Russian cases

There are as many as six cases in the Russian language: именительный (nominative), родительный (genitive), дательный (dative), винительный (accusative), творительный (instrumental), and предложный (prepositional). They are used to indicate which function a word fulfills in a sentence; each of the cases answers its own questions and has a distinct rule of word endings. If you struggle to remember the six cases, you can use this phrase: Иван Родил Девчонку, Велел Тащить Пеленку (Ivan had a baby and asked to bring a diaper). Though making many schoolers giggle, it’s made up of words that start with the first letter of each case, such as И for Именительный or Р for Родительный, and therefore make it easier to remember their order.


As you know, Russian words have different endings depending on which case they are in – but there's still no hard-and-fast rule you can apply at any time. Therefore, it can be challenging, especially with similar words like носки (socks) and чулки (stockings). There is one trick you can use if you struggle to use these words in genitive – pay attention to the length of the hosiery (yeah, you got us right): носки are shorter, so their genitive form is longer (even if only by a margin of one letter) while чулки are longer, so their genitive form should be shorter.

Example: Я хочу купить две пары носков (I want to buy two pairs of socks) – Я хочу купить две пары чулок (I want to buy two pairs of stockings).

Here’s a handy phrase in Russian to remember it better: Носки короткие – слово длинное: носков; чулки длинные – слово короткое: чулок. Though it’s now okay to say носок for the plural form in genitive, the preferred form is still носков.

-Цы, not -ци

In Russian, one must write И after Ц in the roots of all words (e.g., цирк or цитата), except for some, which can be easily memorized with this funny-sounding phrase: цыган на цыпочках цыпленку цыкнул “цыц” (a gypsy on tiptoe tutted “shh” to a chicken). If you do memorize it, you will never forget that цыплёнок, цыган, цыкнуть, цыц, and цыпочки have the letter Ы, not И.

No -ь after sibilants

Other exceptions you can find when studying adverbs and their endings: adverbs typically end with Ь after hushing sounds – but it’s not always the case. You will immediately recall that there is no Ь at the end of the words замуж, невтерпёж, and уж if you already know the colloquial phrase уж замуж невтерпеж ([I] can’t wait to get married) – something a young woman who has an urge to get married could say.

Similar words

Russian is rich with paronyms, words that sound and are written similarly but mean different things. For instance, the clothes-related verbs надеть and одеть, which are often mixed up by Russians themselves, too, aren’t interchangeable: you use the first one when you want to put some piece of clothes on, but the second one is correct to say when you help someone do that. Here is how you can efficiently remember when to use what: Надеть одежду, одеть Надежду (To put on clothes but to dress Nadezhda). 

Word stress

Let’s be honest, word stress in Russian is pain, with more exceptions than rules altogether. It can not only be on any syllable in a word, but it can also change in different forms of the word and even alter with time. There are some words that for this or that reason cause the most confusion for learners and natives alike, one of which is the word то́рты (a plural form of то́рт, which has one syllable and so no stress-related problems). Не налезли шо́рты – Часто ели то́рты (Shorts don’t fit – too many cakes have been eaten) is an excellent phrase that will help you memorize that it’s то́рты and not торты́ – and that too many cakes aren’t always a good thing.

Mnemonic devices aren’t the only memorization technique out there. You can find more useful tips and tricks in our story on mnemotechnics here.