Hard and soft stems
The spelling rules always take precedence over any other rule!
Let's look at an example. The word книга ends in a the hard series vowel -а, and you would expect the plural ending to be -ы, since it is a hard series vowel as well. However, Spelling Rule 1 takes precedence, and therefore the noun will take the plural ending -и.
- These letters follow hard consonants:
а, э, о, у, ы
- These letters follow soft consonants:
я, е, ё, ю, и, ь
- In Russian grammar, there are many instances when you will need to drop as letter before you add another letter. The general rule is, if you drop a letter from the hard series vowels (а, э, о, у, ы), you add a letter from the hard series vowels, and if you drop a letter from the soft series vowels (я, е, ё, ю, и, ь), you add a letter from the soft series vowels.
- Let's look at the example for forming plurals of feminine nouns in Russian.
- Feminine nouns in Russian end in -а (hard series), or -я (soft series).
- The plural endings for feminine nouns in Russian are -ы (hard series) or -и (soft series).
- So, if the noun ends in -а (hard series), to form the plural we drop that letter and add the letter -ы (hard series): газета - газеты.
- If the noun ends in -я (soft series), we drop that letter and add the letter -и (soft series): тётя - тёти.