One of the first rules you probably learn about Polish nouns is that they have gender – feminine nouns end in –a, masculine nouns end in a consonant and neuter nouns end in –o or –e. The rule will be then promptly followed by some exceptions (it’s Polish after all), which state that among the masculine nouns there will a be group of nouns which end in ‘a’. They grammatically behave like masculine nouns but decline and look like feminine nouns. So, what’s the best way to learn them? By creating a story of course.
Hejnalista is not on duty today and he’s going to a party – an annual dinner at Stowarzyszenie Rzeczowników Męskich Zakończonych na ‘a’ (The Society of Masculine Nouns Ending in ‘a’).
The dinner is taking place in the Bonerowski Palace in Kraków and hejnalista is really looking forward to it as it is a good opportunity to meet fellow Society members with similar musical interests: pianista, gitarzysta, perkusista, saksofonista, and wokalista who is a leader of a popular rock band – he is a proper celebryta – always with a group of screaming fans and photographers in tow.
Hopefully hejnalista will have a chat with alpinista about some climbing and abseiling training he needs to undertake. The dinner is always accompanied by an exhibition where a selected artysta talks about his works of art.
As hejnalista is approaching the Palace there appears to be some commotion outside the entrance. It’s anarchista, nihilista, terrorysta and komunista causing trouble again. They are protesting against the Society’s decision to exclude them. They caused so much trouble in the past that other members voted to take their membership away. The shouting goes louder when they spot monarchista, socjalista and konserwatysta going in.
Inside the entrance hall hejnalista sees small groups of delegates talking. He recognizes polonista, anglista and romanista who are engaging in a discussion about languages and the problem of raising the profile of language learning at schools. There is a fourth man involved in the discussion but hejnalista doesn’t know him. As he passes the group and says hello, he discreetly looks at the badge which says – ‘humanista’.
Hejnalista walks towards the bar where he sees motocyklista and rowerzysta trying to convince kierowca that any mode of transport with two wheels is better than one with four wheels. Kierowca remains unconvinced but he always feels outnumbered in the discussion (which is an annual routine), so this year kierowca has an ally in maszynista who says that his train engine has ten wheels and is far superior to any vehicle with two or four wheels. The discussion then moves towards some mechanical issues and hejnalista moves on.
He mingles with other delegates and sees some new members – sędzia, atleta and patriota among them. There is also maturzysta – straight from his A level exams.
The delegates are called into the dining room where all guests take their seats. Before dinner is served there is a short presentation from a guest speaker who, this year, is from the Society of English Nouns Ending in ‘ist’.
After a short lecture, dinner is served.
Hopefully you can easily guess the meaning of all words in bold but check them in a dictionary if you are unsure.
The last paragraph offers you a clue that Polish nouns ending in –sta often (but not always) end in –ist in English:
Find other Polish masculine nouns ending in –a (use the –ist clue).
Compare masculine nouns such as dentysta with its feminine counterpart: dentystka and notice what is the difference between them.