How To Identify Genders In Russian

Natural And Grammatical Genders In Russian

There are two main types of gender: grammatical gender and natural gender. Natural gender is determined by the meaning of the noun and is based on the sex of the person or animal being referred to. For example, nouns that represent male beings are usually masculine, while those representing female beings are usually feminine.

In English, nouns often reflect natural gender, such as “father” being masculine and “mother” being feminine. The same is applied to the Russian language, where different words are used to represent men and women of the same nationality. Pay attention to the pattern: feminine words tend to end in -а, while the most masculine words in the table below end in a consonant.

Words For Nationalities In Russian

words for nationalities in Russian (masculine and feminine nouns)

Ex. 1. Look at the picture and choose the correct option.

Words For Things (Inanimate Objects) In Russian

On the other hand, grammatical gender is determined by the form or ending of the noun, regardless of its meaning. In Russian, all nouns have grammatical gender, which can be masculine, feminine, or neuter. The gender assignment is based on the noun’s ending, and the meaning of the noun does not play a role in determining its grammatical gender. For example, the noun “ча́шка” (cup) is grammatically feminine because it ends in the vowel “-a,” even though it has no relation to female persons.

While most basic Russian nouns for people have grammatical and natural gender that coincide, there are some exceptions. Nouns like “па́па” (dad) or “де́душка” (grandpa) have the form of feminine nouns but refer to male beings. In these cases, the meaning of the noun determines its gender, rather than its form.

It’s worth noting that nouns referring to things can also have gender in Russian, not just neuter. There are some rules that can help determine the gender of frequently used nouns, which can be helpful for learning vocabulary.

It is indeed true that in most instances, the grammatical genders in Russian can be determined by its ending in the nominative singular form (the form in which a noun appears in dictionaries).

Grammatical Gender In Russian

Feminine Nouns In Russian

Feminine nouns with a hard stem end in the hard-series vowel “-a”:

  • маши́на car
  • ла́мпа lamp
  • кни́га book
  • у́лица street
  • рабо́та job, work

Most feminine nouns with a soft stem end in the soft-series vowel “-я”:

  • тётя aunt
  • ку́хня kitchen
  • дере́вня village
  • на́ция nation

Neuter Nouns In Russian

Neuter nouns with a hard stem end in the hard-series vowel “-o”

  • сло́во word
  • окно́ window
  • ме́сто seat, place, space, location, room
  • письмо́ letter

Neuter nouns with a soft stem end in the soft-series vowel “-e” or if the ending is stressed, “-ё”

  • мо́ре sea
  • бельё linen
  • пла́тье dress
  • упражне́ние exercise

Exceptions to this rule are neuter nouns that end in “-мя” (e.g., имя, время). These few neutral nouns should be memorized to avoid mistaking them for feminine nouns in -я.

Masculine Nouns In Russian

Most masculine nouns have no ending (or a “zero ending”) in the nominative singular form. Masculine nouns consist only of a stem ending in a consonant.

  • дом house
  • стол desk, table
  • магази́н store
  • нож knife
  • каранда́ш pencil
  • врач doctor
  • музе́й museum
  • чай tea


Ex. 2. Fill in the gaps with the words ОН or ОНА.

world map - a visual aid for the exercise about feminine and masculine genders in Russian

It’s important to note that there are exceptions and irregularities in genders in Russian, and some nouns may not follow these patterns. For example, some Russian nouns ending in the soft sign (-ь) are masculine:

  • день day
  • слова́рь dictionary
  • оте́ль hotel
  • рубль ruble

However, the others are feminine:

  • ночь night
  • пло́щадь square
  • крова́ть bed
  • тетра́дь notebook

Although no definite rules for nouns’ genders in Russian ending in the soft sigh can be given, the following generalizations may be helpful in memorizing the gender of frequently used nouns.

Nouns referring to months are masculine (октябрь, ноябрь, декабрь, etc.). Nouns ending in -ость or -есть are usually feminine.


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