Russian Sentence Structure
How to arrange words in Russian
Your next step in learning Russian is to learn how to build sentences. It's quite easy, given the fact that Russian grammar allows you to put the subject, object, and the verb in any combination.
Due to the flexibility of the Russian language, many students of Russian find it difficult construct sentences. In other words, students may find it easy to understand Russian, but find it difficult to speak the language itself. This is also called Receptive Bilingualism. It just takes a little practice and dedication to start being able to put together sentences easily.
This article will help you:
- Compose a sentence from words that you already know
- Develop an intuition for spelling, memory, and speech
- Find logic and strategy in building Russian sentences
Various Russian learning resources state that the Russian sentences can be ordered in any way without rules. This can also be called "free word order". This is a myth. There is no such thing as free word order in Russian. This can be confusing because you will often encounter sentences like these:
I Love You in Russian
- Я тебя люблю
- Я люблю тебя
- Люблю тебя я
- Люблю я тебя
- Тебя я люблю
- Тебя люблю я
A boy is reading a book in Russian.
- Мальчик читает книгу
- Мальчик книгу читает
- Книгу читает мальчик
- Книгу мальчик читает
- Читает мальчик книгу
- Читает книгу мальчик
All of these sentences translate the same in English. They all have the same meaning, words, and length. While it may seem that word order does not matter in Russian, these sentences differ from each other in emotion and accentuation.
Word order types
There are a few common word order types in Russian. We'll cover two in this guide: Neutral / Objective and Inverted / Emphatic / Subjective.
Neutral / Objective word order
Neutral / Objective is a default word order in the Russian language. It's the most common word order that you'll encounter when you're starting to learn Russian. You usually build your skills by practicing and understanding the neutral word order.
Neutral / Objective word order does not give you any additional information. It usually allows your to build a small sentence like: I love you and A boy is reading a book. If you are new to Russian, this is the perfect place to start learning how to structure Russian sentences together. Learn the basics, follow the rules, and then learn how to construct more complex sentences with different word orderings.
Inverted / Emphatic / Subjective word order
We use the Inverted / Emphatic / Subjective word order to accentuate emotion, deliver new information, and/or focus on the intonation.
|Word order||Russian sentence||English translation|
|Neutral / Objective||мальчик читает книгу||A boy is reading a book|
|Inverted / Emphatic / Subjective||мальчик книгу читает||A boy is reading the book|
Note: The first sentence translates to English simply as the boy is reading a book (it can be any book in general). The second sentence however, emphasizes that the boy is the book (not a newspaper nor an article, but specifically the book).
Words that have fixed positions in sentences
Some words' positions can never be changed in a sentence. Changing their positions in a sentence will make the sentence invalid grammatically. Below are a few examples:
|Adjectives always precede nouns in every sentence|
|Russian sentence||English translation||Adjective example|
|У меня большой дом||I have a big house||большой / Big|
|Эта красивая кошка||This is a beautiful cat||красивая / beautiful|
|Noun modifiers (other than adjectives) must follow after nouns|
|Russian sentence||English translation||Noun modifier|
|Я выгуливаю собаку сестры||I am walking my sister’s dog||сестры / Sister’s|
|Мне нравится эта статья в журнале||I like the article in the magazine||в журнале / In the magazine|
Note: If you remove the noun modifiers in the above examples, it will make the sentences incorrect.
Sentence patterns for beginners
If you're just starting to learn how to put sentences together in Russian, the below examples will help. These are simple sentence patterns that you can use to communicate with Russian speakers.
1. I have ______
To say that you have something, you can use the following:
У меня _____ (put the word in the blank)
У меня есть _____ (put the word in the blank)
Note: You can use both, У меня _____ and У меня есть _____ when describing what you have. In normal speech, Russian speakers omit есть (have). The sentence that starts with У меня already assumes the verb in itself, thus negating the necessity of the verb есть.
|У меня есть интересная книга / I have an interesting book|
|Меня / I||есть / have||Интересная / interesting||книга / book|
|У меня простуда / I have a cold|
|Меня / I||*assumed||простуда / Cold|
2. I am going _____
Я иду _____ (put the word in the blank)
|Я иду на отпуск / I am going on a vacation|
|Я / I||Иду / am going||на / on||отпуск / vacation|
3. I like _____
Мне нравится _____ (put the word in the blank)
|Мне нравится плавание / I like swimming|
|Меня / I||нравится / like||плавание / swimming|
There are more ways to put Russian sentences together but the above examples can help you get started. Make sure to try various alternatives of these examples. Write them down, speak them out, and imagine that you're talking to somebody.