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What's This? Basic Russian Grammar: Gender of Nouns

written by: Gillian Hendrie•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 2/15/2013

Learn about the gender of nouns in the Russian language and practice what you learn using the categorizing exercise. Ask about the names of items ("What is this?"). A download of all vocabulary used is available.

  • slide 1 of 4

    Before we Start

    This article assumes that the reader already understands how to read the Cyrillic alphabet.

  • slide 2 of 4

    Russian Nouns

    Russian has no articles: there is no word for “a" or “the". However, there are three genders of Russian noun: masculine, feminine and neuter. In the majority of cases, the gender of a noun is obvious from its ending.

    • Masculine nouns end in a consonant or -й.Examples:дом (house), брат (brother)
    • Feminine nouns end in –a or -я. Examples: газета (newspaper), фотография (photograph)
    • Neuter nouns end in –o or –e. Examples: радио (radio), упражнение (exercise).

    There are some exceptions to these rules, especially in the diminutives of male names (“nicknames"), e.g. Саша.

    Nouns ending with –ь can be either masculine or feminine, e.g. тетрадь (notebook) is feminine, while словарь (dictionary) is masculine. (None of those noun forms have been used in this article.) As you learn each noun, you should always note its gender.

  • slide 3 of 4

    Now You Try

    See if you can give these nouns the correct gender:

    сестра магазин газета кафе oкно собака oтец подруга вино ручка хлеб брат кино рука pадио телефон море пианино лимон фабрика паспорт фотография друг зеркало дом сигарета упражнение кошка магазин ребёнок платье работа мост

    The answers can be found in this download.

  • slide 4 of 4

    This and That

    Now we can make our first sentences.

    Remember, Russian has no articles: we simply use the noun. The context will usually make the meaning clear. Also, there is no “to be" in the present tense.

    What's this / that? = Что это? is used with all three genders of noun, and answering is easy too.

    Examples:

    • This / that is a house = это дом.
    • This / that is a dog = этo собака.
    • This / that is a mirror = этo зеркало.

    The question form is that same as the statement - just add a question mark or raised voice inflection:

    • Is this / that a house? = это дом?
    • Is this / that a dog? = этo собака?
    • Is this / that a mirror? = этo зеркало?

    with the answers:

    • Yes, it is a house = да, это дом
    • No, it's not a house. It's a ... = нет, это не дом. это ...