Polish/Basic grammar

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Introduction to verbs and conjugation[edit]

Perfective vs Imperfective[edit]

Each Polish verb is either perfective or imperfective. Basically, perfective verbs imply completion, while imperfective verbs imply an ongoing action with no sense of completion.

Perfective verbs are sometimes created by adding a prefix (do-, na-, od-, po-, prze-, przy-, s-, u-, w-, wy-, z-, za-) to an imperfective verb, but not always - the prefix might also change the meaning slightly (e.g., "pisać" means "to write" and "napisać" - "to have written", but "przepisać" means "to rewrite" or "to copy the writing")

Example: czytać[edit]

The verb czytać has a very typical conjugation. Many (but not all) verbs ending in -ać conjugate in this way.

czytać, meaning "to read", is an imperfective verb. For now we only look at the present tense:

Subject Pronoun (optional) Conjugate verb Translation
1st person ja czytam I am reading /I read
2nd person ty czytasz You (singular) are reading /You read
3rd person on / ona / ono czyta He/she/it is reading /He/she/it reads
1st person, plural my czytamy We are reading /We read
2nd person, plural wy czytacie You (plural) are reading /You read
3rd person, plural oni / one czyta They are reading /They read


In modern Polish there is no grammatical difference between "W tej chwili czytam książkę." - I am reading a book right now - and "Codziennie czytam gazetę" - I read (the) paper every day.

Exercises[edit]

Main page: Polish/Exercises - Introductory conjugation


Przeczytać means "to have read". Polish does have an equivalent of present perfect, but it will probably seem a bit unclear to an English speaker. Don't worry, there is a hidden logic to it. Remember that perfective verbs imply completion so Przeczytam książkę means "I will read the book (and finish)." In other words, "I will have read the entire book (in the future)."

Note that, like in Spanish and Italian, subject pronouns (ja, ty, on, my, wy, oni) are usually omitted, because they are redundant.

Ok, let's try conjugating this verb (Click "▼" to check your answer):

I will have read (the entire book)
Przeczytam
Przeczytam
To one person: You will have read (the entire book)
Przeczytasz
Przeczytasz
She/he will have read (the entire book)
Przeczyta
Przeczyta
We will have read (the entire book)
Przeczytamy
Przeczytamy
To a group of people: You will have read (the entire book)
Przeczytacie
Przeczytacie
They will have read (the entire book)
Przeczytają
Przeczytają


kupować[edit]

Other ować verbs will follow this pattern.

kupować (to buy) is an imperfective verb,

This is how you conjugate it:

Subject Pronoun Conjugated verb Translation
1st person Ja kupuję I am buying /I buy
2nd person Ty kupujesz You (singular) are buying /You buy
3rd person On / Ona / Ono kupuje He/she/it is buying /He/she/it buys
1st person, plural My kupujemy We are buying /We buy
2nd person, plural Wy kupujecie You (plural) are buying /You buy
3rd person, plural Oni / One kupują They are buying /They buy

As you can see, it's quite regular.

Exercises[edit]

Main page: Polish/Exercises - Introductory conjugation


Let's try conjugating a verb of this same type. However, our chosen verb narysować (to have drawn a picture) happens to be a perfective verb, therefore, when you conjugate it, you get the future tense.

Ok, let's start conjugating.

I will have drawn
Ja narysuję
Ja narysuję
To one person: You will have drawn
Narysujesz
Narysujesz
He will have drawn
On narysuje
On narysuje
We will have drawn
Narysujemy
Narysujemy
To a group of people: You will have drawn
Narysujecie
Narysujecie
They will have drawn
Narysują
Narysują

Introduction to declension[edit]

Polish has seven cases. Here's the basic idea - you should be familiar with it if you studied Latin at school:

  • The nominative case (lat. nominativus, pl. mianownik) - this is the "basic" form of a noun you'll find in the dictionary. In a sentence it serves as the subject:
    The man went to the store.
  • The genitive case (lat. genetivus, pl. dopełniacz) - this is the possessive case (in English you just add 's. Believe me or not, the 's is the vestige of more complicated declension English used to have). Besides, the genitive is used for the direct object in negative sentences:
    A country's citizens must defend its honour.
    I did not buy the car.
  • The dative case (lat. dativus, pl. celownik) indicates the indirect object of a verb (To whom? or For whom?):
    We told her the truth.
    The man gave his daughter a book.
    I made them dinner.
  • The accusative case (lat. accusativus, pl. biernik) - in sentences, noun in accusative is the direct object of an action:
    I bought the car.
  • The instrumental case (lat. instrumentalis, pl. narzędnik) tells us with which? or how? an action is performed:
    He shot it with the gun.
  • The locative case (in Latin this case merged with ablativus, pl. miejscownik) indicates a location of something/someone:
    I live in China.
  • The vocative case (lat. vocativus, pl. wołacz) is for directly addressing a person:
    Professor, are you O.K.?


Exercises[edit]

Main page: Exercises - What case should I use?


Which case should we use for the word or words in red?

He lured the animal with bait.
nominative
nominative
He lured the animal with bait.
accusative
accusative
He lured the animal with bait.
instrumental
instrumental
We told her the whole story.
dative
dative
We told her the whole story.
accusative
accusative
I wrote a long letter to my aunt.
accusative
accusative
I wrote a long letter to my aunt.
dative
dative
He did not win the race.
genitive
genitive
I found the kittens a new home.
dative
dative
The tiger lives in a zoo.
locative
locative
That's the neighbor's cat.
genitive
genitive
You idiot, why'd you do that!
vocative
vocative
His computer is very old.
nominative
nominative
We gave him the money.
dative
dative