Essential Polish Grammar – Masculine and Feminine
There are significant differences between the Polish and English languages. One of them is the grammar of the noun. Unlike in English, nouns in Polish are not preceded by articles. However, the nouns belong to the category of words that are inflected. That means that one word can have more than one form. Thus Polish nouns are inflected by gender, case and number.
This grammar guide will explain the gender of nouns and adjectives in singular since these two go along hand in hand; nouns and adjectives agree in gender and in number.
The Gender of Nouns
In Polish there are three genders: masculine (m), feminine (f) and neuter (n).
Ojciec — father is logically masculine.
Matka — mother is feminine.
Dziecko — a child is neuter.
We can see that in case of the animate nouns (living creatures) the gender distinction is reflected more naturally than in the case of the inanimate objects (names of things).
Stół — a table is masculine. Why?
Pralka — a laundry machine is feminine. Why?
Krzesło — a chair is neuter.
Therefore there are some rules that regulate the gender. They relate to the endings of the nouns.
|Ojciec — A father
||Matka — A mother
Pani — Mrs, Madam
|Dziecko — A child
Słońce — The sun
Zwierzę — An animal
Muzeum — Museum
|Ending in consonant
||Ending in “-a”
Ending in “-i”
|Ending in “-o”
Ending in “-e”
Ending in “-ę”
Ending in “-um”
||“-a” — Usually
“-i” — Rarely
|“-o” — Usually
“-e” — Usually
“-ę” — Rarely
“-um” — Rarely
Masculine Nouns in Singular
Animate masculine nouns — ending in consonant:
Some professions/positions are only masculine:
||A (cabinet) minister
Here are examples of inanimate masculine nouns:
Feminine Nouns in Singular
Feminine animate noun — ending in “-a”
Inanimate feminine nouns — ending in “-a”
Note: As mentioned before, some professions are only masculine. In contemporary Polish such combinations as pani minister, pani doctor and pani inżynier are commonly used. The feminine part pani is followed by the profession which has only a masculine form such as doktor, inżynier, etc.
There are, however, also many professions that have both masculine and feminine forms; here are some examples:
|Polish — Masculine
|| Polish — Feminine
NOTE: There are some exceptions to the rule of the “-a” ending for the feminine.
Here are the masculine noun exceptions that end in “-a”:
||A drum player
NOTE: Like with the masculine nouns ending in a typically feminine “-a,” there are exceptions in the case of some feminine nouns that end in the softened consonants “-śx” and “-ść .” (Remember the masculine nouns end in consonants.)
||Locality (like a town)
||(A piece of) news
Neuter Nouns in Singular — “-o” or “-e” ending
There are a few neuter nouns ending in “-ę” and in “-um.”
e.g., Zwierzę — An animal
Muzeum — A museum
Liceum — High school
The Gender of Adjectives
When nouns are used in sentences they are usually preceded by adjectives. There are set endings for adjectives that go along with each of the noun genders. Dictionaries always give the masculine ending, so to get the feminine or neuter adjective gender we need to adjust the adjectives:
e.g., Dobr — y (m) / Dobr — a (f) / dobr — e (n).
Masculine adjectives always end in either "-y" or "-i"
eg. Dobry ojciec — A good father
Głupi kolega — A stupid friend
Feminine adjectives always end in "-a"
eg. Dobra matka — A good mother
Trudna sprawa — A hard issue
Neuter adjectives always end in "-e"
e.g., Dobre dziecko — A good child
Mocne piwo — Strong beer
In plural adjectives have the same ending “e” for feminine and neuter and masculine inanimate nouns:
e.g., Dobre samoloty — Good airplanes ( m)
Dobre siostry — Good sisters (f)
Dobre jabłka — Good apples (n)
The plural adjectives have different endings, “-i” or “-y” for animate masculine nouns (positions, jobs, etc.):
e.g., Dobrzy ojcowie — Good fathers
Źli bracia — Bad brothers
Ciekawi aktorzy — Interesting actors
There are interrogative pronouns that introduce a question about the characteristic of a noun that we answer with an adjective. Those pronouns agree in gender and number with the nouns they refer to. We ask “jaki?” for masculine nouns, “jaka?” for feminine nouns and “jakie?” for neuter nouns.
Jaki ojciec? — What kind/sort of a father?
Dobry ojciec — A good father; in the answer we get the characteristics of people or things.
Jaka ksisążka? — What kind/sort of a book?
Ciekawa książka — An interesting book
Jakie mleko? — What kind/sort of milk?
Zimne mleko — Cold milk
“Jaki? Jaka? Jakie?” can also be translated as what… like?