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Grammatical gender

Submitted by administrator on 30 May, 2006 - 17:56.

In modern English, nouns are usually not marked for gender; however, lexical gender can be expressed, for example, with the help of suffixes. Compare the words "actor" with the word "actress". In Russian, gender is expressed on nouns, pronouns, adjectives, participles and verbs.

Both animate and inanimate nouns are distinguished by gender into three groups: masculine, feminine, and neuter. You can easily guess that nouns "девочка" (girl), "львица" (lioness) and "кошка" (she-cat) are feminine. However, the gender assigned to objects is often arbitrary.

Compare the word "картофель" (potato) with "картошка" (potato, spud). The word "картофель" is of the masculine gender. The word "картошка" (potato, spud) is of the feminine gender and is used in colloquial speech. The phrase ''tasty potato'' can be translated into Russian as "вкусный картофель" or "вкусная картошка".

When learning new words, you have to learn the gender. In addition, you can often guess the gender of nouns by the way they are spelled.

Gender Ending Examples
Masculine consonant or -й стол (table), кот (cat), дом (house), карандаш (pencil), чай (tea), ручей (brook), музей (museum)
Feminine -a, -я мама (mother), лиса (fox), книга (book), чашка (cup), женщина (woman), девочка (girl), цапля (heron bird), капля (drop), сабля (saber)
Neuter -о, -е яйцо (egg), метро (metro), окно (window), дерево(tree), письмо (letter), яблоко (apple), море (sea), солнце (sun), полотенце (towel), сердце (heart)
Either masculine or feminine masculine: конь (horse), медведь (bear), олень (deer), портфель (briefcase)
feminine: мышь (mouse), дверь (door), сирень (lilac)

Note that some animate nouns of the masculine gender can take endings –а, -я: папа (father), мужчина (man), дядя (uncle).

Nouns and adjectives

In the Russian language, inflexions are used to identify the relations between words. Russian adjectives agree with nouns in gender, number and case.

Adjectives modifying nouns of masculine gender have the following endings:

  1. -ий : синий зонт (blue umbrella), синий виноград (blue grape), маленький дом (small house)
  2. -ый : черный кот (black cat), белый медведь (white bear), зелёный огурец (green cucumber)
  3. -ой: большой дом (big house), золотой медальон (gold locket)

Adjectives modifying nouns of feminine gender have the following endings:

  1. -ая, желтая груша (yellow pear), красная клубника (red strawberry), оранжевая морковь (orange carrot), зеленая лягушка (green frog)
  2. -яя ; новогодняя елка (New Year's tree), синяя птица (bluebird)

Adjectives modifying nouns of the neuter gender have the following endings:

  1. -ое, красное яблоко (red apple), зеленое авокадо (green avocado)
  2. -ее, свежее молоко (fresh milk)

Nouns and verbs

In the Past tense singular number, Russian verbs agree with nouns in gender. In the Present and Future tense, the ending of the verb does not reflect the gender of the noun.

Present Tense

Мальчик читает книгу. The boy reads a book.
Девочка читает книгу. The girl reads a book.

Корабль плывет. The ship moves through water. (Masculine gender)
Судно плывет. The vessel moves through water. (Neuter gender)
Лодка плывет. The boat moves through water. (Feminine gender)

Птица летит. The bird flies. (Feminine gender)
Самолет летит. The plane flies. (Masculine gender)

Future Tense

Мальчик будет читать. The boy will read.
Девочка будет читать. The girl will read.

Корабль будет плыть. The ship will move through water.
Судно будет плыть. The vessel will move through water.
Лодка будет плыть. The boat will move through water.

Птица будет лететь. The bird will fly.
Самолет будет лететь. The plane will fly.

In the Past tense, verbs agree with nouns in gender; therefore, verb endings change.

Past Tense

Мальчик читал книгу. The boy read a book.
Девочка читала книгу. The girl read a book.

Корабль плыл. The ship moved through water.
Судно плыло. The vessel moved through water.
Лодка плыла. The boat moved through water.

Птица летела. The bird flew.
Самолет летел. The plane flew.