Monday, 9 November 2009

Notes on the Genitive

This is in response to a comment Jim posted on this blog asking about the endings for masculine nouns in Genitive. Although there are no rules telling us how to determine the right ending, I tried to put together a list and hopefully it makes things a bit clearer.

Monday, 20 July 2009

The Infinitive (Bezokolicznik)

The infinitive is the basic form of the verb, the one you'll find in dictionaries and that you'll easily spot due to the ending ć : czytać (to read), pisać (to write), kupić (to buy) (most of the times. You probably guessed, there are exceptions even to this elementary rule*). We'll need the infinitive to form the future, but also for some specific constructions with modal verbs or some particular nouns - since it's very easy to learn & use, you'll soon notice how these constructions enrich your vocabulary :)

* and here are the exceptions: verbs ending in c, like
móc (can): mogę, możesz, może
piec (to bake): piekę, pieczesz, piecze
biec (to run): biegnę, biegniesz, biegnie
strzec (to guard): strzegę, strzeżesz, streże

Here are the most frequent constructions requiring the infinitive.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Vote for us!

Hello to our faithful followers - it'd be cudownie if you were to go to this link and vote for us (we'll have to let them know that they've missed Sam off the name - especially as she is doing ALL of the good work here now!).

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Polish verbs (czasowniki) - the basics

We've dealt with the verb before - by now, if you've been following this blog, you know quite a few things about aspect, you can tell the difference between perfective and imperfective verbs and you're familiar with the conjugation patterns in Polish. That should be enough for you to be able to build correct sentences, and even though it's possible that you'll sometimes mix & match those perfective and imperfective forms, you'll still make yourself understood.
However, there's still a lot of things to find out about the verb, way too many rules and exceptions and some more exceptions, but we'll take a look at all of them, one at a time.
First of all, we need to define the categories we'll be working with, meaning that we need to know what's really important in learning the verb:
1. Aspect (aspekt)
  • there are two classes of verbs in Polish: perfective (czasowniki dokonane) and imperfective (czasowniki niedokonane). The first ones are for actions that are completed or will be completed, whereas the others are taking place in some particular moment, without indication of completion.
  • for example, the pair pić - wypić (to drink):
On pije piwo means that he drinks beer (we have no indication of completion) or that he is drinking beer as we speak.
On wypije piwo means that he will drink all his beer (thus the action being completed at a certain point in the future).
  • perfective verbs only occur in the past or in the future - the action was either completed earlier, or will be completed. However, a perfective verb in the future looks like an imperfective verb in the present - the pattern of conjugation is the same. Check out at the above mentioned pić - wypić - you conjugate them in the same way, but they express different times. So try to remember it this way: with perfective verbs, what looks (grammatically) as the present is actually an expression of the future.
2. Tense
As far as tense is concerned, you'll probably be relieved to find out there's just three tenses in Polish: past, present and future. But there's several ways to express them.

PAST - both perfective and imperfective verbs occur in the past
- completed action: perfective verb
- action in progress in the past, not completed: imperfective verb
To form the past of both perfective and imperfective vebs, we need the participle and specific endings for each person, singular and plural.
PRESENT - only imperfective verbs occur in the present, there's four big groups of verbs according to the pattern of conjugation (some linguists argue there's actually just three groups, but when we take a look at the present tense I'll explain my choice and why I stand by those people who argue there's four groups)
FUTURE - both perfective and imperfective verbs occur in the future
- we need a perfective verb for a completed action (remember it looks like the present of imperfective verbs)
- we'll express an action that will be in progress at some point in the future with an imperfective verb (to do this, we'll need the verb to be in the future tense and the infinitive or the participle)

3. Mode
- there's three modes in Polish: indicative, conditional and imperative

4. Person
5. Number
6. Gender

- these three categories are important while conjugating verbs because, as you might expect, the question of gender is quite delicate not only when counting nouns or maing the agreement with the adjective, but also when you have to be specific about the person undertaking the action - all information about person(s) and gender is contained in the verb

7. Voice
- this is simple. There's a passive voice and an active voice. Of course, you have to know when to usethe perfective and when the imperfective, but for now no need to enlarge upon this. Pogadamy o tym żniej :)

Friday, 3 July 2009

Zaimki (Pronouns)

As compared to the numeral or the verb, the pronoun is quite friendly and easy to remember. Once you've mastered the cases, you should have no problem learning the pronouns. Well, almost no problem, since it's still Polish we're talking about and of course there's some exceptions on the way.
Let's have a quick look at the types of pronouns in Polish

1. Personal Pronouns
  • singular: ja, ty, on, ona, ono
  • plural: my, wy, oni (all male & mixed male-female groups), one
Note that ja, ty, my, wy are usually not expressed as subjects, unless emphasized. Thus, we will say:
Czytamy, instead of My czytamy, because the verb gives us full information about the person.
  • You must remember the polite, formal address as well, because this is the form you'll be using when talking to Polish people, at least for the beginning. If you use ty when talking to someone you've just met, you might be considered rude. However, you'll switch from formal to informal rather quickly, most of the times after a "ceremonial" caled bruderszaft, which involves drinking some vodka and kissing each other on the cheeks. The act of changing from the polite form to a more friendly "you" must be acknowledged by both parties. Also, when talking to someone older, they must be the ones to suggest giving up formal address.
  • singular: Pan (masc), Pani (fem)
  • plural: Panowie (masc), Panie (fem), Panstwo (masc&fem)

2. Possessive Pronouns
  • they take a full set of agreeing endings and act like adjectives - they have the same type of declension
3. Demonstrative and Relative Pronouns
  • Polish language does not have the category of "article", therefore you will understand from the context if a certain noun is definite or indefinite. Demonstrative and relative pronouns have full case-and-number declension
4. Reflexive pronoun
  • it means "oneself", "each other", "one another" and it has no Nominative case form
5. Distributive pronouns
  • they are matched by different pronouns in the plural and in expressing negation, but they all function like adjectives and have full case-and-number declension.
You'll probably have to learn the personal pronouns as they are - and worry not if you don't remember all forms, once you start speaking they will all come naturally, and you'll end up wondering why you spent all that time and energy trying to learn something that was so obvious. For the rest of the pronouns, all it takes is good command of the cases.
Here's a chart with declension patterns for the above-mentioned pronouns.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Liczebniki parts 4 - 7

We didn't give up. We're still learning Polish and we still love it.
The thing is, we've both been so busy, that we hardly had any time for this blog. But we're back now, ready to do some catching up :)
We still had to go through those strange numerals, next we'll take a look at the pronoun, which is really not that big of a deal, and then the real adventure starts: the verb.
So let's do some more counting - these numerals are not very popular in Polish, you won't meet them very often - and learn some really useful stuff, like expressing time, dates and years.
Fractional and Indefinite Numerals.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Liczebniki (part 2 & 3)

Today we'll take a look at ordinal and collective numerals.

Ordinal numerals are simple and user-friendly. They act like adjectives, so once you should have no problem, once you've learnt the main form of the numeral.
Collective numerals are a bit more complicated. When it comes to them, there's a few things you have to remember:
a) form
b) the three categories of nouns you count using these numerals
c) declension
d) agreement with the noun (i.e. the case they require for the noun that follows them).
They may not be pretty, but the good news is that once you've figured out the mechanism, you won't have any problems, not to mention that you won't actually be using these numerals very often.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Notes on the use of Instrumental

This post is also a response to the comment on this post.
After consulting the books, here's my attempt at making things easier to understand.
First of all, I totally agree with Biluś - with those endings (końcowki) you don't have much of a choice, with or without further explanations about grammar. You learn them by heart, and after a while you'll forget all about the ordeal you've gone through. In this way, you will be able to recognize the Instrumental case, and all the others, just by taking a look at the ending. However, if you want to build up your own sentences and are not sure when and how to use it, maybe this will help:

One of the main constructions requiring Narzędnik (Instrumental) has the following structure:
Kto jest kim
Co jest czym
(Subject) jest (predicative)

In Polish, the subject (kto / co) is in Mianownik (Nominative), whereas the predicative (kim / czym) is in Narzędnik. Let's take a look at your examples:
Marek i Piotr są studentami Politechniki.
  • Marek i Piotr: Subject (Mianownik / Nominative)
  • studentami: predicative (Narzędnik / Instrumental) - this gives us further information on the subject of the sentence, and it follows the pattern (subject) są (predicative)
Let's take another example:
  • On jest Francuzem / lekarzem / studentem.
It is easier if you ask the questions:
Kto to jest? and your answer will be "On" (Mianownik)
Kim on jest? - this gives you further information about profession, nationality etc. and your answer will be a noun in Narzędnik.
It may be that the noun is determined by an adjective - like in your example: Oni są dobrymi przyjaciółmi. In such a situation, the adjective will also be in Narzędnik. You have to pay attention to the fact that even if the cases are different, there is still agreement in gender and number. You can't say, for instance, *Oni są (plural) dobrym przyjacielem (singular).

Finally, some tips and tricks:
  1. look at the verb. Narzędnik mostly occurs after these verbs: być, bywać, zostać, stawać / stać się, okazać się, zrobić się.
  2. look at the subject of the sentence and then at the nouns or nouns + adjectives giving you further information about the subject. They will most likely be in Narzędnik. Note here that if you have just an adjective, without a noun, describing the subject, then you have full agreement - gender, number and case. There is a difference between Marek jest zdolny and Marek jest zdolnym studentem. And don't forget to ask the questions. In the first situation, the question will be Jaki jest Marek?, whereas in the second situation, the question will be Kim jest Marek? (On jest studentem - this is the essential information, and the adjective describing "studentem" will obviously be in Narzędnik).
Hopefully, this will clear things up a bit (and remember that Instrumental has many other uses and specific prepositions. If you need any help with those, let us know).

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Learning the cases

This post is in response to anonymous' comment on this post. I'm assuming my own lack of a grammar foundation here - I was never taught the mechanics of grammar and, in order to learn Polish, I had to learn what the different parts of speech actually do - even down to adverb/adjective... so, I sympathise, anonymous!

My esteemed przyjaciółka, Sam, will be able to help explain more than I can about why the instrumental is used in the particular example you give: 'Marek i Piotr są studentami Politechniki. Są dobrymi przyjaciólmi, chóć kazdy jest inny'

However, this was my strategy for being able to 'spot the case' in an exam I sat last year - it's a very old technique of learning: by rote - but it worked like a dream, so I pass it on in the hope that it might be useful to you, too. 

Print the following documents, which are (arguably) the most important cases and their endings: 
Look at the completed table and test your memory of it - then try to write the endings out from memory in the blank tables. I guarantee, you make yourself do this over the course of a week, you'll remember. Good luck!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Odmiana nazw wlasnych

We still have a long way ahead of us with those numerals (working on them), but in the meantime here's part of a paper I had to write in my kultura jezyka course, about declension of names.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Liczebniki (part 1)

Cześć Wam, i Wszystkiego Najlepszego w Nowym Roku!
We’re back in business.
A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, and this means, among other things which are not related to Polish in any way, learning the numeral. In my opinion this is the toughest and crappiest part of Poish grammar, not to mention I find it somewhat senseless – it’s so complicated that even Polish people have problems getting the right forms.
So let’s try to shed some light on those numerals (liczebniki).
First of all, here’s a list of all types of numerals, which we’ll be taking one at a time, trying to clear things up in terms of declension and syntax.
1. Cardinal num. = liczebniki główne (jeden, piętnaście, trzysta, miliard)
2. Ordinal num. = liczebniki porządkowe (czwarty, dwunasty)
3. Collective num. = liczebniki zbiorowe (czworo, jedenaścioro)
4. Indefinite num. = liczebniki nieokreślone (dużo, kilkanaście)
5. Fractional num. = liczebniki ułamkowe (pół, trzy cywarte)
6. Multiplicative num. = liczebniki mnożne (podwójny, poczwóry)
7. Reified num. = wielorakie liczebniki (dwojaki, pięcioraki).
So let’s start with liczebniki główne.

P.S. it may look scary, although I’ve tried to keep it simple. It takes some patience and some practice, nothing more (ok, it took me about one year, a job in a bar, three grammar exams and one summer course to figure out the numeral, but that’s just me, I’ve never been good with numbers).