So is this actually a soft-stem adjective? I chose hard because of the T&N which mentioned them in hard/soft order and listed examples with the -ый first for masculine nominative.
But if the type of stem depends on its ending, how can we know which it is when starting from scratch? I knew the adjective in this sentence modified a masculine noun in the nominative case, but without having memorized the endings for every Russian adjective I wouldn't know if the stem were hard or soft. In my previous studies of Russian I was never able to understand this, and now it comes back to haunt me. I imagine the spelling rules involving hushers and velars help to an extent, but there are many that could go either way.
This seems akin to deciding whether to give a deer a pair of antlers, when the only clue I am given as to the gender is whether it has antlers. I don't know if a stem is hard or soft until it has an ending, but I am the one who must add the ending.
It is a hard stem adjective. You can think of Russian consonants as being "hard" by default. Then it has a few inconveniences:
- Ч and Щ are always soft and Ш and Ж are permahard but the spelling will often treat all four as soft. However, unstressed О is never found after these consonants (use Е instead). А and У are always used after these consonants over Я and Ю
- К, Г, Х are "hard" but always use И instead of Ы.
For all other consonants you just look at the spelling.
- сильный, полный, целый → hard stem
- седой, деревянный, стальной → hard stem
- синий, летний → soft-stem
The only thing left is the "animal possessive", which is, somehow, also the pattern that the word третий ("third") follows. These sort of adjectives (e.g., волчий, лисий, кошачий, собачий, беличий, олений, медвежий) replace the first vowel with a ь in most forms.