How do you recognize masculine and feminine and neuter words on Russian?

  • 4
    Does not qualify as an answer, so just a comment: If by you you mean native speakers - we normally don't have to "recognize", we just know.
    – tum_
    Sep 19 '19 at 15:57

To my knowledge just about the only absolute rule is "If it ends in a hard consonant, it's masculine." (Note: this is not the same thing as "If it is masculine, it ends in a hard consonant.")

The other rules are almost always true. So words ending in а/я are feminine, except for masculine nouns like мужчина, plurals like дома, and super exceptions like дитя which is neuter!

Nouns ending in -ь are also feminine, except for nouns like путь which are masculine.

Nouns ending in -о/е/ё are neuter, except for кофе which is also masculine!

  • And how someone should know if a noun ending with -ь is like "путь" or not? What is it actually - "like путь"? Why is "олень" like путь but "лень" is not?
    – Abakan
    Dec 23 '19 at 23:23

Most nouns ending in -а or -я are feminine: мама, тётя, душа, Мария. Although quite a few such words are masculine: папа, дядя, Юра, юноша. Some can be either masculine or feminine: ябеда, соня, Саша, Женя.

Most nouns ending in -о, -е or -ё are neuter: молоко, поле, копьё, Домодедово, пальто, ателье.

Most nouns ending in a hard consonant or -й are masculine: стол, мяч, Пётр, кристалл, герой, литий, Сергей.

Nouns ending in -ь (the soft sign) can be either masculine конь, путь, царь or feminine: любовь, ночь, Сибирь. See this answer on how to tell them apart.

Foreign names and recent loanwords may not follow these rules. E.g. мисс ('Miss') is expectedly feminine and месье ('Monsieur') is masculine.

  • 1
    A common exception are masculine words ending in -а/-я I would not call that an exception, rather a rule, there are plenty of masculine words, which end in а/я Sep 20 '19 at 12:07

As was said before, considering singular, usually:

  • words that end with consonant (including й) are masculine, the only exceptions I can think of are foreign female names (like Kate - Кейт).

  • words that end with -o, -e are neutral, can be indeclinable (if adopted) or declinable. The only exception (other than foreign proper names) I can think of is "кофе" (that was кофий a couple of centuries ago and perfectly matched masculine, and than changed to more-English кофе, keeping its gram.gender, and it's so against the language, that most of natives say it in neuter, and those who don't put some effort in it, and neuter finally became an academic norm).

  • words that end with -у, -ю, -э are neuter and indeclinable (adopted)

  • words that end with -ы, -и are either plural or adopted indeclinable neuter

  • words that end with -а, -я are feminine, there is a group of exceptions, that end with -мя and are plural (время, знамя, пламя, вымя...) also if the word refers to a person with a known male gender, than it definitely masculine (although it will decline just as a feminine one), usually relatives: папа, дядя, дедушка, or personal names - Илья, Никита, expecially short ones, but there are others (судья).

  • words that end with -ь may be feminine or masculine and should be looked up "лань" is feminine, but "конь" is masculite. But if it ends with sibilant -шь, -жь or -чь, it's feminine: мышь, блажь, картечь.


Seems strange to me that no one pointed out that in Russian language grammatical gender should always correspond with physical gender. So папа, дядя, дедушка, парниша, юноша are masculine, despite the ending, because they mean male persons. Конь is masculine and лошадь is feminine because this words mean male and female horses. Same with names: Никита, Данила are masculine, foreign names like Джейн, Кэтрин are feminine. If you know the physical gender you already know the grammatical gender


There is such a thing as 3 (and a half) types of declension of nouns. This is more important for words matching. And this declensions a) defined by words endings b) apply some restriction to gender.

When russian eye sees the word "хрень" - it is 3rd declension and thus it can be only a femine gender.

When russian eye sees the word "кофе" - it is 1st declension and since it ending with "-e" ("soft vowel") it can only be of neutral gender (but was pushed to be male by academics, and it created a mess. Now it can be of both genders)

If the word has some ambigiouse ending , like "чупута" (its just set of letters), wich is 2nd declension and can be both femine and male gender - it can be used as both : "Чупута убежал", "Чупута ушла" - both phrases sound as correct.

One main thing englishspeaker should keep in mind that gender and "soulfullness" are separate and independent concepts in Russian. "Neutral gender" is not "it", it means "no gender applies".

Of cause, native speakers do not "calculate" declensions, they just "feel" them.

  • 3
    кофе does not inflect, so it does not belong to declension type 1. Better pick another example.
    – J-mster
    Sep 20 '19 at 19:25

An answer that works every single time (no exceptions ever) is to look at the endings of adjectives or pronouns that are allowed to modify the noun: большое здание, so здание is neuter, мой папа, so папа is masculine. That is, when the adjectives or pronouns that modify a noun have masculine (resp, feminine or neuter) endings then the noun is masculine (resp. feminine or neuter). This could be considered the definition of the gender of a noun. It looks rather indirect, which makes it a conceptually interesting way to think about the issue, but this way of explaining the gender of nouns is impractical to non-fluent speakers who are seeking rules to help guess the gender of an unfamiliar noun. That is why it is more common to see rules based on the ending of the noun. Such “simpler” rules always come with exceptions.

  • That's turning the problem upside down. In order to determine which form of adjective to use, one needs to know the gender of the related noun. Unless you know the whole phrase from a lot of exposure - which is equivalent to just knowing the gender.
    – Zeus
    Mar 18 '20 at 8:00
  • I said my answer that I was presenting an indirect definition and that it is useless to non-fluent speakers. When I first read about this way of thinking about gender of a noun, I was amused by its cunning way of working for those who know the language well enough, since it has no exceptions: endings on adjectives and pronouns are regular all the time. Nouns like коллега that allow adjectival modifiers with both masculine and feminine endings are a nice illustration of this (admittedly!) indirect definition: коллега is a common gender noun because it admits both endings on adjectives.
    – KCd
    Mar 18 '20 at 16:33
  • I also liked this way of thinking about what the gender of a noun is because it reminded me of the way in higher mathematics properties of an object can be turned around to serve as definitions of more abstract similar objects, e.g., the Pythagorean theorem in the plane and space is proved, but the formula it gives us for distance in 2 and 3 dimensions suggests a definition of distance in higher-dimensional spaces that nobody can directly visualize.
    – KCd
    Mar 18 '20 at 16:36

There is only one way to identify a noun gender 100% accurately: look up in your dictionary. However, there are some more or less reliable patterns:

  1. If a noun ends with -a/-я - this is the so called “feminine” type or feminine declension. As you might already guess, the majority of nouns in this group are of the feminine gender. Some masculine nouns may end with -a/-я Those nouns are mostly for people, namely family members (папа, дядя), professions (судья) or proper names (Ваня, Никита). Please note: There is a small group of neuter nouns ending with -мя: пламя, время and some more.

-a/-я - most likely feminine, unless it refers to a male person or ends with -мя (that would be neuter). One exception: кофе (coffee) is masculine, though some dictionaries says neuter is acceptable, too.

  1. If a noun ends with consonant sounds or the soft sign (-ь). This is the masculine declension, because most of the nouns in this group are masculine: банк, танк, конь, огонь. However, the soft sign is tricky. Quite a large group of Russian feminine nouns end with the soft sign, too, so whenever you see a soft sign, check the dictionary for gender.

Consonant - masculine; soft sign - check the dictionary.

    • o/ -e are the common endings of the neuter gender. Also, those weird nouns ending with -мя are neuter.

how to tell a gender of a noun

  • You say all nouns ending with ь are masculine and in the very next sentence you contradict yourself. How that???
    – Abakan
    Dec 23 '19 at 23:27
  • Oh, sorry for the confusion, bad wording. The second declension type indeed unite masculine nouns, but that doesn't mean that all nouns with the soft sign in the end belong to that declension type. Thank you for pointing that out! Dec 25 '19 at 0:23

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