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The category of gender

The category of gender in Russian is one of the most difficult topics. It is easy for native speakers who hear the fluent speech, instinctively understand the combinations of adjective + noun, the agreement of a verb and a noun and gender since their childhood. Figuratively speaking, a Russian child divides all the words into three categories: "слова-девочки" (words-girls - feminine), "слова-мальчики" (words-boys - masculine) and "слова-солнца" (words-suns - neuter gender). We don't use the notion "слово-солнце" (word-sun) to teach Russian children, but such comparison can help foreigners who learn the Russian language. So any Russian child imagines that a fox, cat, bird - girls, and a wolf, bear, elephant - boys. This concept is reflected in cartoons and fairy tales. If you know the Russian folklore, you will notice that the character "Лиса Патрикеевна" [Lisa Patrikeevna] (a fox) is female, and ""Михаил Потапыч" [Michail Patapych] (a bear) is male. "Заяц и Волк" [Zayts i Volk] (a rabbit and a wolf) - characters of a popular cartoon - both male. "Серая шейка" [Seraya sheyka] (a duck) from the fairy tale by Mamin-Sibiryak - female. Though, we all know that foxes, bears, wolves and ducks can be of both genders.

Such characteristics are referred not only to animate objects which can have concepts of "girl-boy" (especially, if you take a closer look at the concepts of animateness-inanimateness which are considered in many articles, in particular on this website). But inanimate objects also have the category of gender. On the whole, any noun can be referred to one or another gender. But how to understand, for example, which gender have the words "лампа" [lampa] (lamp) and "диван" [divan] (sofa)?...

You can investigate historical background of every word or accept it as a given and just learn how to define the gender of a word according to its ending.

Most feminine nouns have the endings "-А", "-Я" or end with a soft sign "Ь":

вода [vada], земля [zimlya], крыша [krysha], рука [ruka], обувь [obuv’], мать [mat'], природа [priroda], дочь [doch'], отвага [atvaga].

Most neuter nouns have the endings "-O", "-E":

Море [more], яблоко [yablaka], небо [neba], солнце [sontse], озеро [ozira], кафе [kafeh], кофе [kofe], кино [kino], вино [vino] and домино [damino]

(the exceptions with the ending "-Я": дитя [ditya]; время [vremya], имя [imya], знамя [znamya], семя [semya], стремя [stremya], вымя [vymya], пламя [plamya], племя [plemya], темя [temya], бремя [bremya])

The rest of the nouns are masculine:

Врач [vrach], кирпич [kirpich], дым [dym], отец [atets], камыш [kamysh], диван [divan], закон [zakon], свет [svet], обед [abed].

Attention. Some masculine nouns end with "-A", "-Я" and a soft sign "Ь". But they are rare.
Папа [papa], дядя [dyadya], дедушка [dedushka], рояль [rayal'].
Exercise. Define the gender of nouns. Let's take the words from the topic "Russian cuisine". If you don't know the word, it is better. If you don’t know the meaning of a word but can "feel" its gender, it means your linguistic intuition is developing and is on the way.

1. блин [blin] 2. оладья [alad'ya] 3. каша [kasha] 4. борщ [borshch] 5. кисель [kisel'] 6. котлета [katleta] 7. Голубец [galubets] 8. варенье [varen'ye] 9. молоко [malako] 10. сметана [smitana] 11. курник [kurnik] 12. настойка [nastoyka]
13. пирожок [pirazhok] 14. кулебяка [kulibyaka] 15. ватрушка [vatruschka] 16. хлебово [chlebava] 17 уха [ucha] 18. жаркое [zharkoye] 19. окрошка [akroschka] 20. сырник [syrnik] 21. квас [kvas]

Masculine gender: 1,4,5,7,11,13,20,21
Feminine gender: 2,3,6,10,12,14,15,17,19
Neuter gender: 8,9,16,18

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