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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