Occasionally I see a reference to categorized noun declensions (e.g., first, second, third). I would imagine some question whether or not learning about such declensions is essential to learning the Russian language, but it does appear that this categorization of declensions is being taught in this way to some students and I'd like to be able to more fully understand the questions or comments written about such declensions. However, I haven't had much luck in finding anything truly helpful. I find references to such resources few and far between and not all that comprehensive. I have visited the following thread:

Order of declensions (склонения)

and it was very good. I even visited some of the links listed in it, but it appears that the only references I can find with noun declension categories that categorize nouns, for the most part, are for those in singular form. Are there any for those found in plural form only (like the word "люди")? And in the absence of any pre-established categorization of the declensions of nouns found in plural form only, has anyone reading this discovered or noticed any particular patterns (e.g., plural nouns ending in __, are usually __ in the genitive plural)? Or is there just not enough of them to bother creating rules and categories for? In a quick glance of the Top 500 Russian Nouns, as listed at MasterRussian.com, I think I only saw a couple of nouns that appear to be in plural form only (i.e., деньги, сутки). Based off of this, I presume that the number of Russian nouns found in plural form only is less than 1 percent and quite likely very difficult to make generalizations about or categorize. But if any do exist, especially if they are online and free, please share them with us. (Ideally, there's some sort of online dictionary or database that allows me to type in a word and returns with information that includes what declension category the word belongs to.)

Also, while I am at it, does anyone know the history of teaching the Russian language with respect to the teaching of noun declensions by category? Is this something that was popular at one time but has fallen into disuse for some reason? Is this method of teaching Russian still in use and/or more popular in countries that use a case system (e.g., Germany)?

For the record, I decided to post this question here after reading a comment someone had made in a discussion thread in Duolingo's Russian for English Speakers course. One of the users asked:

Is "люди" a third declension noun when "человек" is first declension? How can one tell that its genitive plural should be "людей" and not "люд" or "людов"?

You can link to the thread below:

Is "люди" a third declension noun ...?

Thanks in advance for any resources you can share or insight you can provide.

2 Answers 2


Declension group is usually mentioned in grammatical dictionaries articles for nouns

In particular they're indicated in the articles of https://ru.wiktionary.org

Lists of declensions by word are provided by quite a few websites of the Runet (just a random search) but i'm not sure if any of them lists the actual declension group as well besides the declension table

For the record, деньги doesn't only exist in plural form, as there's its usable singular form деньга, admittedly not too actively usable, but isn't completely obsolete either.

Also to figure out possible declension group of a given word it might be worthwhile recalling any familiar words built after the same pattern as there're good chances that they will inflect identically (this is the way i imagine how children learn the language).

For example in the case of люди, there's a morphologically identical word груди which unlike люди does have a singular form грудь, and unsurprisingly plural forms of both words inflect identically.

And that's true for even бигуди as well despite shift in the word stress to the last syllable.

For сутки a suitable guide would be утки.

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    I found your answer very interesting. I didn't know that "деньги" had a singular. I also found your advice about finding a word with a similar pattern to use as a guide very helpful. (That practice is especially helpful when studying Arabic verb forms.)
    – Lisa Beck
    Nov 26, 2017 at 21:32
  • I occasionally use a rhyming dictionary for English. Rhymezone is usually the first site of this type I'll visit and even has a Spanish version, but not a Russian one. EZ Glot is another source I've used when searching for words that fit a pattern, but it doesn't seem to work very well for Russian. Is there a good, free, online Russian rhyming dictionary?
    – Lisa Beck
    Nov 26, 2017 at 21:32
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    @LisaBeck do be aware that singular «деньга» is colloquial only and is “low” style. Nov 26, 2017 at 21:58
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    here's one rhyme search engine rifma.poncy.ru for the sake of reliability in the query results it's important to look for words which have stressed vowel and all following characters identical to those of the query word, for сУтки they all will have to contain -Утки Nov 26, 2017 at 23:07

Plural endings are mostly the same across all three declension types with the exception of the genitive case.

Genitive plural is indeed very irregular. My five year old son (Russian being his first language) still makes lots of mistakes in this form (кораблёв, лодков, варежков, etc).

Here's a few general patterns to help you choose the ending (-ов/-ей or null):

  1. If nominative singular ends in or a sibilant (ж/ш/щ/ч), then genitive plural will end in -ей: кора́бль - корабле́й, конь - коне́й, ночь - ноче́й, мать - матере́й, нож - ноже́й, мяч - мяче́й.

  2. Those ending in -а/-я in singular nominative will likely have a null ending in genitive plural: рука́ - рук, сторона́ - сторо́н, си́ла - сил, де́вушка - де́вушек, тро́йка - тро́ек, баня - бань. Some of these with the stem ending in a soft or sibilant have variants with -ей: свеча́ - свеч/свече́й, до́ля - доль/доле́й, дя́дя - дя́дей, ю́ноша - ю́ношей.

  3. Neuter nouns (ending in -о/-е/-ё) normally get a null ending: де́ло - дел, окно́ - о́кон, кре́сло - кре́сел, зда́ние - зда́ний, копьё - ко́пий.

  4. The rest are likely to get the ending -ов/-ев/-ёв which is probably the largest category: стол - столо́в, дом - домо́в, ме́сяц - ме́сяцев, геро́й - геро́ев, солове́й - соловьёв.

And of course there are lots of odd ones like во́лос - воло́с, глаз - глаз, челове́к - челове́к/люде́й, яйцо́ - яи́ц, о́блако - облако́в, etc. which have to be memorised separately. I'm only mentioning these because they are high-frequency words.

These are the most generic rules. I'll stop here because otherwise this answer can get too involved. Let me know in the comments if you'd like it to be expanded to include smaller groups of nouns.

P.S. I've written an article about Russian declension but it's in Russian.

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    Wow. Both of these answers are very good and very helpful. I don't think I've ever wanted to award more than one green checkmark more. Usually in these cases, I award it to the person who has fewer reputation points, but in this case, Sergey has been very helpful in answering other questions of mine in the past, so to award on that basis seems rather unfriendly. So, here's what I'll do. I'll let this question simmer for a week (or more). Whoever has the most votes at the end of the period will be awarded the green checkmark. If voting is tied, I'll have to base my decision on something else.
    – Lisa Beck
    Nov 26, 2017 at 21:10
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    By the way, I look forward to reading your article on declension some day. It's likely to be a bit too advanced for me right now. And, sadly, I now notice that a week has passed and the other contender's answer appears to be slightly more popular. That said, your answers are always very good and I look forward to more from you in the future. Спасибо.
    – Lisa Beck
    Dec 4, 2017 at 21:59

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