Russian Grammar

The Gender of Russian Nouns

Unlike in English, all Russian nouns are divided into three groups depending on gender. Every single noun (person, place or thing) in Russian is designated as either masculine, feminine or neuter. The gender of most Russian nouns is random and should be determined by endings. The typical endings are summed up in this table.

Feminine gender    
Neuter gender    
Masculine gender    
-A -O all nouns 
not ending in 
-А, -Я, -О, -Е
-E

Of course, there are always some exceptions to the rule. The first exception is that when you are speaking about a man or a woman the gender of a noun is obvious. For example, папА (father), дядЯ (uncle), дедушкА (grandfather), мужчинА (man) are masculine nouns despite the fact that they end in -А and -Я. These nouns obviously refer to masculine people and are always masculine.

The second exception is that nouns ending in -Ь can be either feminine or masculine in gender. You should remember the gender of some of these nouns by heart. The following table lists a few nouns for your reference.

Masculine gender
Feminine gender
гостЬ медалЬ
огонЬ солЬ
словарЬ кроватЬ
денЬ тетрадЬ
паренЬ ночЬ
дождЬ дочЬ
рублЬ осенЬ
голубЬ дверЬ
коренЬ матЬ
пенЬ жизнЬ
календарЬ лошадЬ
портфелЬ нефтЬ
кораблЬ цепЬ
рублЬ площадЬ

The good news is that nouns ending in -Ь are relatively rare in Russian. In addition, most of them are masculine if they end in -ТЕЛЬ and feminine if they end in -ОСТЬ as shown in the table below. The feminine nouns ending in -ОСТЬ often name abstract concepts such as courage, speed, povetry, etc.

Masculine gender
Feminine gender
учиТЕЛЬ новОСТЬ
порТЕЛЬ скорОСТЬ
зриТЕЛЬ молодОСТЬ
двигаТЕЛЬ беднОСТЬ

You will notice even more exceptions as you progress with your Russian studies. For example, the nouns времЯ and имЯ are neuter instead of being feminine. Should you come across a noun whose gender is a mystery to you, you can always refer to your Russian dictionary.

Mini Quiz

Look at the Russian words below. Try to figure out the gender of the nouns. At this time you do not need to know their translations. Just try to practice the rules you have just learned.

друг врач преподаватель телефон виза человек помидор лимон сумка комната общежитие холодильник подруга стол ручка ребёнок вопрос туалет девушка мужчина солдат термин рука нога кровать брат сестра компьютер факс телевизор собака паспорт словарь друг подруга парень работа кошка магазин фотография сигарета окно письмо квартира ключ яйцо больница плитка кружка нож карандаш автобус лист тетрадь словарь мост зеркало кружка тарелка пианино море

Answers:

друг (masculine) врач (masculine) преподаватель (masculine) телефон (masculine) виза (feminine) человек (masculine) помидор (masculine) лимон (masculine) сумка (feminine) комната (feminine) общежитие (neuter) холодильник (masculine) подруга (feminine) стол (masculine) ручка (feminine) ребёнок (masculine) вопрос (masculine) туалет (masculine) девушка (feminine) мужчина (masculine) солдат (masculine) термин (masculine) рука (feminine) нога (feminine) кровать (feminine) брат (masculine) сестра (feminine) компьютер (masculine) факс (masculine) телевизор (masculine) собака (feminine) паспорт (masculine) словарь (masculine) друг (masculine) подруга (feminine) парень (masculine) работа (feminine) кошка (feminine) магазин (masculine) фотография (feminine) сигарета (feminine) окно (neuter) письмо (neuter) квартира (feminine) ключ (masculine) яйцо (neuter) больница (feminine) плитка (feminine) кружка (feminine) нож (masculine) карандаш (masculine) автобус (masculine) лист (masculine) тетрадь (feminine) словарь (masculine) мост (masculine) зеркало (neuter) кружка (feminine) тарелка (feminine) пианино (neuter) море (neuter)






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