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When to use the genitive or the accusative in negative sentences

I've read somewhere that after a negation, the Genitive is more common for the object being negated.

When should I use the Genitive case and when the Accusative case? Or other cases?

I suppose one rule is the Animated/Inanimated distinction, but I'd like the answers to shed some light on this too.

  • 1
    One way this used is to express the lack of something. If you don't have any money, you'd say у меня нет денег. The idea of this "negative genitive", from the viewpoint of English, is that the lack of something means you have "none of" it and that "of" is a flag for genitive.
    – KCd
    Jul 2, 2012 at 5:13
  • @KCd Good point! But let's not use English as a comparison. I'm saying this because we can't always use English to compare and it's only confusing. Let's stick to Russian. :D
    – Alenanno
    Jul 2, 2012 at 10:13
  • That we can't always use English for comparisons doesn't mean it should never be used. Although in this case the comparison is really kind of stretched; I was just trying to convey how I made sense of the Russian negative genitive in English because English is my native language. I see from your information page that this isn't the case for you, so I understand why such an analogy might not seem as useful. Anyway, the main point of my previous comment was that the genitive often appears in negative statements when expressing that something is missing. This is consistent with Armen's answer.
    – KCd
    Jul 2, 2012 at 14:11
  • @KCd I totally understood your comparison and it made sense to me (I'm quite fluent in English). But what I meant is that this is not a straight path: you'll come across another analogy that doesn't work. Or that may be a coincidence. That was my point. But your comparison did work this time.
    – Alenanno
    Jul 2, 2012 at 14:16
  • I think the animate/inanimate distinction is not directly relevant to the use of the genitive case in forming negative statements. There are just a few cases in total, so necessarily each is used for multiple "reasons" across the language, and in particular the fact that the accusative case has the form of the genitive case for animate nouns as direct objects is largely a separate role for the genitive than its use in the formation of negative sentences.
    – KCd
    Jul 2, 2012 at 14:18

1 Answer 1


Usually, nothing changes when negating any part of the sentence:

The predicate:

Я люблю шокалад. I like chocolate.

Я не люблю шоколад. I don't like chocolate.

The subject:

Не я люблю шоколад (, а она). It's not me that likes chocolate(, it's her).

The object

Я люблю не шоколад(, а какао). It's not chocolate that I like(, but cocoa)

The cases remain the same regardless if it's the direct object or indirect.

The difference occurs when the verb is есть, explicitly or implicitly, which, when negated, becomes нет, which requires genitive.


У меня есть сестра. I have a sister.

У меня нет сестры. I don't have a sister.


Мне двадцать два года. I am twenty-two years old.

Мне нет двадцати двух лет. I am younger than twenty-two years old.

Мне не двадцать два года. I am not twenty-two years old.

The difference between the last two examples is that in the first sentence the implicit verb is negated and becomes нет and thus requires genitive, whereas in the second example, the implicit verb remains implicit, and 22 is negated, so nothing changes, you just add не to the part you negate, in this case, the numeral. Hope this helps.

  • So the genitive is only used with the negation of есть?
    – Alenanno
    Jul 2, 2012 at 13:23
  • @Alenanno: Yes, the difference seems to occur only then. I am not aware of the rule, but all the examples I try in my head seem to lead to this conclusion. Do you perhaps have any counterexamples? Jul 2, 2012 at 13:25
  • @Alenanno: The genitive can be used in a lot of other cases, but it would be used in the affirmative sentence as well. E.g. Я хочу воды, я не хочу воды, не я хочу воды, я хочу не воды. Jul 2, 2012 at 13:26
  • Not really but I found this example online: Я знаю город vs. Я не знаю города... Is the example useful or it doesn't mean anything related to your answer?
    – Alenanno
    Jul 2, 2012 at 13:29
  • @Alenanno: Ah yes, I was just thinking about another example "Прошел час" vs. "не прошло и часа". It seems that these are really rare cases, more of fixed expressions, maybe. For example, if I replace город in your example with страна, it will comply with the rules I mentioned - Я знаю эту страну, я не знаю эту страну. I'll try to find the rule, and if successful, update my answer with these cases also. Jul 2, 2012 at 13:32

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