Немно́го о языке́ 3.4 То́ни в университе́те

Academic Vocabulary: University vs. School

Consider the two exclamations below:

Кака́я хоро́шая шко́ла!
What a good school!

Although they seem like direct translations of one another, they do not actually convey exactly the same information. How much do you think their meanings overlap? For each language, mouse over any context you think the phrase can apply to. As you check your answers, think about how the phrases differ.

Кака́я хоро́шая шко́ла!
can apply to...

elementary school
secondary (middle or high) school
music or art program (pre-college)
music or art academy (college)

What a good school!
can apply to…

elementary school
secondary (middle or high) school
music or art program (pre-college)
music or art academy (college)

If you are a university student in the US, you are used to using the English word “school” to talk about your college. The Russian statement, however, can refer only to pre-college education.

Now compare the two sentences below, and once again put mouse over any context you think appropriate to the statement

Она́ о́чень хоро́шая студе́нтка.
can apply to…

elementary school
secondary (middle or high) school
music or art school (pre-college)
music or art academy (college)

She's a very good student.
can apply to…

elementary school
secondary (middle or high) school
music or art school (pre-college)
music or art academy (college)

In short, the Russian version can only be used for university-level students. In English we can use the word student for anyone who is being educated, even a child.

Russians also use different sets of vocabulary words for talking about шко́ла (primary-secondary education) and post-secondary education. Learning these words' usage will help you make more sense of Russian culture, and selecting the right word for your educational context will help Russians understand you better.

English Primary and Secondary Levels Post-secondary Level
school/institution шко́ла институ́т
learner шко́льник / шко́льница
учени́к / учени́ца
студе́нт / студе́нтка
teacher учи́тель / учи́тельница преподава́тель
grade level, year класс курс
a class session уро́к заня́тие
classes (in general) уро́ки заня́тия
classroom класс аудито́рия
home assignment(s) уро́ки (pl)
дома́шнее зада́ние
дома́шнее зада́ние

Where both male and female forms for people exist, the Russian words are separated by a slash.

To talk about a specific university class session, you can use the singular of the neuter noun заня́тие. When talking about classes in general, use the plural form заня́тия of this neuter word; remember that this is a neuter noun, and заня́тия is a neuter plural form, not a feminine singular noun.

If you attend a university in the US, you are used to calling your teachers ”professor.” This is not appropriate for Russia; the word профе́ссор is a title given only to the most distinguished scholars at Russian post-secondary institutions, and it is not generally used as a form of address. To get their instructor’s attention, students (both шко́льники and студе́нты), use an instructor’s и́мя-о́тчество.

Упражне́ние 1. Шко́ла и́ли университе́т?

You overhear various Russians' conversations about school and college. For each sentence choose the context of the conversation: primary / secondary school, or university-level study.

You hear:
1. шко́ла университе́т
2. шко́ла университе́т
3. шко́ла университе́т
4. шко́ла университе́т
5. шко́ла университе́т
6. шко́ла университе́т
7. шко́ла университе́т
8. шко́ла университе́т
9. шко́ла университе́т

Упражне́ние 2

You heard the beginning of a statement and missed the end of it. But you still understand enough so that you can complete each sentence, especially if you use cues in the sentence's grammar. And you can tell the context of the statement—at school or university—using vocabulary cues. Listen to the phrase, then choose the appropriate word to complete the sentence, and check the box indicating whether it relates to school or university.

А Б At school or university?
1. класс? аудито́рия? At school At university
2. заня́тия? класс? At school At university
3. преподава́тели. учи́тель. At school At university
4. студе́нт. шко́льники. At school At university
5. профе́ссор? студе́нты? At school At university
6. ле́кция! класс! At school At university

Упражне́ние 3. Как пра́вильно?

Choose a logical continuation or response for each sentence.

1. — Э́то на́ша шко́ла. а. — Каки́е хоро́шие аудито́рии!
б. — А где ваш преподава́тель?
в. — А где ваш класс?
2. — Э́то ва́ши студе́нты? а. — Да, я – их учи́тельница.
б. — Нет, их преподава́тель — вон там.
в. — Нет, их шко́ла — не здесь.
3. — Ты зна́ешь, кака́я здесь ле́кция? а. — Я не зна́ю, а преподава́тель зна́ет.
б. — Я не зна́ю, а учи́тель зна́ет.
в. — Я не зна́ю, а ученики́ зна́ют.
4. — Вам нра́вится на́ша шко́ла? а. — Нет, здесь о́чень плохи́е студе́нты.
б. — Нет, здесь о́чень плохи́е ученики́.
в. — Нет, здесь о́чень плохи́е аудито́рии.

Упражне́ние 4. Мо́жно так сказа́ть?

Check any of the contexts that work for the Russian statement.

1. Кака́я хоро́шая шко́ла! а. you think your university is a fabulous place
б. you are impressed with a friend’s high school
в. you think the elementary school in town is great
г. you are very happy about the college you visited
2. Все студе́нты о́чень тала́нтливые. а. you think the kids at a local elementary school are great.
б. you visited a university department and met the majors.
в. you spent some time with some 10th graders.
г. you met some high school freshmen at a party.
3. Э́то моя́ учи́тельница. а. you are showing photos of your college Russian instructor in the US.
б. you are showing a photo of your 1st grade teacher.
в. you are showing photos of your college dorm roommate.
г. you are showing photo of your favorite high school teacher.

Focus on -ия and -ие nouns

You have now encountered a large number of feminine nouns whose nominative singular form (слова́рная фо́рма) ends in -ия (ле́кция). You have also seen a number of  neuter nouns whose nominative singular ends in -ие (заня́тие). It can be hard to tell them apart when you first start learning Russian; this section will help develop your ability to distinguish them.

Before you read more about these words, test your ability to recognize their singular and plural forms. For each adjective-noun phrase below, choose the correct English noun form from the pull-down menu.

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The nominative plural of feminine nouns in -ия is the expected soft version -ии (ле́кции); the nominative plural of neuter nouns in -ие is -ия (заня́тия, сочине́ния). That is also the expected soft version; remember that the “default” plural ending for neuter nouns is -а (окно́ / о́кна). When you see the ending -ия, you need to be careful to distinguish whether it indicates the nominative singular of a feminine noun or the plural of a neuter noun.

In the diagnostic test above, you may have used the adjective endings to help you figure out which forms were which, and that is a useful strategy when you are not sure you know the word well. For words you have learned, it is important as always to know the dictionary form of the word correctly, right down to the spelling of its ending. Once you know well that the слова́рная фо́рма of essay is сочине́ние, you will be less likely to confuse the plural form сочине́ния with a feminine noun.

The names of many academic subjects in Russian are feminine nouns with nominative cases ending in -ия.  Generally they do not have a plural form. Read through the feminine and neuter nouns in the tables, noting how their singular and plural forms are spelled.


Nominative singular
(слова́рная фо́рма)
Nominative plural English
фотогра́фия фотогра́фии photograph(s)
аудито́рия аудито́рии classroom(s)
биогра́фия биогра́фии biography(-ies)
фами́лия фами́лии last name(s)
биоло́гия -- biology
филоло́гия -- philology
хи́мия -- chemistry
исто́рия -- history


Nominative singular
(слова́рная фо́рма)
Nominative plural English
упражне́ние упражне́ния exercise(s)
сочине́ние сочине́ния composition(s)
зада́ние зада́ния task(s), assignment(s)
заня́тие заня́тия class(es)

Упражне́ние 5. Она́, оно́ и́ли они́?

Read each sentence, then choose the “it” / “they” pronoun that would correctly replace the underlined word.  In this activity notice the adjective endings, which should help you choose correctly.

Образе́ц: Э́то о́чень хоро́шая ле́кция. → она́ (“it”)

1. Э́то о́чень большо́е сочине́ние. она́ оно́ они́
2. Кака́я хоро́шая фотогра́фия! она́ оно́ они́
3. Э́то о́чень интере́сные сочине́ния. она́ оно́ они́
4. Э́то о́чень ма́ленькое дома́шнее зада́ние. она́ оно́ они́
5. Э́то о́чень краси́вая фами́лия. она́ оно́ они́
6. Э́то о́чень больши́е зада́ния. она́ оно́ они́