by Don  

The most common Russian word for five is пять, which declines like this:


When пять occurs in oblique cases (oblique means a case other than nominative or accusative), it works pretty well like we would expect from a theoretical point of view; that is, it declines as we would expect and the noun it quantifies shows up in the same case in the plural:

Gen Мы там работали около пяти часов. We worked there around five hours.
Pre Мы поговорили о пяти книгах. We talked about five books.
Dat Я подошёл к пяти иностранцам. I walked up to five foreigners.
Ins Я работаю с пятью америкосами. I work with five Yanks.

Now here's the weird part... If пять is part of a nominative case number phrase or an accusative case number phrase, then the noun it quantifies shows up in the genitive plural:

Во дворе играли пять мальчиков. Five boys were playing in the courtyard.
Я купил пять столов. I bought five tables.

I know, I know. You are wondering why. The answer of course is that the Russians do this for security purposes: by making the language complicated, it's easier to identify foreign spies...

Note: америкос is a mildly condescending word for Americans.


Comment from: Karina [Visitor]

Correct forms: for Dat - пятью, Ins - пяти!

Don responds: Most likely you are thinking of the traditional Russian schoolbook order of presenting the declensions. This blog uses the linguistic order, which is more rational in its presentation of the data. You can find a discussion contrasting the two systems here. The forms пяти (gen, pre, dat) and пятью (ins) are correct.

04/15/12 @ 03:49
Comment from: john mcenaney [Visitor]

aha…you finally admitted it!!! Its what I have thought since I started studying this language.

with these little teeeny nuances, a spy is caught!!!!
i love it!!!

02/18/11 @ 08:38

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