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Polish nouns, like all Slavic nouns, are a bit funky. Not only are they marked for gender, they also have cases. Seven of them, in fact, which makes for an interesting learning experience.
But let’s start with the easy bit – gender. There are three:
Some grammar purists will try to scare you into personal masculine, animate masculine, inanimate masculine, feminine, and neuter. But really? Who needs three different masculine forms? Sometimes one seems like too many already! So, let’s stick to the simple version. There are three genders altogether.
How to distinguish (or guess) which noun is what? There are rules for that, of course, with plenty of exceptions.
Feminine nouns end mostly with an “a”, the great majority of them, anyway. If there is no “a” at the end, but a consonant instead, the noun can still be feminine, for example: mysz (a mouse).
Masculine nouns most likely will end with a consonant, but sometimes with a vowel (as in the example above – mężczyzna).
And the poor neuter ones will have an “o”, or an “e” at the end, or something unusual like “-um”.
But remember, we are talking here about nouns in their singular nominative cases, just as they would be listed in a dictionary.
Confused yet? Don’t worry! It’s actually quite easy to determine what is what. In most instances, you can figure out the gender from the meaning of the noun. All you need is a little practice.
Unfortunately, this whole gender issue is quite important, because it affects other parts of speech, too, like adjectives, verbs and numbers. There’s no skipping or escaping it, and it all starts with a noun. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that in plural, three genders become two! (Well, technically not really, but for most intents and purposes you can think of them as two.)