Немно́го о языке́ 2.3 Кто мои́ хозя́ева?

Кто вы по национа́льности?

People and nationality / ethnicity

When talking about people, Russian uses nouns rather than adjectives to give a person's национа́льность -- for example, “she is a Spaniard” rather than “she is Spanish”. In English the noun and adjective forms often overlap (as in the word “Canadian"), but you must be ready to distinguish them in Russian.

The word национа́льность (literally, “nationality”) in this context is really best understood not as “citizenship,” but as something more like “ethnic identity”. Национа́льность in Russian is a complex idea that brings together ancestry, parentage and language spoken at home. It may just indicate the ethnicity of one or both parents.

It is entirely possible to be a citizen of the Russian Federation but not ethnically Russian: россия́нин / россия́нка, но не ру́сский / ру́сская.  One could be ethnically Ukrainian украи́нец, or Tatar тата́рин, or Uzbek узбе́к, or any of many possible ethnicities, but have a Russian Federation passport. The word ру́сский designates национа́льность; the word россия́нин indicates citizenship (гражда́нство). Before the end of the USSR Soviet passports would include a person’s национа́льность, which was determined by parentage; that information could play a role in admission to university, getting (or not getting) a job, or being able to travel.

Nationality nouns are gender-specific, with one form for a man and another form for a woman. Note that many masculine nouns of nationality end in -ец. Just as in америка́н - е - ц, the -е- in these nouns is a “fleeting” vowel. When we make the plural forms, the -е- disappears, leaving the final syllable -цы (америка́нцы). The plural form of the masculine can refer to a group of men or a mixed group of men and women.  The plural of the feminine form can only refer to a group of women.

There is one exception in the list of nationality nouns--the word for “ethnically Russian” is in fact an adjective. A male is ру́сский; a woman is ру́сская; the plural is ру́сские. You will learn more about adjective forms in the next section of this unit.

audio он она́ они́
америка́нец америка́нка америка́нцы American
кана́дец кана́дка кана́дцы Canadian
мексика́нец мексика́нка мексика́нцы Mexican
кита́ец китая́нка кита́йцы Chinese
япо́нец япо́нка япо́нцы Japanese
англича́нин англича́нка англича́не English
францу́з францу́женка францу́зы French
ирла́ндец ирла́ндка ирла́ндцы Irish
италья́нец италья́нка италья́нцы Italian
испа́нец испа́нка испа́нцы Spaniard
не́мец не́мка не́мцы German
тата́рин тата́рка тата́ры Tatar
россия́нин россия́нка россия́не citizen of the RF
ру́сский ру́сская ру́сские ethnic Russian

If you need a национа́льность word that is not on this list, ask your teacher to help you find it.

Упражне́ние 1

Pictures of famous people from world history. Drag and drop from separate columns the name of the person and his/her nationality.

More About Irregular Plurals

Plurals in –а́

The plural of a small group of masculine nouns ends in stressed (hard stem) or ­-я (soft stem).

            а́дрес             →        адреса́

            дом                →        дома́

            учи́тель         →        учителя́

Plurals of –ин nouns

The nationality words тата́рин and россия́нин, which you learned in this section, are also of a different pattern; they are also somewhat different from one another. Both of them will lose their –ин suffix before adding a plural ending.

The word татарин loses its –ин suffix and then adds the regular -ы ending.

            тата́рин         →        тата́ры

The word россия́нин loses its –ин suffix and then adds the ending -е.

            россия́нин    →        россия́не

On your nationalities list you will notice that the word англича́не is formed the same way; later you will encounter several other words that fit the same pattern as россия́нин and анлича́нин.

Упражне́ние 2

Read the sentence, then decide which category the noun describes: one male person; one female person; more than one person in a male or mixed group; more than one person in an all-female group.

Упражне́ние 3

Complete the sentences below with the appropriate possessive modifiers.

Кто вы по профе́ссии?

Names of professions and other words that describe people

While many profession names in Russian come in only one form (до́ктор, врач, био́лог, профе́ссор, инжене́р, исто́рик) that is applied to both men and women, some profession names do have two forms: one applied to men performing that work and the other applied to women (журнали́ст-журнали́стка, пиани́ст-пиани́стка, спортсме́н-спортсме́нка).  In formal documents and situations today in Russian, the tendency is to use masculine forms as the generic way to refer to either a man or a woman performing the work. In conversational and very informal situations, both forms are widely used.

Refers to a male Refers to a female
сту́дент студе́нтка
аспира́нт аспира́нтка
учи́тель учи́тельница
хозя́ин хозя́йка

The noun преподава́тель has a feminine form преподава́тельница. However, female teachers are likely to describe themselves using the word преподава́тель, treating it as applicable to both genders. This contrasts with the words for schoolteacher учи́тель / учи́тельница, which normally use both forms.

Упражне́ние 4

Listen to the audio below and decide whether the words refer to a man, refer to a woman, or could refer to either a man or woman.

Упражне́ние 5

Listen to some plural words and decide whether the forms refer to a male (or mixed) group, or whether they refer only to an all-female group.