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Collective numbers - dwoje, troje, czworo

osiol 55 | 3,922  
10 May 2009 /  #1
Are there any more collective numbers or do they stop at 4?

I've heard them used to count children, but I was wondering if they are supposed to be used to count things like violins and doors which are strangely plural in the singular in Polish. Should things like trousers and scissors fit the same pattern?
Vincent 9 | 837   Moderator
10 May 2009 /  #2
Strange but I was reading about these earlier. The bad news is they don't stop at four , they just keep going on, but 2 to 12 is used most frequently.
OP osiol 55 | 3,922  
10 May 2009 /  #3
Well, what are they?
Ewcinka - | 27  
10 May 2009 /  #4
pięcioro, sześcioro, siedmioro, ośmioro, dziewięcioro, dziesięcioro, jedenaścioro, dwanaścioro, trzynaścioro, czternaścioro, piętnaścioro....

happy or do you want more?
Vincent 9 | 837   Moderator
10 May 2009 /  #5
I believe para (pair) is used with a pair of scissors, a pair of pants etc.

5. pięcioro
6. sześcioro
7. siedmioro
10. dziesięcioro
11. jedenaścioro

Sorry Ewcinka is a faster typist than me ;)
OP osiol 55 | 3,922  
11 May 2009 /  #6
happy or do you want more?

Yes and no.
Yes, I'm happy, thankyou.
No, I don't want more!

a pair of scissors, a pair of pants

Unless taken in the hands of a reasonably adept tailor, seamster or seamstress, this can be a bad combination.

So can anyone add to my list?
Dwoje dzieci
Troje drzwi

Vincent 9 | 837   Moderator
11 May 2009 /  #7
So can anyone add to my list?

czworo ludzi.. You seem to have it sorted, in that, the nominative case of the collective numeral is followed by the genitive plural of the counted noun.
benszymanski 8 | 465  
11 May 2009 /  #8
So can anyone add to my list?

I have seen it used when emphasizing a collection of something

- e.g. czworo studentów

as opposed to czterech studentów. But 95% of the time when I come across these collective numbers it's when counting children.
gumishu 11 | 5,632  
11 May 2009 /  #9
czworo studentów - means there are students of both sexes in question
czterech studentów - just four male students
SzwedwPolsce 11 | 1,595  
13 May 2009 /  #10
Numbers are the worst parts of Polish grammar.
15 May 2009 /  #11
Compared to Swedish, ALL of Polish must seem like a nightmare, especially the number system:-)

Swedish has simplified even more than English in terms, f.ex. of its verb conjugations. LOL

Kenji75018 4 | 25  
15 Dec 2009 /  #12
Merged: Dwoje+noun+verb


I think but I'm not sure that after the nominative case (biernik) the verb is singular

Dwoje studentów pije piwo
Dwoje studentów piło piwo

Can someone confirm?

Thanks for your help.
mira - | 115  
16 Dec 2009 /  #13
i confirm. it's perfect!:)
Derevon 12 | 172  
16 Dec 2009 /  #14
Biernik = accusative. Nominative = mianownik.

The verb isn't singular because of nominative. It's quite complicated, and I probably haven't fully understood it myself, but I think you could say that if the noun that a number refers to is in the genitive you should normally use the singular form afterwards, and in the past, singular neuter (hence "piło").

Student pije/pił piwo.
Dwaj studenci piją/pili piwo.
Trzej studenci piją/pili piwo.
Czterej studenci piją/pili piwo.
Pięciu studentów pije/piło piwo.

Since the noun that "dwoje" refers to must be in the genitive (as it is a collective number) there is also singular agreement in this case.

At least this is how I've understood things.
Kenji75018 4 | 25  
16 Dec 2009 /  #15
Hi Derevon

Bardzo przepraszam za tę pomiłkę (biernik)

Thanks for useful examples.
My question was really with DWOJE is my entire question.
Nie jestem pewny, że zrozumiałem wszystko. Proszę o pomoc.
Is genitive used after nominative, accusative, genitive and instrumental sentences?

(male student+female student=dwoje studentów)

Nominative: Dwoje studentów pije piwo
Accusative: Widzę dwoje studentów, którzy piją piwo
Genitive :To piwo jest dla dwojga studentów
Instrumental :Rozmawiam z dwojgiem studentów
Locative :Myślę o tych dwojgu studentach
Dative :Dałem dwojgu studentom kilka rzeczy

Z góry dziekuję
Ziemowit 13 | 4,239  
16 Dec 2009 /  #16
My question was really with DWOJE

You've been touching here one of the most difficult aspects of Polish grammar: numerals. Please try to read, using the search engine, some other threads that deal with Polish numerals in which I (along with other PF members) try to put some light on the problem.

As you said, the expression "dwoje studentów" describes two students of which one is male and the other female. If you had two male students, you would get:

a) dwaj studenci piją piwo (the subject which is in nominative is followed by the plural verb),
b) dwóch studentów pije piwo (the subject which is in genetive is followed by the singular verb).

These two sentences mean exactly the same and are equally popular in usage among native speakers. In my view it is most confusing for foreign learners of Polish, so it is good to remember these examples and try to search for them as often as possible in Polish texts or speech.

For a mixed couple:
II. Dwoje studentów pije piwo (dwoje is in nominative, studentów is in genetive, the verb is in singular).
For a female couple:
III. Dwie studentki piją piwo (the subject is in nominative, the verb is in the plural).
Your examples with cases for dwoje studentów are perfect. Congratulations on your knowledge of Polish grammar!
16 Dec 2009 /  #17
Collective nouns continue to pose some of the biggest as well as most naggingly frequent difficulties of Polish. 'Student', 'uczeń', 'gość' and other masculine 'living' nouns, as in English, can refer to either gender. 'Two' is problematic, because what happens, f.ex. if the noun in question is collective neuter, such as 'zwierząt' (animal) or even 'dziecko' (child) which could of course be either sex? I suppose the template for such cases would be:

Dwaj mężczyzni idą/szli....
Dwie studentki/Dwóch studentek widzą/widziały....
Dwoje dzieci mają/mieli....

Pięćiu mężczyźń idzie/szło...
Sześciu studentek widzie/widziały.....
Siedmiu dzieci miało...

Kenji75018 4 | 25  
16 Dec 2009 /  #18
Thank you Ziemowit for your answer.

In fact I didn't find what I needed with the search engine.
That's why I asked here my question and you answered it.
Ziemowit 13 | 4,239  
16 Dec 2009 /  #19
Dwaj mężczyzni idą/szli....
Dwie studentki/Dwóch studentek widzą/widziały....
Dwoje dzieci mają/mieli....

You can't use the "genetive for subject" construction for a "feminine" numeral+noun. So you can only say:
Dwie studentki widzą/widziały.

But you can use that for a "male" numeral+noun:
Dwaj mężczyźni idą/szli [nominative for subject],
Dwóch mężczyzn idzie/szło [genetive for subject].

You must use the singular verb for a "mixed" numeral+noun. It is the "genetive for subject" construction as well. "Dwoje dzieci" may be both nominative and genetive. But the verb which is singular suggests we have the genetive here (although some may think it is the nominative).

Dwoje dzieci ma/miało

A different pattern is used for other-than-human-male masculine nouns:
Dwa konie biegną/biegły
The verb is the same as for feminine nouns (rodzaj niemęskoosobowy), but the numeral is as simple as one can imagine [dwa], although different than in the three preceding examples.

I hope you are still alive ...
Derevon 12 | 172  
16 Dec 2009 /  #20

You could take a look at Oscar E. Swan's Polish Reference Grammar. It covers Polish numerals in great detail. You can find it here:

Be warned, though. Headache and discouragement is guaranteed. ;)
Kenji75018 4 | 25  
17 Dec 2009 /  #21
Hi Derevon, Ziemovit and Lyzko

Uczę się polskiego od kilku lat. Zacząłem naukę w 2000r ale polski język jeszcze ma tajemnice dla mnie i jestem pewny, że nadal robię błędy. Niestety...ale bardzo mi się podoba ten język.Uczę się również romuńskiego od lutego 2009r.

Bardzo wam dziękuję za pomoc. Zrozumiałem dużo rzeczy dzięki Wam ale nie znałem dużo rzeczy o collective numbers. Teraz to jasne.

Na pewno będę miał inne pytania w przyszłości, i mam nadzieję, że znajdę pomoc jak dziś.

Jeszcze raz dziękuję. :-)
17 Dec 2009 /  #22
Ćwiczenie tworzy mistrza, Kenjiku:-)

Poza tym........ koszmary gramatyczne z liczbami kollektywnymi po 'pięć': PIĘCORO dla różnich grupów, "Tam jest pięcoro (kilkorgo = samy inny form 'kilka'/'kilku') grupów istot żyjąc w świecie......."

Nawet Polacy często zrobją błędy gramatykalne. LOL

18 Dec 2009 /  #24
Bardzo proszę:-)!!!!

Śpi dobrze i uspokuj się.
Ziemowit 13 | 4,239  
18 Dec 2009 /  #25
Uczę się polskiego od kilku lat...

Your achievements are outstanding as you've only made some minor mistakes in your text ...

Be warned, though. Headache and discouragement is guaranteed. ;)

As you may have noticed, I always try to put myself in the skin of a non-native speaker when I explain the pecularities of my native Polish language. I would strongly discourage the use of books such as Oscar E. Swan's "Polish Reference Grammar" for learning. They are good for reference, but it's useless to learn declinasions of whatever words from the grammatical tables of such books.

Refering to my post #8, there are at least three different grammatical concepts which are mixed up together in these four or, better say, five patterns illustrating the use of the numeral "two". These are: (a) human male vs. other-than-that gender in the plural, (b) the concept of the genetive in the role of a subject (c) the concept of collective numerals.

- Notice that concept (a) is applied to the verb in all patterns [I, IIa, IV] except the ones in which the subject is in genetive raher than in nominative [IIb, III].

- Concept (b) is applied for the two categories of groups: human male groups (as an alternative way of depicting this category), and groups of both sexes. The "genetive-for-subject" enforces the verb to give up its expected plural form and take the form of the third person of the singular instead (dwóch mężczyzn idzie/szło, dwoje dzieci ma/miało).

- Concept (c) arises from the overall "philosophy" of the Polish language. Notice that the language categorises objects in the plural on the basis of whether they are male humans or they are something else (all sorts of women included!). This undoubtedly sexist philosophy finds itself in trouble when it meets mixed groups where human males mix with human females. Will the męskoosobowy gender suit? Of course, not. Women are not like us, men. Will the niemęskoosobowy gender do? No, because we, men, are among them, we are not niemęskoosobowi. Perhaps that's why collective numbers appeared to describe mixed groups. I say, if collective numbers had not been invented, they should have been invented (to the dismay of foreign learners of Polish!). And the verb, the verb too, has adapted itself to these sexist theories, so it behaves as if the group of persons of both sexes were one neutral entity altogether (dwoje, troje, pięcioro studentów szło = ono szło = to "coś" szło / jakieś "dziwo" szło).

(I hope these explanations will help you better memorise certain principles of Polish thus leaving you with less headache and discouragemet for Christmas!)
Kenji75018 4 | 25  
19 Dec 2009 /  #26
Hi, Ziemovit

Thanks for your message.
You are right, polish language is really 100% for men. I realised it very quickly when I started learning it.

I know I still make mistakes in Polish and certainly in English as well as those languages are not my mother tongue. But I wish I could make some sentences without mistakes.

I really like learning Polish and Romanian so I never feel discouraged. No headache either. I like it very much, especially as I understand better and more easily than before.

One more time thanks for yours explanations.
Derevon 12 | 172  
19 Dec 2009 /  #27
As you may have noticed, I always try to put myself in the skin of a non-native speaker when I explain the pecularities of my native Polish language. I would strongly discourage the use of books such as Oscar E. Swan's "Polish Reference Grammar" for learning. They are good for reference, but it's useless to learn declinasions of whatever words from the grammatical tables of such books.

I agree, but when it comes to the intricacies of Polish numerals, I don't know of any other source that covers them in such great detail. Sure, it's mind-boggling to read this chapter no doubt, but with some persistence and patience one will see how the pieces fit together.
19 Dec 2009 /  #28
Kenji and Deveron,

I studied, i.e. learned, Polish while simultaneously dabbling in Russian. At the time, almost twenty years ago, I found Polish a snap but Russian a killer:-) Fast forward twenty years, I'm now starting to learn Albanian, and thought that Polish had the slipperiest of grammar! LOL Well, Polish may have it's numerical nightmares for foreigners, but Albanian for instance, has both definite and indefinite noun endings for both given as well as place names!!!

Polish names are conjugated, true enough. But I suppose, every language has its own idiocyncracies:-) Am happy to be of further assistance!

Do służenia, państwu.
Kenji75018 4 | 25  
19 Dec 2009 /  #29
Hi Lyzko

As for me I learn Romanian. It's very easy in comparison with Polish but there are some strange rules as well in spite of the fact it is a latine language.
19 Dec 2009 /  #30
Romanian shares with Albanian, Bulgarian and the Scandinavian languages, enclitic articles which attach to the end of the noun to form a definite, f.ex. 'student' = student, BUT 'studenti' = the student, the masculine letter 'i-ending' used to indicated 'the', much as in Romanian 'museum' = museum vs. 'museul' = the museum, the '-ul' ending indicating definite 'the museum' etc...

Language is no end fascinating, isn't it? Japanese too, is considered an almost impossibly difficult language for us 'gajjin', eh?? :-)

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