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How to Determine the Gender of Russian Nouns



When we talk about people, it’s easy to determine gender. However, when we deal with inanimate objects, gender can be difficult to figure out. In different languages, the same object can be masculine, feminine, or neutral. Let’s learn how to determine noun gender in Russian. For more information, you can study Russian grammar online with a teacher.


Russian nouns have three genders: feminine, masculine, and neutral. How to distinguish between them? The rule is quite simple: You need to look at the noun ending.


The Feminine Gender

If a noun belongs to the feminine gender, it ends in -а or -я. When you see these letters at the end of a word, it’s likely a feminine noun.

  • Книга (kniga): book

  • Семья (sem’ya): family

  • Газета (gazeta): newspaper

The Masculine Gender

When a noun ends in a consonant or –й, it’s masculine.

  • Ковер (kover): carpet

  • Рюкзак (riukzak): backpack

  • Телефон (telefon): phone

The Neutral Gender

If you encounter a noun that ends in –о or –e, it belongs to the neutral gender.

  • Печенье (pechen’e): cookies

  • Молоко (moloko): milk

  • Здоровье (zdorov’e): health

Nouns that end in –ь can be either masculine or feminine. When you learn these words, just try to remember their gender.

  • Ночь (noch’): night, f.

  • День (den’): day, m.

Exceptions

There are also some exceptions to this rule, for example, the word “coffee.” In Russian, “coffee” is “кофе” (kofe). As you can see, it ends with–е, so it should belong to the neutral gender. However, it is masculine. The reason is that in earlier times, the word “кофе” was written as “кофий” (kofii). Though the ending has changed, the noun still has the masculine gender.


Words like “папа” (papa), which means “dad,” and “дядя” (dyadya), which is translated as “uncle,” belong to the masculine gender but have feminine endings. In this case, just think about their physical gender and you won’t make a mistake.


Try to memorize the endings of nouns so as not to get confused when you need to determine gender in Russian. To achieve fluency faster, learn Russian with a tutor.

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