Collective Numbers in Russian

In Russian, collective numerals are used to talk about a group of people or animals as a whole. There are not many collective numbers in Russian. Some of them are:

двое - two [DVOH-yeh]
трое - three [TROH-yeh]
четверо - four [CHYET-vee-rah]
пятеро - five [PYAH-tee-rah]
шестеро - six [SHYES-tee-rah]
семеро - seven [SYEH-mee-rah]

Learning collective numbers will help you expand your Russian vocabulary and further improve your understanding of the Russian grammar. To notice the difference in meaning between the cardinal and collective numbers, let's look at the following example:

Два друга живут в разных домах. Двое братьев живут в одном доме.
(Two friends live in separate houses.) (Two brothers live in one house.)
Use cardinal numeral:
because the friends live separately
Use collective numbers:
because the people are brothers and live in one house

Forming the Collective Numbers

Russian collective numbers are formed from corresponding cardinal numbers with the help of such suffixes as -о- and -ер-. For example:

два --> двое [DVOH-yeh]
три --> трое [TROH-yeh]
четыре --> четверо [CHYET-vee-rah]

All collective numbers in Russian change by cases (i.e. decline). Let's take a look at how the numbers двое and четверо decline.

Declension of двое and четверо
(stressed vowels are underlined)

Case Numeral
двое
Numeral
четверо
Nominative двое четверо
Genitive двоих четверых
Dative двоим четверым
Accusative двоих - animate
двое - inanimate
четверых - animate
четверо - inanimate
Instrumental двоими четверыми
Prepositional (о) двоих (о) четверых

Using the Russian Collective Numbers

The Russian grammar has several rules about proper usage of the collective numbers. The collective numbers can be used:

  1. With masculine nouns

    четверо учеников - four students
    четверо отдыхающих - four holiday-makers (vacationers)
    трое гостей - three guests

  2. With nouns designating children and young animals

    двое детей - two children
    семеро ребят - seven children
    семеро козлят - seven small goats
    четверо волчат - seven small wovles

  3. With nouns which are always plural

    трое людей - three people
    двое суток - two days
    четверо ножниц - four scissors
    двое очков - two pairs of glasses

Collective numbers are not used with feminine nouns (except обе). You should always say две сестры (two sisters), четыре реки (four rivers), etc.

There are two more collective numbers you should know about: оба and обе. Unlike the rest of the collective numbers, these numbers can be used with nouns of all three genders.

The number оба is used with the masculine and neuter nouns. It has the letter o in the stem when you decline it.

Declension of оба
(stressed vowels are underlined)

Case Numeral
оба

(both boys)
Nominative оба мальчика
Genitive обоих мальчиков
Dative обоим мальчикам
Accusative обоих мальчиков
Instrumental обоими мальчиками
Prepositional (об) обоих мальчиках

The numeral обе is used with feminine nouns and has the letter e in the stem when you decline it.

Declension of обe
(stressed vowels are underlined)

Case Numeral
обe

(both girls)
Nominative обе девочки
Genitive обеих девочек
Dative обеим девочкам
Accusative обеих девочек
Instrumental обеими девочками
Prepositional (об) обеих девочках

This concludes the lesson about Russian collective numbers. You may want to study the following grammar lessons to better understand how to use the numbers in Russian.

Related lessons

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