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Forming Plural Nominative in Russian and Belarusian

Uladzimir Katkouski

1. Russian

In Russian there are four different endings for nominative plural -а, -я and -ы, -и and a whole bunch of exceptions. Here's a brief overview:

Ending in :

• majority of masculine nouns: студент - студенты, завод - заводы, стол - столы. (Some exceptions: сосед - соседи, чёрт - черти).

• the feminine nouns ending in –а: страна - страны, планета - планеты, улица - улицы.

Ending in :

• masculine and feminine nouns preceded by consonants к, г, х, ж, ш, ч, щ: звук - звуки, книга - книги, нога - ноги.

• masculine nouns ending in -ий, -й: музей - музеи, трамвай - трамваи, урожай - урожаи.

• masculine and feminine nouns ending in –ь or in -я: словарь - словари, площадь - площади, статья - статьи.

Ending in -а, -я:

• neuter nouns ending in or -е: дело - дела, окно - окна, море - моря, здание - здания.

• some masculine nouns: адрес - адреса, берег - берега, остров - острова, номер - номера, лес - леса, край - края, паспорт - паспорта, директор - директора, сорт - сорта, учитель - учителя.


• Some nouns have only singular form: асфальт, синева, горение.

• Some nouns exist only in plural form: перила, макароны, будни.

• Neuter nouns ending with -мя: время - времена, семя - семена, знамя - знамёна, стремя - стремена, имя - имена, племя - племена.

• Some nouns have two forms of plural to differentiate the meaning: лист - листы (бумаги) и листья (дерева), пропуск - пропуски (занятий) и пропуска (в институт), зуб - зубы (акулы) и зубья (пилы).

• Several nominative plurals ending in -ья: сын - сыновья, друг - друзья, брат - братья, стул - стулья, дерево - деревья.

• Words referring to little animals: волчонок - волчата, котёнок – котята, утёнок – утята.

• Some other exceptions: мать - матери, дочь - дочери, небо - небеса, чудо - чудеса, англичанин - англичане, крестьянин - крестьяне.

2. Belarusian

In Belarusian, forming plural is not so complicated as in Russian. There are only two possible endings: and . And it's very easy to distinguish which one you should use in each case.

• If the singular noun ends with дзь, ль, нь, сь or г, ґ, к, х (also га, ґа, ка, ха) or й, е, ё, і, ю, я then the plural ending is . Example: ґузiк - ґузiкі, асадка - асадкі, замах - замахі, пытаньне - пытаньні, далонь - далоні, баль - балі.

• If the singular noun ends with б, д, дж, з, м, н, п, р, с, т, ў, ф, ц, ч, ш or а, о, у (except for cases when the final vowel is preceded by г, ґ, к, х) then the plural ending is . Example: назва - назвы, гадзіна - гадзіны, футра - футры, твар - твары, гульня - гульні, трус - трусы, пераклад - пераклады.

There are no exceptions, just note that ў may become в. The only complicated part is changing vowels in the stem. Due to changing position of the stress, in many cases the vowels in the stem may change or disappear altogether, some possible changes are: о-а, а-о, я-ё, е-ё, е-я, я-е. Here are some examples:

бог - багі, год - гады, горад - гарады;
лес - лясы, сяло - сёлы, возера - вазёры;
агонь - агні, рахунак - рахункі, сябар - сябры, карабель - караблі;

• Some nouns exist only in plural form: грошы (money), нажніцы (scissors), нагавіцы (pants), веды (knowledge).

• Some nouns have only singular form: цукар (sugar), прагрэс (progress), блакіт (the blue), надвор'е (weather), увага (attention), ґвалт (violence), сьмецьце (trash).

• Some nouns behave like adjectives: галосны - галосныя (vowel - vowels), зычны - зычныя (consonant - consonants), беспрацоўны - беспрацоўныя (unemployed person - unemployed persons).

• Depending on vowel position в may turn into ў and vice versa. Example: певень - пеўні (rooster - roosters).

• When initial а turns into о, there also appears prosthethic в. Example: акно - вокны (window - windows).

As you can see, forming nominative plural in Belarusian is much easier than in Russian. I hope you enjoyed this article, but please note that this is just a draft article, I've written the Belarusian part without consulting any grammar books, so there might be some omissions. Please tell me if you spotted any mistakes!

See also:

- Letter Frequency in Belarusian and Russian
- Belarusian-Bulgarian-Russian-English Basic Phrases
- Saying Nyet To Russian
- Introduction to Belarusian Alphabet

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