How to determine the gender of a noun in Russian

There are three genders of nouns in the Russian language – masculine (m.), feminine (f.) and neuter (n.). If you want to speak really good Russian, you have to know the gender of every noun. It’s essential because all the nouns change their endings depending on the case. It’s really hard to remember. But there are certain rules for each group of nouns. So, learning the genders will help you decline nouns correctly.

The good thing is that you don’t have to memorize every word’s gender, because you can simply identify it. Not all of them (there are always exeptions everywhere), but most words.

So, let’s find out how to establish the nouns gender in the Russian language.

Masculine nouns

Let’s have a look at some words:

  • глаз (eye)
  • душ (shower)
  • зонт (umbrella)
  • спрей (spray)

What do these words have in common? They all end in a consonant. And all of them are masculine.

Feminine nouns

  • звезда (star)
  • машина (car/machine)
  • вишня (cherry)
  • дорога (road)
  • песня (song)

Again, what do you see here? All these words end in -a or . And they are feminine. But it’s not so easy here. There are some exeptions.

Remember this small group:

  • папа – dad
  • дедушка – grandfather
  • дядя – uncle
  • мужчина – man
  • юноша – a young man (a boy)

All of these words denote males but they end in -a and , which is not typical. There are some other exeptions. For example, words that denote both males and females:

  • плакса – a person who cries a lot
  • скряга – a cheapskate
  • соня – a person who sleeps a lot

Don’t forget about nouns that are naturally feminine:

  • женщина – woman
  • девочка – girl
  • мать – mother
  • сестра – sister
  • дочь – daughter
  • тётя – aunt
  • свекровь – mother-in-law
  • курица – hen

Neuter nouns

Most of neuter nouns end in -е (ё) or :

  • облако (cloud)
  • яблоко (apple)
  • небо (sky)
  • ухо (ear)
  • копьё (spear)
  • кафе (cafe)

кофе is, however, a masculine noun, as many other loan words. Though, many Russians still use it like a neuter one. 

Also, nouns that end in –мя are neuter:

  • имя
  • время
  • племя
  • пламя
  • семя
  • вымя
  • бремя
  • стремя
  • знамя

And finally, there is a group of nouns which end in “ь” (soft sign). They can be both feminine and masculine. It’s not easy to determine their gender. You should rember most of them.

  • соль (f.)
  • боль (f.)
  • нить (f.)
  • день (m.)
  • тюль (m.)
  • словарь (m.)

Nouns ending in a soft sign which denote feelings and emotions are  feminine:

  • радость
  • грусть 
  • любовь
  • ненависть
  • удовлетворённость
  • озабоченность
  • раздражительность

Most nouns that denote professions or occupations are masculine.

водитель – driver
учитель – teacher

врач – doctor
кассир – cashier
продавец – seller, shop-assistant
секретарь – secretary

But there are female versions for some of them, which are only used in informal situations:

учительница (f.) – female teacher
продавщица (f.) – female seller
секретарша (f.) – female secretary
почтальонка (f.) – postwoman

Names of the months are all masculine.

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