Why Polish Feminine Nouns Can Be Confusing Posted by Anna on Feb 9, 2010 in Grammar, Vocabulary
Adam’s post about feminine endings for occupations and positions held by women made me think about feminine gender nouns in general.
That proposed ending “-a” makes it very easy to assume that Polish feminine nouns should end in “-a”. And yes, many indeed do. But not all.
There are some nouns that even though they don’t end in “-a”, you can more or less guess that they are feminine in gender. For example:
- pani (plural: panie) – lady, Mrs or Ms.
- gospodyni (plural: gospodynie) – landlady (or a woman who runs a household)
- bogini (plural: boginie) – goddess
Those are the easy ones. And there aren’t that many of them.
The problem is that there’s also a multitude of nouns who look like they might be anything but feminine in gender. They end in a consonant, and there’s no other way, but to simply learn them one by one. And unfortunately, there’s quite a few of them.
Here are some of the most popular ones you may see:
- krew (usually only singular) – blood
- mysz (plural: myszy) – mouse
- twarz (plural: twarze) – face
- rzecz (plural: rzeczy) – thing
- noc (plural: noce) – night
- sól (plural: sole) – salt
- myśl (plural: myśli) – thought
- kolej (plural: koleje ) – railway
And those are still the easy ones. The biggest group of those “odd” feminine nouns end in those goofy soft consonants that most Polish learners grow to hate. And yes, this group is full of commonly used popular nouns.
- jesień (plural: jesienie) – autumn
- nić (plural: nici) – thread
- wieś (plural: wsie) – village
- kość (plural: kości) – bone
- odpowiedź (plural: odpowiedzi) – answer
- łódź (plural: łodzie) – boat
- powieść (plural: powieści) – novel
There’s plenty more, unfortunately.
And then there are a few nouns that simply can’t decide whether they are feminine of masculine:
- rodzynek (masculine) or rodzynka (feminine)– raisin
- pomarańcz (masculine) or pomarańcza (feminine) – orange
Though with “orange” when you say “pomarańcz” you mean the color orange. Pomarańcza is an orange (fruit). But Polish raisins swing both ways, I guess.
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