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.

Masculine singular Feminine singular Neuter singular
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”
NA “-a” — Usually
“-i” — Rarely
“-o” — Usually
“-e” — Usually
“-ę” — Rarely
“-um” — Rarely

Masculine Nouns in Singular

Animate masculine nouns — ending in consonant:

Polish English
Brat A brother
Wujek An uncle
Student A student
Chłopiec A boy
Mąż A husband

Some professions/positions are only masculine:

Polish English
Profesor a Professor
InŻynier An engineer
Doktor A doctor
Minister A (cabinet) minister
Muzyk A musician

Here are examples of inanimate masculine nouns:

Polish English
Stół A table
Pokój A room
Dom A house
Kraj A country
Samolot An airplane

Feminine Nouns in Singular

Feminine animate noun — ending in “-a

Polish English
Siostra A sister
Ciotka An aunt
Żona A wife
Papuga A parrot
Ryba A fish

Inanimate feminine nouns — ending in “-a

Polish English
Lekcja A lesson
Szkoła A school
Książka A book
Sprawa An issue
Gazeta A newspaper

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 English
Nauczyciel Nauczycielka A teacher
Aktor Aktorka An actor
Tłumacz Tłumaczka A translator
Dziennikarz Dziennikarka A journalist
Księgowy Księgowa An accountant

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”:

Polish English
Poeta A poet
Kolega A friend
Mężczyzna A man
Pianista A pianist
Perkusista 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.)

Polish English
Miejscowość Locality (like a town)
Wiadomość (A piece of) news
Wieś Village
Powieść A novel
Gęś A goose

Neuter Nouns in Singular — “-o” or “-e” ending

Polish English
Krzesło A chair
Zdjęcie A photograph
Piwo Beer
Mleko Milk
Jabłko An apple

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?
What (a)…?