Немно́го о языке́ 2.6 Здесь живёт Зо́я Степа́новна

Neuter plurals

Э́то кре́сло.
two armchairs
А э́то — кре́сла.

While most masculine and feminine nouns have plurals ending in –ы (or –и, if the stem is soft or there is a spelling rule), the ending for the nominative plural of neuter nouns is –а  (or –я for soft stems).

Э́то окно́.
two windows
А э́то — о́кна.

You will find that a number of common neuter nouns have different stressed syllables in the singular and plural. So be sure to pay attention to the stress marks and practice listening to the plural forms to build up an “auditory memory” for the right forms. Notice as well which words sound the same in singular and plural. Listen to all the forms below carefully.

Singular Plural
окно́ о́кна
кре́сло кре́сла
зе́ркало зеркала́
сло́во слова́
пла́тье пла́тья
общежи́тие общежи́тия
упражне́ние упражне́ния
зада́ние зада́ния

Use good learning strategies!

Remember that when you learn new words, you need to learn the dictionary forms, so that you are not tempted to think that a neuter plural word is a feminine singular noun.

Упражне́ние 1.

Listen to and read the adjective and decide whether it is in the neuter singular or the plural. Mouse over which form of the word it goes with based on the grammar.

Singular Plural
1. плохо́е кре́сло кре́сла
2. большо́е окно́ о́кна
3. больши́е зе́ркало зеркала́
4. дорого́е пла́тье пла́тья
5. дороги́е общежи́тие общежи́тия
6. Каки́е интере́сные упражне́ние упражне́ния
7. больши́е зада́ние зада́ния
8. Како́е интере́сное сочине́ние сочине́ния

Indeclinable words

Many foreign words that end in –о/ -е in Russian are indeclinable, meaning that their form stays exactly the same in all case forms. Here are some of the indeclinable words that you have encountered so far. They are all neuter nouns.

фо́то photo
пальто́ coat
кино́ movie theatre
кафе́ café
метро́ metro (subway)
эссе́ essay

Although these words do not change form, they can refer to both singular and to plural objects. Context will allow Russians to know whether the word "фото" refers to one picture or more than one.

Како́е хоро́шее фо́то! → refers to one photo

Каки́е хоро́шие фо́то! → refers to a number of photos

Упражне́ние 2. Оно́ и́ли они́?

In the sentences below, which indeclinable words are singular and which are plural? How do you know? Are any ambiguous? 

1. Вот моё фо́то. Singular Plural Ambiguous
2. Вот на́ши фо́то. Singular Plural Ambiguous
3. Где но́вые кафе́? Singular Plural Ambiguous
4. Вот её пальто́. Singular Plural Ambiguous
5. Здесь о́чень хоро́шее кафе́. Singular Plural Ambiguous
6. Каки́е интере́сные эссе́! Singular Plural Ambiguous

Упражне́ние 3.

The sentences below provide contexts in which the sentences from the exercise above might be appropriate. Based on the context provided, select the sentence from the above exercise that seems the most likely match.

Sentence number
1. A teacher praising students' writing а. 1 б. 5 в. 6
2. Someone recommending a place to eat а. 5 б. 3 в. 4
3. Tourists looking for places to eat а. 2 б. 3 в. 5
4. Someone showing a photo album. а. 1 б. 6 в. 2

Како́й in questions and exclamations

The adjective како́й expresses the idea "what? what kind? which?" and its precise form (како́й кака́я како́е каки́е) depends on the noun that it modifies. Како́й and its forms can be used to ask questions, such as:

Како́й Яросла́вль го́род? What kind of city is Yaroslavl'?
Кака́я э́то кварти́ра? What kind of apartment is it?
Како́е э́то общежи́тие? What kind of dormitory is it?
Каки́е студе́нты живу́т здесь? Which students live here?

Notice that in questions with э́то (is it / are they) како́й comes first and the noun it modifies winds up at the end of the sentence.

The English word what has no single translation into Russian.  You will need to pay close attention to context when you are trying to put an English phrase with what into Russian. When what stands in for a noun, you will probably need a form of что. For example, What is that?  = Что э́то? What does he know? = Что он зна́ет?

When what is actually a synonym for “what kind? which one?” and modifies a noun in the sentence, you will need a form of како́й. What city is it? = Како́й э́то го́род?

Како́й and its forms can also be used in exclamations, as in the examples below.

Како́й большо́й го́род! What a big city!
Кака́я некраси́вая соба́ка! What an ugly dog!
Како́е хоро́шее фо́то! What a great photo!
Каки́е ужа́сные де́ти! What horrible children!

Exclamations in Russian can either be used to compliment or to criticize.

Intonation with како́й

Context and intonation will allow you to distinguish whether како́й is introducing a question or is being used in an exclamation.

In questions with како́й, we will use the same intonation contour that you learned about in Unit 1 for questions with a question word.  That is, a slightly raised heavy tone will be placed on the stressed syllable in како́й, and then the intonation will fall toward the end of the sentence.  In exclamations, intonation will rise on the stressed syllable of како́й, stay elevated through the phrase, and fall only after the stressed syllabus of the exclamation's final word. Listen to the differences in intonation in the following sentences.

Како́й Яросла́вль го́род? What kind of city is Yaroslavl'?
Како́́й большо́й го́род! What a big city!

Упражне́ние 4

Listen to the following sentences and check whether they are exclamations or questions.

вопро́с (question) восклица́ние (exclamation)
1. вопро́с восклица́ние
2. вопро́с восклица́ние
3. вопро́с восклица́ние
4. вопро́с восклица́ние
5. вопро́с восклица́ние
6. вопро́с восклица́ние
7. вопро́с восклица́ние
8. вопро́с восклица́ние

Responding to compliments and criticisms

Russians tend to accept compliments modestly, and if a compliment or criticism seems unearned they may respond by questioning your judgment with the phrase Что ты? / Что вы? and then stating the opposite of your comment.

Gender of nouns in -мя

Tony might explain his name to Russians in the following way:

Мора́лес — моя́ фами́лия, а То́ни — моё и́мя.

While both фами́лия and и́мя end in –я, you will notice that the forms of мой that go with them are different.  While the overwhelming majority of Russian nouns whose dictionary forms end in –я are feminine, the ten Russian nouns that end in –мя are neuter.  In a beginning course in Russian, you will encounter only two of these nouns: и́мя = name and вре́мя = time.