Russian nouns have one of three grammatical classes called genders. They are divided into three groups: nouns of masculine (мужской), feminine (женский) and neuter (средний) gender, which is clearly expressed only in the singular nouns. The gender of a noun is shown by it’s ending.
- Masculine gender / мужской род nouns are nouns end in a consonant, -й or -ь in the Nominative case: Максим (Maxim), дом (house), музей (museum), рубль (ruble)
- Feminine gender / женский род nouns are nouns end in the vowel -а, – я, -ь in the Nominative case: Анна (Anna), комната (room), неделя (week), дочь (daughter)
- Neuter gender / средний род nouns are nouns end in the vowel -о, -е in the Nominative case: окно (window), письмо (letter), здание (building).
As you can see only soft sign (-ь) is shared by more then one gender: Masculine and Femine. It can be a bit confusing and you will need to learn the gender of this words when you will meet them. However it is just small group and 75% of the words finishing on -ь are Femenine. There are also a few exceptions. The following nouns are masculine because of their meaning:
дедушка – grandfather папа – dad дядя – uncle мужчина – man
You should remember them. They work as regular masculine nouns but sometime some grammar rules can change them as if they would be a femine ones.
Nouns of any gender may be replaced by the corresponding personal pronouns.
In contrast to English the Russian pronouns он and она may replace not only animate, but also inanimate nouns.
- The pronoun он replaces any masculine noun Максим, музей = он
- The pronoun она replaces any feminine noun Анна, комната = она
- The pronoun оно replaces any neuter noun окно = оно
Compare the following sentences in Russian and in English. Note what Russian pronouns are used in place of English ‘it’. Click each statement to listen.
|1. Это Иван. Он журналист.||1. This is Ivan. He is a journalist.|
|2. Вот парк. Он слева.||2. This is a park. It is on the left.|
|3. Это Таня. Она студентка.||3. This is Tanya. She is a student.|
|4. Это наша школа. Она справа.||4. This is our school. It is on the right.|
|5. Где письмо? – Вот оно.||5. Where is the letter? – Here it is.|