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Russian Grammar: What is Noun-Adjective Agreement?



Today we’re going to cover the topic of noun-adjective agreement to help you to put these two parts of speech together to build up word combinations—and even sentences such as “Хорошего дня!” (Khoroshego dnya! – Have a good day!) that contain only a noun and adjective. To master noun-adjective agreement and the finer points of Russian grammar, learn Russian online with a native speaker.

What is Noun-Adjective Agreement?

In Russian, nouns agree with adjectives in number, gender, and case. We show number, gender, and case by changing the ending of the adjective, a process called declension.


For example, if a noun in the nominative case is masculine singular, the adjective should be masculine singular. These characteristics are reflected by the ending of the adjective.

  • Олимпийский огонь (Olimpiiskii ogon’) – Olympic flame

  • Олимпийского огня (Olimpiiskogo ognya) – Olympic flame

In this case, the case of the noun has changed from the nominative (first phrase) to the genitive (second phrase). The ending of the adjective changed accordingly.

  • Олимпийские игры (Olimpiiskie igry) – Olympic Games

Here you see the same adjective with a different noun. While it is again in the nominative case, this time, it’s plural in number. Thus, the adjective’s ending has changed from –ий to –ые.


Typical Adjective Endings

Adjectives can be roughly divided into two groups: those with hard stems and those with soft stems.


Adjectives with Hard Stems

If the stem of an adjective ends in a hard consonant, such as –новый (novyi – new) or серый (seryi – grey), it has a hard stem. Most Russian adjectives belong to this group.


If the noun in the nominative case is masculine singular, adjectives with a hard stem have the ending –ый:

  • Интересный фильм (interesnyi fil’m) – interesting film

  • Белый носок (belyi nosok) – white sock

  • Новый роман (novyi roman) – new novel

  • Красный галстук (krasnyi galstuk) – red tie


If the noun is feminine singular, the ending of the adjective is –ая:

  • Интересная книга (interesnaya kniga) – interesting book

  • Белая ванна (belaya vanna) – white bath

  • Новая кровать (novaya krovat’) – new bed


If the noun is neuter singular, the adjective has the ending –ое.

  • Интересное послание (interesnoe poslanie) – interesting message

  • Белое покрывало (beloe pokryvalo) – white blanket

  • Новое полотенце (novoe polotentse) – new towel


If the noun is plural, the adjective has the ending –ые in any gender:

  • Интересные истории (interesnye istorii) – interesting nights

  • Белые ночи (belye nochi) – white nights


Adjectives with Soft Stems

According to the rules of Russian grammar, if the stem of an adjective ends in a soft consonant, such as –н (ий), –ч, –щ, –ж, or –ш, it belongs to the second group.


If the noun in the nominative case is masculine singular, the ending of the adjective is –ий:

  • Синий свитер (sinii sviter) – blue pullover

  • Вчерашний день (vcherashnii den’) – yesterday

  • Будущий муж (buduschii muzh) – future husband


If the noun is feminine singular, the ending of the adjective is –яя:

  • Синяя рубашка (sinyaya rubashka) – blue t-shirt

  • Вчерашняя ночь (vcherasnhyaya noch’) – last night

  • Будущая невеста (buduschaya nevesta) – future bride

In the last example, the ending of the adjective is –ая. It should be –яя, but according to spelling rules, we write –а instead of –я after –ч and –щ. This is an exception.


If the noun is neuter singular, the adjective has the ending –ее:

  • Синее море (sinee more) – blue sea

  • Вчерашнее утро (vcherashnee utro) – yesterday morning


If the noun is plural, the adjective has the ending –ие:

  • Синие оттенки (sinie ottenki) – shades of blue

  • Вчерашние щи (vcherashnie shchi) – yesterday’s cabbage soup

  • Будущие супруги (budushchie suprugi) – prospective spouses


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