I was in the midst of trying to educate myself on "collective numerals" when I came across this:

To say that the usage of двое, трое, etc., is limited to the nominative case would be incorrect. Yet, there is no doubt that in many instances the oblique cases of два, три, четыре, etc., are definitely preferred.

From "Table of Collective Numerals," RussianLearn.com.

I am having difficulty understanding the excerpt above and part of the stumbling block is that I am really just guessing at what is meant by "oblique cases." I might still have difficulty understanding the passage, but attempts to comprehend it are stymied by the fact that my notion of "oblique cases" is somewhat nebulous. Are oblique cases all cases but the nominative? Or are they a subset of cases beyond the nominative? And, if so, which ones? I've tried searching for this information online, but have not seen anything yet that addresses this question.

  • Hey, it's easily googlable, why on earth is it nebulous? “Oblique cases” is a standard grammar term which means all the cases other than the nominative. If you wrote why you think in Russian it could be something different than in other languages, then your question would get a more detailed answer. If you don't trust grammar terms, why writing anything for you not to trust it? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oblique_case
    – Yellow Sky
    Nov 9, 2021 at 3:15
  • @YellowSky Fair enough, but among the languages included on that page, Russian is not one of them. Anyway, after cobbling together various fragments from several pages on "collective nouns," I have finally understood what I need to know in order to use proper declension with words such as двое, трое, et cetera. Nevertheless, in my defense, I must say that the first sentence on that Wikipedia page you left a link for (and, yes, I did see it before posting my question) is still rather confusing and, IMHO, worded somewhat poorly.
    – Lisa Beck
    Nov 9, 2021 at 4:20
  • @YellowSky Having said all that, I do sense oh, I don't know, bewilderment, irritation, condescension, and maybe even a bit of hostility in your comment, so, if I am correct, and you harbor such disdain for my question, by all means, make a motion to vote it off the island as it were.
    – Lisa Beck
    Nov 9, 2021 at 4:36
  • @YellowSky I could do as you suggested and try to incorporate into my question this Wikipedia page you find so relevant and informative, and perhaps I would if it was such an enlightening page and the only thing left out of the equation was whether or not it applied to the Russian language. But, it seems to be written for fellow linguists rather than your average student of Russian who just wants to know what the oblique cases might be referring to, in general, with respect to the Russian language. In the meantime, perhaps some other member of this community has a different reaction to it.
    – Lisa Beck
    Nov 9, 2021 at 4:45

1 Answer 1


Answering your question: in Russian, all cases except the nominative are considered oblique (косвенные падежи). The "direct case", as opposed to oblique ones, is the one you put the subject into.

In other languages, cases other than nominative can serve as subjects. Those usually include the vocative and sometimes the accusative in nominative-accusative languages (compare English colloquial "me and Bill went to the store").

The excerpt you're quoting is a somewhat clumsy way of saying something among those lines:

Many say that you can use the collective numerals двое, трое etc only in nominative, and with all other cases you should use the cardinal numerals два, три etc. This is not exactly right. You can put the collective numerals like двое, трое into all cases. However, with cases other than nominative, the usage of cardinal numerals like два, три is indeed preferred.

  • Beautiful answer ... your rewording of that excerpt really added a nice touch. And, oh, by the way, guess who I put in position #1 in the Moderator Election I just voted in? You've got some competition, to be sure, but when I took a closer look, it had to be you in the #1 slot. Best of luck to you. This Stack Exchange wouldn't be the same without you.
    – Lisa Beck
    Nov 9, 2021 at 5:44

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