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Please help me understand Polish adverbs


Hubertus 4 | 26
8 Dec 2013 #1
In English, adverbs are pretty simple, right? The purpose of them is to modify a verb, i.e. to explain how something is done. To create them we just add -ly to the end of an adjective.

"He eats slowly. He runs quickly. He plays well. He thinks differently."

But in Polish..? I really have no idea. I've been living in Poland for three months, and hearing people use adverbs, and the usage always really confuses me. I'm starting to realize that adverbs in Polish aren't just for verbs. (Shouldn't we call them something else, then?)

I never know when to use "dobry" or "dobrze".. and no one seems to be able to explain it to me.

And apparently it's proper to say "Mam dużo pracy", and I know that it means "I have a lot of work," but it seems to me that "a lot of" is a modifier of "work" rather than of "I have". Yet "dużo" is an adverb.

Can someone explain to me the differences between Polish and English in this? And maybe correct me in my misunderstanding?

Thanks!
Hubertus
szczecinianin 4 | 345
8 Dec 2013 #2
I never know when to use "dobry" or "dobrze".. and no one seems to be able to explain it to me.

'dobrze' is the adverb. There is no one form to tell you what the adverb is in Polish, although adverbs often end in 'o'.

And apparently it's proper to say "Mam dużo pracy", and I know that it means "I have a lot of work," but it seems to me that "a lot of" is a modifier of "work" rather than of "I have". Yet "dużo" is an adverb.

That's a very interesting question, and one I have never thought about before. 'Dużo' here is and adjective rather than an adverb. 'Mam dużo dzieci' (I've got a lot of children). 'Mam duże dzieci' (I've got big children).

'Dużo' means 'many'.

Unfortunately, very often you simply have to 'feel' the language, and the grammar books won't really help you. Sorry about that. Polish is a b1tch of a language.
Szczerbaty 4 | 49
8 Dec 2013 #3
Unfortunately, very often you simply have to 'feel' the language

I agree with szczecinianin. In English we say She speaks English very well, but we say Her perfume smells good. Here the verbs are being modified by an adverb and adjective. Right, in English sensory verbs taken adjectival forms of adverbs. You will find this rule somewhere in grammar textbooks, but it certainly won't be in the first three chapters. It's usually something you just workout through exposure to a language instead of learning it in a book.

One that I always found funny was saying dobra instead of dobrze for a way to say okay. Can any Poles confirm this one?
OP Hubertus 4 | 26
8 Dec 2013 #4
One that I always found funny was saying dobra instead of dobrze for a way to say okay. Can any Poles confirm this one?

I definitely hear that here in Poland a lot. The way I understand it, "Dobra" just means "Okay", like you said. So if someone keeps nagging you to do something you can say, "No dobra!!" ("Well okay!!") But "Dobrze" can mean "Okay" but usually it's positive more positive than dobra, like "Good!"

So, "Będę u ciebie wkrótce" (I'll be at your place soon) to which you can reply "Dobrze!"

Anyone is welcome to correct me on this. Sadly that's the extent of my knowledge on when it's proper to use dobra vs. dobrze..
szczecinianin 4 | 345
8 Dec 2013 #5
One that I always found funny was saying dobra instead of dobrze for a way to say okay.

I'm not Polish, but am interested in the intricacies of Polish grammar. As far as I can make out, 'dobrze' would normally be the correct form here.
Zibi - | 336
8 Dec 2013 #6
One that I always found funny was saying dobra instead of dobrze for a way to say okay. Can any Poles confirm this one?

Indeed. It's widely used in spoken language. Neither technically correct nor seen much in writing.
delphiandomine 83 | 17,734
8 Dec 2013 #7
As far as I can make out, 'dobrze' would normally be the correct form here.

I think it's a lot to do with the effort required - if you're not thinking and just replying for the sake of it, it's much easier to say dobra rather than dobrze, especially if the person isn't face to face with you.

Spoken language is endlessly fascinating to me and how the spoken/written language can differ so much.
szczecinianin 4 | 345
8 Dec 2013 #8
it's much easier to say dobra rather than dobrze

For non-Poles.
Zibi - | 336
8 Dec 2013 #9
Spoken language is endlessly fascinating to me and how the spoken/written language can differ so much.

Agreed. It is like that in any language. English including.
delphiandomine 83 | 17,734
8 Dec 2013 #10
English is ridiculous in general - the utter lack of a standard for English must be exasperating for learners.

Strangely enough, I find spoken Silesian remarkably easy to understand.
ShortHairThug - | 1,103
8 Dec 2013 #11
Indeed. It's widely used in spoken language. Neither technically correct nor seen much in writing.

That's because spoken language expresses feelings as well, in this example think of it in terms of having reservation, indifference or reluctance of doing something that's when you'll use "dobra" instead of making a definite statement "dobrze". In English you often do that by inclination ie. "OK OK I'll do it" (reluctant) vs."Ok, I'll do it" (definite). In Polish besides the inclination it takes on a different form as well, "dobra dobra, zrobi się" (I'll get around to it) vs. "dobrze, zrobione" (consider it done).

Anyone is welcome to correct me on this. Sadly that's the extent of my knowledge on when it's proper to use dobra vs. dobrze.

Nothing sad about it, your intuition and observation is on the money, you pretty much answered your own question.
OP Hubertus 4 | 26
9 Dec 2013 #12
However, there's still the problem that Szczerbaty discussed. For instance, in English we say, "She smells good," (there is a nice smell about her) and it means something completely different from "She smells well" (she has a talent for sniffing things out). How is this dealt with in Polish? Is it prevented from by the possibility that Polish has more specific verbs than "smell"? For instance, two words instead of one, one meaning to give off an odor, and the other meaning to commit the action of trying to smell something. Or is this where the reflexive "się" comes in?

(To be honest I don't know the Polish word for "to smell", so I'm just making up a random example.)
Zibi - | 336
9 Dec 2013 #13
How is this dealt with in Polish? Is it prevented from by the possibility that Polish has more specific verbs than "smell"? For instance, two words instead of one, one meaning to give off an odor, and the other meaning to commit the action of trying to smell something.

Indeed that is how it works in Polish. Wąchać/Powąchać: Wącham kwiatki (I am smelling fowers), and then there is also a verb Pachnieć: Ona dobrze pachnie (She smells good)
Szczerbaty 4 | 49
9 Dec 2013 #14
"She smells well" (she has a talent for sniffing things out).

When would you ever say this?
OP Hubertus 4 | 26
9 Dec 2013 #15
Indeed that is how it works in Polish. Wąchać/Powąchać: Wącham kwiatki (I am smelling fowers), and then there is also a verb Pachnieć: Ona dobrze pachnie (She smells good)

Very interesting. This seems like an important detail, and I wonder why they don't note this distinction between Polish and English when they introduce adverbs in the introductory Polish books that I've read. I think it would avoid a lot of confusion, at least on my part!

When would you ever say this?

When I'm talking about my dog?
milawi - | 60
9 Dec 2013 #16
It has nothing to do with adverbs.As Zibi's said - for English word 'smell' you use different words in Polish depending on what action you describe:

to smell sth (sniff deliberately) - 'wąchać' and it's 'węszyć' - if you talk about your dog
to smell (have odour) - 'pachnieć' / 'śmierdzieć' (if it's unpleasant)

smell (noun) - 'zapach' or 'smród'/'odór' (if it's unpleasant)
sense of smell - 'węch'/'powonienie'

I never know when to use "dobry" or "dobrze".. and no one seems to be able to explain it to me.

It's simple, you use 'dobry' for 'good' and 'dobrze' for 'well' - He's a good swimmer (jest dobrym pływakiem). He swims well (pływa dobrze).
Szczerbaty 4 | 49
9 Dec 2013 #17
to smell sth (sniff deliberately) - 'wąchać' and it's 'węszyć' - if you talk about your dog
to smell (have odour) - 'pachnieć' / 'śmierdzieć' (if it's unpleasant)

smell (noun) - 'zapach' or 'smród'/'odór' (if it's unpleasant)
sense of smell - 'węch'/'powonienie'

Where does czuć fit in here?
OP Hubertus 4 | 26
9 Dec 2013 #18
It's simple, you use 'dobry' for 'good' and 'dobrze' for 'well' - He's a good swimmer (jest dobrym pływakiem). He swims well (pływa dobrze).

But it's not so simple.

"Jak było?" - How was it?
"Było dobrze. Jesteś dobrym pływakiem." - It was good. You're a good swimmer.
"To dobrze, że tak myślisz." - It's good that you think so.
ShortHairThug - | 1,103
9 Dec 2013 #19
to smell sth (sniff deliberately) - 'wąchać' and it's 'węszyć' - if you talk about your dog

Here the dog is performing two different tasks (wącha - just sniffing around, węszy - he's tracking). Word to the wise, when you're talking about a person performing the very same task, wąchać is fine as he's just inhaling some kind of aroma but if you say węszy you give it a whole new meaning, at this point he/she is snooping.

Where does czuć fit in here?

Czuje się zapach po burzy, siana, świeżego prania, chleba a nawet psia kupe skoro mowa o psach. LOL
DominicB - | 2,678
9 Dec 2013 #20
Where does czuć fit in here?

Czuć means "smell" in the sense of "sense, perceive or detect". As in "I detect an odor of gas", or "I can smell the flowers". It's more passive than "wąchać", which is a deliberate action. Czuć also works with tastes. And with emotions and moods (as with "feel" in English), which is the reason why Poles often mistranslate it as "to feel", as in "I feel garlic". Probably because this is the only definition given in smaller dictionaries.

Czuć never means to physically feel with the hand, as in "feel my forehead. Do I have a fever?".
milawi - | 60
9 Dec 2013 #21
But it's not so simple.

of course not :)

In English we say She speaks English very well, but we say Her perfume smells good.

From my (Polish) point of view the fact that I have to use adjectives instead of adverbs after verbs: to be, become,seem, feel, grow, look, prove, remain, smell, sound, taste, turn (there may be more of them, these are the ones I've found in my English course book) is just a quirk of English language, I've accepted the rule and try to use it, although it seems illogical to me. You can not expect that rules of English language will be transferred into Polish, it has its own rules.

Jak było?" - How was it? "Było dobrze.

here is the indication of how to use adverbs in Polish - if the questions starts with 'jak' - you answer with adverb, If it starts with 'jaki' you use adjective, but of course to know how to create a question to an answer you would have to speak Polish very well ;)
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
9 Dec 2013 #22
Adverbs are indeed a handful:-)

Depending upon the context of the sentence, they can come either before or after the verb:

Bogdan DOBRZE mówi po francusku. vs. Bogdan speaks French FLUENTLY.

Basiu, PIĘKNO malujesz! vs. Babs, you paint BEAUTIFULLY!

Idź SZYBKO do sklepu! (not: SZYBKO idź do sklepu! because the sentence is an imperative or command, rather than indicative)

Nie DOBRZE znam polskiego.

etc...
peter_olsztyn 6 | 1,098
10 Dec 2013 #23
Basiu, PIĘKNO malujesz!

Basiu pięknie malujesz.

Nie DOBRZE znam polskiego

Niedobrze znam polski.
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
10 Dec 2013 #24
Ah, yes! I see. The latter is a single adverb, not two words combined. Therefore, it must stand in the Accusative (otherwise, correctly, in the Genitive for all negations).

The former was sheer carelessness. The adverbial form of "piękny" is "pięknie", though often "O" is used, cf. "bezpośredni" vs. "bezpośrednio" etc..

Indeed, even we advanced students fall into the same traps as beginners, I'm afraid.
Many thanks!
Space Cadet 1 | 19
10 Dec 2013 #25
Why is it "bądź cicho", instead of "bądź cichy"?
After all we have "bądź zdrowy', "bądź odważny" etc, all the words that come to my mind have an adjective after "be".

Why "be quietly"?
Somebody please explain.
ChiGrubas
10 Dec 2013 #26
Why is it "bądź cicho", instead of "bądź cichy"?

Because JAK masz być? Cicho. but JAKI masz być? Odważny.
OP Hubertus 4 | 26
10 Dec 2013 #27
The problem is that this explanation doesn't help someone who isn't familiar with the proper way to ask certain questions yet.. It would only be useful if someone actually asked me such a question. Then I could think, "Oh, they used 'jaki', so I should answer with an adjective."
cinek 2 | 337
13 Dec 2013 #28
"Mam dużo pracy"

but it seems to me that "a lot of" is a modifier of "work" rather than of "I have". Yet "dużo" is an adverb

No! In this sentence 'dużo' is a numeral which denotes the number (amount) of "praca" (work - noun) to be done vaguely.

But if you make a sentence like:

Dużo pracuję - I work much

then 'dużo' becomes an adverb that describes a verb 'pracuję', so it now suits your definition.
This part of Polish grammar works much the same way as in English, you only need to be careful when discriminating the actual function of a word in a sentence based on the context (actually English is much more vague in this respect :-) )

So you have a (quite rare) example where one form of a word in Polish may serve different functions depending on a context (dużo - numeral with nouns, or adverb with verbs).

Cinek
Karolcia91
9 Apr 2016 #29
I guess if you want to really understand Polish you have to stay open minded when trying to compare it to English or and translate. I remember making that mistake when I was learning English and it didn't make sense at all.

So to answer your question
when it comes to the word dobry, dobra, dobre, dobrze you can see that it simply exchanges accordingly to the "sex of the word" it also used to describe (adjective) so you would say "dobre piwo" (good beer) or "dobra dziewczyna" (a good girl) "dobry chlopak" (a good boy). When using dobrze you can for example say "dobra robota" (a job well done).

yet when u think of using it as an answear think of it as if someone would say to you " I will see you in a few" and you would reply "good good" it works in the same way here.

My explanation may sound a bit primitive to you, but I am trying to teach my boyfriend Polish and that would usually be the way I would explain things, without using the exact translation or description of words and it seems to work, as it most importantly gives u an idea of when to use it. That's also how I learned English:)

Good luck:)
Lyzko 23 | 6,673
9 Apr 2016 #30
Nice post, Karolino!

True, adverbs are a tough nut to crack for us non-natives:-) I still will occasionally misstype "dobre" when I mean "dobrZY", much like "które" when I should write "którZY" etc...

Practice, practice, practice.


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