I've been doing Duolingo exercises again, and I ran into these two sentences in a row, which was very confusing:

  • Вона не зрозуміє це
  • Вона зрозуміє мого листа

These two sentences are using different cases after зрозуміє, right? The first one is either accusative or nominative (probably accusative but they're the same form so I'm not sure), the second one is genitive. Why are they different? Could I say "Вона не зрозуміє цього" instead? How about "Вона зрозуміє мій лист"? Does it depend on whether there's a negation, or some other context? Or if both cases are fine, which is more natural and what does that depend on?

Are there other verbs that can take both cases like that?

  • This is a very deep question and a very ancient historic phenomenon which only exists in two Slavonic languages, IIRC. What you see here is called facultative animacy. In practice, it shows up by using the animate version of the Accusative case to an inanimate object. It largely depends on the verb and the noun (e.g., it only shows for some of those). Compare: вона бачить мого брата, вона бачить мій стіл, вона розуміє мого листа. Jun 3, 2022 at 19:57
  • Ah-ha, we have the exacty same question over here, so I'm voting to close yours as a duplicate. But I'm glad you asked it; this shows your deep understanding of such subtle and non-obvious phenomenons in Ukrainian language. Jun 3, 2022 at 19:59
  • See also: Genitive Case after transitive verb?, Genitive case after дивитися. Note that not all scholars share the idea of facultative animacy and call it the Genitive case instead. This happens because some view the noun cases from the functional standpoint while others do so semantically (by form). Jun 3, 2022 at 20:23
  • Wow, yeah, there's a lot going on there and it seems very complicated! Thank you for the links - the three linked questions are clearly all about the same thing but the answers talk about different aspects of it and it's all great information. I'm not sure which one is best, but yeah, closing this question as a duplicate of one of those seems like the right call.
    – weronika
    Jun 4, 2022 at 20:25