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How many tenses and cases in Polish?

28 Mar 2016 #1
Hello, can anybody tell me how many tenses & cases there are in the Polish language? I was told there were 15 tenses, that is why I am checking on here.. Thank you.
Lyzko 45 | 9,426
28 Mar 2016 #2
There are multiple "verbal aspects" in Polish, but in fact FEWER "tenses" than, say, in English, French or Italian:-) Polish has seven cases: Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, Instrumental, Locative, and Vocative! Each of these refer to the speaker's relationship with that to which or whom they are referring.

Nominative: To jest pan. (This is a gentleman)
Genitive: To jest palto pana. (This is the coat of the/a gentleman)
Dative: Pomagam stariemu panu. (I help the old gentleman)
Accusative: Widzę tego pana. (I see that/this gentleman)
Instrumental: On jest dobrym uczywim panem. (He is a good, honest gentleman)
Locative: Koszule jest na panu. (The shirt is [literally, if oddly, phrased!!!] on the gentleman.
Vocative: Dzień dobry, panie Witoldzie! (Greetings, Witold! [Vocative often untranslated]

The Polish aspects will require umpteen pages of comprehensive explanation, as their variety and scope can number nearly in the hundred or so possibilties.

As you can see, Polish is a very productive language, as are all conservative languages:-)
RubasznyRumcajs 5 | 498
28 Mar 2016 #3
it's worth to notice, that the vocative (Wołacz) is somehow obsolescent from the everyday Polish. Nominative is used instead of it.
Lyzko 45 | 9,426
28 Mar 2016 #4
Yet, among Poles of the older generation, Wołacz is still in force:-)
OP Kris85
29 Mar 2016 #5
Thank you for the answers, very helpful..

Hello Lyzko, I am wondering why he would have said 15 tenses to me, and he is Polish by the way, unless he was just simply wrong?

Can you explain a little more when you say 'verbal aspects', might he have been confused with this?
Lyzko 45 | 9,426
29 Mar 2016 #6
Very possibly, the Polish native speaker whom you asked didn't quite understand what you were asking:-) Anyway, verbal aspects are possibly the MOST confusing part of Polish, even more than counting or the cases!

Most Polish verbs are "paired" or linked with another verb indicating the same action, though according to whether or not this action is repeated or performed only one time, e.g. "pisać" (to write [in general]) vs. "napisać" (to have finished writing) vs. "popisywać" (to write for while without stopping) etc...

In English, German or French, tenses convey WHEN something is done, in Polish and Russian as well, aspects convey HOW FREQUENTLY something is done:-)

Most Slavic languages have this and for Anglo-Saxons native speakers, it can be quite confusing. For obvious reasons, I've only touched the very tip of the iceberg!!
OP Kris85
29 Mar 2016 #7
Thank you for this information Lyzko :)
Lyzko 45 | 9,426
29 Mar 2016 #8
My pleasure!

Aspects are especially productive and are tricky because they fall into TWO categories, namely "perfective"= any action performed ONCE aka "napisać"/"dopisać" vs. "imperfective" = any action performed GENERALLY, that is, more than once aka "pisać" etc..

There are umpteen individual prepositions in Polish such as "na", "za", "po", "z", "od" etc.. A slight hint in telling which verb is perfective vs, imperfective in aspect is that only "perfective" verbs are indicated by one of the above prepositions!

Other times, the "imperfective" will have an added/extra letter such as "da(w)ać" = to give vs. "perfective" "dać" meaning the same thing.

Not easy, believe me:-)

A further example using another verb (IMperfective or in its base form) "śpiewać" = to sing.

"Jestem śpiewaczką. Codziennie śpiewam." = I'm a singer (female). I sing every day. (imperfective)

"Zaśpiewam koncert w Madrycie." = I am singing a concert in Madrid. (PERfective, only one time!)

Understand now?
Wulkan - | 3,203
29 Mar 2016 #9
it's worth to notice, that the vocative (Wołacz) is somehow obsolescent from the everyday Polish.

Człowieku, co ty gadasz
Lyzko 45 | 9,426
29 Mar 2016 #10
Widzę Krysię na ulice. "KrysiU! No, co słychać?" = I see Christine on the street. "Hey, Christine! So, how's it going?"
29 Mar 2016 #11
Aspects are especially productive and are tricky because they fall into TWO categories, namely "perfective"= any action performed ONCE aka "napisać"/"dopisać" vs. "imperfective" = any action performed GENERALLY, that is, more than once

Or another way of putting it is that the Imperfective aspect of a verb refers to actions which are ongoing at some moment in time with no indication of when they will be completed, whereas the perfective aspect of the verb refers to actions that have been or will be completed ( in the past or future). Therefore there is no perfective aspect of present tense as the the action is still ongoing.

E.g Czytać/Przeczytać - To Read ( Imperfective/Perfective aspects )

Future tense:-

Jutro będę czytała książkę - Tomorrow I will read a book. The imperfective aspect is used because there is no indication of when the action of reading will be finished.

Jutro przeczytam tą książkę do końca - Tomorrow i will read this book to the end. Perfective aspect of the verb is used because the book will be finished tomorrow ( action completed ).

Whether this will help or hinder the OP with his question is debatable.......
Worth noting for the OP, is that for those verbs which do have Imperfective/Perfective pairs, there are past, future and conditional tenses of both aspects.
mafketis 37 | 10,904
29 Mar 2016 #12
Tense and aspect apply to verbs.

Case applies to nominals (nouns and thinks like nouns).

There are two broad aspect categories in Polish and almost all verbs fall into one of them.

Imperfective - describes verbs as they happen: czytać - to read (be reading) not necessarily finishing

Perfective - describes verbs from when they end: przeczytać - to read through, finish reading

Imperfective verbs have a present, past and future tense as well as a conditional/subjunctive form and imperatives.

Perfective verbs don't have a present tense (what looks like a present tense is actually a future tense) but they have the others

The trick of Polish verbs is learning how to replace imperective verbs with perfective ones when necessary and vice versa.

In some other languages you change the tense and/or aspect while in Polish you change the verb.
RubasznyRumcajs 5 | 498
29 Mar 2016 #13
Człowieku, co ty gadasz

haha, I see what you did there ;)
I meant of course spoken language, not the official "correct" one.
Ziemowit 14 | 4,278
29 Mar 2016 #14
I meant of course spoken language, not the official "correct" one.

Człowieku, wołacza używamy też i w "spoken everyday Polish"!
kpc21 1 | 763
29 Mar 2016 #15
Exactly, it's normally used. It's sometimes replaced by Nominative, especially in very informal situations, but it's often used (for example you will never replace it with Nominative while speaking to someone who is more important than you, maybe except for family members) and it's not disappearing as some try to suggest.
Wulkan - | 3,203
29 Mar 2016 #16
I meant of course spoken language, not the official "correct" one.

"No właśnie! Kim ty kurwa jesteś pajacu!" :-)

Lyzko 45 | 9,426
29 Mar 2016 #17
Indeed, Maf! When I was first learning Polish, I really had to wrack my brain to try to figure out whether or not the usage of a particular verb was "dokonany" (perfective) or "niedokonany" (imperfective), e.g. "Nie dobrze rozumiałem, gdy ona mówiła." vs. "Wreszczie zrozumiałem, gdy po chwili myślałem o tym.", depending upon the given context:-)

Often for foreigners such as myself, the above distinctions can seem quite subtle although for native speakers, the distinctions are not subtle at all!!

In English, the above two sentences: "When she spoke, I didn't UNDERSTAND her very well.", followed by "Finally, I began to UNDERSTAND after thinking about it for a while."

Polish requires either "rozumieć" (understand) or "zrozumieć" ([to begin to] understand), whereas the English sentences don't make this same distinction:-)
Ziemowit 14 | 4,278
30 Mar 2016 #18
the above two sentences:

This is a very good example of how things are "painted" differently in every language. While the speaker of English naturally chooses the pattern "When she spoke, I didn't didn't understand her very well", the speaker of Polish would definitely prefer: "Nie rozumiałem dobrze tego (or: zbyt wiele z tego), co mówiła". Thus, translating this sentence according to the English pattern does not make it sound good Polish. If this Polish sentence is translated into English, it would sound: I didn't understand very well that what she spoke.

Finally, after you get her point, you may say: "Po chwili namysłu, zaczynałem (or: zacząłem) wreszcie pojmować (or: rozumieć), o co chodzi.
Lyzko 45 | 9,426
30 Mar 2016 #19
Quite so, Ziemowit, quite so!

Polish will definitely give the faint-hearted of learners a run for their money....any day of the week:-)

The problems in aspectual pairing often occur when the "pair" are sometimes completely different from one another, e.g. "brać"/"b(ier)ać" = to take vs."wziąć", also meaning to take, only perfective and which furthermore can ONLY be used in the imperative (since a command by its very nature only occurs at that one given moment, WĘŹ! (Take..!).

Errata addendum: "WEŹ!" A small point, but for explanation purposes necessary to point out, however minute:-)

Meanwhile, on the subject of verbal aspects especially, it should be noted that I've even heard disagreement among educated Polish native speakers on this subject. Admittedly, the differences in usage can in fact be considered mistakes, and not merely another option! As but a basic example, "Szedłem na spacer." and "POszedłem na spacer." are not identical, in that the first sentence indicates an action still continuing ("We were taking a stroll/walk [..and were continuing.]") as opposed to ("We took a stroll [..and now it's over.]), whereupon the action is already completed.

Slavic linguists such as Roman Jakobson and others refer to this as Aktionsart, a borrowing from German, meaning "Type of action".

"I was taking a stroll.."
Sorry again (Guess I was posting carelesslyLOL)
15 Feb 2019 #20
Lyzko wow... it's really amusing to learn about own language from the different other side. I didn't really pay attention for those details and complexity. Well.. maybe I did, but couldn't classified it.

Anyway, as for "wołacz" and it's obsolescence, it depends. In every day speaking it's more often to use Nominative. I even had a polish language teacher who just hated if someone said her name in Vocative. Both forms are correct and in use, but indeed vocative just sounds more formal and a bit oldshool.

Thanks for a good lesson ;)
Lyzko 45 | 9,426
15 Feb 2019 #21
My pleasure, always! Or as we say on the "other side" of the Atlantic, "Z przyjemnoscia!" (minus the required diacritical signsLOL)
Miloslaw 19 | 4,942
15 Feb 2019 #22
How many tenses and cases in Polish?
Too many....more than Latin or French I reckon....
pole mokotowskie
16 Feb 2019 #23
How many tenses and cases in Polish?

twenty seven LOL !
Lyzko 45 | 9,426
16 Feb 2019 #24
Bzdura, only seven in use: Nominativ, Dative, Dative, Accusative, Locative, Instrumental, Vocative!
Don't scare folks off so.
Rich Mazur 4 | 3,053
16 Feb 2019 #25
Lyzko and Milo, you don't even realize how much happiness I got from the last two posts when I realized that I don't have to know any of this crap.
Lyzko 45 | 9,426
16 Feb 2019 #26
Nobody's got to "know", or even to do, anything. Life is merely more rewarding if one tries, as most of the problems we have in communicating revolves around language as a tool, a scalpel, rather than simply a blunt instrument, and are usually of our own making due solely to our OWN laziness!

Rich Mazur 4 | 3,053
16 Feb 2019 #27
Life is merely more rewarding if one tries,

What is that reward?

rather than simply a blunt instrument,

Blunt is always better because life is blunt. Example: I love you. Would you marry me?
That's blunt. Now, consider this: Having considered all your pluses and minuses, I have come to the conclusion that you meet my specifications for a wife. Would you accept my application to be your partner?
NoToForeigners 9 | 998
16 Feb 2019 #28
Lyzko is an expert on all Polish ahahaahha
Shame i deleted his pvt mssgs in Polish (he thought so) to me. I'd paste them here. Incomprehensible babbling :) Crazy funny stuff.
Lyzko 45 | 9,426
16 Feb 2019 #29
And your English posts are any more coherent, save for the politically correct here on PF who deem every decent attempt at English a victory of perfect usage??!

Who are you kiddin' pal
Rich Mazur 4 | 3,053
16 Feb 2019 #30
Hey, Lyzko, I am saving my best prose for you, like in #27, and you just ignore it? I am sad.

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