Category: "Collective numbers"

Несколько

March 14th, 2011 — posted by Don

The Russian word for several is несколько. It is declined like this:

Nomнесколько
Acc
Genнескольких
Pre
Datнескольким
Insнесколькими

Most of the time the word is used in the nominative and accusative cases, in which case the noun phrase that follows it is in the genitive plural:

На столе лежало несколько книг. Several books were lying on the table.
У меня несколько близких друзей. I have several close friends
Я купил несколько вилок. I bought several forks.
Я увидел несколько страусиных яиц. I spotted several ostrich eggs.

It's possible to encounter the word in oblique cases as well; in such instances it is accompanied the a noun phrase in the plural of that case:

Продовольственный кризис 2007–2008 годов был спровоцирован неурожаем сразу в нескольких регионах мира. (adapted from this source) The food crisis of 2007-2008 was caused by crop failure in several regions of the world at the same time.
Сегодня мы вспоминаем об Андрее Миронове — замечательном актере, любимце нескольких поколений. (adapted from this source) Today we commemorate Andrei Mironov, the amazing actor, the favorite of several generations.
Для отправки сообщения нескольким получателям нужно перечислить их имена в полях «Кому», «Копия» и «Скрытая» через запятую. (source) To send a message to several recipients [at the same time] you need to list their names in the “To”, “CC” or “BCC” fields with a comma between [each name].
Нальчик был атакован несколькими группами боевиков. (source) Nalchik was attacked by several groups of commandos.

Часы

March 12th, 2010 — posted by Don

The word часы means a watch or a clock. It has no singular form, only plural; such nouns that lack singulars we label “pluralia tantum.” It declines likes this:

Pl
Nomчасы
Acc
Genчасов
Preчасах
Datчасам
Insчасами

Since the word only has plural forms, the pronouns that refer to it must also by in the plural:

Какие красивые часы! Где ты их купил? What a beautiful watch! Where did you buy it?
Я раньше не носил часов, но теперь я жить без них не могу. I didn't use to wear a watch, but now I can't live without one.
— Сколько сейчас времени?
— По моим часам уже два часа, но они часто отстают. Может быть и попозже.
“What time is it?”
“It's already two o'clock according to my watch, but it often runs slow so it might be a bit later.”
Мне нужны новые часы, мои старые всегда спешат. I need a new wach. My old one always runs fast.

Since the word only occurs in the plural, you might wonder how to say “one watch.” Easy: you use the plural of the number one!

— Сколько ты купил часов?
— Только одни часы и два ремешка к ним.
“How many watches did you buy?”
“Just one watch and two watchbands to go with it.”

If you are talking about two, three, or four watches, then двое, трое and четверо can be used:

Наша семья очень любит часы. У меня двое часов, у брата трое часов, а у сестры целых четверо. Our family really likes watches. I have two watches. My brother has three watches, and my sister has no less than four.¹

These collective numbers don't combine very well with the other ordinal numbers. That is, don't try to say something like:

двадцать одни часы twenty-one watches
двадцать двое часов twenty-two watches
двадцать трое часов twenty-three watches
двадцать четверо часов twenty-four watches

In these circumstances it is best to add the word штука ‘unit’ to the phrase:

Наш клуб купил двадцать одну штуку подарочных часов. Our club purchased twenty-one watches.
Наш клуб купил двадцать две штуки часов Our club purchased twenty-two watches.
Наш клуб купил двадцать три штуки часов Our club purchased twenty-three watches.
Наш клуб купил двадцать четыре штуки часов Our club purchased twenty-four watches.

Some Russians allow the use of the word пара ‘pair’ in place of штука:

Наш клуб купил двадцать одну пару часов. Our club purchased twenty-one watches.
Наш клуб купил двадцать две пары часов Our club purchased twenty-two watches.
Наш клуб купил двадцать три пары часов Our club purchased twenty-three watches.
Наш клуб купил двадцать четыре пары часов Our club purchased twenty-four watches.

I say “some Russians” because to some other Russians that type of phrase sounds like просторечье “substandard speech” (see Rosenthal's commentary). If you want to be sure you sound okay, use the штука approach.


¹ Yes, yes, I know that one properly is supposed to say “no fewer than four,” but frankly “no less than four” is the way most Americans will say it nowadays, even educated ones. “No fewer than four” sounds forced and unnatural, as if someone with a mediocre education is trying to prove that he isn't ignorant.