Russian/Grammar/Gender

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This page explains the concept of gender in language. If you have studied another language that has gender, such as French or Spanish, and so are familiar with grammatical gender, feel free to skip this section.

What gender is[edit]

'Gender' is a way of categorising nouns in a language. In most languages, words are described as being 'masculine' or 'feminine', and a lot of languages, including Russian, also have words described as 'neuter' (i.e., neutral, or no gender). In languages like French, the gender of a particular word is mostly arbitrary: there's nothing in the word peau ('skin') that tells us it's a feminine word, and so a word's gender is largely just something you have to learn. Fortunately, in Russian, gender can be predicted. Like most other things in Russian, the gender of a noun is denoted by what letters are on the end of the word:

Masculine nouns end in a consonant: б, в, г, д, ж, з, й к, л, м, н, п, р, с, т, ф, х, ч, ц, ш, or щ. Notice that й is a consonant. For example, кролик (KRO-leek, 'rabbit') ends in a consonant, , so it is a masculine word.
Feminine nouns end in а or я. For example, собака (so-BA-ka, 'dog') ends in an -a, so it is a feminine word.
Neuter nouns end in о or е. For example, письмо (pees-MO, 'letter') ends in an -o, so it is grammatically neuter.
Nouns ending in can be either masculine or feminine. These just have to be memorised.

So, in Russian, nouns have an intrinsic property called 'gender', which comes in three types: masculine, feminine, and neuter. But why is this important?

What gender is for[edit]

To learn Russian, you have to be able to know the gender of a noun when you use it. When you modify a noun with an adjective ('nice dog', 'Red Square', 'old door'), the adjective changes its ending to match the gender of the word its modifying. So although adjectives don't have an intrinsic gender, they have a number of different endings they can use to match the gender of their noun. The same is true for possessive pronouns: the 'my' in 'my dog' (моя собака) and 'my table' (мой стол) are different, as the gender of 'dog' (собака, f) and 'table' (стол, m) are different. Personal pronouns (I, we, they, etc) don't usually have any inherent gender, instead taking on the gender of the thing they're referring to - though third-person singular pronouns do have specific genders: он ('he'), она ('she'), and оно ('it'). Gender also influences how you form the past tense of verbs: The 'wrote' in 'He wrote' (он написал) and 'she wrote' (она написала) are different, as the genders of the subject of the verb, 'he' and 'she', are different.

So, gender affects a lot of different parts of Russian grammar, and so is an important part of learning Russian. Fortunately, it's easy to learn, and easy to use.

Plurals[edit]

Russian uses plurals in much the same way as English. The rules for forming the plural depend on which grammatical case the word is in. However, the important thing here is that the rules are largely the same for all nouns, regardless of gender. This carries over into adjectives too: the endings they take on when their noun is plural, are independent of gender. There's no 'masculine plural' and 'feminine plural' - there's just, 'plural'.

As such, it is perhaps easiest to think of plurals as a 'fourth gender', and this is the way summary tables in this Wikibook will be presented.

Examples[edit]

This section lists some common words by their gender.

Masculine[edit]

Стол - Table
Стул - Chair
Театр - Theatre
Музей - Museum
Мужчина - Man
Брат - Brother
Сын - Son
Отец - Father
Муж - Husband
Дядя - Uncle (though it has a 'feminine' ending and conjugates like a feminine noun, 'uncle' is 'inherently' masculine, and so дядя is too)
Поезд - Train
Самолёт - Plane
Дом - House/Home
Магазин - Shop
Город - City
Кролик - Rabbit
Конь - Horse (An adult male horse)

Feminine[edit]

Лошадь - Mare (An adult female horse)
Книга - Book
Машина - Car
Гитара - Guitar
Россия - Russia
Англия - England
Франция - France (Note that countries often end in -ия, which makes them decline in unusual ways)
Женщина - Woman
Сестра - Sister
Дочь - Daughter
Мать - Mother
Жена - Wife
Тётя - Aunt

Neuter[edit]

Солнце - Sun
Небо - Sky
Письмо - Letter
Лето - Summer
Золото - Gold
Молоко - Milk
Мясо - Meat
Тело - Body
Равновесие - Balance

Plural[edit]

Столы - Tables
Стулья - Chairs
Театры - Theatres
Музеи - Museums
Мужчины - Men
Братья - Brothers
Сыновья/Сыны - Sons
Отцы - Fathers
Мужья - Husbands
Дяди - Uncles
Поезда - Trains
Самолёты - Planes
Дома - Houses
Магазины - Shops
Города - Cities
Кролики - Rabbits
Кони - Horses (Adult male horses)
Лошади - Horses
Книги - Books
Машины - Cars
Гитары - Guitars
Женщины - Women
Сёстры - Sisters
Дочери - Daughters
Матери - Mothers
Жены - Wives
Тёти - Aunts
Письма - Letters
Тела - Bodies