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Professions: feminine nouns

I've just read an interview in the textbook about nouns that mean professions. The interviewee says that you shouldn't decline such noun if there's no feminine equivalent for it.

For example: Widziałem się z prezes naszej firmy. Usłyszałem od prezes.

He says that these forms are correct, even though "pani prezes" is more polite.

I have always had problems how to name women of some professions, so I'm curious if such forms (without "pani") are really used often. I don't think I have ever heard of them before.

April 23, 2016



I will try come back with more info, but If you follow any news in Polish you should notice that our current Prime Minister, and the former one are women. So most Polish news about those politicians ("panie potityk") are going to use "pani premier",


Yes, but they also use the form "pan premier".


Are we talking about politics? -pass
politeness? - yes we say pan premier, pani premier. My primary school teacher also made sure we said pani sprzątaczka, pan woźny.

Or language:

Pan premier-pana premiera- panu premierowi- pana premiera- panem premierem- (o) panu premierze-panie premierze

pani premier- pani premier- pani premier-panią premier- panią premier-(o) pani premier- pani premier.


I heard this polite form many times. But I've never heard them without "pani". So can I avoid "pani" if I'm speaking with friends for example? Or do you use any other forms to refer to women in informal speech?


It depends on the word, situation, and level of informality.

For example there is word "prezeska", it is less common but can be used in informal speech. Female surnames that do not decline- often people use old-fashoned Nowakowa, Nowakówna in informal situations.

But for example "byłem u dziekan, i powiedziała mi że dadzą mi przedłużenie sesji" is a normal conversation among university students.

Also I am sorry to use politics in this, but it is the source that provides with many newspaper articles.

Here is an example of rather not informal, excerpt from press:

Kornel Morawiecki, oceniając expose premier Beaty Szydło, stwierdził, że bardzo podobało mu się to, że premier Szydło powiedziała, iż wszyscy jesteśmy jedną, biało-czerwoną, drużyną.


Minister edukacji Anna Zalewska spotkała się wczoraj w Krakowie z małopolskimi samorządowcami, by przedstawić im główne założenia rządu w sprawie zmian w systemie oświaty. Polityk uspokajała, ze celem PiS-u nie jest likwidacja gimnazjów lecz przywrócenie czteroletnich liceów. Szczegóły zmian w edukacji zostaną przedstawione w czerwcu.



Thank you for the answer! Now I have a better picture :)


Yes, they are used and you can see that the word "prezes" is declined in another way when you would say about a man.

  • 1899

Within polish gender system for nouns, beside the basic 5 genders:

1.) male personal 2.) male living not personal (f.ex. animals, and - strangely - some other things like some of fruits and vegetables) 3.) male non-living, impersonal (f.ex. objects) 4.) female 5.) neutral

... can also be distinguished 2 special gender categories of nouns:

6.) Nouns that have 'common gender', i.e. they may refer to male or female, and you can't guess which case is it. These are often names of some professions, that traditionally were pursued by men, but recently (I mean last 50-100 years) are pursued also by women. It concerns also some words that have emotional complexion:

  • words to which a natural feminine ending cannot be easily added or would be considered awkward - e.g. pan/pani profesor, pan/pani prezes, pan/pani doktor (feminine endings are sometimes used with these words, but "prezeska", "doktorka", "profesorka" are considered extremly colloquial or casual - or extremly feminist).
  • words that have feminine ending, but may refer do male or female person, e.g. ten/ta skarżypyta [sneak], ten/ta sierota [orphan; pantywaist]
  • These may be also words, that already exist with a feminine ending, but it has a different meaning than a woman that can be called with that name, e.g. pan/pani magister [a person with master's degree]; magisterka [colloquial name for the master's degree itself (the document)]; see also below.

7.) Nouns that have 'double gender', i.e. they have two different form existing in 2 genders, and sometimes their meaning is different depending on gender used, f.ex. list (m) [letter, meaning a piece of correspondence], lista (f) [checklist]; szmat (m) [a long way to go]; szmata (f) [rug, piece of cloth]; cud (m) [supernatural phenomenon], cudo (n) [extraordinary or uncommonly beautiful object or person].


That's interesting, I thought Polish also (like it's in my language) had three genders: masculine, feminine, neutral, while every word has another characteristic: if it's animate or inanimate. Combination of these characteristics gives us the type of declension.


there are different "perspectives" about it. People who are not interested in grammar usually recognise 3 genders. We also have no idea how many declension tables there are etc

  • You can either have 3 genders and then divide masculine into three parts, -have 3 genders in singular with added "animation characteristic" to masculine nouns, and 2 plural genders, (how I see it)
  • have 5 genders from the start.

  • 1899

As immery wrote - the number of genders in Polish grammar depends on the level of accuracy you want to reach. In primary school in Poland they usually teach about 3 genders. In secondary - 5 genders. At university level they reportedly came to 9 or 10 (I do not know exactly, I am an engineer, not a linguist).

Depending on your preferences - you learn one of 2 models: either 5 genders + how they match in singular or in plural - or 3 genders, and remember that in male are divided into 2 groups - different in singular and different in plural. In my opinion, the first way is easier, but YMMV.

  1. male living personal
  2. male living not personal (f.ex. animals, and - strangely - some other things like some of fruits and vegetables)
  3. male non-living, impersonal (f.ex. objects)
  4. female
  5. neutral

In singular male noun declines differently depending on whether it is male living or male non-living, so 1+2 male living have the same declension, another is 3 male non-living, but the difference between 1+2 and 3 is only when it comes to Accusative and Genitive - other cases of all male nouns are the same. Then, 4 female and 5 neutral have separate schemas of declension each, so you have to learn 1+2; 3; 4; 5 - together there are 4 schemas of declension in singular.

In plural, male noun declines differently depending on whether it is personal or impersonal, so male personal is one of genders in plural - and all the others have the same declension as male not personal, and they are all grouped as not male-personal. So in plural, you have to learn 1 ; 2+3+4+5 - together there are 2 schemas of declension in plural.


Well, I like grammar, but I prefer to use it correctly rather than just learn all the tables :) So I'll stick to the three-gender system (even though it's not fully correct, as I got it), since that's what I've been taught in school in Russian classes and I can understand Polish better from this point of view.

I just don't want to put words like animate kobieta and inanimate miska in the same group, even though they have the same declension they have really different characteristics in real life)

Anyway, thank you for the explanation, I've never looked at Polish from this angle

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