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I'm currently going through Section 2 of Russian in Duolingo, and in one unit, it gave me the two phrases "your guest" and "your life".

I'm still struggling to understand how the suffixes change for nouns, so I was confused when it told me "your guest" should be translated "Твой гость" whereas "your life" should be translated "твоя жизнь".

I know "твой" is the masculine your whereas "твоя" is the feminine your, but in the context of the Duolingo lesson, I'm not sure why they're used here, as there was nothing to signify the gender of the subject nor the object.

Furthermore, if I run "your guest" through some online translators, they say it should be "ваш гость".

Why all the different translations for "your" in this context?

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    I don't actually speak Russian, but I am learning Ukrainian, which is similar in many ways. I know that in Ukrainian, ваш is the 2nd-person plural, which is also used as a more formal 2nd-person singular (as in many other languages). So ваш is interchangeable with твой/твоя, but the former is more formal/respectful. As for the masculine/feminine difference, I'm only guessing, but I assume the noun гость is masculine while the noun жизнь is feminine. Every noun has a gender, which you just have to learn. There's no intuitive way of knowing what gender it is.
    – GentlePurpleRain
    Commented Feb 5 at 19:49
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    ...Regarding "твой" vs "ваш", this is T-V distinction. In Russian, this is a very complex concept, depending much on context etc. The simplest explanation is that "твой" is informal, while "ваш" is formal and polite, but there is much more to it. Overall, I believe that any decent Russian course or textbook should at least skim both these topics (genders and TV distinction) very early in the course, so I suggest looking for a good textbook.
    – Petr
    Commented Feb 6 at 8:19

1 Answer 1

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I know "твой" is the masculine your whereas "твоя" is the feminine your, but in the context of the Duolingo lesson, I'm not sure why they're used here, as there was nothing to signify the gender of the subject nor the object.

Every Russian noun comes equipped with a grammatical gender: masculine, feminine or neuter. It's an intrinsic property of the noun.

Some nouns let you figure out their gender by looking at some formal attributes: i.e. those ending in or are neuter (bar some loanwords); those ending in a consonant are masculine; etc. For others, like the aforementioned гость and жизнь, the gender is something you have to learn and memorize.

Once you've learned the gender of a noun, you need to make sure that all the adjectives that modify it have the same gender. Linguistically speaking, the noun and the adjective must both agree in gender, with the noun being the one that governs it.

Russian is not unique in this aspect — many languages work the same way.

Furthermore, if I run "your guest" through some online translators, they say it should be "ваш гость".

Russian has a feature called T-V distinction. You use different pronouns to address people depending on their age, social rank and how close you are to them. The "fancy" pronoun is вы, which normally is the second person plural pronoun.

Back in the day, English had the same feature: you would use "you" (the plural pronoun) to address respectable people, white those in the cheap seats would be addressed with a mere "thou" (the singular one). But eventually, English people grew super polite and started to call everyone "you", so the old "thou" has died out, except in remote UK counties and among old school Quakers.

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