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Learn about the masculine, feminine, and neuter genders of Russian nouns

What’s the Difference?: Какой и Каков

blog post:

Updated: 8/31/2021

Добро пожаловать!

When you’re first learning Russian, you usually learn the question word for “what/which” – “Какой / Какая / Какое / Какие” – fairly early on in your studies. Какой is used very often by beginners when learning how to ask questions and get to know other people.

Ex.

  • Какой твой любимый фильм?
  • Какая твоя любимая книга?
  • Какие у тебя хобби?

Only in my third year of learning Russian did I start seeing this new translation for “what” appear: “Каков / Какова / Каково / Каковы.” Although they have the same definition, there are used in slightly different contexts.

Let’s take a look . . .

Какой vs. Каков

Какой – “What kind? Which? Some, Any.” 

  1. Interrogative pronouns (What / What kind / Which): It can be used as a question word or as a conjunction between two clauses. *Note: The answer can be both a noun and an adjective.

  • Какая сегодня погода? – What’s the weather like today? (В ответе: хорошая, плохая, и т.п.)
  • Какая твоя любимая обжарка кофе? – What’s your favorite kind of coffee roast?
  • Какой ваш любимый цвет? – What’s your favorite color?
  • Какой сегодня день? – What day of the week is it?
  • Я не знаю, какой твой люби́мый вид иску́сства. – I don’t know what your favorite type of art is.
  • К какому времени мне быть готовым? – What time should I be ready by?

  1. Exclamatory statements (What! / What a(an)!): It denotes surprise, joy, or indignation at the quality of something /someone.

  • Кака́я краси́вая ра́дуга! – What a beautiful rainbow!
  • Како́й кошма́р! – What a nightmare!
  • Како́е совпаде́ние! – What a coincidence!

  1. Indefinite pronouns (Some, Any): Here, какой is used to describe something not exact. It is often followed by an added suffix (-то, -нибудь, -либо).

  • В какой-то сте́пени я согла́сна с тем, что ты говори́шь. – I agree with what you’re saying to an extent.
  • По какой-то причи́не э́то не рабо́тает. – For some reason it isn’t working.

Каков – “What? What!” 

  1. Interrogative pronouns (What / What kind): indicates a question about quantity, substance or content. *Note: The answer can only be a noun or a sentence – not an adjective. The purpose is to identify exactly what something is.

  • Какова цель вашего приезда? – What is the purpose of your trip? (В ответе: туризм, работа, и т.п.)
  • Какова длина́ э́того моста́? – What’s the length of this bridge?
  • Каково предназначение этого инструмента? – What is the purpose of this tool?
  • Каковы́ ваши дальнейшие планы? – What are your future plans?
  • Я не зна́ю, каковы́ будут после́дствия. – I don’t know what the consequences will be.

  1. Exclamatory statements (What! / What a(an)!): Каков can be used to express something with a strong emotional feeling. Often used in exclamatory sentences.

  • Каков фрукт! – What a piece of work!
  • Каков негодяй! – What a scoundrel!

Extra Resources

Need some extra explanation? Check out these resources below!

October 17, 2020

Melissa Miller

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central Asia

central Asia

Eurasia

Belarus

Russia

Kyrgyzstan

armenia

Moldova

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eastern europe

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read »

read »

read »

read »

The caucasus

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Kyrgyzstan

central Asia

Read »

Kazakhstan

central Asia

Read »

Belarus

eastern europe

Read »

Moldova

eastern europe

Read »

Armenia

The caucasus

Read »

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