Russian Language Grammar

    Rules for the Gender

Russian nouns have three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter.

  • Masculine nouns end in a consonant, -й or -ь:   дом – house;   чай – tea; день – day.

  • Feminine nouns end in  ,   , or -ь:   книга – book;  земля – earth;   ночь – night.

  • Neuter nouns end in -o, -e, or -ё: окно – window; море – sea; ружьё – gun.

Nouns ending in a consonant, -a or -о are hard nouns. Nouns ending in -й, -ь, -я, -е, and -ё are soft nouns.

Nouns Ending in -ь

A few rules may be helpful in determining the gender of nouns ending in -ь:

   (a)   Nouns pertaining to male persons are, of course, masculine:  писатель – writer;  дикарь – savage. 

   (b)   All nouns with the suffix -тель are masculine:   учитель – teacher; истребитель – fighter plane;  числитель – numerator. 

These nouns should not be confused with others, where -тель is not a suffix:   метель (fem.) – snowstorm, постель (fem.) – bed, etc.

   (c)   All names of months are masculine:   январь – January;   февраль – February. 

   (d)   Most abstract nouns are feminine. 

Exceptions:  The following abstract nouns are masculine:

вихрь 

whirlwind

вопль 

yell

день 

day

кашель

cough

контроль

control

пароль 

password

спектакль

show

стиль

style

   (e) Nouns with the suffix -ость are feminine:  радость – joy; гордость – pride.

These nouns should not be confused with others where -ость is not a suffix.   For example: гость – guest (masc.).

Most nouns ending  in -есть are feminine:   честь – honor;  лесть – flattery.

   (f) Nouns  ending in a sibilant and а ь are feminine:  ночь – night; вещь – thing.

Additional Rules for Determining Gender  

Masculine Nouns Ending in , , , or

Male persons ending in -a or -я:

  1. Nouns denoting male persons are masculine regardless of their ending: мужчина – man; дядя – uncle; юноша – young man, boy; старшина – chairman.

  2. Some proper names, especially diminutives, may end in -a or : Лука, Никита, Серёжа (diminutive of Сергей), Ваня (diminutive of Иван), etc.

Animate masculine diminutives may end in сынишка – sonny; дядюшка – nunky;  дедушка – granddad.

Inanimate diminutives may end in : домишко – small house; городишко – small town.

Augmentatives may end in -e:   домище – huge house;  городище – huge city (a type not frequently used).

The noun “подмастерье” (apprentice) is masculine.

Common Gender Nouns: Masculine and Feminine Ending in -a

The following nouns ending in -a are among those which can apply to a male or female person:

заика 

stutterer

 

неряха

untidy person

калека 

cripple

пьяница 

drunkard

кривляка 

affected person

обжора 

glutton

плакса 

cry-baby

сирота 

orphan

невежа 

boor, rude person

молодчина 

attaboy /attagirl

невежда

ignoramus

умница

clever person

 (It may be noticed that, curiously enough, most of these nouns imply a negative or cheerless characteristic. The last two examples are among the few, which do not.)

Gender of Nouns of Foreign Origin

 Inanimate nouns borrowed from foreign languages and ending in or -e are neuter:

пальто 

overcoat

 

пианино 

piano

кино 

movies

эхо 

echo

бюро 

office

шоссе

highway

метро

subway

кашне

scarf

радио 

radio

желе

jelly

кило

kilo(gram)

кафе 

café

(b) A few nouns of foreign origin end in ,, , and stressed .

The inanimate are neuter: такси – taxi; рагу – ragout; интервью – interview; боа – necklet, boa. The animate are usually masculineколибри – colibri; кенгуру – kangaroo.

Note: There are very few neuter animate nouns: чудовище (monster); существо (creature); животное (animal); насекомое (insect); лицо (person, man), and дитя (child).

Exception:  Кофе” is masculineКрепкий кофе – strong coffee.

Animate nouns of the same type are masculine: маэстро – maestro; атташе – attaché.

Gender of Nouns Ending in -мя

(a)    The ten nouns which end in -мя are neuter:

имя 

(first) name

 

темя 

crown of the head

время

time

пламя

flame

племя 

tribe

вымя

udder

бремя

burden

стремя 

stirrup

знамя

banner

семя

seed


Substantivized Adjectives

Many adjectives have become nouns, while keeping their characteristic adjectival endings. Their gender is determined by the rule of adjectival endings:

MASC.       портной – tailor;   нищий – beggar

FEM.          гостиная – living room;  столовая – dining room

NEUT.        приданое – dowry;   насекомое – insect

 

Some of these may be used as both nouns and adjectives:

приёмная – reception room;   приёмные часы – reception hours;  столовая – dining room;  столовая ложка – tablespoon.