7

Why is the adjective "главный" in neuter gender in the following sentence? метод and результат are masculine.

главное не метод, а результат.

8

Here an adjective "главный" becomes a noun (the substantivation). The neuter form is chosen because "the main thing" (which it stands for) is a pure abstraction. It could also be, for example, "Главное не победа, а участие" - still neuter gender.

But of course the gender matters if you're talking about human beings or animals. For example, "I'm the boss" could be either "Главный здесь я" (masc.) or "Главная здесь я" (fem.).

5
  • if it is inanimate (no matter it is a feminine inanimate or a masculine inanimate), then neuter gender is used as the noun, am i right?
    – xpr34
    Mar 20 '17 at 8:15
  • Grammatically it's still an adjective describing an omitted word. Consider this sentence: Главное [дело] здесь – не метод, а результат. Mar 20 '17 at 8:43
  • 4
    @Taosique No, дело has nothing to do with it, and there's no omitted word. (Who'd say главное дело, anyway? That doesn't sound very Russian.) The neuter just points to a nominal abstraction. A similar thing exists in Spanish, and is in fact the only extant use of its now-obsolete neuter gender: Lo importante es el método, no el resultado. Mar 20 '17 at 9:14
  • @NikolayErshov, what exactly do you mean with "nominal abstraction"?
    – xpr34
    Mar 20 '17 at 10:37
  • @xpr34 Sorry for that sloppy term. I meant, basically, something that possesses the attribute described by the adjective, without being a thing or even a specific abstract idea. Mar 20 '17 at 10:46
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It's a nominalized adjective, similar to those in English "orange is the new black", "eat fresh", "bowl of red" etc. It acts as a subject in this sentence, and, therefore, does not have to agree in gender with the objects.

Modern Russian uses sg. neuter to form nominalized adjectives describing abstract or collective concepts: былое ("bygones"), приданое ("dowry"), второе ("main course") etc.

Old Russian and Church Slavonic used pl. neuter for this purpose, ending in -ая in nominative: вселенная; преисподняя; святая святых; прочая, прочая, прочая etc.

3

Consider English:

It is method which is important here, not the result.

Here "important" is related to "it", not to "method". Why do you think it should relate to method in Russian?

2

The word "главное" in this sentence plays the part of a noun in the meaning "the most important in general" and is used in the neuter gender. This meaning is mentioned in some dictionaries (Кузнецов Толковый словарь and Малый академический словарь)

Гла́вное, -ого; ср. Несколько слов о самом главном.

When "главное" is a subject and there is no verb (a copular be) we put a dash after it.

Главное – не метод,а результат. Главное – люди. Главное – не опоздать на поезд.

As a subject it doesn't depend on other words.

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главное не метод, а результат.
it's not the method what is important, it's the result.
or
it's not about the method, it's about the result. главное не победа, а участие.
it's not the victory what is important, it's the participation.
or
it's not about the victory, it's about participation.

1
  • It does not answer the question.
    – Quassnoi
    Mar 20 '17 at 20:49

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