Rosetta Stone teaches: Здесь три белые тарелки.

But on the very next page, it teaches this: Сколько злесь белых столов?

Why is it белые in the first sentence, but белых in the second?

I looked up the table for the genitive form of adjectives. I could see that белых was the genitive plural of белый, but that didn't explain why "three white plates" used белые. Then I remembered that genitive plural is used for 0 and 5+, but genitive singular is used for quantities 1-4. I thought perhaps I had to use the genitive singular adjective for "3 plates", but according to my chart that would be белего!

My native Russian speaking penfriends can't even agree on the correct form of the first sentence - some of them say it's correct, but others say it should be Здесь три белых тарелки. If they can't even agree, what hope is there for me?

So please - can someone explain the logic of when to use белые and when to use белых - and perhaps also why it's not белего?

Thanks,
Lindsay

2. I'd say "три белые тарелки" and "три белых тарелки" are both possible.
Numerals employ some rules of noun agreement, as it was already discussed here: A small question about много.
Basically, there are three forms depending on the last numeric word (examples are given for masculine, feminine and neuter):
один стол, одно окно, одна тарелка (... один);
два стола, два окна, две тарелки (... два/три/четыре);
пять столов, пять окон, пять тарелок (... anything except один/два/три/четыре).

When they combine with adjectives, there are some tricks however. In most of cases, the adjective takes the same form as the noun:
один белый стол, одно белое окно, одна белая тарелка;
пять белых столов, пять белых окон, пять белых тарелок.

However, the second form (genitive singular) is more tricky. The adjective takes genitive plural while the noun is in singular:
два белых стола, два белых окна, две белых тарелки.

Finally, if the noun is feminine, it can often take nominative plural: две белые тарелки = две белых тарелки. This is only true for feminine nouns. For masculine and neuter, only one form is possible.

This seeming disagreement has developed from the old Russian dual form, which ceased to exist by merging into other similar-sounding forms.

3. Originally Posted by Lindsay
Rosetta Stone teaches: Здесь три белые тарелки.

But on the very next page, it teaches this: Сколько злесь белых столов?

Why is it белые in the first sentence, but белых in the second?

I looked up the table for the genitive form of adjectives. I could see that белых was the genitive plural of белый, but that didn't explain why "three white plates" used белые. Then I remembered that genitive plural is used for 0 and 5+, but genitive singular is used for quantities 1-4. I thought perhaps I had to use the genitive singular adjective for "3 plates", but according to my chart that would be белего!

My native Russian speaking penfriends can't even agree on the correct form of the first sentence - some of them say it's correct, but others say it should be Здесь три белых тарелки. If they can't even agree, what hope is there for me?

So please - can someone explain the logic of when to use белые and when to use белых - and perhaps also why it's not белего?

Thanks,
Lindsay
Hello, Lindsay! I am not a teacher of Russian and my English is not very well too) But I try to help you.
Look, for example: 1)There are WHITE apples on the plate - на тарелке БЕЛЫЕ яблоки.2) I bought some WHITE apples - Я купил немного БЕЛЫХ яблок. WHITE=WHITE in English but in Russian in second sentence we say БЕЛЫХ, because it's adjective in genetive case. В русском и существительные и прилагательные изменяются по подежам(cases). You can see more: Russian Genitive Case - Russian Language Lesson 10

4. Originally Posted by Lindsay
Then I remembered that genitive plural is used for 0 and 5+, but genitive singular is used for quantities 1-4. I thought perhaps I had to use the genitive singular adjective for "3 plates", but according to my chart that would be белего!
There is one mistake in your explanation. If a numeral ends in "один", the noun takes nominative singular, not genitive.
The genitive singular only works for 2-4, not for 1-4 (more exactly, for any numeral which ends in два/три/четыре, since 12, 13, 14 do not belong to this group: двенадцать, тринадцать, четырнадцать).

Originally Posted by Lindsay
So please - can someone explain the logic of when to use белые and when to use белых - and perhaps also why it's not белего?
Although it is not related to your original question, but the form "белего" does not exist.
The genitive singular masculine of "белый" is "белого" (I've underlined the stressed vowel). However, it does not work with numerals for the reasons I explained above.
This adjective has a hard stem in -ый. So, all its ending should belong to the hard group. Actually, all the adjectival endings come in pairs for the hard stem and soft stem:
-ой(-ый) / -ий
-ая / -яя
-ое / -ее
- ого / -его
etc. etc.

5. @Боб - thanks very much for the detailed explanation. It seems I was 95% of the way to figuring it out myself, but couldn't bring myself to believe it didn't follow the nice neat rules in my grammar book!

Reading the other thread about много was very helpful - like Impulse I find myself wanting to understand the why, in the hope that if I understand it for one word then I'll understand it for all words. I think coming to terms with the fact that it's not all neat and perfect is one of the unexpected challenges of learning a new language. I simply have to accept that I have to learn a lot of grammar rules, and then also learn all the exceptions!

@lorente - thanks for your answer too. It demonstrates very well which is which

~ Lindsay

6. Originally Posted by Lindsay
@Боб - thanks very much for the detailed explanation. It seems I was 95% of the way to figuring it out myself, but couldn't bring myself to believe it didn't follow the nice neat rules in my grammar book!

Reading the other thread about много was very helpful - like Impulse I find myself wanting to understand the why, in the hope that if I understand it for one word then I'll understand it for all words. I think coming to terms with the fact that it's not all neat and perfect is one of the unexpected challenges of learning a new language. I simply have to accept that I have to learn a lot of grammar rules, and then also learn all the exceptions!

@lorente - thanks for your answer too. It demonstrates very well which is which

~ Lindsay
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my skype: brandanovich

7. Originally Posted by Lindsay
@Боб - thanks very much for the detailed explanation. It seems I was 95% of the way to figuring it out myself, but couldn't bring myself to believe it didn't follow the nice neat rules in my grammar book!
Lindsay, I’m glad my explanation was useful.

Originally Posted by Lindsay
I simply have to accept that I have to learn a lot of grammar rules, and then also learn all the exceptions
I agree with what you are saying.
To make things easier, I’d say it is not necessary to learn all the rules and exceptions at once. A better way is getting accustomed to the them gradually, step by step. Learning a new language is always a long process, and there is nothing dangerous in that if you make some mistakes at your first steps. All people do, and it should not discourage you.
Coming closer to the specific subject, you can start with the very basic rules how the cases are formed and used, and leave all the exceptions for a later time. Then, for example, learn how small numerals (1-10) are used with nouns. When you feel confident with them, add adjectives. Later you can learn rules of their declension in a sentence. That’s just an example of how you can deal with grammar. And one more advice is to read more. Even if you seem not to understand some strange expressions, seeing them again and again will result in that they stick into your memory, and become natural to you. That’s exactly how I learned English.

Originally Posted by Lindsay
Reading the other thread about много was very helpful - like Impulse I find myself wanting to understand the why, in the hope that if I understand it for one word then I'll understand it for all words. I think coming to terms with the fact that it's not all neat and perfect is one of the unexpected challenges of learning a new language.
Please bear in mind: different languages do not match each other "one to one". Even when reading in English, I can understand the whole text, but if someone asks me to translate it into Russian, I find it difficult to provide a good Russian translation for some phrases. So, it frequently happens that I understand a phrase in a foreign language, but I do not know how to say exactly the same thing in my native language. I can rephrase it, but the meaning will be slightly affected. And there are many expressions which are different. You just have to learn new expressions instead of trying to translate them with the same wording.
Only one example to illustrate what I mean. There’s a set phrase in English "to make sense". It does not make sense in Russian if to translate it "word by word". In Russian, we have a similar expression "иметь смысл" – literally, "to have sense". When I did not know the English expression, I tried applying the direct translation from Russian by saying something like "This question does not have sense", and it seemed to be logical to me. Then someone corrected me that I should say "make sense" instead. For the first time, it seemed weird to me. How can something "make" sense? It either "has" sense or does not "have" it. But later I realized I got used to it. It is just the matter of how we view the things. In Russian logic, an expression "has" sense or "does not have sense", so we view it as a static condition: an expression potentially "exists" forever, even if not being said by anyone. In English logic, it "makes sense" i.e. it creates some sense when being said, so you view it as a dynamic act. No, when I hear "it makes sense", it makes sense to me if said in English. But if someone tries to say "это делает смысл" in Russian, then это не имеет смысла для меня. It is only a single example. There are hundreds and hundreds of them, and everything is a matter of habit, how the people are accustomed to speak. Did you ever notice that when you hear a new expression the first time (even in your native language), it seems weird to you, but later you start using it by yourself?
However, the human mind has the ability to get accustomed to new things quickly, so you should not be afraid of that. It is interesting after all, isn't it?

8. Hello, Lindsey,
Bob gave you a correct answer that both versions are possible:
(1) три белЫЕ тарелки;
And
(2) три белЫХ тарелки.

I would add, each version functions within a certain syntactic construction. The best explanation I could find is in the textbook by a famous Russian linguist, D. E. Rosenthal.

I will paste his explanation in Russian first so that your Russian penpals could learn it, too.
Then I will sum up his explanation in English.

9. First of all, your example "три белЫЕ тарелки" employs the FEMININE noun, "тарелка".

Therefore, we will focus on the rules applying the agreement of the numerals with the adjectives and the FEMININE nouns.

Here comes a quote from D. Rosenthal's textbook.
Source: http://www.evartist.narod.ru/text1/65.htm#%E7_03
-----
2. При существительных женского рода в указанных условиях определение чаще ставится в форме ИМЕНИТЕЛЬНОГО падежа (или совпадающего с ним винительного при неодушевленных существительных) множественного числа. Например:
-- две большИЕ комнаты выходили окнами в сад;
-- купила четыре фарфоровЫЕ чашки;
-- на изгороди из трех жердей сидели три женскИЕ фигуры (А.Н. Толстой);
-- По этим дорогам двигаются две большИЕ колонны немцев (М. Бубеннов).

ПРИ НАЛИЧИИ перед всем оборотом ПРЕДЛОГА возможны варианты; ср.:
-- НА две равнЫЕ части,
-- ПО две столовЫХ ложки.

Если формы именительного падежа множественного числа существительных женского рода отличаются по ударению от формы родительного падежа единственного числа (ср.: го́ры – горы́, слёзы – слезы́), то определение в рассматриваемой конструкции обычно ставится в РОДИТЕЛЬНОМ падеже множественного числа:
-- две высокИХ горы,
-- две крупнЫХ слезы.
-- Три серЫХ струны натянулись в воздухе (Горький);
-- Две сильнЫХ мужскИХ руки подхватили ее (А. Коптяева).

На выбор формы определения может оказать влияние ФОРМА СКАЗУЕМОГО; ср.:
-- РАЗЫГРАНЫ три золотЫЕ медали.
-- РАЗЫГРАНО три золотЫХ медали.
----
I capitalized the inflexions, as well as the words which influence the choice between the plural Genitive or the Plural Accusative (prepositions and the predicates).

10. Originally Posted by Lindsay
Rosetta Stone teaches: Здесь три белые тарелки.

But on the very next page, it teaches this: Сколько злесь белых столов?

Why is it белые in the first sentence, but белых in the second?

Thanks,
Lindsay
---
When you look at the phrases (numeral+ adjective+noun), you have to take into account the GENDER of the noun.
The GENDER of the noun will influence the grammatical agreement of all three words in the phrase.

In your case, " стол" is a MASCULINE noun.
In phrases with the numerals "two, three, four" (and compounds like "14, 24, 34") + plural adjective + plural masc. or neuter noun" the plural adjective is used in the GENITIVE, e.g.:
-- два/три/четыре белЫХ стола,
-- "три белЫХ коня уносят меня: декабрь, январь и февраль." ( a song from a popular Soviet movie)

Here are some more examples from Rosenthal's lesson # 193:
-- два высокИХ дома,
-- три большИХ окна,
-- двадцать четыре деревяннЫХ стола.
-- ...Офицеры ели жадно, без разговоров, наверстывали за два потеряннЫХ в боях дня (Шолохов);
-- Два крайнИХ окна в первом этаже закрыты изнутри газетными листами... (А.Н. Толстой).

11. However, "тарелка" is a feminine noun, and the grammatical agreement follows a different set of rules in phrases
"Две/три/четыре (and their compounds) + plural adjective + plural FEMININE nouns".

Below I will sum up the rules of agreement for such phrases as stated by D.E. Rosenthal:

(А) in most cases the plural adjective is in the NOMINATIVE or the ACCUSATIVE for inanimate fem. nouns (in this case, the Accusative of inanimate nouns is the same as their Nominative). Например:
-- две большИЕ комнаты выходили окнами в сад;
-- купила четыре фарфоровЫЕ чашки;
-- на изгороди из трех жердей сидели три женскИЕ фигуры (А.Н. Толстой);
-- По этим дорогам двигаются две большИЕ колонны немцев (М. Бубеннов).

(B) However, if there is a PREPOSITION before the whole phrase, then you can use EITHER Nominative, OR Genitive,
PREP. + ( две/три/четыре + plural adj. in NOM./GEN. + plural FEMININE nouns
Cf:
- на две равнЫЕ части
- по две столовЫХ ложки.

(С) Some feminine nouns will have a shift of stress (accentuation) from one syllable to another. Such a difference will be seen between their Plural Nominative and Singular Genitive, e.g.:
Sing. Nom. -- Sing. Gen. -- Plural Nom.
горА -- горЫ -- гОры
слезА -- слезЫ -- слЕзы /slYOzy/
рукА -- рукИ -- рУки

if the accentuation in Nominative Plural is different from the accentuation in the Genitive Singular, then you should use the plural adjective in the GENITIVE, e.g.:
-- две высокИХ горы,
-- две крупнЫХ слезы,
-- Три серЫХ струны натянулись в воздухе (Горький);
-- Две сильнЫХ мужских руки подхватили ее (А. Коптяева).

(D) The form of the predicate will also influence the form of the plural adjective. Cf:
-- РазыгранЫ три золотЫЕ медали.
-- РазыгранО три золотЫХ медали.

12. No wonder even Russian native speakers do not know all these detailed rules and exceptions!
Such minute rules are usually not included in public school curricula and textbooks.
You usually find them in the academic reference-books for university students of linguistics.

Blessings to you, Lindsay, in mastering Russian with all its beauty and complexity!

13. Originally Posted by Yulia65
No wonder even Russian native speakers do not know all these detailed rules and exceptions!
I think that says it all right there

Thanks to everyone for all the help, I must say I am feeling much less daunted by it all now, especially knowing I can run here when it all gets too hard!

~ Lindsay

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