I always wondered how people detect the gender of food or household goods? Who decided that pumpkins (тыквы) are girls (девочки), but tomatoes (томаты) are boys (мальчики)? Well, speaking about grammatical gender, you can see the logic… and lots of exceptions. This is why I decided to pay attention to the most clearest moment of the world gender conspiracy. I mean a group of Russian words called nouns of common gender.
First of all, I’d like to use a simple crib / cheat. Look at the last character of nouns such as океан, море, река, ручей, ночь, путь.
Сonsonant or Й = Masculine.
A or Я =Feminine.
O and Е = Neuter.
Soft sign (Ь) = Masculine/Feminine.
So we can see that океан (ocean) is masculine. Море (sea) is neuter. Река (river) is feminine. Ручей (brook) is masculine. Ночь (night) is a feminine noun of 3d declination. Путь (way) is a masculine noun of 2d declination.
Father (папа), uncle (дядя), grandfather (дедушка) and man (мужчина) are nouns of masculine gender.
Кофе (coffee) was masculine in the XX century. Now it can be masculine or neuter. It also can be feminine in other Slavic languages (Serbian, for example). I should add that кофе looked like кофий / кофей in XIX century in Russia. So, кофе is a small example of the two big trends.
1. Russian nouns can change their grammatical features during the time.
2. Foreign words (especially indeclinable nouns) can have 2 gender forms. For example, авто (the short form of the noun автомобиль (an automobile, car), бренди (brandy), and шерри (sherry) can be masculine or neuter.
Well, we could write a logbook about every single loanword, but it’s time to stop and look at words, called nouns of common gender.
What do they look like?
- They manifest your attitude toward a person you speak about.
- Their grammatical features depend on the sex of this person.
- In general, these words look like feminine nouns (a/я-endings).
- They denote people (sometimes animals/fabulous creatures, imaginary friends or any part of human’s personality and creativity).
1. Мама Марии говорит, что Мария — большая умница, а Пётр — настоящий растяпа.
Maria’s mother tells that Maria is very clever, but Peter is a real blunderer.
Мама Петра говорит, что Мария — настоящая растяпа, а Пётр — большой умница.
Peter’s mother tells that Maria is a real blunderer, but Peter is very clever.
Мария и Пётр не обсуждают это, потому что они тихони // любят друг друга.
Maria and Peter don’t discuss it, because they are demure persons // love each other.
- Этот гном — такой обжора. This dwarf is such a glutton.
- Тсс. Это же королева гномов. Tss. This is the Queen of dwarves.
- Ой, прошу прощения. Она такая обжора. Oh, I apologize. She is such a glutton.
Here is some nouns of common gender. Looking at them, you might think that there is no difference between offending words and outspoken criticism. :) So, use some of them very carefully. And I wish you to hear only pleasant words. :)
- выскочка – upstart, parvenu
- заика – shutterer
- зевака – idler
- зануда – someone who is boring and pedantic; “pain in the neck”
- жадина – skinflint, penny-pincher, scrooge
- неряха – a person who is always loosing things; his/her clothing is dirty and messy
- обжора – glutton
- плакса – crybaby
- подлиза – toady
- пьяница – drunkard
- растяпа – blunderer
- самоучка – self-educated person
- сирота – orphan
- сластёна – sweet tooth
- соня – sleepyhead
- тихоня – demure person
- умница – smart person
- ябеда – squealer, tattletale