Russian Language Blog

A Little Bit of Grammar: Irregular Plural Nouns Posted by on Mar 16, 2011 in language, Russian for beginners


«Дорогие читатели» [Dear readers], «нам пора» [it is time] for us to do a little grammar. Some people love grammar, some hate it, but it is a necessity of learning a language. 

Today we are going to talk about irregular plural nouns. Judging from the comments, we have readers of all levels, so I will do a brief review. Masculine nouns, like «чемодан» [suitcase] or «словарь» [dictionary], and feminine nouns, like «кошка» [cat] or «таможня» [customs office] or even «тетрадь» [notebook] pluralize with «ы» or «и» depending on whether the noun is hard or soft. Here is how these nouns pluralize:

  • «чемодан» — «чемоданы»
  • «словарь» — «словари»
  • «кошки — «кошки»
  • «таможня — «таможни»
  • «тетрадь» — «тетради»

Neuter nouns, on the other hand, are a bit different. Let’s look at two: «правительство» [government] and «здание» [building]. These nouns pluralize with «а» or «я», depending on whether the ending is hard or soft.

  • «правительство» — «правительства»
  • «здание» — «здания»

So far, not too bad. But not all nouns follow these rules. There is a group of nouns, all masculine (I have not explicitly read that all nouns of this type are masculine, but I cannot think of any that are not) that pluralize with the letter «а» and a stressed ending. Here is a brief list of some such nouns.

  • «берег» — «берега» [shore]

I remember this one because of «автобиография Владимира Набокова» [Vladimir Nabokov’s autobiography]: the Russian title is «Другие берега» [Other Shores].

  • «профессор» — «профессора» [professor]
  • «свитер» — «свитера» [sweater]
  • «адрес» — «адреса» [address]
  • «вечер» — «вечера» [evening]
  • «глаз» — «глаза» [eye]
  • «город» — «города» [city]
  • «дом» — «дома» [house]
  • «лес» — «леса» [forest]
  • «паспорт» — «паспорта» [passport]
  • «повар» — «повара» [chef]
  • «цвет» — «цвета» [color]
  • «учитель» — «учителя» [teacher]

That is not by any means an exhaustive list, so if you can think of any more examples, please do not hesitate to write them in a comment.

I think it would beneficial to do grammar on this blog once a week, so do you have any requests for grammatical concepts? Has anything in particular bothering you recently? If so, please let me know!

Tags: , , , , ,
Keep learning Russian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Natalie

I'm Natalie and I love the Russian language and sharing my knowledge with others. I graduated from university with a dual degree in Russian language & literature and history.


  1. Sarah:

    Привет! 🙂
    This is exactly the kind of posting I’ve been waiting for – I’m very curious about the Russian grammar, and it’s difficult to find a well-made explanation.
    Something else I really would love to learn about the Russian language is how to form the words, for example like this; evening – the evening – the evenings.

    Заранее спасибо~

  2. Konrad:

    Pls, correct the accent on адрес, паспорт and повар.

  3. Natalie:

    Konrad: corrected, thanks for letting me know.

    Sarah: I’m glad you liked the post. I’m afraid I don’t understand your question, though. In Russian, there are no definite or indefinite articles, so “evening,” “an evening,” and “the evening” would all be translated as вечер. Likewise, “evenings” and “the evenings” would be вечера. I hope that answers your question––if not, please let me know.

  4. Joerg:

    Hi Natasha!
    I also like the picture of the Irkutsk State University. Thank you for your explanations. Me personally, I would be interested into some guidelines with respect to how and when to use the short form of adjectives rather than their long form.
    Also I would like to draw your attention to the stress in “пОвар”, “пАспорт”, “свИтер” и “Адрес”. I feel it should be this way.
    Kind regards from Austria

  5. Kathy Hoare:

    I have trouble with the conditional mood and would appreciate several examples. Also I’m never sure when to use the instrumental case?? ending when describing a person, for example, “he was a good man. “

  6. David:

    Hi Natasha. Very nice post. I’m one of those who finds grammar interesting and its history even more so. I’m pretty sure that all the irregular -а/я plurals ARE masculine. If any were feminine they’d look like singulars. Then there are the neuters with plurals in ы/и. Middle of last year I wrote a post “The answer to the 200 rouble question – why is it двести and not дваста?” discussing how these irregular plurals originated in the old dual category.

  7. Minority:

    I tried to remember something, I managed only “яблоко – яблоки” (neuter noun with “-и”, though you told about “-а” or “-я”).

    Then I asked google, потому что не может быть в русском языке так мало исключений [it can’t be without huge amount of exceptions in russian!]
    That’s thruth! Wikipedia thinks so too: (choose “2.2.1 Нестандартные формы множественного числа”)

  8. Ryan:

    It’s worth noting that the noun кошка has the plural кошки not because it’s soft but because Russian doesn’t allow ы after the sounds /k/, /g/, and /x/.

  9. karyn:

    I never know when to use ‘на,для or за’ when trying to say ‘something FOR something/someone, so I would appreciate some tips on usage. Thanks. ‘

  10. John33317:

    Many thanks for this post. I love Russian grammar (as well as the whole language) — it’s got so many mysteries that it’s like trying to visit all 1,000 rooms (or however many there are) of the Hermitage. One funny thing….I find a lot of native speakers aren’t too sure about some things. I asked a very cultivated woman from St. Petersburg how to conjugate the verb “gresti” (to row) in the past…and all she could come up with was…”mne prishlos gresti!” Learning Russian is a neverending but always fascinating journey!

  11. Minority:

    John33317, do you still need answer for your question about “грести”?

    1st conjugation: я гребУ, мы гребЁм
    2nd conjugation: ты гребЁшь, вы гребЁте
    3rd conjugation: он/она гребЁт, они гребУт

  12. Joe:


    Just wanted to let you know that I love getting and reading my Russian Blog updates, so keep them coming…and I do like very much the idea of devoting one to grammar every week.

    Thanks again, and a suggestion for one of your upcoming grammar blogs would be to focus on the Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, Instrumental, and Prepositional cases in Russian – perhaps devoting one grammar blog per each case and giving specific examples of some common and not-so-common noun declensions?

    Спасибо большое, товарищи!

  13. Sarah:

    Natalie: Thank you for your respond. Even though I now can see that I was a bit quick on the keyboard, you gave me the answer I needed. No wonder I’ve never found an explanation for this!
    Thank you again!

  14. Natalie:

    Привет всем! [Hi everyone!]

    Thanks for all your responses and suggestions. Sarah, I’m glad I answered your question properly. I’ll keep everyone’s suggestions in mind for next week’s grammar post.

  15. Bob:

    I’ll second Joe’s nomination for the case system. It’s probably been my biggest problem in learning Russian.

    Some more stuff on verbs would be helpful too – imperfective vs. perfective, the appropriate use of при-, за- and other verbial prefixes. And of course, verbs of motion!

  16. Ира:

    «кошки — «кошки»

    надо “кошка” – “кошки”