Introduction to verbs and conjugation
Perfective vs Imperfective
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-, 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")
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||czytają||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.
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):
Other ować verbs will follow this pattern.
kupować (to buy) is an imperfective verb,
This is how you conjugate it:
|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.
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.
Introduction to declension
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.?
Which case should we use for the word or words in red?