Comparison of nouns in English and Russian languages



Chapter I Morphological features of nouns

1.1 Classification of nouns in English

1.2 Morphological characteristics of Nouns

1.3 Morphological composition of Nouns

Chapter II Comparison of Nouns in English and Russian languages

2.1 The category of number of Nouns in English and in Russian languages

2.2 The category of case of Nouns in English and in Russian language

2.3 The functions of Nouns in English and in Russian languages






Language is a social phenomenon and every language has its own grammar. For many centuries such famous scholars as B. Illyish, M. Y. Blokh, O. Jesperson and many others had investigated the problem of parts of speech, that causes great controversies both in general linguistic theory and in the analysis of separate languages. And the main question that had interested them was noun as a part of speech.

The word "noun" comes from the Latin nomen meaning "name." Word classes like nouns were first described by Sanskrit grammarian Panini and ancient Greeks like Dionysios Thrax, and defined in terms of their morphological properties. For example, in Ancient Greek, nouns can be inflected for grammatical case, such as dative or accusative. Verbs, on the other hand, can be inflected for tenses, such as past, present or future, while nouns cannot. (14, 31)

In traditional school grammars, one often encounters the definition of nouns that they are all and only those expressions that refer to a person, place, thing, event, substance, quality, or idea, etc. This is a semantic definition. It has been criticized by contemporary linguists as being quite uninformative. Part of the problem is that the definition makes use of relatively general nouns ("thing," "phenomenon," "event") to define what nouns are. The existence of such general nouns shows us that nouns are organized in taxonomic hierarchies.(10, 67)

In the prevailing Modern English terminology the terms "noun" and "substantive" are used as synonyms. According to an earlier view, the term "noun" was understood to cover all nominal parts of speech, including substantives, adjectives, pronouns, and numerals, thus corresponding to the Russian term имя.

According to the existence of differences and similarities in English and in Russian we had revealed in our course paper the morphological features of nouns, it’s classification and had done the comparison between English and Russian languages, which are important for Modern English.

The theme of our course paper is "Comparison of nouns in English and Russian languages".

The aim of investigation is to give more understandable and interesting information about the nouns in English and Russian languages and to find out similarities and differences between them.

Object: the category of case and number of nouns in English and Russian

Subject: the grammar of English and Russian languages

The objectives of investigation are follows:

1. To gather as much materials out of different sources (scientific books, curriculum guidelines, teachers' magazines, etc.) as it is required.

2. To study and analyze the work of different linguists;

3. To reveal the importance of the nouns in English grammar.

4. To investigate similarities and differences in English and Russian languages.

5. Using more examples to compare nouns in English and Russian languages.

Hypothesis: we suppose that nouns are important and if we want to achieve the proficiency we should take into account that noun have their own morphological and semantically features. Teachers will use them in their teaching process.

Practical value: by comparing the nouns in English and Russian languages we want to give more examples which show similarities and differences of nouns in English and Russian languages.

Theoretical value: the final outcome of our investigation can be developed in scientific and diploma work. And they can be used as a source of preparing lectures for Theoretical grammar.

Methods of investigation:

1. contrastive method

2. descriptive method

3. analytical method

The scientific novelty is: we had found out differences and similarities in case system and grammatical category of number of nouns in English and Russian languages. English distinguishes two numbers: singular and plural as Russian. Case system of Russian language is more developed than in English.

The bases of our work are resource center and libraries.

The structure of our course paper: Introduction, Topicality, the theoretical part, the practical part, Conclusion, Bibliography and Appendix.

The theoretical part includes:

Classification of nouns in English

Morphological characteristics of Nouns

Morphological composition of Nouns

The practical part includes:

The category of number of Nouns in English and in Russian languages

The category of case of Nouns in English and in Russian languages

The functions of Nouns in English and in Russian languages

Chapter I Morphological features of nouns

1.1 Classification of nouns in English

Proper nouns and common nouns

Proper nouns (also called proper names) are the names of unique entities. For example, "Janet", "Jupiter" and "Germany" are proper nouns. Proper nouns are usually capitalized in English and most other languages that use the Latin alphabet, and this is one easy way to recognize them. However, in German nouns of all types are capitalized. The convention of capitalizing all nouns was previously used in English, but has long fallen into disuse.

All other nouns are called common nouns. For example, "girl", "planet", and "country" are common nouns.

Sometimes the same word can function as both a common noun and a proper noun, where one such entity is special. For example: "There can be many gods, but there is only one God." This is somewhat magnified in Hebrew where EL means god (as in a god), God (as in the God), and El (the name of a particular Canaanite god).

The common meaning of the word or words constituting a proper noun may be unrelated to the object to which the proper noun refers. For example, someone might be named "Tiger Smith" despite being neither a tiger nor a smith. For this reason, proper nouns are usually not translated between languages, although they may be transliterated. For example, the German surname Knödel becomes Knodel or Knoedel in English (not the literal Dumpling). However, the translation of place names and the names of monarchs, popes, and non-contemporary authors is common and sometimes universal. For instance, the Portuguese word Lisboa becomes Lisbon in English; the English London becomes Londres in French; and the Greek Aristotelēs becomes Aristotle in English.

Countable nouns and uncountable nouns

Countable nouns (or count nouns) are common nouns that can take a plural, can combine with numerals or quantifiers (e.g. "one", "two", "several", "every", "most"), and can take an indefinite article ("a" or "an"). Examples of countable nouns are "chair", "nose", and "occasion". Uncountable nouns (or mass nouns) differ from countable nouns in precisely that respect: they can't take plural or combine with number words or quantifiers. Examples from English include "laughter", "cutlery", "helium", and "furniture". For example, it is not possible to refer to "a furniture" or "three furnitures". This is true, even though the furniture referred to could, in principle, be counted. Thus the distinction between mass and count nouns shouldn't be made in terms of what sorts of things the nouns refer to, but rather in terms of how the nouns present these entities. The separate page for mass noun contains further explanation of this point. Some words function in the singular as a count noun and, without a change in the spelling, as a mass noun in the plural: she caught a fish, we caught fish; he shot a deer, they shot some deer; the craft was dilapidated, the pier was chockablock with craft.

Collective Nouns

Collective nouns are nouns that refer to groups consisting of more than one individual or entity, even when they are inflected for the singular. Examples include "committee," "herd" and "school" (of herring). These nouns have slightly different grammatical properties than other nouns. For example, the noun phrases that they head can serve of the subject of a collective predicate, even when they are inflected for the singular. A collective predicate is a predicate that normally can't take a singular subject. An example of the latter is "surround the house."

Good: The boys surrounded the house.

Bad: *The boy surrounded the house.

Good: The committee surrounded the house. (11.p.62)

Concrete nouns and abstract nouns

Concrete nouns refer to definite objects—objects in which you use at least one of your senses. For instance, "chair", "apple", or "Janet". Abstract nouns on the other hand refer to ideas or concepts, such as "justice" or "hate". While this distinction is sometimes useful, the boundary between the two of them is not always clear. In English, many abstract nouns are formed by adding noun-forming suffixes ("-ness", "-ity", "-tion") to adjectives or verbs. Examples are "happiness", "circulation" and "serenity".

1.2 Morphological characteristics of the Nouns

The noun has the following morphological characteristics:

1. Nouns that can be counted have two numbers: singular and plural (e.g. singular: a girl, plural: girls).

2. Nouns denoting living being (and some nouns denoting lifeless things) have two case forms: the common case and the genitive case.

It is doubtful whether grammatical category of gender exists in Modern English for it is hardly ever expressed by means of grammatical forms.

There is practically only one gender-forming suffix in Modern English, the suffix -es, expressing feminine gender. It is not widely used.

heir- heir-ess

poet- poet-ess

actor- actor-ess

waiter- waitr-ess

host- host-ess

lion- lion-ess

tiger- tigr-ess

Gender, i.e. the distinction of nouns into masculine, feminine and neuter, may be expressed lexically by means of different words or word-compounds:

father- mother man- woman

boy- girl gentleman- lady

husband- wife cock-sparrow- hen-sparrow

boy-friend- girl-friend man-servant- maid-servant

"She is heiress to the throne." (4, p.110)

"Is there a parson, much bemused in beer,

A maudlin poetess, a rhyming peer,

A clerk, foredoomed his father’s soul to cross,

Who pen’s a stanza, when he should engross?" (2, p.385)

"A living cat is better than a dead lioness". (2, p.230)

"Saint George, that swinged the dragon, and e’er since

Sits on his horse back at mine hostess’ door." (5, p.447)

In linguistics, grammatical number is a morphological category characterized by the expression of quantity through inflection or agreement. As an example, consider the English sentences below:

That apple on the table is fresh.

Those two apples on the table are fresh.

The number of apples is marked on the noun — "apple", singular number (one item) vs. "apples", plural number (more than one item) —, on the demonstrative, "that/those", and on the verb, "is/are". Note that, especially in the second sentence, this information can be considered redundant, since quantity is already indicated by the numeral "two".

A language has grammatical number when its nouns are subdivided into morphological classes according to the quantity they express, such that:

Every noun belongs to a single number class. (Number partitions nouns into disjoint classes.)

Noun modifiers (such as adjectives) and verbs have different forms for each number class, and must be inflected to match the number of the nouns they refer to. (Number is an agreement category.)

This is the case in English: every noun is either singular or plural (a few, such as "fish", can be either, according to context), and at least some modifiers of nouns — namely the demonstratives, the personal pronouns, the articles, and verbs — are inflected to agree with the number of the nouns they refer to: "this car" and "these cars" are correct, while "this cars" or "these car" are ungrammatical.

Not all languages have number as a grammatical category. In those that do not, quantity must be expressed directly, with numerals, or indirectly, through optional quantifiers. However, many of these languages compensate for the lack of grammatical number with an extensive system of measure words.(23)

The word "number" is also used in linguistics to describe the distinction between certain grammatical aspects that indicate the number of times an event occurs, such as the semelfactive aspect, the iterative aspect, etc.

1.3 Morphological composition of nouns

According to their morphological composition we distinguish simple, derivative and compound nouns.

1. Simple nouns are nouns which have neither prefixes nor suffixes. They are indecomposable: chair, table, room, map, fish, work.

2. Derivative nouns are nouns which have derivative elements (prefixes or suffixes or both): reader, sailor, blackness, childhood, misconduct, inexperience.

Productive noun-forming suffixes are:

-er: reader, teacher, worker

-ist: communist, telegraphist, dramatist

-ess: heiress, hostess, actress

-ness: careless, madness, blackness

-ism: socialism, nationalism, imperialism

"Reader, though I look comfortably accommodated, I am not very tranquil in my mind…"

"I suppose, thought I, judging from the plainness of the servant and carriage, Mrs. Fairfax is not a very dashing person: so much the better; I never lived amongst fine people but once, and I was very miserable with them."

"Is there a place in this neighbourhood called Thornfield?"

"... just as I cherished towards Mrs. Fairfax a thankfulness for her kindness, ..." (1, pp.94-109)

Unproductive suffixes are:

-hood: childhood, manhood

-dom: freedom

-ship: friendship, relationship

-ment: development

-ance: importance

-ence: dependence

-ty: cruelty

-ity: generosity

"She had finished her breakfast, so I permitted her to give a specimen of her accomplishments."

"She made reasonable progress, entertained for me a vivacious, though perhaps not very profound affection, and by her simplicity, gay prattle, efforts to please, inspired me, in return, with a degree of attachment sufficient to make us both content in each other’s society." (1, pp.109-110)

"The little Princess had never seen a firework in her life, so the King had given orders that the Royal Pyrotechnist should be in attendance on the day of her marriage." (7, p.10)

3. Compound nouns are nouns built from two or more stems. Compound nouns often have one stress. The meaning of a compound often differs from the meaning of its elements.

The main types of compound nouns are as follows:

(a) noun-stem+ noun-stem: appletree, snowball;

(b) adjective-stem+ noun-stem: blackbird, bluebell;

(c) verb-stem+ noun-stem: pickpocket; the stem of a gerund or of a participle may be the first component of a compound noun: dining-room, reading-hall, dancing-girl.

"I followed still, up a very narrow staircase to the attics, and thence by a ladder and through a trap-door to the roof of the hall." (1, p.105)

"The last item on the programme was a grand display of fireworks, to be let off exactly at midnight." (7, p.15)


In theoretical part of our course work we investigated two main questions: classification of nouns in English and morphological characteristics of nouns.

We had found that nouns are classified into: (A) proper nouns; (B) common nouns.There are different groups of common nouns: class nouns, collective nouns, nouns of material and abstract nouns. Proper nouns are individual names given to separate persons or things. As regards their meaning proper nouns may be personal names (Mary, Peter, Shakespeare), geographical names (Moscow, London, the Caucasus), the names of the month and days of week (February, Monday), etc. Common nouns are names that can be applied to any individual of a class of persons or things (e. g. man, dog, book), collections of similar individuals or things regarded as a single unit (e. g. peasantry, family), materials (e. g. snow, iron, cotton) or abstract notions (e. g. kindness, development).

According to their morphological composition nouns may be: simple, derivative and compound. The noun has such morphological characteristics as: number (singular and plural), case (the common case and the genitive case). The category of gender is expressed in English by the obligatory correlation of nouns with the personal pronouns of the third person. These serve as specific gender classifiers of nouns, being potentially reflected on each entry of the noun in speech.

Chapter II Comparison of Nouns in English and Russian languages

2.1 The category of number of Nouns in English and in Russian languages

The noun in Modern English has only two grammatical categories, number and case. The existence of case appears to be doubtful and has to be carefully analysed.

The Modern English noun certainly has not got the category of grammatical gender, which is to be found, for example, in Russian, French, German and Latin. Not a single noun in Modern English shows any peculiarities in its morphology due to its denoting a male or a female being. Thus, the words husband and wife do not show any difference in their forms due to the peculiarities of their lexical meanings. (10,p. 69)


Modern English like most other languages distinguishes two numbers: singular and plural. The meaning of singular and plural seems to be self-explanatory, that is the opposition: one — more than one. With all this, expression of number in different classes of English nouns presents certain difficulties for a foreigner to master.

As already mentioned, plural and singular nouns stand in contrast as diametrically opposite. Instances are not few, however, when their opposition comes to be neutralised. And this is to say that there are cases when the numeric differentiation appears to be of no importance at all. Here belong many collective abstract and material nouns. If, for instance, we look at the meaning of collective nouns, we cannot fail to see that they denote at the same time a plurality and a unit. They may be said to be doubly countable and thus from a logical point of view form the exact contrast to mass nouns: they are, in fact, at the same time singular and plural, while mass words are logically neither. The double-sidedness of collective nouns weakens the opposition and leads to the development of either Pluralia tantum, as in: weeds (in a garden), ashes, embers, etc., or Singularia tantum, as in: wildfowl, clergy, foliage, etc. (1, p.87)

In some cases usage fluctuates, and the two forms are interchangeable, e. g. brain or brains: he has no brains or little brains; victuals are more common than victual; oats than oat; similarly: His wages were high. How much wages does he get? That is a fair wage. They could not take too much pain.

The dual nature of collective nouns is shown linguistically in various ways: by the number of the verb or by the pronoun referring to it, as for instance, my family are early risers, they are already here.. My family is not large.

It is important to observe that the choice between singular and plural depends on the meaning attached to the noun. Compare also: We have much fruit this year and the rich fruits of the heroic labour of Soviet people are visible from all the corners of the earth.

Similarly: The football team is playing very well. Cf. The football team are having bath and are coming back here for tea.

A word should be said about stylistic transpositions of singular nouns in cases like the following: trees in leaf, to have a keen eye, blue of eye, strong of muscle. Patterns of this kind will exemplify synecdoche — the simplest case of metonymy in grammar ("pars pro toto").

The Germans won the victories. By God they were soldiers. The Old Hun was a soldier. But they were cooked too. They were all cooked... The Hun would come down through the Trentino, and cut the railway at the Vicenza and then where would the Italians be? (6, p.65)

The chap was so big now that he was there nearly all his time, like some immovable, sardonic, humorous eye nothing to decline of men and things. (9, p.84)

Cf. Держи вухо востро. Держи ухо остро. У него наметанный глаз. И слышно было до рассвета, как ликовал француз. (10, p.106)

Other "universals" in expressing plurality will be found in what may be called "augmentative" plurals, i. e. when the plural forms of material nouns are used to denote large amounts of substance, or a high degree of something. This is often the case when we see the matter as it exists in nature. Such plural forms are often used for stylistic purposes in literary prose and poetry, e. g.: the blue waters of the Mediterranean, the sands of the Sahara Desert, the snows of Kilimanjaro.

Similarly in Russian: синие воды Средиземного моря, пески Сахары, снега Арктики.

Еще в полях белеет снег,

А воды уж весной шумят. (12, p.96)

Люблю ее степей алмазные снега. (13, p.159)

Ukrainian: Сині води Середземного моря, піски Сахари, сніги Арктики.

Attention must also be drawn to the emotive use of plural forms of abstract verbal nouns in pictorial language:

...it was a thousand pities he had run off with that foreign girl — a governess too! (3, p.69)

The look on her face, such as he had never seen there before, such as she had always hidden from him was full of secret resentments, and longings, and fears.

(5, p.75)

The peculiar look came into Bosinney's face which marked all his enthusiasms.

(3, p.67)

Her face was white and strained but her eyes were steady and sweet and full of pity and unbelief. There was a luminous serenity in them and the innocence in the soft brown depths struck him like a blow in the face, clearing some of the alcohol out of his brain, halting his mad, careering words in mod-flight. (5, p.91)

He stood for a moment looking down at the plain, heart-shaped face with its long window's peak and serious dark eyes. Such an unwordly face, a face with no defenses against life. (5, p.96)

Oh! Wilfrid has emotions, hates, pities, wants; at least, sometimes; when he does, his stuff is jolly good. Otherwise, he just makes a song about nothing — like the rest. (3, p.86)

Plural forms of abstract nouns used for stylistic purposes may be traced in language after language:

Russian: Повсюду страсти роковые

И от судеб защиты нет.(11, p.326)

Отрады. Знаю я сладких четыре отрады. (9, p.267)

It should be noted, in passing, that the plural form is sometimes used not only for emphasis in pictorial language but to intensify the aspective meaning of the verb, the iterative character of the action, in particular, e. g.:

Oh, this was just the kind of trouble she had feared would come upon them. All the work of this last year would go for nothing. All her struggles and fears and labours in rain and cold had been wasted. (5, p.102)

Relentless and stealthy, the butler pursued his labours taking things from the various compartments of the sideboard. (3, p.81)

The small moon had soon dropped down, and May night had failed soft and warm, enwrapping with its grape-bloom colour and its scents the billion caprices, intrigues, passions, longings, and regrets of men and women. (3, p.34)

The emotive use of proper nouns in plural is also an effective means of expressive connotation, e. g.:

Fleur, leaning out of her window, heard the hall clock's muffled chime of twelve, the tiny splash of a fish, the sudden shaking of an aspen's leaves in the puffs of breeze that rose along the river, the distant rumble of a night train, and time and again the sounds which none can put a name to in the darkness, soft obscure expressions of uncatalogued emotions from man and beast, bird and machine, or, may be, from departed Forsytes, Darties, Cardigans, taking night strolls back into a world which had once suited their embodied spirits. (3, p.168)

Expressive connotation is particularly strong in the metaphoric use of the plural of nouns denoting things to be considered unique, e. g.: Ahead of them was a tunnel of fire where buildings were blazing on either side of the short, narrow street that led down to the railroad tracks. They plunged into it. A glare brighter than a dozen suns dazzled their eyes, scorching heat seared their skins and the roaring, crackling and crashing beat upon ears in painful waves. (5, p.92)

Very often the plural form, besides its specific meaning may also retain the exact meaning of the singular, which results in homonymy.

1)      custom = habit, customs = 1) plural of habit

2) duties

2)      colour = tint, colours = 1) plural of tint

2) flag

3)      effect = result, effects = 1) results

2) goods and chattels

4)      manner = mode or way, manners = 1) modes, ways

2) behaviour

5)      number = a total amount of units, numbers = 1) in counting

2) poetry

6)      pain = suffering, pains = 1) plural of suffering

2) effort

7)      premise = a statement or proposition, premises = 1) propositions

2) surrounding to a house

8)      quarter = a fourth part, quarters = 1) fourth parts

2) lodgings

There are also double plurals used with some difference of meanings:

1)      brother 1) brothers (sons of one mother)

2) brethren (members of one community)

2)      genius 1) geniuses (men of genius)

2) genii (spirits)

3)      cloth 1) cloths (kinds of cloth)

2) clothes (articles of dress)

Cf. Russian:

зуб — 1) зубы (во рту), 2) зубья (пилы)

муж — 1) мужья, 2) мужи ("ученые мужи")

тон — 1)тона (оттенки), 2) тоны (звуки)

лист — 1) листья (дерева), 2) листы (бумаги, железа)(24)

Mention should be made in this connection of nouns which have two parallel variants in the plural exactly alike in function but different in their stylistic sphere of application, e. g.:

Cow — cows and kine (arch., now chiefly poetic)

Foe — foes and fone (arch.)

Shoe — shoes and shoen (arch.)

Unproductive archaic elements are sometimes used to create the atmosphere of elevated speech. This may also be traced in other languages. Compare the Russian:

сын — 1) сыновья, сыновей;

2) сыны, сынов (e. g.: сыны отечества).

For all the details concerning the grammatical organisation of nouns and their patterning in different kind of structures students are referred to the text-books on English grammar. Two things should be noted here.

It is important to observe that in certain contexts nouns can weaken their meaning of "substance" and approach adjectives thus making the idea of qualities of the given substance predominant in the speaker's mind. Nouns functioning in this position are generally modified by adverbials of degree, e. g.:

"You were always more of a realist than Jon; and never so innocent". (3, 57)

"We're all fond of you", he said, "If you'd only" —he was going to say, "behave yourself", but changed it to — "if you'd only be more of a wife to him". (3,98)

"Why had he ever been fool enough to see her again". (3, 198)

"Not much of an animal is it?" groaned Rhett. "Looks like he'll die. But he is the best I could find in the shafts". (3, 32)

The use of a noun rather than an adjective is very often preferred as a more forcible expressive means to intensify the given quality. Compare the following synonymic forms of expression:

He was quite a success. — He was quite successful.

It was good fun. — It was funny.

And here are illustrative examples of nouns weakening their meaning of "substance" and approaching adverbs.

Such adverbial use shows great diversity. Deep-rooted in English grammar, this use is most idiosyncratic in its nature. We find here patterns of different structural meaning:

a) adverbial relations of time, as in: life long, week long, age long, etc.;

b) adverbial relations of comparison: straw yellow, silver grey, ash blond, ice cold, snow white, iron hard, sky blue, dog tired, paper white, pencil thin, ruler straight, primrose yellow, brick red, blade sharp;

c) different degree of quality: mountains high, a bit longer, a trifle easier, a shade darker, ankle deep.

Patterns of this kind are generally used metaphorically and function as expedients to express intensity and emphasis, e. g.: "I'll send Pork to Macon to-morrow to buy more seed. Now the Yankies won't burn it and our troops won't need it. Good Lord, cotton ought to go sky high this fall". (5, p.234)

Further examples are:

He is world too modest. That was lots better. This was heaps better. He was stone deaf to our request. Waves went mountains high. The mud was ankle deep.

Adverbial use of nouns will also be found in such premodification structures as: bone tired, dog tired, mustard coloured, horror struck, etc.

In the grammar of nouns there have also developed interjectional uses which seem to convert nouns into special kind of "intensifiers", e. g.: What the dickens do you want? What the mischief do you want?

Further examples are:

The hell you say = you don't say so.

Like hell I wish \

I will like hell /I will not

Where in the hell you are going?

How the devil should I know?

Adverbs of affirmation and negation yes and no are intensified in emphasis by the proximity of a bald bawling hell, e. g.: Hell, yes! Hell, no!

English plurals end in -s. In Russian, there are more endings to make plurals. They are: masculine ending in a hard consonant; feminine ending in –a(ending for plural-ы); any nouns ending in -ь, -й, -я(-и); neuter ending in –e(-я); neuter ending in –o(-a); masculine and feminine ending in -k, -г, -x, -ч, -щ, -ж, -ш(-и). Examples: стол – столы, двeрь – двери, нога – ноги, мoре – моря, окно – окнa. (24)

Some nouns are always singular. These are nouns that designate substances (oxygen, copper), products (cheese, fish), a block of objects (furniture), some actions (hunting, clearing up), feelings (love, health), some vegetables and berries (potato, carrots).

2.2 The category of case of Nouns in English and in Russian languages

Grammarians seem to be divided in their opinion as to the case-system of English nouns. Open to thought and questioning, this problem has always been much debated. The most common view on the subject is that nouns have only two cases: a common case and a genitive or possessive case.(21, p 69) The common case is characterised by a zero suffix (child, boy, girl, student), the possessive case by the inflection (-z) and its phonetic variants (-s), (-iz), in spelling -'s. The uses of the genitive are known to be specific, those of the common case general. In terms of modern linguistics, we can therefore say that both formally and functionally, (he common case is unmarked and the genitive marked.

There are grammarians, O. Curme and M. Deutschbein, for instance, who recognise four cases making reference to nominative, genitive, dative and accusative: the genitive can be expressed by the -'s-inflection and by the of-phrase, the dative by the preposition to and by word-order, and the accusative by word order alone. E. Sonnensсhein insists that English has a vocative case since we may propose an interjection oh before a name. (3p. 35)

It is to be noted that the choice between the two opposite viewpoints as to the category of case in English remains a matter of linguistic approach. From the viewpoint of inflectional morphology the inadequacy of "prepositional declension" is obvious. Using Latin categories which have no relevance for English involves inventing distinctions for English and ignoring the distinctions that English makes.

The meaning of "accusative" in a two-term system nominative — accusative, for instance, is different from the meaning of "accusative" in a four- or five-term system. The term "common case" seems therefore more justified than "the accusative". If we call him an "accusative" in expressions like I obey him, I am like him, It was on him, the term "accusative" may actually hinder when we translate into another language which has an accusative along with several other cases and in which the word for obey takes the dative, the word for like the genitive and the word on ablative, as they do in Latin.

"Of course, the morphological opposition nominative — accusative must be expressed by something in English. But this "something" is not a morphological opposition, for there is no morphological differentiation between the nominative and the accusative of nouns". (3, 86)

We must not, of course, look at English through the lattice of categories set up in Latin grammar. The extent to which one can remain unconvinced that English has a grammar like Latin is probably the basis of the faulty viewpoint that English has no grammar at all.

Latin distinguishes subject, direct object, indirect object by case-differences (differences in the inflexion of the word) and arrangement is not very important. English also distinguishes subject, direct object, and indirect object, but it does so largely by arrangement, e. g.:

The pupil handed the teacher his exercise.

He bought his little girl many nice toys. (3,89)

With all this, it can hardly be denied that there exist in Modern English prepositional structures denoting exactly the same grammatical relation as, say, the possessive case inflection or word order distinguishing the accusative from the dative. These are the so-called "of-phrase" and "to-phrase", in which the prepositions of and to function as grammatical indicators of purely abstract syntactic relations identical with those expressed by cases. The grammatical analysis of such phrases for their frequency, variety and adaptation must, surely, go parallel with the study of the morphological category of case which in present-day English is known to have developed quite a specific character.

The analytical character of some prepositional phrases in Russian is described by V. V. Vіnоgradоv: "В русском литературном языке с XVII—XVIII вв. протекает медленный, но глубокий процесс синтаксических изменений в системе падежных отношений. Функции многих падежей осложняются и дифференцируются сочетаниями с предлогами. Все ярче обнаруживается внутреннее расслоение в семантической системе предлогов. В то время как одни простые предлоги: для, до, перед, при, под, кроме, сквозь, через, между, а тем более предлоги наречного типа: близ, среди, мимо и т. п. — почти целиком сохраняют свои реальные лексические значения, другие предлоги: а, за, из, в, на, отчасти, над, от, по, про, с, у — в отдельных сферах своего употребления, иные в меньшей степени, иные вплоть до полного превращения в падежные префиксы, ослабляют свои лексические значения, а иногда почти совсем теряют их" (16, pp. 695—700)

It is important to remember that the grammatical content of the possessive case is rather complex. Besides implying possession in the strict sense of the term, it is widely current in other functions.

Compare such patterns, as:

a) my sister's room (genitive of → the room of my sister possession)

b) my sister's arrival (subjective → the arrival of my sister genitive)

c) the criminal's arrest (objective → the arrest of the criminal genitive)

d) a child's language (qualitative → the childish language a woman's college genitive) → a college for women

e) a month's rent (genitive of → a monthly rent

f)three hours' delay / measure)         → a delay for three hours

The same is true of such uses as wife's duty, child's psychology, lawyer's life, man's duty, etc. The genitive of measure or extent is easily recognised as fairly common in expressions of a certain pattern, e. g.: a moment's silence, a day's work, a minute's reflection, to a hair's breadth, etc.

There is no formal difference between subjective and objective genitive, between genitives denoting possession and qualitative genitives, but this kind of ambiguity is usually well clarified by linguistic or situational context. Thus, mother's care may mean "Любов матери" —with reference to some individual, and "материнська любов" in its general qualitative sense. The meaning of the phrase may vary with the context.

The genitive inflection is also used with certain words which otherwise do not conform to noun patterning, as in yesterday's rain, to-day's match, to-morrow's engagement. These are not idioms, with their total lexical meaning fixed, but only fixed patterns or usage.

Limits of space do not permit to take notice of all idiomatic patterns established in this part of English grammar. A few further examples will suffice for illustration. These are, for instance: I'm friends with you, where friends is probably part of the indivisible idiom "be friends with" + + noun/pronoun, used predicatively.

Patterns with "of + genitive" usually have a portative sense denoting "one of", e. g.: It is a novel of J. London’s (=one of his novels). Cf. It is a novel by J. London. (=a novel written by J. London).

Similarly: Fleur's a cousin of ours, Jon. (3, p.83)

In expressive language this form may become purely descriptive. Endowed with emotive functions in special linguistic or situational context it may weaken its grammatical meaning and acquire subjective modal force denoting admiration, anger, praise, displeasure, etc., e. g.: Margaret ... was taken by surprise by certain moods of her husband's. (2, 37)

The -'s inflection offers some peculiar difficulties of grammatical analysis in idiomatic patterns with the so-called group-genitives, e. g.: Mr. what's-his-name's remark, or He said it in plenty of people's hearing.

There are also patterns like "the man I saw yesterday's son" quoted by H. Sweet. One more example.

The blonde I had been dancing with's name was Bernice something Crabs or Krebs. (2,p. 95)

We cannot fail to see that the 's belongs here to the whole structure noun + attributive clause.

Different kind of such group-genitives are not infrequent and seem to be on the increase in present-day colloquial English.

Mention should also be made of the parallel use of the 's form and the preposition of found in patterns like the following:

In the light of this it was Lyman's belief and it is mine — that it is a man's duty and the duty of his friend to see to it that his exit from this world, at least, shall be made with all possible dignity. (2, p.53)

…a work's popularity, the engine's overhaul life. (4, p.67)

And here are a few examples of special use of the possessive case in fossilised expressions of the formula character, such as: to one's heart's content, for pity's sake, out of harm's way, at one's fingers' ends, for old acquaintance's sake, for appearance's sake. These expressions were grammatically regular and explicable in their day, but they follow grammatical or semantic principles which have now fallen into disuse.

A word should be said about the purely idiomatic absolute use of the genitive case with locative force in patterns like the following:

There are also pleonastic patterns with the post-positional genitive intensifier own used with the 's-form, e. g.: Mary's own dressing-table.

I bought this at the grocer's.

The baker's is round the corner.

The famous St. Paul's is one of the principal sights of London.

Formations of this kind are on the borderline between grammar and vocabulary; the -'s-inflection seems to have developed into a derivative suffix used to form a noun from another noun.

The relative distribution of the of-phrase and the 's-inflection, as a recurrent feature of the language, must be given due attention in learning style and usage in English.

It is interesting to note, in conclusion, that there is a change going on in present-day English which runs counter to the general trend towards loss of inflections, that is the spreading of 's-genitive at the expense of the of-genitive. Until a few years ago, the genitive with 's was used in modern times mainly with nouns which could be replaced (in the singular) by the pronouns he and she, but not with nouns which could be replaced by the pronoun it: so that people normally said the man's face and the woman's face, but the face of the clock and the surface of the water. The 's-genitive was used in certain expressions of time and distance (an hour's time), and could be used with many nouns replaceable in the singular by it or they (the Government's decision); as is well known, there was also a number of commonly used phrases where the 's-genitive was used even though the noun was one which could be replaced in the singular only by it (New Year's Day, the water's edge). In recent years, however, the 's-genitive has come into common use with nouns which are replaceable in the singular only by it. Here are a few examples taken from reputable sources: resorts' weather → the weather of seaside towns; human nature's diversity → the diversity of human nature; the game's laws → the laws of the game. Many more examples will be found in books and in newspapers. We cannot fail to see that this tendency for 's to replace of is a development from the analytic to the synthetic: the of-phrase is replaced by the 's-inflection.

The relative distribution of the of-phrase and the 's-genitive as a recurrent feature of the language, must be given due attention as relevant to synonymy in grammar.

It will be important to remember that the distinction between living and lifeless things is not closely observed, and the's-genitive is often used in designations of things to impart descriptive force and at the same time stress the governing noun.

A few typical examples given by G. Curme are:

When I think of all the sorrow and the barrenness that has been wrought in my life by want of a few more pounds per annum, I stand aghast at money's significance.

...for the sake of the mind's peace, one ought not to inquire into such things too closely.

A book's chances depend more on its selling qualities than its worth2.

Here is a very good example from Galsworthy to illustrate the statement:

He had chosen the furniture himself, and so completely that no subsequent purchase had ever been able to change the room's atmosphere. (3, p.76)

Associations with life are certainly strong in personification, e. g.: the ocean's roar or Truth's greatest victories, etc. Further illustrations taken from reputable sources are:

resorts' weather → the weather of seaside towns

human nature's diversity → the diversity of human nature

the game's laws → the laws of the game

The spreading of the 's-genitive in present-day English at the expense of the of-phrase is, in fact, a development from the analytic to the synthetic which seems to run counter to the general trends towards the loss of inflections. (5,p. 94)

The synonymic encounter of the 's-genitive and the of-phrase may be illustrated by examples with "genitive of possession", "subjective and objective genitive", but the use of the 's-genitive in Modern English is comparatively restricted here and the of-phrase is very extensively used in virtually the same sense:

Soames' daughter →- the daughter of Soames

his sister's arrival →- the arrival of his sister

duty's call → the call of the duty

the children's education → the education of the children

It is to be noted that in many cases the special meaning of the genitive depends on the intrinsic meaning of each of the two words connected, and is therefore in each case readily understood by the hearer. The of-phrase denoting possession is generally preferred when the noun is modified by a lengthy attributive adjunct attached to it.

The 's-form is rarely used as the objective genitive. The of-phrase in this function is fairly common, e. g.: the sense of beauty, the sense of smell, love of life, the reading of books, the feeling of safety, a lover of poetry, etc.

The, of-phrase in Modern English is widely current in various types of structures, denoting:

a) the idea of quantity or part ("partitive genitive"), e. g.: a piece of bread, a lump of sugar, a cake of soap, etc.;

b) material of which a thing is done, e. g.: a dress of silk;

c) position in space or direction, e. g.: south of Moscow, within 10 miles of London;

d) relations of time, e. g.: of an evening, of late, all of a sudden;

e) attributive relations, e. g.: the language of a child =a child's language, the voice of a woman =a woman's voice, etc.;

f) composition or measure, e. g.: a group of children, a herd of cattle, a flock of birds, a swarm of bees, etc.

There are also patterns with the of-phrase functioning as the appositive genitive, e. g.: the city of Rome, the Republic of France, etc.

Alongside with this appositive construction there is another. The appositive may be placed after the governing noun, e. g.: Lake Michigan, the River Thames, etc.

Cases are something that is probably the most complicated concept of the Russian language to the student that speaks only English. Old English had cases, but in contemporary English language you can notice cases and declension mostly in personal pronouns. In English you can see the changes in personal pronoun 'I', that is changed to 'me', 'my' or 'mine' according to its role in the sentence.

Cases are exactly that. When a noun has a different role in a sentence, that role is indicated by a change in the noun.   In Russian language there are six cases: Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, Dative, Locative and Instrumental. The case system in Russian does two things. First, it marks the grammatical functions of nouns which are indicated by word order in English, that is, the subject, object and indirect object of the sentence. (This means that these nouns are free to be ordered almost anywhere in the sentence since their function is clearly indicated by their form.) Second, cases mark certain adverbial functions such as the time, manner, and means of carrying our an action, which are marked by prepositions in English, e.g. by hand, on Friday, with enthusiasm This function leads to the case system being associated with prepositions. Remember: in Russian all prepositions are associated with a case which is attached to their objects. Since only nouns can express case, this means that only nouns may be objects of prepositions. (24)

Every noun in Russian must be selected for one of six categories when they are used in a sentence. To indicate which category has been selected by the speaker, the endings of the noun are changed. This means that each (declinable) noun has up to six different forms, differing only in the final letter or two on the end.

2.3 The functions of Nouns in English and in Russian languages

The noun has certain syntactical characteristics.

The chief syntactical functions of the noun in the sentence are those of the subject and the object. But it might be used as an attribute or a predicative.

The sun was rising in all his splendid beauty. (2, p.32) (subject)

Troy and Yates followed the tourists. (5, p.59) (object)

He (Bosinney) was an architect… (3, p.83) (predicative)

Mary brought in the fruit on a tray and with it a glass bowl, and a blue dish… (5, p.78) (attribute; the noun glass is used in the common case)

The hero and heroine, of course, just arrived from his father’s yacht. (5, p.104) (attribute; the noun father is used in the genitive case)

A noun preceded by a preposition (a prepositional phrase) may be used as attribute, prepositional indirect object, and adverbial modifier.

To the left were clean panes of glass. (1, p.50) (attribute)

Bicket did not answer, his throat felt too dry. He had heard of the police. (3, p.96) (object)

She went into the drawing-room and lighted the fire. (2, p.254) (adverbial modifier)

"Stop everything, Laura!" cried Jose in astonishment.(2, p.261) (adverbial modifier)

The noun is generally associated with the article. Because of the comparative scarcity of morphological distinctions in English in some cases only articles show that the word is noun.

The noun can be modified by an adjective, a pronoun, by another noun or by verbals. The categorical functional properties of the noun are determined by its semantic properties.

The most characteristic substantive function of the noun is that of the subject in the sentence, since the referent of the subject is the person or thing immediately named. The function of the object in the sentence is also typical of the noun as the substance word. Other syntactic functions, i.e. attributive, adverbial, and even predicative, although performed by the noun with equal ease, are not immediately characteristic of its substantive quality as such. It should be noted that, while performing these non-substantive functions, the noun essentially differs from the other parts of speech used in similar sentence positions. This may be clearly shown by transformations shifting the noun from various non-subject syntactic positions into subject syntactic positions of the same general semantic value, which is impossible with other parts of speech. E.g.:

Mary is a flower-girl.→ the flower-girl (you are speaking of) is Mary. He lives in Glasgow.→ Glasgow is his place of residence. This happened three years ago.→ Three years have elapsed since it happened.

Apart from the cited sentence-part functions, the noun is characterised by some special types of combinability.

In particular, typical of the noun is the prepositional combinability with another noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb. E.g.: an entrance to the house; to turn round the corner; red in the face; far from its destination.

The casual (possessive) combinability characterises the noun alongside of its prepositional combinability with another noun. E.g.: the speech of the President — the President's speech; the cover of the book — the book's cover.

English nouns can also easily combine with one another by sheer contact, unmediated by any special lexemic or morphemic means. In the contact group the noun in preposition plays the role of a semantic qualifier to the noun in post-position. E.g.: a cannon ball; a log cabin; a sports event; film festivals.

The lexico-grammatical status of such combinations has presented a big problem for many scholars, who were uncertain as to the linguistic heading under which to treat them: either as one separate word, or a word-group. In the history of linguistics the controversy about the lexico-grammatical status of the constructions in question has received the half-facetious name "The cannon ball problem". (23)

Taking into account the results of the comprehensive analysis undertaken in this field by Soviet linguists, we may define the combination as a specific word-group with intermediary features. Crucial for this decision is the isolability test (separation shift of the qualifying noun) which is performed for the contact noun combinations by an easy, productive type of transformation. Cf.: a cannon ball→ a ball for cannon; the court regulation→ the regulation of the court; progress report → report about progress; the funds distribution → the distribution of the funds.

The corresponding compound nouns (formed from substantive stems), as a rule, cannot undergo the isolability test with an equal ease. The transformations with the noun compounds are in fact reduced to sheer explanations of their etymological motivation. The comparatively closer connection between the stems in compound nouns is reflected by the spelling (contact or hyphenated presentation). E.g.: fireplace→ place where fire is made; starlight → light coming from stars; story-teller → teller (writer, composer) of stories; theatre-goer → a person who goes to (frequents) theatres.

Contact noun attributes forming a string of several words are very characteristic of professional language. E.g.: A number of Space Shuttle trajectory optimisation problems were simulated in the development of the algorithm, including three ascent problems and a re-entry problem (From a scientific paper on spacecraft). The accuracy of offshore tanker unloading operations is becoming more important as the cost of petroleum products increases (From a scientific paper on control systems).

As a part of speech, the noun is also characterised by a set of formal features determining its specific status in the lexical paradigm of nomination. It has its word-building distinctions, including typical suffixes, compound stem models, conversion patterns. It discriminates the grammatical categories of gender, number, case, article determination, which will be analysed below. Subject and the verb in the following sentence: The poor creature was laming. (Not: The tree was laming.)

The human selectional base underlies the connection between the nouns in the following combination: John's love of music (not: the cat's love of music).

The phenomenon of subclass selection is intensely analysed as part of current linguistic research work.


We had investigated the similarities and differences of grammatical categories of noun in English and in Russian languages. And during this analysis we had found that Russian language as English has two numbers: singular and plural. The meaning of singular and plural seems to be self-explanatory. As we English plurals end in -s. But in Russian, there are more endings to make plurals. Some nouns are always singular as in English. These are nouns that designate substances (oxygen, copper), products (cheese, fish), a block of objects (furniture), some actions (hunting, clearing up), feelings (love, health), some vegetables and berries (potato, carrots).

The case system in Russian is more developed comparing with English. In English there are only two cases: common case and genitive case. But in Russian language case system there are six cases: Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, Dative, Locative and Instrumental.

The case system in Russian does two things. First, it marks the grammatical functions of nouns which are indicated by word order in English, that is, the subject, object and indirect object of the sentence. (This means that these nouns are free to be ordered almost anywhere in the sentence since their function is clearly indicated by their form.) Second, cases mark certain adverbial functions such as the time, manner, and means of carrying our an action, which are marked by prepositions in English, e.g. by hand, on Friday, with enthusiasm This function leads to the case system being associated with prepositions. Remember: in Russian all prepositions are associated with a case which is attached to their objects. Since only nouns can express case, this means that only nouns may be objects of prepositions.


We had investigated the noun in our course paper. We had chosen this theme because we were interested in it and also it is one of the most important part of speech in teaching grammar not only in English but in other languages too. Nouns play great role in the person’s speech as it expresses name of things, events, and phenomenon.

In our course paper we analyzed nouns as a expressions of social power.

We used various references to investigate the noun. In our course work we had investigated the similarities and differences of grammatical categories of noun in English and in Russian languages. Russian language as English distinguishes two numbers and the meaning of singular and plural seems to be self-explanatory.

The classification of nouns in these two languages is similar; there are two classes: proper nouns and common nouns, but in English this classification is narrowed (class nouns, collective noun, nouns of material, abstract nouns).

Cases are something that is probably the most complicated concept in Russian language to the student that speaks only English. Old English had cases, but in contemporary English language you can notice cases and declension mostly in personal pronouns. The question about category of case in English for nowadays has discussion character. It depends on approach which author uses in this problem; to English language was given different numbers of cases. M. Deibchain assumed understanding of case as combination of preposition with noun in initial form; he supposed that there are four cases in English language: nominative, genitive (possessive), dative and accusative. But fundamentally, this version of the problem of case was represented in wrong way, so far as case is word form, which has corresponding to case morpheme, as –’s in English. So we can note from typological characteristics of case category of noun that all nouns in English are divided into two classes: words denote unanimated things, which have not the category of case; and words that denote animated things and time, which have two cases- nominative and possessive. If we recognize this point of view, it will correspond to the modern system of case; it means that in fact there is no category of case. In that moment we have new grammatical category called genitive category, which represented by morpheme -’s.

So the analysis of this similarities and differences in these two languages will help teachers to teach grammar by comparing English with their mother tongue (Russian) or vice versa.

preposition noun language semantic


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2. Corbett, G. (2000). Number. Cambridge University Press.

3. Deutschbein. M. System der neuenglischen Syntax, 1928; G. Сurme. A Grammar of the English Language. London-New York, 1931.

4. Francis. W. N. The Structure of American English. New York, 1958, p. 234; see also: R. Quіrk. The Use of English. London, 1964, p. 74.

5. Fries. Ch. The Structure of English. An Introduction to the Construction of English Sentences. London, 1963, pp. 62-63, pp. 94—100.

6. Illyish B. The structure of Modern English M.- L. 1965

7. Laycock, Henry. (2005) 'Mass nouns, Count nouns and Non-count nouns' Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics. Oxford: Elsevier.

8. Laycock, Henry. (2006) Words without Objects. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Jespersen. Essentials of English Grammar. London, 1933.

9. Other advanced books and detailed studies on this specialised topic are: В. М. Жирмунский. Об аналитических конструкциях. В сб.: "Аналитические конструкции в языках различных типов". М.— Л.. 1965;

10. Rayevska N.M. (1976) Modern English Grammar, Kiev, pp.67-72.

11. Sweet. H. A New English Grammar. Oxford, 1955.

12. Vinokurova, Nadezhda. 2005. Lexical categories and argument structure : a study with reference to Sakha.) Ph.D. diss. University of Utrecht.

13. William. Croft,1993. "A noun is a noun is a noun - or is it? Some reflections on the universality of semantics." Proceedings of the Nineteenth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, ed. Joshua S. Guenter, Barbara A. Kaiser and Cheryl C. Zoll,. Berkeley: Berkeley Linguistics Society.

14. Блох. М. Я. Теоретическая грамматика английского языка. М., 1983; стр

15. В. Н. Жигадло, И. П. Иванова, Л. Л. Иофик. Современный английский язык. М., 1956,

16. Иванова, Л. Л. Иофик. Современный английский язык. М.— Л., 1956;

17. О. Jespersen. A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles. London-Copenhagen, 1965;

18. Смирницкий.И. Лексикология английского языка. М., 1956;

19. Щepба. Л. В. О частях реч