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Polish Conditionals (okresy warunkowe or zdania warunkowe)

Ivonka 10 | 4  
9 Nov 2006 /  #1
As the name suggests, okresy warunkowe or zdania warunkowe (Conditional Sentences) have to do with conditions i.e. one condition or conditions must be met so that something else could happen. This phenomenon is present in both the English and Polish language and we distinguish three conditionals plus the so-called zero conditional. They all will be described and compared below.

Zerowy okres warunkowy (Zero Conditional) indicates that one thing always comes automatically after another and expresses prawdy ogólne (General Truths). There is a small difference in this conditional as the structure in English sentence is:

if/when + Simple Present, Simple Present

and in Polish sentence it is:

jeśli/jeżeli/kiedy + czas teraźniejszy (Present Simple)/czas przyszły (Future Tense), czas teraźniejszy (Present Simple)/czas przyszły (will/won't)

In English:
If/When you heat water, it boils.
If/When you don't eat, you die.
If/When he misses the bus, he is late for work.

In Polish:
Jeśli/Jeżeli podgrzejesz wodę, zagotuje się. (in both sentences - Future Simple)
Jeśli/Jeżeli nie jesz, umierasz. (in both sentences - Simple Present)
Jeśli/Jeżeli spóźni się na autobus, spóźni się do pracy. (in both sentences - Future Simple)

Pierwszy okres warunkowy (First Conditional) refers to possible future actions. Here, the condition is very probable to occur.

The key difference between English and Polish is in the use of tenses because in English it is:

if/when + Present Simple, will/won't

whereas in Polish it is:

jeśli/jeżeli/kiedy + czas przyszły (will/won't), czas przyszły (will/won't)

In English:
If/When you learn, you will go to England.
If/When he has time, he will come to my party.
If/When I don't earn enough money, I won't buy a new car.

In Polish:
Jeśli/Jeżeli/Kiedy będziesz się uczył, pojedziesz do Anglii.
Jeśli/Jeżeli/Kiedy będzie mieć czas, przyjdzie na moje przyjęcie.
Jeśli/Jeżeli/Kiedy nie zarobię wystarczająco dużo pieniędzy, nie kupię nowego samochodu.

There are also other words that can be used in pierwszy okres warunkowy (First Conditional):

- jeśli/jeżeli nie (unless) e.g. Zrobię to, jeśli/jeżeli nie pójdę do kina. (I'll do it unless I go to the ciemna.); notice that we have forma przecząca (negative form) and in English there is no negation after 'unless'

- zakładając, że (providing/providing that) e.g. Patrycja będzie szczęśliwa zakładając, że wygra tą nagrodę. (Patricia will be happy provided/providing (that) she wins this prize.)

- pod warunkiem, że (on condition that) e.g. Pomogę ci pod warunkiem, że zrobisz zakupy. (I will help you on condition (that) you do the shopping.)

- jeśli/jeżeli (suppose/supposing that) e.g. Jeśli/Jeżeli kupią sobie psa, będą mieć problem. (If they buy a dog, they will have a problem.)

- tak długo jak/dopóki (as/long as) e.g. Tak długo jak/Dopóki nie zjesz, nie wyjdziesz z domu. (As/So long as you don't eat, you won't leave the house.)

- inaczej/w przeciwnym wypadku (otherwise) e.g. Musisz chodzić do pracy. Inaczej/W przeciwnym wypadku stracisz ją (You have to go to work. Otherwise you lose it.).

Drugi okres warunkowy (Second Conditional) refers to the present and future, but this time we can say that the condition cannot be realized.

The English structure is:

if + Simple Past, would + bare infinitive

and in Polish we have almost the same situation:

gdyby + czas przeszły (Simple Past), tryb przypuszczający (verbs with -by ending)

Liczba pojedyncza (Singular):

gdybym ja zrobił/zrobiła (if I did)
gdybyś ty zrobił/zrobiła (if you did)
gdyby on zrobił (if he did)
gdyby ona zrobiła (if she did)
gdyby ono zrobiło (if it did)

Liczba mnoga (Plural):

gdybyśmy zrobili/zrobiły (if we did)
gdybyście zrobili/zrobiły (if you did)
gdyby oni zrobili (if they did)
gdyby one zrobiły (if they did)

Polish tryb warunkowy (verbs with -by ending)

Liczba pojedyncza (Singular):

ja zrobiłbym/zrobiłabym (I would do)
ty zrobiłbyś/zrobiłabyś (you would do)
on zrobiłby (he would do)
ona zrobiłaby (she would do)
ono zrobiłoby (it would do)

Liczba mnoga (Plural):

my zrobilibyśmy/zrobiłybyśmy (we would do)
wy zrobilibyście/zrobiłybyście (you would do)
oni zrobiliby (they would do)
one zrobiłyby (they would do)

And now a few examples of sentences in drugi okres warunkowy (Second Conditional):

In English:
If I had enough money, I would go to Italy.
If she knew who you are, she wouldn't want to be with you.
If I were you, I would go to the doctor.

In Polish:
Gdybym miał/miała wystarczająco dużo pieniędzy, pojechałabym do Włoch.
Gdyby wiedziała kim jesteś, nie chciałaby być z tobą.
Gdybym był/była na twoim miejscu, poszedłbym-poszłabym do lekarza.

Trzeci okres warunkowy (Third Conditional) refers to the past and this condition cannot be realized as the situation described in sentences of this type happened in the past. Here is the structure:

English one:
if + past perfect, would have + Future Perfect in the Past

Polish one:
gdyby/jeśli/jeżeli + czas przeszły (Simple Past),
tryb przypuszczający (verbs with -by ending)

In English:
If I had known earlier, I would have prepared.
If he hadn't driven so fast, he wouldn't have had the accident.
If we had learned more, we would have passed that exam.

In Polish:
Gdybym wiedziała wcześniej, przygotowałabym się.
Gdyby nie jechał tak szybko, nie miałby wypadku.
Gdybyśmy uczyli/uczyły się więcej, zdalibyśmy/zdałybyśmy tamten egzamin.

There are also mieszane okresy warunkowe (Mixed Conditionals) - we can mix drugi okres warunkowy (Second Conditional) with trzeci okres warunkowy (Third Conditional) and the other way round.

In English:
If I hadn't forgotten my credit card, I wouldn't have to come back home now.
If you were more polite, you wouldn't have shouted at that woman.
If they didn't speak Italian, they would have had problems to understand the lecturer.

In Polish:
Gdybym nie zapomniał/zapomniała mojej karty kredytowej, nie musiałbym/musiałabym wracać do domu teraz.
Gdybyś był/była bardziej uprzejmy/uprzejma, nie krzyczałbyś/krzyczałabyś na tamtą kobietę.
Gdyby nie mówili/mówiły po włosku, mieliby/miałyby problemy, żeby zrozumieć wykładowcę.

That would be all as far as okresy/zdania warunkowe (Conditional Sentences) are concerned. They are frequently used in everyday language both in English and Polish. We sometimes even do not realize how often we use the particular tense or grammar construction especially when we speak the language fluently and we do not have to think about what we should use. I hope this short explanation of okresy/zdania warunkowe (Conditional Sentences) will help learners of Polish to use it correctly and without any problems or mistakes.

FISZ 24 | 2,116  
9 Nov 2006 /  #2
Awesome! Thanks!

....who ever thinks of conditionals? :)
Huegel 1 | 296  
13 Nov 2006 /  #3
If I thought about conditionals, i would get a headache! :) Thanks Ivonka, great as usual. :)
Michal - | 1,865  
22 Mar 2007 /  #4
To nie jest bardzo dobre zdanie po angielsku i troszeczke drziwne. If they did'nt speak Italian, they would have problems to understand the lecture. This should be-'had they not been able to speak Italian, they would have had problems in understanding the lecture. twoje zdanie jest jak polskie zdanie. Angielski jezyk jest inny czasem i chyba trudniejszy.

If I had'nt forgotten my credit card, I would't have had to come back home now-lepiej! Tez nie ma po angielsku 'we sometimes even do not realize' lepiej napisac 'sometimes, we do not even realize...slowo 'even' musi byc w innym miejscu.

If she knew who you were, she would'nt want to be with you. Trzeba kupic dobra ksiazke jezyka angielskiego.
czarnykot 16 | 28  
9 Jun 2008 /  #5
Ivonka's explanation re Polish conditional sentences is great. Many thanks. One further observation: in all the examples (I think) the subject is the same in both main and subordinate clause... If the subjects of the two clauses are different are the conditional sentence constructions the same? For example, is the following sentence correct?

Gdyby Polska wygrała mecz, to byłbym szczęśliwy.

In the subordinate clause the subject is 'Polska' and in the main clause the subject is 'ja'.
Krzysztof 2 | 973  
9 Jun 2008 /  #6
is the following sentence correct?
Gdyby Polska wygrała mecz, to byłbym szczęśliwy.

More correct (without "to" in the main clause):
Gdyby Polska wygrała mecz, byłbym szczęśliwy.
The use of "to" is very common, but it's considered colloquial, so you should try to avoid (especially in written language) if you want to sound as a well-educated person, but if you use it, don't worry, almost everybody does :)
Marek 4 | 867  
24 Jun 2008 /  #7
Michał, I've found the Americans use the conditional even more than the Brits: 'If I WERE you.' (US) vs. 'If I WAS you. (UK)
mafketis 36 | 10,368  
25 Jun 2008 /  #8
I'm not convinced that this very thorough description would really be understood by most English speakers trying to learn Polish. note: The following criticism and suggestions are meant to be helpful rather than hostile.

For one, the conditional terminology you use seems to be part of the tradition of teaching English as a second language and nothing that native speakers are ever taught in school or even think about (the extent to which conditionals were covered in my US education was the admonition to say "If I were" instead of "If I was").

Giving so many gender/number combinations for each Polish example makes them look harder than they are too. This is a phobia of mine because of a guide I had that insisted on giving past forms as

Also, it makes the very simple Polish system seem more complicated than it really is. The learner has to work through the whole thing to find out (for instance) that Polish doesn't distinguish "If I had the money I'd go to Spain" (which could still happen) and "If I'd had the money, I'd have gone to Spain" (which cannot happen).

Gdybym miał pieniądze, pojechałbym do Hiszpanii.

For the English speaking Polish learner, I'd introduce jeśli/jeżeli and the kinds of tenses that can follow them.

Then quite separately, I'd talk about the single Polish conditional (which also does duty as a subjunctive, essentially it's an all round counterfactional).

I'd do that by giving the by forms separately

first person: bym

second person (familiar): byś

third person :

Then I'd point out that these always co occur with the past stem (which looks like the third person past tense and like it agrees with the subject in number and gender)

Then some basic word/morpheme rules, that the by forms usually occur after the first word in the clause and written together with it .

Lastly, I think


looks more natural to me than

English one:
30 Jul 2008 /  #9
That explanation really explains nothing. What difference can you tell between the example sentences in 'second conditional' and 'third conditional'?

There is no such thing as 'okresy warunkowe' in Polish!

Michał, I've found the Americans use the conditional even more than the Brits: 'If I WERE you.' (US) vs. 'If I WAS you. (UK)

This has nothing to do with whether you speak BrE or AmE. If I were you is taught by most schoolbooks, while If I was you is just more informal.
little elf  
20 Oct 2008 /  #10
Dear Iwonka,

I like the way you teach Polish. I understand it best, the way you teach it. Please continue, at least for me!
21 Dec 2008 /  #11
So am I write in thinking that there is no difference between 2nd and 3rd conditionals in Polish?
23 Dec 2008 /  #12
Jeśli/Jeżeli/Kiedy i know in english as: If, if + person + were ..., when
mafketis 36 | 10,368  
23 Dec 2008 /  #13
there is no difference between 2nd and 3rd conditionals in Polish?

There is a single conditional in normal Polish usage.

Gdydym miał pieniądze pojechałbym do Hiszpanii.

If I had the money, I'd go to Spain.
If I'd had the money, I would have gone to Spain.

There used to be another

Gdybym był miał (??) "If I had had..."

but I don't think it was ever widely used and is very much out of usage now (I don't think I've ever heard or seen it, it's even deader than the pluperfect which I've heard a time or two from old fashioned literary types.
osiol 55 | 3,922  
21 Jan 2009 /  #14
What is the difference between jeśli and jeżeli? This subject doesn't appear in the book I've been learning from, and I find this whole subject is something I need to know more about. I need to use conditionals a lot of the time, but even after reading this thread, I feel incapable of actually doing anything more than throwing a "jeśli" at the beginning of a sentence.

If someone asnwers this question, I will be grateful.
McCoy 27 | 1,269  
21 Jan 2009 /  #15
jeśli and jeżeli

just the same meaning
osiol 55 | 3,922  
22 Jan 2009 /  #16
jeśli and jeżeli

just the same meaning

Are they interchangeable like albo / lub? If so, would people have a preference (dialectical) for one or the other?
McCoy, I am grateful, but I would be more grateful for more information.

There is a single conditional in normal Polish usage.

Gdydym miał pieniądze pojechałbym do Hiszpanii.
If I had the money, I'd go to Spain.

So is this the only one worth learning? But I don't want to go to Spain!

it's even deader than the pluperfect

I won't even ask.
Seanus 15 | 19,704  
14 Feb 2009 /  #17
Here you go, Osioł. Some other useful tips. They are quite tricky at times but you'll get it I'm sure.
cjjc 29 | 408  
28 Mar 2009 /  #18
I'm trying to wrap my head around this but I just can't seem to work it out.
mafketis 36 | 10,368  
28 Mar 2009 /  #19

quick and simple and dirty and sloppy:

by = (added between the past tense stem and personal ending) = would

gydyby (with person endings attached for first and second person) = if (something that isn't/can't be true or can't happen)

oby (with person endings....) = I wish, It would be nice if ....

jakby (with person endings....) = as if, like jakbyś tam był (it's like you were there)
cjjc 29 | 408  
28 Mar 2009 /  #20


Thank you.

Thank you.


Thank you.
mafketis 36 | 10,368  
30 Mar 2009 /  #21
Also, there's

żeby and aby (more or less the same meaning though there's probably a difference for native speakers

in order to (before an infinitive)

so that

Ledwoń miał załatwić żeby Austria wygrała mecz z Polską

Ledwon was suppposed to arrange it, so that Austria would win its match with Poland

Also used for English personal 'to clauses'

Kolega prosił, żebym odebrał jego legitymację.

My friend asked me to pick up his ID.

Also used for English subjunctive (what's left of it)

Piotr Galiński sugeruje, żeby TVN pomyślał o nowej formule programu.

Piotr Galinski suggests that TVN (should) think up a new format for the program.
cjjc 29 | 408  
30 Mar 2009 /  #22

Your getting ahead of me now....

I wish I was at that level but for now I'm happy with understanding what conditional is.

I'm getting there... it's baby steps but every little helps.

Thanks for your help.
8 Nov 2009 /  #23
You HAVE TO know that there DOES NOT EXIST any Third Conditional in Polish. It used to exist is everyday speech 60 years ago, at least. It disappeared (unfortunately)simultaneously with CZAS ZAPRZESZ£Y (English counterpart: PAST PERFECT).

It seems:
Gdybym był urodził się Królem Anglii, ogłosiłbym Wielką Brytanię republiką. (If I had born as King of England, I would have announced Great Britain (meaning: UK) as a republic).

But in present Polish language it looks exactly the same like this 'second conditional - drugi okres warunkowy':
Gdybym urodził się jako Król Anglii, ogłosiłbym Wielką Brytanię republiką, or simplier: Gdybym był Królem Anglii, ogłosiłbym Wielką Brytanię republiką. (what equals: If I was King of England, I would announce UK as republic)

And, finally, there DO NOT EXIST in POLISH something like 'okres warunkowy', it refers only to english okresy warunkowe (conditionals)

The correct name in Polish is TRYB PRZYPUSZCZAJĄCY ( there can be Tryb przypuszcający zdania (of sentence) (what is this 'conditional/okres warunkowy), and Tryb przypuszcający czasownika (of verb).

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