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Why some masculine nouns, like кофе, are treated as neuter?

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  • You say "some". Do you know any other example except "кофе"? – Abakan Jan 2 '18 at 21:18
  • @Abakan Actually no, but I used "some" just in case there are more. – Trey Jan 2 '18 at 21:29
  • But you are right, there are more: авто and метро were once masculine because they were shortened versions of автомобиль and метрополитен. Both are neuter nowadays. – Sergey Slepov Jan 3 '18 at 2:03
  • @ Sergey Slepov --метро is not masculine), nor is авто) The only other masculine word is домишко. – VCH250 Jan 3 '18 at 22:41
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    @Trey use some when you mean some, your question is misleading. – shabunc Jan 4 '18 at 20:42
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Кофе is a loanword and a special case. It is grammatically masculine, but it ends in -е, which is consistent with the neuter gender in Russian. So, many native speakers incorrectly use it as though it is neuter.

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It is unclear why the word that looks like a neuter noun and initially in 1700s was used as a neuter noun, later became a masculine noun.

For a long time grammar rules required "кофе" to be treated as a masculine noun. Recently, in 2009, grammar rules were officially relaxed (the link is in Russian). You can either treat it as a masculine, or as a neuter noun. Now phrases "черное кофе" / black coffee and "горячее кофе" / hot coffee are considered to be grammatically correct.

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    It's at least disputable that "кофе" derives from "кофий". See answers to this question – Abakan Jan 3 '18 at 22:39
  • What grammar rules were relaxed exactly? Кофе being neuter is actually more in line with the existing rule "Nouns ending in are usually neuter". – Sergey Slepov Jan 4 '18 at 0:34
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    @Sergey Slepov Prior to 2009, using "кофе" as a neuter noun was considered a mistake. Back in my elementary school days a teacher would give me a lower grade for such a mistake. – Vitaly Jan 4 '18 at 14:43
  • @Abakan Yes, the evidence is non existent. Ruscorpora contains examples that at first, in 1700s, "кофе" was used as a neuter noun, but by the late 1700s it became a masculine noun. It is unclear what caused that change. I updated the answer. – Vitaly Jan 4 '18 at 15:07

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