genitive plural (вещей). If I understand it correctly, nouns after много/мало/несколько/сколько should be genitive plural, unless it is a collective noun (e.g. воды, времени). But I'm not sure if вещь is considered as such noun. At least in my dictionary, both singular and plural conjugations are listed, but so are the entries for вода or время.

So is it вещи or вещей?

4

Plural.

There is nothing special about this word. The distinction is very similar (if not the same) to the English countable/uncountable nouns. "Вещь", in its plain literal meaning, is obviously countable, and so should be plural.

мало вещей

мало игрушек

мало игр

but

мало воздуха

мало пространства

мало света

Occasionally, you can have both, with different meaning:

мало газа/газов

Of course, in English, you also use "few" vs. "little" in these cases; in Russian, the word is the same, but the opposition still exists.

I suspect the source of your confusion comes from this thing. The thing is, the word "thing" is (ab)used in English for many things. Not so (much) in Russian: "вещь" is mostly literally "an item". It can be used like in English, as a placeholder subject, but this is more often than not a poor style; often an calque from English. Usually you want to avoid it.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in our philosophy.

Есть многое на свете, друг Горацио,

что и не снилось нашим мудрецам

Still, even in such cases "thing" is countable. But the whole expression "many things" = "многое" is not.

Many uncountable nouns still have a plural form, just like in English, and so are listed in your dictionary. They usually represent classes of things of abstract concepts:

воды (pl.) ~ waters (though usage is a bit different)

времена ~ times (very similar usage, e.g. "those times" "те времена")

0

It is plural i.e. мало вещей. Because actually in Russian it works quite similar to English with an exception that word "мало" means "few" or "a little bit (of)" but always works like the latter: it requires genetive case ("of" in Russian is replaced with genetive) and plural (few things not few thing, right?).

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