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Russian words that end in ь.

Would it be possible, when introducing a new word that ends in ь, to mark the gender under the new word button? I know the majority are feminine, but it would help in the long run to learn the genders with the word. At the very least, perhaps at least mention when it is not feminine?

I thought the new word button would be a nice place to put that information. Just wanted to throw that idea out there.

November 14, 2015



I wish they would state the gender of all new words; the French and German courses do it. Is there any reason why the Russian course cannot?


As a native Russian speaker, I have to say that I do have trouble with German and French lacking any consistency in assigning gender (which is not the case, e.g., in Italian). It makes difficult for me to comprehend the very concept of "gender" in these languages.

On the other hand, Russian speakers are so used to recognizing the gender by the word-ending that it produces some well-known mistakes: in usage of foreign words like "кофе" - a masculine noun that Russians tend to inflect as a neuter and with compound words like "день рождения", which is again masculine but sounds like a single neuter word ("деньрожденье").

I do agree however, that Russian has its share of exceptions that may give trouble to foreign learners. But they are exceptions.


I hadn't appreciated how user friendly Russian was in this respect until I started to make serious inroads into the German course here. French I didn't find excessively problematic, but German noun gender is just so strange and seemingly random. Apparently even some Germans find that.

By comparison, Russian is downright easy in this regard, thank goodness!


If there is any rule to it, then I never figured it out myself as a German speaker. It was one of those things that I used to wonder about when I was little. And there are some words that have regional differences in Gender usage too. These are usually foreign words though.


I honestly found it quite reassuring to be told by native German speakers they don't really understand the logic either. I was sort of assuming there must be some kind of pattern I'd entirely missed! 8-o


Well, for many words the gender is easily recognizable by the suffix. For other suffixes there is no rule.

Native German speakers will hardly be able to explain, as they never learned those grammatical genders. As we native speakers simply know these by heart, there is no need to teach them in school extensively.


Oh, but Germans have SOME consistency. You can't go wrong with -ei, -shaft, -ung, -heit, -keit etc. But mostly you're right.


They probably don't do it because it's actually very easy to tell the gender of a noun based on its ending in the nominative singular. The only exception to this are nuns that end in ь which can be either masculine or feminine depending on the noun. There's a table in the Tips & notes of the Possessives and Gender skill that breaks it down quite nicely: https://www.duolingo.com/skill/ru/Possessive-Modifiers-1


I know that, but you can guess most French words' gender based on the ending too. But just seeing a statement of it when you first meet the word is enormously helpful, however.


There are technical differences between various incubator courses. Russian course just doesn't have the tools to add gender. Maybe one day, but no one knows when...


Thank you for responding, Larisa; I feared that might be the case :-( In which case it's a great pity but no fault at all of the Russian team's.

But why is it that 5 languages arbitrarily get additional tools? I can understand that immersion might require a lot of work to implement for other languages, but things like genders, verb conjugation tables and word-lists--these are just software templates that surely could easily be applied to everything with very little effort? (You don't need to answer; this is merely a rhetorical complaint to the heavens.)


The very first courses have been developed in-house by a Duolingo team BEFORE the incubator appeared. Their toolset is somewhat different.


Yes, I understand. But this tool-set is obviously compatible with the mechanics of the incubator, as the German course has recently updated its tree.
But I'm just moaning that an excellent free thing I am using is not, in a minute way, quite the way I'd prefer it; ignore me!


The German course is one of the in-house courses.


That's very strange. That seems like a tool that should be available to all courses.


If you judge by the nominative singular forms (the forms listed for dictionary entries), most Russian nouns are not a problem in this regard: there are only a few rules, and there are not too many exceptions. But the words in -ь and words in -а/я cannot be recognized in this way, as they might be either masculine or feminine, and it would be nice, you are right, if the masculine nouns among them, which are less numerous, would be marked. That way you could assume they were feminine unless you were told otherwise.


Usually the words that end in а я and are masculine are reasonably easy to spot - typically they're masculine because they're describing something (dad, uncle, grandfather) inherently masculine.

Off the top of my head I don't know for sure if this is foolproof, but it covers the most common ones.


Yes, I know. And there are simple rules for many feminines in -ь, such as in -ocть. I just chose what would require minimal explanation. Some other way to "slice and dice" the exceptions would be fine, but a little "MASCULINE" in the fly-over help or something similar would be nice for beginners.

[corrected NOMINATIVE to MASCULINE, tsk]


Suffixes are nice, however, a number of popular masculine ь-ending nouns, such as день, огонь, гость, портфель, конь, гвоздь, гусь, голубь (arguably, селезень and окунь), рояль, король, стиль and картофель, do not have any recognizable clues.

In the long run suffixes are a major cheat here, of course. Just not at the beginning. :)


No, I'm not suggesting suffixes.. My suggestion was above. That is: note in the fly-over/popup help when a noun ending in or -a/я is masculine. That covers all the occurrences. They would then be feminine unless otherwise mentioned, and there would be less to write in for you hard-working course developers..

I was just giving a counter-example to flootzavut's that is true but that I wouldn't recommend mentioning yet, either.


We do not have that, nor do we have the "Explain" button available in the popup.


This is what I was saying. I am notably talking about words that end in ь, and making a note as to gender, especially masc. I felt I was pretty clear, I realize that nominative ending are otherwise pretty easy, but I wasn't talking about those. Thanks for getting me, slogger and shady_arc. Also, is there a way to add that info to the new word button?


You're welcome. Right. What I suggested was just a "refinement" of what you suggested. Rather than mark each word ending in -ь as masc. or fem., just mark those that are masc., as they are less numerous, and write in the Notes and Tips that any word ending (in the nominative.) in -а/я or -ь that is not marked as masc. is fem.


Russian does not have articles ))) I mean you can learn German words in this forms: "das Brot", "die Butter", "der Apfel" or French: "le pain", "la pomme", but there is no such simple gender indicator in Russian. (I am kidding of course, It is not the real reason :D )


That's how I memorised Spanish words too, always together with the article, made it easier to remember the gender without starting to think about endings. I memorise all Russian words together with a mnemonic device. Feminine nouns explode in a nuclear explosion, masculine nouns appear in a frozen wasteland, neuter nouns in a sunlit forest. Sure, the endings give it away mostly in Russian, but quite a number of neuter nouns are pronounced with an a at the end so I would actually have to remember how to spell the word too. And of course it also helps with the exceptions of the words with the ь ending too.


Actually instead of articles the possesive pronouns can be used: Мой хлеб, моя вода, моё яблоко.


In the absence of an identifying article or explanation, it should be easy enough to introduce such a new word with an adjective, be it a simple "это моя дверь" or using another appropriate adjective that has already been introduced.


Exactly my thoughts. And I used to add a lot of sentences like that when we started creating the course. However, I think the team did not use the same approach later, don't know why.


In the all of the following, -ь doesn't change pronunciation and is used exclusively to mark the feminine gender:


As for the rest of words, it's enough to see it in any case other than Nom. or Acc. in singular, since they always differ between genders: -и/-ью for feminine, -я/-ю/-ем/-е for masculine. The word путь is an exception.

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