Russian

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Alternative forms

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Etymology

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Inherited from Old East Slavic человѣкъ (čelověkŭ), from Proto-Slavic *čьlověkъ, *čelověkъ.

Pronunciation

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  • IPA(key): [t͡ɕɪɫɐˈvʲek]
  • Audio:(file)

Noun

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челове́к (čelovékm anim (genitive челове́ка, nominative plural лю́ди or челове́ки*, genitive plural люде́й or челове́к* or челове́ков*, relational adjective челове́ческий or челове́чий or людско́й, diminutive челове́чек, augmentative челове́чище, pejorative челове́чишко) (* Nominative plural - rare, poetic, other cases of челове́к in plural are used with numbers.)

  1. person, human being, man
  2. (collective, singular only) mankind, man, the human race
    взаимоде́йствие челове́ка и приро́дыvzaimodéjstvije čelovéka i priródyman's (mankind's) interaction with nature
  3. also plural when used with cardinal words:
    оди́н челове́кodín čelovékone person
    два челове́каdva čelovékatwo persons, people
    пять челове́кpjatʹ čelovékfive persons, people
    два́дцать челове́кdvádcatʹ čelovéktwenty persons, people
    два́дцать оди́н челове́кdvádcatʹ odín čelovéktwenty-one persons, people
    два́дцать два челове́каdvádcatʹ dva čelovékatwenty-two persons, people

Usage notes

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  • Usage of челове́к with numerals ending in one (1):
    • If the cardinal number ends in a one (excluding 11) then человек is declined in the singular the same way as any other masculine, singular noun.
  • Usage of челове́к with numerals ending in a number greater than one (1) in normative text:
    • If человек is not preceded by an adjective, человек will decline in the plural for all cases.
    • If человек is preceded by an adjective, one may use either the plural of "человек" or the word "люди" for all cases.
    • The exception to the above is if the cardinal number ends in two, three, or four (excluding 12, 13 and 14) in the nominative case, in which case it will decline in the genitive singular of "человек" only. E.g.:
      • "Двум человекам" and "пятью незнакомыми людьми" but in the nominative case "два человека."
    • Words that refer to a specific number expressed as a numeral use "человек." Words that refer to any non-specific number, or words that refer to a number but are not themselves a numeral use "людей." E.g.:
      • cто человек but сотня людей — 100 people but (a group of) a hundred people
      • тысяча человек but тысячи людей — 1000 people but thousands of people
    • Usage of the words "человек" and "людей" with Russian collective numerals (двое, трое, четверо, etc.) is officially proscribed, but used colloquially.
    • In the instrumental case only, "тысяча" can potentially function either as a numeral (in which case there must be case agreement, e.g. "с тысячью человеками") or as a noun (in which case the following noun is always genitive plural, e.g. "с тысячей людей"). In all other cases, "тысяча" functions as a noun and takes genitive plural. However, not all Russians recognize this distinction and may use both indiscriminately.
    • Certain words such as сколько, несколько, and много may be used with either "человек" or "людей" depending on the context. Generally if an exact number is sought, or if the people are perceived as individuals, "человек" is used. If an inexact number is sought, or if the people are perceived as an indistinct mass, "людей" is used.
    • Due to the highly complex nature of Russian cardinal numbers, and their comparative rarity in speech, many Russian native speakers neither know, nor bother to learn, the strict grammatical rules governing their use. While these constructions may technically be the most grammatically correct, actually using them can sound overly formal or even bizarre. How native speakers choose to decline numerals is highly idiosyncratic, and there is disagreement to what extent speech which departs from the rules is "uneducated" and colloquial, versus how much speech which adheres to them is "prescriptivist" and unnatural.
  • Therefore, while in the written language, all the normative rules written above still apply, in spoken speech the rules are simplified:
    • In the nominative and accusative, if a precise number is mentioned, the word "человек" is used. If an imprecise number is mentioned, the word "людей" is used.
    • For all other cases (genitive, dative, instrumental, prepositional), the words "людей," "людям," "людьми" and "людях" are used. The oblique cases of the word "человек" ("человекам," "человеками" etc.) are extremely rare and many native speakers do not recognize them as legitimate at all.
    • An exception for the accusative case exists, whereby if the cardinal number ends in two, three, or four (excluding 12, 13 and 14), it will remain in the nominative singular case. E.g.:
      • "Я видел два человека," versus "Я видел двух человек."
      • An exception to the exception exists, whereby if syntax would render the subject of the sentence excessively ambiguous, the accusative plural is preferred.
    • Declining numerals that represent large numbers often sounds extremely stilted in informal speech. Russians will either deliberately phrase their sentences in order to avoid having to use these constructions in the first place, or will decline only the last numeral in the number, leaving the rest in nominative. E.g.:
      • "С четыреста пятьдесять двумя людьми" (written norm: "с четырьмястами пятьюдесятью двумя человеками")
    • For longer numbers, sometimes the beginning and end of a number will be declined, but the middle numerals will remain in the nominative. E.g.
      • "С пятью тысячами четыреста пятьдесять двумя людьми" (written norm: "с пятью тысячами четырьмястами пятьюдесятью двумя человеками")

Declension

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Derived terms

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