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.). Each noun falls into one of these categories, and the noun’s gender can have an impact on the construction of other words, such as adjectives and verbs.

To speak Russian fluently, it is important to know the gender of every noun. The good news is that you don’t have to memorize the gender of every single word, as it can be identified in most cases. Although there are exceptions, identifying the gender is possible.

Now, let’s explore how to determine the gender of nouns in the Russian language.

Masculine nouns

Let’s have a look at these words:

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

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

So, the first clue to look out for is the noun’s ending.

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.

Gender of Russian nouns

But it’s not that easy. There are some exeptions.

You should consider the meaning of the word itself. Generally, nouns related to male figures or concepts are masculine, while those related to female figures or concepts are feminine. However, there are some nouns that may appear feminine but are actually masculine.

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:

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

Common gender in Russian

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
  • корова – cow

See Also: A Guide to Noun Plurals in the Russian Language

Neuter nouns

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

  • ухо (ear)
  • окно (window)
  • яблоко (apple)
  • облако (cloud)
  • небо (sky)
  • слово (word)
  • дерево (tree)
  • солнце (sun)
  • горе (grief, sorrow)
  • кафе (cafe)
  • ружьё (rifle, shotgun)
  • копьё (spear)

Note: The word “кофе” belongs to two genders – masculine and neuter.

Also, nouns that end in -мя are neuter:

  • имя (name)
  • время (time)
  • племя (tribe, people)
  • пламя (flame)
  • семя (seed)
  • вымя (udder)
  • бремя (burden, weight)
  • стремя (stirrup)
  • знамя (banner, flag)

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 (joy)
  • грусть (sadness)
  • любовь (love)
  • ненависть (hate)
  • удовлетворённость (satisfaction)
  • озабоченность (concern)
  • раздражительность (irritability)

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 mostly 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.

Unfortunately, there are numerous exceptions, so memorization is often necessary. There are many nouns whose gender simply needs to be learned through practice and exposure to the language.

It is important to note that the gender of a noun affects other elements of the sentence, such as adjectives and pronouns, which must agree with the noun in gender and number.

I hope this guide will help you win Russian gender roulette all the time!

Here’s a quick test for you to practice identifying the gender of nouns in Russian. Choose the appropriate gender (masculine, feminine, or neuter) for each noun:

1. стол (table)
2. машина (car)
3. книга (book)
4. дом (house)
5. мама (mom)
6. письмо (letter)
7. ребёнок (child)
8. облако (cloud)
9. кот (cat)
10. ручка (pen)

1. стол – masculine
2. машина – feminine
3. книга – feminine
4. дом – masculine
5. мама – feminine
6. письмо – neuter
7. ребёнок – masculine
8. облако – neuter
9. кот – masculine
10. ручка – feminine

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