Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Lesson 23 - Nouns and Gender

Today we'll talk about nouns and genders. Keep in mind that we are going to look only at singular nouns in nominative case (more on the 6 noun cases later).

As you know, a noun is a word that names a person, place, thing, event or idea. All Russian nouns are divided into 3 genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. It's important to know the gender of a noun, since it needs to agree with other parts of speech. Let me give you an example: красивая девушка (a pretty girl) is correct, while красивый девушка is not. Ending -ый of the adjective красивый denotes masculine gender.

Learning gender rules is not an easy process. Many times you will be able to determine the gender of a noun simply by using your biology knowledge. Ex.: мальчик (masculine), девочка (feminine), etc. But most of the time noun gender is random and unchangeable. Gender rules MUST be memorized. However, the secret is simple: the ending of a noun determines its gender. After learning a few rules you'll be able to instantly recognize whether nouns are masculine, feminine or neuter.

Here's a Russian Noun Genders table for your convenience.(Click the table for an enlarged view)


*Every Russian noun has a gender (masculine, feminine or neuter)
*Every adjective or verb must agree with the gender of a Russian noun (and pronoun)
*Most masculine nouns end in a consonant, as well as -ь or -й
*Feminine nouns usually end in -а, as well as -я, -ия, and -ь
*Most neuter nouns end in -о or -е, but can also take endings like -ие, and -[м]я
*A handful of Russian nouns appear to be feminine by their endings, are in fact masculine. Commit them to memory!


It's been a while since I added a Russian song to my podcast. So many of you requested this feature back! I promise to add one when I get a chance to obtain license-free Russian music. May 9th is the Victory Day in Russia. (День Победы). To mark this day I am including a well-known song from the Soviet era called «В землянке» - "In the Dugout" performed by Михаил Гулько.

Here are the lyrics of the song and its translation.

В землянке
Музыка: К.Листов Слова: А.Сурков

Бьется в тесной печурке огонь,
На поленьях смола, как слеза.
И поет мне в землянке гармонь
Про улыбку твою и глаза.

Про тебя мне шептали кусты
В белоснежных полях под Москвой.
Я хочу, чтобы слышала ты,
Как тоскует мой голос живой.

Ты сейчас далеко, далеко,
Между нами снега и снега.
До тебя мне дойти не легко,
А до смерти - четыре шага.

Пой, гармоника, вьюге назло,
Заплутавшее счастье зови.
Мне в холодной землянке тепло
От моей негасимой любви.

В землянке
in English:

The fire beats in the tiny hearth,
Resin shines on the wood like a tear,
An accordion sings about love,
And your eyes and your smile reappear.

The trees have whispered of you to me,
In the snow-white plains of Moscow,
Oh, my love, if it only could be,
If you heard me here singing alone.

You are far, far away at this hour.
Snows between us and winter's hard breath.
To rejoin you is not in my power,
Though just four steps divide me from death.

Sing, accordion, mocking the storm,
Call back joy, drive off sorrow and doubt.
In the cold of the dogout I 'm warm
For the fire of our love won't go out.


In closing, I'd like to thank Bethany for her lovely greeting that I started today's lesson with. To the rest of my listeners: you are welcome to send in your greetings in Russian. Don't forget to visit speakrussian.blogspot.com for some lagniappe* (11 years in New Orleans have taken their toll:) . Send all your questions and comments to spoonfulofrussian@gmail.com

До свидания и всего хорошего, друзья!

* (Lagniappe derives from New World Spanish la ñapa, “the gift,” and ultimately from Quechua yapay, “to give more.” The word came into the rich Creole dialect mixture of New Orleans and there acquired a French spelling. It is still used in the Gulf states, especially southern Louisiana, to denote a little bonus that a friendly shopkeeper might add to a purchase. By extension, it may mean “an extra or unexpected gift or benefit.”)