Загадка котов

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Everyone knows that, whilst Russian grammar can be very complicated, it normally follows strict, logical rules with only a few exceptions. This is not really one of those cases…

Everyone knows that, whilst Russian grammar can be very complicated, it normally follows strict, logical rules with only a few exceptions. Take grammatical сases for example; it takes a while to learn the various singular and case endings but once you`ve got that down they are fairly easy to use, you just have to make sure that any adjectives you use agree with the nouns they describe in terms in gender, number and, of course case.

Take for example the following sentences

Я хочу купить эту большую книгу.
(I want to buy this big book.)
Я хочу купить эти большие книги.
(I want to buy these big books.)
Он встретился с своим другом
(He met with his male friend.)
Он встретился со своей подругой
(He met with his female friend.)
Он встретился с своими друзьями
(He met with his friends.)

The genetive case is perhaps one of the most complicated cases, mainly because of how the Genetive singular and plural work.
Normally, the singular and plural of the forms genetive case work the same as those of other cases, when you are talking about one of something you use the genitive singular and when you are talking about more than one you use the genetive plural, for example:

Хозяин белого кота живёт в этом доме.
(The owner of the white cat lives in this house.)
Хозяин белых котов живёт в этом доме.
(The owner of the white cats lives in this house.)

Thats pretty simple but throw definite numbers into the mix and things get weird. I`m sure most of you have met the 2-3-4 rule already. Basically if you talk about one of something you use normative; two, three or four of something you use genetive singular; five or more and you use genetive plural. So if you wanted to talk about various numbers of cats, you would say:

Один кот
Два/три/четыре кота
Пять (или больше) котов
Двадцать один кот
Двадцать два/три/четыре кота
Двадцать пять (или больше) котов

But what happens when we add adjectives into the equation? Surely they would just agree with the case and gender of the noun? So if we were talking about black cats that would be,

Один чёрный Кот
Два/три/четыре чёрного кота
Пять (или больше) чёрных котов

That`s right, right?
Well of course it`s not, I wouldn`t be drawing your attention to it if it were.
Our problems lies in that «Два/три/четыре чёрного кота» part.

For some reason, when talking about two, three or four of something the adjective should be in genetive plural even though the noun is in Genetive singular, for example «четыре чёрных кота».

This works for other nouns, not just кот.

Четыре больших окна.
(Four big windows.)
Четыре деревянных стола.
(Four wooden tables)
Четыре трёхцветных флага.
(Four tricolour flags.)
Четыре красных яблока.
(Four red apples.)
Четыре весёлых мужчины.
(Four happy guys.)

Why? Because even Russian has to be a bit illogical sometimes.

But wait, it gets worse. Did you notice that all the nouns in the examples above were only either masculine or neuter? Well there`s a reason for that, adjectives used with feminine nouns use a different rule, namely that, of you have 2, 3 or 4 of something feminine the adjective can be either be nominative plural or genetive plural.

Четыре чёрные сумки.
Четыре чёрных сумки.
(Four blag bags.)
Четыре большие книги.
Четыре больших книги.
(Four big books.)
Четыре горячие кочерги.
Четыре горячих кочерги.
(Four hot pokers)

It seems like most native speakers prefer to use the normative plural with feminine nouns, regardless of weather the word is animate or inanimate.

Четыре белые кошки.
(Three white female cats.)
Четыре дорогие сумки.
(Four expensive bags.)
Четыре быстрые лошади.
(Four fast horses.)
Четыре деревянные двери.
(Four wooden doors.)