A noun can be a person, an animal, a place, a thing, an event (Easter, Christmas), an idea (truth, virtue), or even a feeling (envy, love). Every Russian noun has what’s called a grammatical race: either masculine, feminine, or neuter. All nouns have race and not just humans or living beings.
Knowing the grammatical race of a noun is important, because race determines how the noun changes in each of the six cases. In the following sections, we explain how to determine the race of nouns in Russian and warn you about some tricky-looking nouns.
Determining the race of a Russian noun is simple and a lot of fun. To truly enjoy determining the gender of a noun, you need to know that its ending. In most cases the ending indicates the noun’s race. In their dictionary form (the nominative case), Russian nouns may end with only one of the following:
Masculine: consonant ending or «–Й» (j):
дом [do:m] — house | home;
человек [chelovek] — human;
музей [moozej] — museum;
герой [geroij] — hero.
Feminine: A (а), я (ya) vowels,
девочка [dy'evachka] — girl;
кошка [k'o:shka] — a cat (feminine);
идея [ideya] — idea;
станция [stantsiya] — station.
Some masculine and some feminine words end with the soft sign — «-Ь»= (’):
конь [k'on'] —horse (m);
дождь [dozhd'] — rain(m);
ночь [n'o:ch] — night (f);
тетрадь [tietrad'] — copy-book (f)
Neutral — О (o), Е – (je), and Ё (jo):
вино [vino] — wine;
окно [akn'o] — window;
море [m'orje] — see;
сердце [sj'erdtse] — heart
A number of common Russian nouns denoting male beings can be confusing, because their grammatical race is actually feminine. These nouns are considered feminine, because they have the feminine ending -a:
мужчина [moo-sh’ee-na] — man
папа [papa] — dad
дедушка [dye-doosh-ka] — grandfather
дядя [dyadya] — uncle
These gender deviants behave just like feminine nouns when their endings change for each of the cases. Memorizing them is a good idea, because they’re words you use a lot.
After letters Г, Ж, К, Ш, Щ, Ч, Х in Russian languade you should always write И
Г, Ж, К, Ш, Щ, Ч, Х И.
Книга [kneaga] = a book — книги [kneagea] = books
Встреча [vstry'echa] = a meeting — встречи [vstry'echea] = meetings
Роща [ro:sh'a] = a grove — рощи [ro:sh'ea] = groves
Крыша [kryisha] = a roof — крыши [kryishea] = roofs
Ключ [kl'ooch] = a key — ключи [kl'oochea] = keys