https://www.duolingo.com/profile/immery

Gender in Polish language

In celebration of Woman’s Day I present you

Gender in Polish language

the following information is not thoughtfully researched, it comes from my understanding as a native speaker and bits of information I have found in the last months of commenting on Duolingo

The first idea there is to know about “gender” in Polish is that the idea of it is different than English one.

If I understand English distinction, you have two words for male/female difference- sex and gender. Sex being about biology and gender is about society and identity, also about grammar.

In Poland all biology, society and identity are “PŁEĆ”, with English word “gender/dżender” appearing now and then in different situations , most notably to describe the idea that biology and identity regarding “płeć” are not the same.

The grammar word for “gender” in polish is “rodzaj”, which translates literally to “kind”, “sort”, “genre”, “genus”

Grammatical gender is very important in Polish language, every noun has a gender, and adjectives, personal and possessive pronouns,numerals and quantifiers ,and verb forms in the past tense have to match the gender of the noun. Also durative verbs in participle forms of complex future tense often use gender (f.ex. będziemy robiły/robili) , although you can avoid using it if you need (będziemy robić)

“Rodzaj gramatyczny” is not related to “Płeć”, most of the time. Especially when we discuss things, and animals in general, the gender may be perceived as random. This changes a bit when talking about people, or some animals of specified “płeć” When talking about a person, If you do not know their “płeć”, you may refer to them with some noun like “osoba”(person, rodzaj żeński/feminine, płeć undefined); “człowiek (person, human, man rodzaj męski/masculine, płeć undefined), użytkownik (user, rodzaj męski, płeć male or unknown); and consequently use that rodzaj with all words.

If you talk to a person, you cannot do this. Here grammatical and personal gender are closely related. You need to address a person using “rodzaj” that relates to their “płeć”.

What grammatical genders are there in Polish ?

Depends how you count them,

In singular we have masculine/ rodzaj męski , feminine/ rodzaj żeński and neuter/ rodzaj nijaki,
But can split masculine nouns into animate and not animate, or personal, not personal animate, and not animate

In plural we have masculine personal and all the rest, usually called not masculine personal

Masculine personal are masculine nouns that describe persons, also some always plural nouns,
And groups of people that contain at least one man(masculine person), or at least one person and at least one masculine gender noun ( girl and a dog are the example in every grammar book)

If there are different nouns tor male and female people like student – student/studentka, employee pracownik/pracownica, actor/actress-/actor/aktorka; the plural masculine noun describes a group of people containing at least one male, and plural not masculine personal/feminine describes a group that contains only females.

Not masculine personal is a plural rodzaj that applies to all feminine and neuter nouns, masculine not personal nouns, and most "always plural" nouns. It also describes groups of female persons, groups of animals and groups of inanimate objects.

Which words need grammatical gender?

Most of them. Nouns just have grammatical gender. If they describe people they may be related to the personal gender of that person.

Personal pronouns are almost easy. They have to match grammatical gender of the noun they replace or personal gender of a person they refer to.

Adjectives describe a noun and have to match its case, number and gender. If you describe a person they match their personal gender.

Possessive pronouns have to match twice; my, your(1 person), our , your (2+ people) swój = one’s own work like adjectives, and have to match the noun
jego=his/its, jej=her ich= their – have to match the gender of the owner , but fortunately they do not change with cases or gender of the noun they describe.

Numerals in Polish are complicated. we have numeral for:
masculine personal nouns - dwóch, pięciu feminine nouns- dwie, pięć neuter not personal and masculine not personal nouns- dwa, pięć neuter personal noun (kids), mixed gender persons group , or some always plural nouns- dwoje, pięcioro.

Verbs in past and future tense. In third person – have to match a gender of a subject ( feminine, masculine or neuter in singular, masculine personal, not masculine personal in plural) In first and second person - ( have to match gender of people they refer to – feminine or masculine)

How to guess a gender of the noun?

If new word comes to Polish language now ( for example new country is created ) we usually apply those rules:
- If a noun ends with “a” it is feminine
- If a noun ends with “e” or y it is neuter or always plural
- If it ends with any other vowel it is neuter
- If it ends with consonant it is masculine

Those rules mostly apply to all existing nouns in nominative form, but there are some notable exceptions:

  • Most Polish neuter nouns end with and –o, -ę, -e

  • Some masculine nouns end with –a , they usually describe male persons,

  • Most common nouns like that are mężczyzna-man and tata-dad
  • Endings – owca and – ista are usually masculine

  • -um ending nouns of Latin origin like gimnazjum, liceum, muzeum- are neuter

  • There are some feminine nouns ending with soft consonants

  • -ść is more often feminine than masculine ending (especially if the noun describes idea like miłość=love radość=joy, prędkość=speed)

  • ń ć, ś, ź, ż, sz, cz - you can toss a coin, or check a dictionary, it might be feminine or masculine

All the rules disappear if you do not know the NOMINATIVE, case endings can end with vowels, or consonants, or can be Ø-=(delete vowel from the end ).

March 8, 2016

43 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PolishMathew

Big respect for anyone who's learning Polish here. You are amazing! I am Polish and I would never want to learn Polish as a second/third/fourth/..../ language, this article is only about gender and it's so much to learn, understand and remember.

BTW. This should be made sticky

March 10, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/zagadka314

It is very common for Poles to talk about how it is so hard, if not impossible, to learn Polish. It is a sad misconception because Polish is not a hard language. In fact, there really is no such thing as a "hard" language. The thing is that some languages, when compared to each other, are very different so it takes longer to learn. If a Czech native speaker were learning Polish, it would be much easier and much faster than learning English. Polish isn't "harder" than English. In fact, relatively speaking, the Czech speaker might even say it is much easier than English!

I could make these same arguments about English. Look how many tenses there are in English! They can't even count them all, it may be as much as 16 or as few as 12, so many, Polish only has 3 (or 5 if you count differently)! The words are often spelled differently than they sound, the language is hardly phonetic at all. It is so bad, they even have spelling competitions for native speakers!

Read David Snopek's article on why Polish is NOT a hard language

October 26, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jellei

I was taught at English Philology, that English has actually two tenses: past and present, and then the rest (including future) are just aspects ;) Just a fun fact, I don't remember enough to discuss it further.

October 26, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/zagadka314

People argue about it, but in my TEFL program that chose the most simple way to explain it: 3 tenses, each of which has a few possible aspects, which give you 12 pedagogical tenses.

This is an example from my course (with 9 of them): https://www.dropbox.com/s/yqge0u7montoygc/tenses.png?dl=0

October 26, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/wa7wt9

Powiedz mi ilu znasz obcokrajowców którzy nie mylą się przy odmianie? A teraz ile osób które mówią bezbłędnie w języku angielskim? Nie ma co straszyć osoby które się uczą, ale prawda jest taka że bardzo, bardzo nie wiele osób dojdzie do takiej umiejętności że po 2 zdaniach nie poznasz że to obcokrajowiec. Nawet dzieci imigrantów mówią w specyficzny sposób i niepoprawny.

August 8, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/immery

Please tell me if I missed something, or something is unclear, or written in incorrect English.

March 8, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Vengir

„-um ending nouns of Latin origin like gimnazjum, liceum, museum”

You forgot to mention what gender it would be (neuter of course).

March 8, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PVLSANS

And - I may annoy you - gimnazjum, liceum, muzeum and centrum are not originally Latin but Greek:

  • gimnazjum - stadium for naked people
  • liceum - School in Lykos
  • muzeum - house of the Muses
  • centrum - the point of a pair of compasses

But they probably came into the Polish language through the Latin intermediary.

June 11, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MrtonPolgr

the ending is Latin at least :P

May 27, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/br0d4
Mod
  • 1434

Great article !

adjectives, personal and possessive pronouns,

and some of the numerals (f.ex. jeden/jedna/jedno/jedni/jedne, dwaj/dwoje/dwie, trzech/troje/trzy, czterej/czworo/cztery)

and verb forms in the past tense have to match the gender of the noun.

and durative verbs in participle forms of complex future tense (f.ex. będziemy robiły/robili)

March 11, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/immery

thank you, changed it, and added numerals. Durative is red on my spellcheck:(

March 11, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/margotgm

this is very very complex. My concern is that intros program when a new word is introduced its gender should also be shown. Otherwise how would we know the gender? I don't have a dictionary to use and it takes time to look it up.

March 13, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/immery

you are probably right, although I do not know how they could do it better. We do not have gender introducing articles. If you need dictionary for gender use wikitionary or pons

The basic rules are (in nominative):
-a ending is usually feminine
- e,o,ę are neuter
- ść is usually feminine
- most consonant ending nouns are masculine
- ń ć, ś, ź, ż, sz, cz - you can toss a coin, or check a dictionary, it might be feminine or masculine

March 13, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/FiddlingFox

Thankyou!!!

March 10, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/wen3wen

Please allow me to post my notes here. Hope they would be useful for other Polish beginners.

English version.

How to distinguish the Genders of Nouns in Polish.

  1. knowing how many genders of Polish nouns there are.

    • there are two ways to count the genders.

      • 3 genders

        • masculine (męski)

        • feminine (żeński)

        • neuter (nijaki)

      • 5 genders

        • massculine personal (męski osobowy)

        • masculine animate (męski nieosobowy żywotny)

        • masculine inanimate (męski nieosobowy nieżywotny)

        • feminine (żeński)

        • neuter (nijaki)

  2. knowing some rules of each gender-classification

    • Massculine nouns in singular

      • Most of the words that end in a consonant are massculine.

        eg. student (a student); chłopiec (a boy)

      • The ending is "-awca" or "-owca", and describing professions, are massculine personal nouns.

        eg. kierowca (a driver)

      • Nouns that ending in "-ista" which mean followers of some ideology are massculine personal.

        eg. komunista (communist)

      • Adding from @immery. I have only one thing to correct. "-ista" ending is not only ideology, it can be also profession. eg. finansista, (finance specialist); maszynista (engine driver); pianista=pianist

      • A few massculine nouns ending in "-a".

        eg. mężczyzna (a man); tata (fater)

      • Some professions or positions are only massculine. (If you are interested in how to call the doctor who is a woman in Polish, you can check the answers from here )

        eg. doktor (a doctor); inżynier (an engineer)

    • Feminine nouns in singular

      • Nouns that ending in "-a" are usually Feminine.

        eg. herbata (tea); kawa (coffee)

      • Some nouns that ending in a consonant, but they are feminine.

        eg. noc (night); sól (salt)

      • Nouns that ending in "-ść" are usually feminine.

        eg. miłość (love); radość (joy)

      • Many nouns of professions have both masculine and feminine forms.

        eg. aktor (M), aktorka (F) (an actor, an actress) ; nauczyciel (M), nauczycielka (F) (an teacher)

    • Neuter nouns in singular

      • Nouns that ending in "-e, -o, -ę, -um" are usually neuter.

        eg. zdjęcie (a photograph); mleko (milk); zwierzę (an animal); muzeum (a museum)

  3. to distinguish them by yourself, when you need to check the genders of Polish nouns, this website dictionary would be good.

Chinese version.

波兰语名词性别

  1. 概要

    • 名词性别的两种定义

      • 3种性别

        • 阳性

        • 阴性

        • 中性

      • 5 种性别

        • 阳性人称词

        • 阳性有生命,除人以外

        • 阳性无生命

        • 阴性

        • 中性

  2. 规则

    • 单数阳性词

      • 以辅音结尾的,一般都是

        例. student (一个学生);chłopiec (一个男孩)

      • 后缀是"-awca"或者"-owca",并描写职位的,一般都是阳性人称词

        例. kierowca (一名司机)

      • 后缀为"-ista",并表示某理论的追随者,一般都是阳性人称词

        例. komunista (共产主义者)

      • (来自immery的补充. 后缀“-ista”,也可是职称,同属阳性词,例如: finansista, (金融师);maszynista (工程师);pianista=钢琴家)

      • 极少部分阳性词以"-a"结尾.

        例. mężczyzna (一个男人);tata (父亲)

      • 有些职称仅限阳性词 (如果你想知道该如何称呼一名女医生,你可以查看链接里的 回答 )

        例. doktor (一名医生);inżynier (一名工程师)

    • 单数阴性词

      • 后缀是"-a"的几乎都是阴性词

        例. herbata (茶);kawa (咖啡)

      • 有些名词后缀为辅音,但也是阴性词

        例. noc (夜);sól (盐)

      • 后缀是"-ść"的,一般都是阴性词

        例. miłość (爱);radość (开心)

      • 很多表职称的名字,既有阳性词,也有阴性词

        例. aktor (阳性), aktorka (阴性) (一名演员) ;nauczyciel (阳性), nauczycielka (阴性) (一名教师)

    • 单数中性词

      • 后缀为"-e, -o, -ę, -um"的基本都是中性词

        例. zdjęcie (一张照片);mleko (牛奶);zwierzę (动物);muzeum (一间博物馆)

  3. 需要时,可用此 在线字典 查询

Japanese version.

ポーランド語に名詞の性別を区別する方法

  1. 名詞の性別について、基本の知識を学ぶ

    • 名詞の性別を数える時、二つの仕方がある

      • 三つとして数える

        • 男性詞

        • 女性詞

        • 中性詞

      • 五つとして数える

        • 男性に関する単語

        • オスに関する単語

        • 男性詞(無生命)

        • 女性詞

        • 中性詞

  2. 規則を知る

    • 単数の男性詞について

      • 単数の男性詞が、語尾は子音のほうが多い

        例. student (一名の学生);chłopiec (一人の男の子)

      • 語尾は"-awca"、また"-owca"で, 職名という単語は男性詞である

        例. kierowca (運転手一名)

      • 語尾は"-ista"、語彙の意味はある主義に従う人、そういう単語は男性詞である

        例. komunista (共産主義者)

      • (immeryからの補充知識。語尾は“ista‘で、職名を表す名詞でも男性詞である。例えば、 finansista, (財務担当), maszynista (エンジニア), pianista=ピアニスト)

      • 語尾は"-a"、数は少ないけど、男性詞である

        例. mężczyzna (一人の男性);tata (お父さん)

      • 男性詞だけ使う職業がある (もし、男性詞だけを使う職業に、女性が勤めている場合はどうすれいい?こちらのリンクをチェックして、ご覧下さいこちら )

        例. doktor (一名の医者);inżynier (エンジニア一人)

    • 単数の女性詞について

      • 大体、女性詞の語尾は"-a"である.

        例. herbata (お茶);kawa (コーヒー)

      • 語尾は子音、でも実際は女性詞である

        例. noc (夜);sól (塩)

      • 語尾が"-ść"という単語は、ほぼ女性詞である

        例. miłość (愛);radość (満足)

      • 職名と関係ある名詞は、大抵男性詞と女性詞、二つの形式ともある

        例. aktor (男優), aktorka (女優);nauczyciel (男性詞), nauczycielka (女性詞) (先生)

    • 単数の中性詞について

      • 語尾は"-e, -o, -ę, -um"という名詞は、ほぼ中性詞である

        例. zdjęcie (写真一枚);mleko (牛乳);zwierzę (動物);muzeum (博物館)

  3. 把握できない時は、 ネット辞書 を使う

If you think I wrote something wrong here, I would like to discuss with you.

Welcome to show me your opinions.

November 8, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/immery

this is a great comment, thank you.

I have only one thing to correct-ista ending is not only ideology, it can be also profession- finansista, (finance specialist), maszynista (engine driver), pianista=pianist,

November 9, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/wen3wen

Thank you for correcting. ;)

November 9, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Euhan1

Masculine is spelt with one "s". Good explanation!

March 14, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/zagadka314

I had to give you a lingot for this one o.o

November 9, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/wen3wen

0.0 I was curious what is "lingot". After checking I understand it.

Thank you. :D

November 9, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/br0d4
Mod
  • 1434

You did really a great job.

You may find also some interesting information here

November 9, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/wen3wen

the link doesn't work TAT

November 9, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/br0d4
Mod
  • 1434

Indeed, I do not know why. Try to click, and then go to address line and press Enter (sort of confirm the address). It works on my Firefox.

November 9, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/wen3wen

I got it. Thank you. ;)

November 9, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Krateusz

Truly a perfect article. Moje gratulacje! I couldn't write it better (native speaker too)

July 19, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/InaraLiepi

I speak Latvian and Russian and we use genders as well very similar as here, but different rules how you define which one is which one. Overall the article is good starting from "What grammatical genders are there in Polish ?", the introduction bit is very unclear for me even though I understand what is gender and how they are used. So I think the introductory bit could be rewritten or removed.

August 3, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/immery

What exactly confused you? how can I make the introduction better? The whole article came from a starting point of the fact that contemporary English uses word gender for two very different concepts. - one about grammar, other about humans. And that English speaking people ask why is pencil male but crayon female ?

August 3, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/benmaja

As an English speaker, my problem is that far from using the word gender for two concepts, one grammar and the other human, I only really understand gender in connection with living creatures (human or animal) - the idea of gender as having anything to do with grammar is my problem! We have in recent years come to recognise a separate idea of biological and social/cultural/assigned gender, but these two concepts of gender are still just to do with living beings - the idea that gender should have anything to do with grammar is totally alien to me, and I think it may be one of the reasons why we English are so bad at learning other languages! I can manage it in French as I have learnt it when younger, and less rebellious, but I still find it a very strange concept that nouns should have these seemingly random genders. As always, Immery, you have explained very well - it is not your fault if English speakers struggle with the concept, such as, as you say, why is pencil male but crayon female? As far as English is concerned, anything that is not a male or female living being is neuter - simples! ...this ungrammatical ending is a joke from the meerkats, by the way. [Well, apart from ships that is, they are all female! but you don't expect us to be totally consistent do you?]

November 9, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/aGABT31

Hold on!!
Lorries and buses are female and vans and minibuses are male, then there's bikes (male) and scooters (female), while dogs are taken as male by default (i.e. unless you know their actual sex) and cats female. (I am of course consigning traditional stereotypes such as doctors=male, nurses=female, to the dustbin of history). Yes, totally inconsistent br0d4, and a source of endless light-hearted argument. Great article though, with equally interesting comments.

January 2, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/br0d4
Mod
  • 1434

From my experience with English, it seems rather to be closer to be totally inconsistent :D

November 9, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PVLSANS

Where can I find the complete declension of dwa with those 4 gender distinctions you made?

June 11, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jellei

I guess here: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/dwa#Polish

Polish version mentions some less-used forms as well.

June 12, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PVLSANS
  • masculine personal nouns - dwóch, pięciu (edited)
  • feminine nouns- dwie, pięć
  • neuter not personal and masculine not personal nouns- dwa, pięć
  • neuter personal noun (kids), mixed gender persons group , or some always plural nouns- dwoje, pięcioro.

The last group is missing there or only mentioned as collective. How is it declined?

June 12, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Vengir

„Dwoje” has a separate entry in the dictionary here: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/dwoje

June 12, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/magpie_gir

I believe in a concept of professor Zygmunt Saloni - it's for plural nouns. DWA

A word "dwoje" isn't better or worse than a word "dwaj". If "dwoje" have a separate chart, then "dwaj" should have too :)

You can't use other word than: dwoje oczu, dwoje uszu, dwoje dziewcząt, dwoje szczeniąt, dwoje dzieci etc.

When I went to elementary school there wasn't any "męskoosobowy" for plurals. It is the dumbest name for this category that thay can make :(

In Polish is a collective subject so:
A girl (f) and a dog (m. no-personal) poszli na spacer.
A girl (f) and a child (n) poszli na spacer.
There isn't any "man" in this sentences but they still use "męskoosobowy" verb :)
I wish that Polish linguists stop argue with themself :( Polish, hard language... What a lie. But it is always better to make an exception to the exception etc..

Edit: WOW! I got minus :) I know that many adult Poles don't remember what they were taught in elementary school, but WOW.

First I am not a linguist and I can see some aspects of the Polish language by learning foreign languages.

Second if you disagree with me (or my previous comment does not fit into your worldview), read what wrote prof. Mirosław Bańko - the former editor of the Polish Language PWN Dictionary. There are dozens of search regarding podmiot szeregowy.

May 8, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jellei

Maybe it was just a typo, but it should be "pięciu" in the first line.

June 12, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Matthew_Phelps

Dziękuję bardzo immery, to dużo pomaga.

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Lanvin42

Hello, why do verbs not change according to the gender of the subject as much in the present tense as in the past or future tense ?

April 11, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jellei

Well... they just don't. I don't know if there is any reason to it... this is how Polish works.

April 14, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Pawelan

Congratulations on the good work.

I was thinking about that -owca ending and I would rather say that it is not only that. We have more masculine exceptions with -a ending e.g. władca (ruler, master), zarządca (administrator), dowódca (commander), nadzorca (overseer), uchodźca (refugee), wojewoda (voivode, governor), baca/gazda (shepherd/farmer in Podhale region) and as loosely related bonus - światłonośca (lightbringer from Game of Thrones :D). I would say that the grammatical gender of all of them is strictly connected to the traditional gender of the occupation they represent and for some of them we have also feminine variants ending with -i e.g władczyni (female ruler), dowódczyni (female commander), nadzorczyni (female overseer), uchodźczyni (female refugee - formally defined but rarely used) and last but not least światłonośczyni (just a theoretical joke on how you can apply the rules). Those will not apply to baca nor gazda as those are traditional names with other more universal synonyms which were never feminized.

As a good example of -ść ending, I would give liść (leaf, masculine), teść (father-in-law, masculine) and kiść (fruit cluster, feminine), ość/kość (fishbone/bone, both feminine).

July 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Vengir

By the way, the Lightbringer from Warcraft is Światłodzierżca (since the release of Hearthstone).

July 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NieNieNieNie

When you start learning Polish, one of the first things you learn is that nouns ending with -a are feminine... except for some including the one meaning "man". From here you know that learning Polish will be something.

November 17, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Serrero5

Thanks for the tips--this is very helpful!

July 7, 2019
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