This essay examines the case of the direct object in Russian sentences with the negated verbs не видеть and не знать. For each verb, 50 contexts were downloaded from the newspaper corpus of the Russian National Corpus and analysed with respect to the semantic properties of the direct object and the negated verb. The theories and concepts used for the analysis have been outlined in Padutjeva, 2006.
The analysis of не видеть suggests that the main difference between the genitive and the ac-cusative case is to be found in the notion of non-existence or absence implicated by the verb’s semantics. In utterances with не видеть as a predicate, this notion is always present and is expressed by the genitive case. The speaker may also choose to ignore it by using the accusa-tive and thus emphasize some other aspect of the described situation.
The examined properties of reference, definiteness and denotative status of the direct object seem to play a secondary role for how case is used. Their influence is to delimit the meaning of the objective genitive to either non-existence or absence.
No similar conclusions could be drawn from the examination of не знать. The reason for this is that the concept of private sphere, used by Padutjeva to explain the use of objective geni-tive with this verb, could not be properly established during the analysis. Just as the notion of absence is crucial for the understanding of the objective genitive when it occurs with не видеть, the concept private sphere seems to be the key to understand it when it occurs with не знать.