Sunday, 14 December 2008

Case Names: English and Polish

After Sam's helpful post on those elusive double-duty prepositions, I realised I needed to refresh myself on the actual names of the cases in English (you can do a search of this blog for functions of the cases):
  1. Nominative (mianownik)
  2. Genitive (dopełniacz)
  3. Dative (celownik)
  4. Accusative (biernik)
  5. Instrumental (narzędnik)
  6. Locative (miejscownik)
  7. Vocative (wołacz)

Double Duty Prepositions

Once we have the cases figured out and we know what prepositions to use for each one of them, it's time to take another step and discover those prepositions which work with more than just one case, based on context and meaning.


(between, among)
  • Włóż zeszyt między książki. (Biernik)
  • Między zeszytami leżą książki. (Narzędnik)
In the first example, the preposition is connected to a movement verb in the imperative, whereas in the second example we have a static verb.
Note also the expression "między nami" (between us) - Narzędnik
  • Idziemy na egzamin. (Biernik)
  • Grzyby są na stole. (Miejscownik)
If the preposition occurs after a movement verb, indicating the destination / purpose, then we use Biernik. If we want to indicate location, connected to a static verb, we use Miejscownik.
  • Jadę nad morze. (Biernik)
  • Jestem nad morzem. (Miejscownik)
  • Poproszę o rachunek / Pytam o zdanie. (Biernik)
  • Mówiłam o tym zdaniu. (Miejscownik)
When meaning "for", "concerning", the preposition "o" is followed by Biernik, when meaning "about", it is followed by Miejscownik.
  • Idę po wodę. (Biernik)
  • Jestem po pracy. (Miejscownik)
The preposition "po" is usually followed by Biernik when connected to a verb of movement in order to express purpose. Otherwise, it is followed by Miejscownik.

  • Pojechaliśmy w Tatry. (Biernik)
  • Byliśmy w Tatrach. (Miejscownik)
  • Pojechaliśmy za miasto. (Biernik)
  • Byliśmy za miastem. (Narzędnik)
Once again, the verb decides the preposition and the case, thus we use Biernik for movement, and Ms. or N. for static vebs.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Witam :)

Thanks for the introduction, Biluś. The pleasure is all mine - when it comes to learning Polish, I'm like a kid in a toy store, I just can't seem to get enough of it. Give me some grammar, some words that are impossible to pronounce, add some exceptions to that and a few idioms and you've made my day. I'll be more than happy to share the stuff I discover, and I'm really excited to be contributing to this blog, which has been one of the most useful tools I've used in the process of polishing my Polish.
So I say we get down to business, jak najszybciej :)

Friday, 12 December 2008

New News!

My last post about hibernation is updated now - the blog awakes because (I'm pleased and honoured to report) of Sam, who will now take up the slack here and be posting about her own adventures in both Poland and po polsku. Introduce yourself, Sam...

Thursday, 6 November 2008

hibernacji - hibernation

Well, I'm having to face realities - I've just started a doctorate and won't find any time for either studying Polish or posting to this blog for the forseeable future. I'll leave the blog posts up, they may be useful to somebody sometime. Thanks to everybody who's visited :-)

I will be posting to my research blog, which you can follow if it takes your fancy! 

Pozdram, Biluś

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Verbs of Motion

These form a separate system which you just have to learn. However, it does rest on just two verbs: iść (to go on foot) and jechać (to move by means of transportation) - so there's no general movement, in Polish you either go on foot or by a vehicle. This table expresses the main (first person) aspects for the past, present and future:

For waaay more detail look at the resources in the Uczmy Się Polskiego (links) at right of here:
  • pp 80-81 Polish Grammar in a Nutshell
  • pp 291-293 A Grammar of Contemporary Polish
  • pp 108-110 A Concise Polish Grammar
If you can't find the right pages in the pdf files, just press ctrl-f and search for 'verbs of motion'.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Polish Alphabet - Polski Alfabet

Looking around the Interweb for some helpful stuff for a Polish exam (an exam in Polish! my first - I feel validated!), I came across a really excellent resource for anybody interested in Polish and Poland, It has a tagline 'Poland for Expats and Tourists', which sounds awful, but in fact it's quite brilliant and some very fine people have kindly spent time writing informatively about Polish culture, geography, romance, history, film, literature - and of course you can just join in and ask a question if you don't find what you want here. My interest was language and there's lots here; I skipped lightly over 'sexual phrases in Polish' (!) and found a wonderful resource at Practice Your Polish/Polish Lessons Units - a whole series of videos introducing the Polish alphabet and pronunciation (the one I include here, Polish Lessons Unit 1, is also on YouTube):

Great vid, Janusz!

Monday, 24 March 2008

5. Verbs which have the imperfective form only

Here's the final posting on aspects of verbs referred to in the blog posting below (Aspects of verbs: imperfective and perfective) from Sunday, 23 March 2008. So, you don't need to learn a second verb form - just learn that these DON'T have a perfective form: Verbs which have the imperfective form only

4. Perfective Verbs with two different stems

Here's the fourth of five aspect tables referred to in the blog posting below (Aspects of verbs: imperfective and perfective) from Sunday, 23 March 2008: Perfective Verbs with two different stems

3. Perfective Verbs formed by a stem alternation and a change of the stem suffix

Number three of five aspect tables referred to in the blog posting below (Aspects of verbs: imperfective and perfective) from Sunday, 23 March 2008: Perfective Verbs formed by a stem alternation and a change of the stem suffix

2. Perfective Verbs formed by a change of the stem suffix

Post number two of five aspect tables referred to in the blog posting below (Aspects of verbs: imperfective and perfective) from Sunday, 23 March 2008: Perfective Verbs formed by a change of the stem suffix

1. Perfective Verbs formed by adding a prefix

So, you can find the first of five aspect tables referred to in the blog posting below (Aspects of verbs: imperfective and perfective) from Sunday, 23 March 2008: perfective verbs formed by adding a prefix.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Aspects of verbs: imperfective and perfective

So, you’ve learnt quite a few Polish verbs and are feeling very pleased with yourself – then, you find out that almost every English verb is equal to two Polish verbs! Yes, we’re talking about the two aspects – essentially, whether an action has been completed or not. So, for example with the verb robić (to do, to make):

  • Imperfective is robić – “Wczoraj robiłem zadanie, kiedy przyszedł kolega.” (yesterday I was doing my homework, when my friend came round) – thus, the homework didn’t get done and the imperfective expresses an uncompleted, unfinished action (often translated as a progressive tense in English with -ing, for example 'was going', 'is going', "will be going")
  • Perfective is zrobić – “Wczoraj wieczorem zrobiłem zadanie, a potem czytałem książkę.” (Yesterday evening I did my homework and then read a book. – ah! the homework is done so the perfective is a completed, finished action (often translated as a simple tense in English, for example 'went', 'go' 'will go').

For more on aspects, see page 269 of the excellent A Grammar of Contemporary Polish for a more in-depth explanation; also there is a very good discussion in Wikipedia about Aspects in Slavic languages, which draws mostly on the Polish example. However, and this is the point of this and the couple of postings following here: there are NO CLEAR RULES defining which prefixes form the perfective verbs – so you just have to learn the perfective version of the imperfective verbs parrot-fashion. However, it does help to know that perfective verbs are formed by:

  1. adding a prefix
  2. changing the stem suffix
  3. a stem alternation and a change of the stem suffix
  4. having two completely different stems (!)
  5. verbs only having the imperfective form – no perfective, yaay...
If that looks complicated, then I’ve tried to simplify (a bit) by putting the above list into table form (in the posts immediately after this one) to print out and learn by self-testing – which is why there are three tables for each variant: one is complete for your reference, one is empty in the last column so you can test yourself on the meanings of the verbs, and one has an empty column for you to complete in order to learn the perfective forms. By the way, the forms are first and second persons singular and third person plural – if you can’t work the others out, let me know...

Friday, 4 January 2008

Vocative Case

Answers the questions who or what are you calling - or to call someone from a distance. This case is rarely used and some say don't even bother to learn it... who am I to argue? However, there are uses that are common:
  • when using titles - very important in Polish society - the Vocative is obligatory: Dzień dobry, panie profesorze! (Hello, professsor-Voc.!)
  • with diminutive (affectionate) forms of first names: Kasiu! Grzesiu! Hanu!

Locative Case

Case of location - answers the questions 'Who am I talking about?' (o kim?) I am talking about the movie star - and 'What am I talking about?' (o czym?) - and What is it on? On the plane, On the street, In the building. Note that it is only used after the prepositions:
  • na 'on, at'
  • w 'in'
  • po 'about, along'
  • przy 'near, by'
  • o 'concerning'

Instrumental Case

Generally related to the English preposition 'with' or 'by' when referring to transportation.

Answers the questions-whom am I doing something with? With what am I doing something with? I am talking on the phone with Joseph. I am traveling by train. This is also a case of location, most commonly used with "Z" or with." also Przed-in front of Nad-above Pod-under, bellow Za- behind.

Dative Case

The indirect object (always the person to whom something happens or is given: she gave me her address).

Also used after four prepositions:

  • dzięki (thanks to)
  • wbrew (contrary to, against)
  • ku (to, toward)
  • przeciw/ko (against)

Accusative Case

The direct object of most verbs; the object of some prepositions.

Answers the questions: What is the action is about? Whom the action is about? I see the tree. I see what? The tree. I see Mark. I see who? Mark. We would like to visit Krakow . What would you like to visit? Krakow . I have a new dress. What do you have? A new dress.

Most common verbs used: I see, I have, I like.

Other examples: I am going to buy a plane ticket. I am going to buy what? A plane ticket. I am going to sell my car. I am going to sell what? My car.

The accusative also follows preposition that indicate going towards or motion. Pzez-through Na-on, to, towards, for I am going to the market. I am waiting for my love. I will be on vacation. I am walking through the building.

Incidentally, the most common Polish cases are the nominative (dictionary form) and accusative, which account for almost 65% of the Polish cases. The nominative, accusative, genitive, and locative accounts for over 90% of the Polish cases. But you still have to learn them all :-)

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Genitive Case

The case that marks a noun as being the possessor of another noun (which is why it's also widely known as the possessive case). Thus "Danuta's brother" is brat Danuty (or Danuty brat) and "father's automobile" is samochód ojca (or ojca samochód).

In Polish, the genitive is also used:
  • with direct object after a negated verb (thus Mam klucz (I have a key) with the accusative is negated as Nie mam klucza (I don't have a key) with the genitive).
  • after words naming quantity or measure (corresponds to of in English: szklanka herbaty (a glass of tea), dużo czasu (a lot of time).
  • after certain verbs, such as: potrzebować (to need), słuchać (to listen to ), szukać (to look for), uczyć (to teach), uczyć się (to study, learn), używać (to use).
  • Cardinal Numbers from 5-21, 25-31, 35-41, 45-51, etc... are followed by the genitive plural (thus Zyzio ma sześć lat, Tomasz ma piętnaście samochodów).
  • Finally, genitive is used with a wide range of prepositions. Several express the starting point of moton: z domu (out of the house), z koncertu (from the concert), od Danuty (from Danuta). Other prepositions requiring the genitive case are u (by, in the presence of), do (to, into), dla (for, on behalf of), and bez (without).
Via Frank Y. Gladney's excellent Elementary Polish

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Nominative Case

Subject of the sentence.

Answers the questions: What is it? Who is it? It is a Park. What is it? a park. It is Mark. Who is it? Mark. The park is green. What is green? the park. The man is walking. Who is walking? the man.

Usually used with the verb "to be"

This is the case that simply names the entity in question and does not mark its dependence on any other word in the sentence. It is the case of the subject of the sentence.

In English, the role a noun plays in the sentence is indicated mainly by its position. When we hear Stan loves Barb we recognize Stan as the subject of the sentence (the source of the affection) and Barb as its object (the direct object of the sentence). In Barb loves Stan the different word order assigns different sentence roles to the two nouns.

In Polish, where "Stan" is Staś-, "loves" is kocha, and "Barb" is Baś-, it is CASE that communicates who loves whom. Case is indicated by the noun's case ending. NOMINATIVE case, which is indicated by a nominative-case ending (let us represent it as NOM), marks the subject of the sentence. ACCUSATIVE case, which is indicated by a accusative-case ending (let us represent it as ACC), marks the direct object of the sentence. So "Stan loves Barb" may be represented as Staś-NOM kocha Baś-ACC, and "Barb loves Stan" may be represented as Baś-NOM kocha Staś-ACC

Polskie Cases Overview

This is going to be my starting point, as this is probably where I have the most difficulty. Thing is, nouns and adjectives change their endings in singular and plural according to the way they're used as either subject or object or even if they're used with a particular preposition, verb or prepositional phrase (whatver that is) - and I just NEVER know when to '-ego' and when to '-ą' or '-ę'...

Anyway, there are seven cases to squeeze into your head - count 'em, here presented in their traditional order:
The following posts will all be a more in-depth presentation of each case, with not too much text but hopefully-helpful links (uczmy się polskiego on the right of here), useful guidance and exercises (100 Exercises on Cases!) plus a mind map like the one here (just click on it for a larger version):