Review the general parts of speech before plunging into Russian

Y o Y r there parts of speech?ou have probably heard the traditional definitions of the part of speech, e.g. that nouns are words that denote 'persons, places, or things' and verbs are words that denote actions. It probably occurred to you that, well, persons and places are things, so why not just 'nouns are words that denote things'? And sit and sleep are verbs but they hardly denote actions. In fact, nouns do represent concepts as things, verbs as actions or states, and adjectives as qualities. Take the concept 'quick', for example. It is basically an adjective, so it indicates a quality, i.e. a characteristic of something else. However, the same concept may be represented in the language as a noun (quickness), a verb (quicken), or as an adverb (quickly).

Adjective   Quick fingers, for example, are fingers with the suspicious quality or characteristic of quickness. 'Quick' is an adjective.
Noun   The noun, quickness, represents the same concept, quickness, as a thing, in this case an abstract thing but thing nonetheless.
Verb   In the phrase she quickened the pace the same concept turns up representing an action, so it must be a verb.
Adverb   Finally, in she quickly removed her cigar, the same concept represents a characteristic of an action. In this case it is an adverb.

These are semantic definitions of the major parts of speech. In Russian the parts of speech are also formally distinguished by different sets of endings. Nouns and adjectives have declensional endings which are distinct from each other and different from the verbal conjugation endings. The type of adverb described in the table is simply an adjective modifying a verb and usually sports a neutral, non-agreeing -o ending. The other type is the "Delimiter" (for which see below). So it is easy to distinguish the major parts of speech in Russian; they are both formally and semantically definable. Just follow the links to the formal definitions of the Russian parts of speech.

Pronouns might be divided up into 'pronouns', 'pro-verbs' (as opposed to 'proverbs', which none of them are), 'proadjectives', and 'proadverbs' because they belong formally and semantically to the major parts of speech classes. They are minor major parts of speech. He, she and it in English, for example replace nouns like John, the house, and the girl. Which, as in which book, replaces an adjective, e.g. the red book. Do in English is a kind of 'pro-verb', for it replaces any verb: What did you do? : I oversurfed.

The other minor parts of speech found in Russian include:

Pronouns words that replace nouns but also adjectives, adverbs, and verbs, e.g. I, you, he, she, it; this, that; there, where—and do is the English verbal pronoun
Prepositions things that explain the relations between the major parts of speech like in, on, to, for, betwixt and between
Conjunctionsthings that connect the major parts of speech or clauses within the sentence, such as if, and or but
Particles or Delimiters small items that add peripherally to the meaning like, well, like, so, too, and sorta

(Russian gets along fine without articles like English a and the, thank you. This is one of the reasons that is is so simple!)

grammatical terms for language learning in general may be found on Jerry Mead's 'Glossary Wizard'. Keep in mind that the rules on this page assume that you have already mastered the Basic Spelling Rules of Russian. learn how to form Russian verbs next, you must know the basic spelling rules of Russian and apply them after the rules discussed here are applied. If you are not sure of them, review them now before proceeding.

The basics of Russian pronunciation The Bucknell Russian Program Homepage The top of this page On-line Grammar Table of Contents The Russian Verb
1996 Robert Beard