Russian Language Grammar

    Usage of Gender

Nouns Indicating Professions and Occupations

Many nouns (formerly pertaining to "masculine" professions or occupa­tions) may be applied to either men or women:

доктор – doctor; врач – doctor; инженер – engineer; профессор – professor;  кассир – cashier.

Some of them have developed parallel feminine forms, which perhaps are not used in official language, but nevertheless are acceptable:  докторша, секретарша, кассирша.

 Others have developed feminine forms universally recognized:

  • студент (student) - студентка  
  • учитель (teacher) - учительница
  • пианист (pianist) - пианистка.


Qualifying words agree with the grammatical gender of these nouns:

Она хороший доктор. She is a good doctor.
Эта женщина - наш новый секретарь. This lady is our new secretary.
Кто ваша секретарша? Who is your secretary?

The verb (in the past tense) usually agrees with the actual gender, especially when the name of the person is given:

Доктор Иванова приняла меня утром. Dr. Ivanova received me this morning.
Говорила профессор Островская. Professor Ostrovskaya spoke.

 Common Gender Nouns

The common gender nouns ending in -a are treated according to the actual gender: большой неряха – a very untidy man; большая неряха – a very untidy woman.


The Nouns человек, друг, товарищ, враг

These nouns may apply to either men or women: 

Он хороший человек. He is a good man.
Она хороший человек. She is a good person.

Nouns of Foreign Origin Ending in , -е, -и, -у, -ю, -а

It has been stated that inanimate nouns of this type are neuter, and animate nouns are masculine.  The word леди (lady) is, of course, feminine:

NEUTER:     новое метро – a new subway; широкое шоссе – a wide highway; интересное пари – an interesting bet; меню лежало на столе – the menu lay on the table.

MASCULINE:    военный атташе – military attaché; маэстро приехал – the maestro arrived.

FEMININE:       английская леди – English lady (the wife of a nobleman).

Remark: With the names of animals and birds, the rule is less definite. Usually, they are considered masculine: один кенгуру – one kangaroo; наш шимпанзе – our chimpanzee. However, grammarians quote examples of these words being used in the feminine and occasionally in the neuter: кенгуру убежала – the kangaroo fled; наше шимпанзе – our chimpanzee.

Foreign Geographical Nouns

The same endings (, , , , , -a) are encountered in a few foreign geographical names. They normally take the gender of the class to which they belong: старый Толедо – the ancient city of Toledo (городmasc.); Пятая авеню – Fifth Avenue (улицаfem.); бурное Онтарио – the stormy Ontario (озероnеut).