We use a noun in its dictionary form (Nominative) when it is an “actor” itself and when there is no action applied to it. As soon as there is an action directed to the object denoted by this noun, we tend to use Accusative.
Это подарок. – It’s a gift. (NO ACTION APPLIED)
Я покупаю подарок. – I am bying a gift. (I BUY this gift, so there is action applied to it)
Мама читает. – The mother is reading. (Mother is a person who is acting).
Я люблю мою маму. – I love my mother. (I LOVE my mother, so there is “action” applied to her)
There are a lot of verbs that are mainly followed by nouns in Accusative. Although in general this list looks similar to the list of verbs followed by a direct object in English, there are many exceptions.
LISTEN TO QUESTIONS CAREFULLY
Sometimes it’s possible to guess that Accusative is required from a question that was asked.
– Кого ты любишь? – Whom do you love?
– Я люблю Анну. – I love Anna.
– Что ты хочешь? – What do you want?
– Я хочу пиццу. – I want a pizza.
– Куда ты идёшь? – Where are you going to?
– Я иду в школу. – I’m going to school.
However, you won’t be always so lucky to realize this from a question word (BTW, кого? and что? can be question words for, consequently, Genitive and Nominative case). So it is still crucial to remember some specific situations when it’s necessary to use a noun in Accusative.
DIRECTION … TO / through
Это Москва. Мы едем в Москву. – It’s Moscow. We are going (in)to Moscow.
Школа вот там. Мой сын ходит в эту школу. – The school is over there. My son goes (in)to this school.
Это моя любимая ваза. Я ставлю вазу на стол. – I’m placing the vase on(to) the table.
Это программа Skype. Я говорю через программу Skype. – This is Skype software. I talk via (literally, through) Skype.
HOW MUCH? HOW LONG? HOW OFTEN?
Я читаю каждую свободную минуту. – I read every spare (free) minute. (How often?)
Он пробежал пару километров. – He has run a couple of kilometers. (How long? – distance)
Он живёт здесь сотню лет! – He has been living here for a hundred of years. (How long? – time)
Это весит тонну. – It weighs a ton. (How much? – weight)
Это стоит уйму денег. – It costs a lot. (How much? – price)
уйма денег – idiomatic expression meaning “a lot of money”
In the above examples feminine nouns ending with -А or – Я were used to demonstrate the clear difference between Nominative and Accusative. Masculine, neuter and plural INANIMATE nouns don’t get any ending in Accusative: