The Negative Pronouns

In Russian, pronouns are words that substitute for nouns or adjectives. The negative pronouns никто, ничто, некого, нечего, никакой, ничей, нисколько are used to talk about absent or nonexistent things and people.

Consider these examples:

  • В доме ничего нет.
  • (There is nothing at home.)
  • Он никого не знает.
  • (He doesn't know anybody.)

There are many more negative pronouns than listed above. You can make up your own Russian negative pronouns once you know how they are formed. You should be familiar with the interrogative pronouns from our previous lessons.

How to form Russian negative pronouns

The negative pronouns are formed from the interrogative pronouns with the help of such prefixes as не- and ни-. For example:

Interrogative pronoun Negative pronoun
кто никто
сколько нисколько
что нечто
когда некогда

Note that не- is always stressed. It is used to negate. On the contrary, the prefix ни- is never stressed. It is used to intensify negation. Here are some examples:

Я ничего не делал.
I was doing nothing.
ни- is used to intensify the negation formed by the verb делал and the particle не.
Мне нечего делать.
I have nothing to do.

нe-
is used to show that an action can not be performed because there is no an object (i.e. there is nothing to do)

Changes by cases, gender, and number

The negative pronouns никто, ничто change by cases like their interrogative counterparts кто, что.

Change by cases

Case никто ничто
Nominative никто ничто
Genitive никого ничего
Dative никому ничему
Accusative никого ничего
Instrumental никем ничем
Prepositional ни о ком ни о чём

The negative pronouns некого, нечего do not have the nominative form.

Change by cases

Case некого нечего
Nominative
Genitive некого нечего
Dative некому нечему
Accusative некого нечто
Instrumental некем нечем
Prepositional не с кем не о чем

The negative pronouns никакой, ничей change by gender and number.

Singular masculine Singular neuter Singular feminine Plural (any gender)
никакой никакое никакая никакие
ничей ничьё ничья ничьи

These pronouns change by cases the same way as negative pronouns they were formed from.

Change by cases

Case никакой ничей
Nominative никакой ничей
Genitive никакого ничьего
Dative никакому ничьему
Accusative никого (animate)
никакой (inanimate)
ничьего (animate)
ничей (inanimate)
Instrumental никаким ничьим
Prepositional ни о каком ни о чьём

The pronouns некого, нечего are used in impersonal sentences, i.e. those that do not refer to a particular person or thing. For example:

  • Нам некого и нечего бояться.
  • (We have nobody and nothing to fear.)

Negative pronouns with prepositions

When used with prepositions, the negative pronouns fall into two parts. The preposition is to be placed between the particle не and ни and corresponding interrogative pronoun (кого, кем, etc.). For example:

Nominative Pronoun with preposition Example
никого ни у кого Ни у кого нет книги.
(Nobody has a book.)
некого не у кого Мне не у кого спросить.
(I have nobody to ask.)
некому не к кому Ему не к кому обратиться.
(He has nobody to address to.)
никем ни с кем Он ни с кем не хочеть дружить.
(He does not want to be friends with anybody.)

Stress patterns

Finally, there are some more examples to demonstrate the stress patterns. Remember, that in Russian negative pronuns, the ни part is never stressed, while the не part is always stressed. Compare the following sentences:

не ни
Некому приехать к родителям.
(There is nobody to visit parents.)
Никому не надо приезжать.
(Nobody has to visit.)
Ребёнку не с кем играть.
(The child has nobody to play with.)
Ребёнок ни с кем не хочет играть.
(The child does not want to play with anybody.)
Мне нечем рисовать.
(I have nothing to draw with.)
Я ничем не хочу рисовать.
(I do not want to draw with anyting.)






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