Muški rod, ženski rod, ili srednji rod?
We all know that there are masculine and feminine people and animals.
But when you begin learning Croatian, it can be a shock to the system to realise that in Croatian every noun is assigned to be one of masculine gender (muški rod), feminine gender (ženski rod) or neuter gender (srednji rod).
For example, the word stol is the name given to the object that English speakers call “table”. It is assigned masculine gender.
The noun kuća (house) is feminine gender, and vino (wine) is neuter.
A philosophical thought: So far as I understand, Croatians don’t regard the object that we call a house as feminine, but its name, the noun kuća, is feminine. Someone might correct me?
I have since resolved this issue, and discussed it in another post: Do Croatians assign gender to objects?
It is important to know the gender of nouns because the way that we change masculine nouns according to their case in a sentence (that is, how they decline) is different from the way that feminine nouns change, and the way that we change neuter nouns is different again.
And (Oh, I hate to say this!) there are various “declension types”, or categories, of nouns. Not all masculine nouns, for example, decline in the same way – that is, from type to type, the noun endings are not the same in the various cases. Does that make sense? Hopefully, the list of noun categories listed in the post Nouns: Declension types (not yet available) will clarify things a bit.
Please don’t blame me for the complexity. I didn’t sit down and design the Croatian language. And of course, nobody did that – languages just evolve in irregular ways over long times.
And before you declare that this language is impossible, remember that millions of people seem to manage with it very well.
So how do we know if a noun is muški rod, ženski rod, or srednji rod?
Well, little Croatian kids are learning Croatian, they don’t get taught “rules”: they just come to know. And this tells us that the most important factor might be our extent of using the language – the more the better. It’s all about practice and familiarity.
But there are some “rules” or guidelines.
In my experience, most introductory textbooks give us a rule for telling the gender of nouns. We don’t know it at the time, but these are the “regular nouns”. And just when you think you have conquered that, they tell us “Oh, by the way, there is another category of nouns that don’t fit those rules: They have their own particular declination endings.” Grrr! Why didn’t you at least tell me about these others before?
And just when you think that you have mastered these ones, along comes “Oh by the way, there is another set of nouns ……….”!!
I try to give an overview of the various categories of nouns in the post Nouns: Declension types (Not yet available). The nouns in each category have a particular gender.
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