"Этот мужчина здесь?"
Translation:Is this man here?
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Well, it could well be that he meant vot and zdes (for which, see comments below), but maybe he was Horton, in which case, the question is a good one. Yesterday, I was told by a native speaker, "Vot ..." as she pointed to something far off in the corner of the room. Confused, I asked her why not tam, and she said if we are emphasizing the object or contrasting it, vot is/can be used.
Exactly. Words do not have feminine or masculine endings in Russian. It is just that modern declension classes align rather well with the grammatical gender.
If you are a learner it does not hurt to think of "stereotypically feminine" nouns like мама or кошка and "stereotypically masculine nouns" like стол or компьютер, even though дядя, Кеша, Никита, кенгуру, ноль, домишко are also masculine whereas боль, жизнь, Миссиссипи (the river) and Ивате (in Japan) are also feminine.
First of all, it is written здесь. It's called the soft sign and softens the consonant in front of it. So you don't say zd'es, but zd'es' (softer). I advise you to take a look at russian phonetics because it's quite recommended to know phonetics rules as they are also important for grammar structures later on.
I advise you to take a look at this webpage. You can also listen to the different sounds (Part 1 and 2): http://learnrussian.rt.com/phonetics/
Normally, and when stressed, э is /e/ like in "set", е is /je/ like in "yet". After a consonant, е means the /e/ sound plus the palatalisation of the consonant (сел [sʲeɫ]). This means the middle of your tongue is raised, as if you were prouncing the consonant simultaneously with a Y.
However, in a number of loanwords, what could have been an Э is spelt with a Е instead. For example, тест "test" is pronounced with no palatalisation (тэст, essentially). Плеер "(audio/video) player" is pronounced with a "hard" Л, though the second Е is pronounced as expected (/pɫejɪr/).
I'm a new learner so take this with a grain of salt. I was surprised by this myself, but apparently, when the word represents a clearly masculine object (such as мужчина), then even if it looks like it should be feminine, the fact man is clearly masculine means it is a masculine noun. Much like мама is feminine and папа masculine.
I guess the advice is look at the meaning first and the grammatical structure second.