Vocabulary

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Lesson Transcript

Hi everyone! Lena here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Russian questions.
The question for the day is: How to tell the gender of a noun?
In Russian, the gender of nouns is determined by the endings, suffixes, and some other indicators.
However you can accurately tell the gender of a noun only if it’s in the singular number of the nominative case.
Let me try to explain to you how it all works.
Masculine nouns (names included) usually have at their end either a consonant (including -й (j)) or the soft sign, which, as you remember, doesn’t have a sound of its own.
For example, Круг (Krug, “Circle”), Чай (Chay, “Tea”), Иван (Ivan, “Ivan”, that’s a Russian male name).
It’s important to mention that diminutive or short Russian male names usually end in a vowel, in either ‘a’ or ‘ya’.
For example, the diminutive of the name Anton is Antosha, the diminutive of Dmitry is Dima, the diminutive of Mikhail is Misha, and the diminutive of Ivan is Vanya.
Feminine nouns (names included), usually end with either vowels or the soft sign; for example Книга (Kniga, “Book”), Земля (Zemlya, “Land”), Мать (Mat’, “Mother”), Елена (Yelena, “Elena,” that’s a Russian female name).
And feminine nouns usually have the suffix -ость (-ost’): Радость (Radost’, “Happyness”), Верность (Vernost’, “Loyalty”), Честность (Chestnost’, “Honesty”).
Finally, neuter nouns have vowels -о (o), -е (ye), and -ё (yo) as their endings.
For example, Окно (Okno, “Window”), Зелье (Zel`ye, “Potion”), Ружьё (Ruzh`yo, “Rifle”).
Certain suffixes can also serve as gender indicators.
For example, the typical masculine suffixes are -тель (-tel’), -онок (-onok), and -ёнок (-yonok).
Строитель (Stroitel', “Builder”), Оттенок (Ottenok, “Tint”), Котёнок (Kotyonok, “Kitten”).
And now we’ll talk a bit about the cases when adjectives act as nouns.
The examples of this are Караульный (Karaul'nyy, “Guard”), Столовая (Stolovaya, “Dining room”), Сладкое (Sladkoye, “Sweets”).
Again, similarly to the regular nouns, such words have typical endings:
the masculine ending is ‘ый’ (with the consonant at the end) - Караульный
The feminine ending is ‘aya” (with the vowel at the end) – Столовая
The neuter ending is ‘oe’ (with the vowel “e” at the end) - Сладкое
You may find an etymological dictionary to be a very useful tool in mastering Russian noun genders.
This kind of dictionary explains the meaning and the origin of words and have all the nouns tagged with their respective genders.
Pretty interesting, right?
If you have any more questions, please leave a comment below!
До встречи! (Do vstrechi!) “See you soon!”

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