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 :)

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