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Why 'walczy' and not 'walczą' - Polish language question

pernumba 4 | 1
26 Feb 2018 #1
Hey everyone! It's my first post here, and it's a Polish question.

I have the sentence, "w tym filmie dwóch mężczyzn walczy na skrzydle podczas lotu." I found it in a grammar book, and I'm not sure if it's correct, shouldn't it be Walczą because it's 3rd person plural?

Dzięki :)
Lyzko 30 | 7,510
26 Feb 2018 #2
Collective numerals (liczby zbiorowe) typically are declined in the (genitive) singular form. "In this film, two men battle for....", whereas in English the verb form would clearly and unequivocally stand in the plural! Poles often makes such transference errors in English, cf. "Many wood in back of my house" vs. "Much wooded area behind my house..", better still "Many woodS.../forestS".
OP pernumba 4 | 1
27 Feb 2018 #3
Wow, thanks for such a comprehensive answer. I'm going to look into this more tomorrow. The Polish language never ceases to amaze me with it's grammatical complexity.
kaprys 3 | 2,498
27 Feb 2018 #4
You can either say:

Dwaj mężczyźni walczą (dwaj+plural masculine noun in the nominative form +verb in the 3rd person plural form)
Dwóch mężczyzn walczy (dwóch+plural masculine noun in the genitive form+verb in the 3rd person singular form)

dwaj chłopcy siedzą/dwóch chłopców siedzi
dwaj koledzy grają/dwóch kolegów gra
Trzej artyści mieszkają/trzech artystów mieszka
Ziutek 9 | 160
27 Feb 2018 #5
You are probably aware that the numbers five and above, when quantifying the subject of a sentence, take the genitive case and not the nominative that an English speaker might expect. For example: "pięc kotów" and not "*pięc koty". The fact that the cats are not in the nominative is a hint that they cannot determine the number agreement of the verb, a job which now falls to the quantifier itself. The quantifier is singular so the verb is also singular. Therefore we say, "Pięć kotów siedzi na macie" and not "Pięć kotów *siedzą na macie" Perhaps a good analogy from English would be "a box of". "A box of cats is (not *are) waiting to be fed".

You are probably also aware the nouns in the plural divide into a) masculine personal and b) all others. Dwa/dwie, trzy and cztery correspond to b) and when quantifying the subject of the sentence take the nominative plural. Thus "Trzy koty siedzą na macie". The equivalent forms for a) are dwaj, trzej and czterej and these also take the nominative plural, so in the example you give we could write "w tym filmie dwaj mężczyźni walczą na skrzydle podczas lotu." HOWEVER, the above mentioned rule for five and above can be applied to two and above where the gender of the things quantified is masculine personal but here the quantifier itself also has to take the genitive form: dwóch, trzech , czterech. As before, the number agreement of the verb is singular so we finally get to "w tym filmie dwóch (gen. form) mężczyzn(genitive) walczy (singular) na skrzydle podczas lotu."

A couple of other observations concerning agreement. In the past tense, where the verb must also agree in gender with the subject, it takes the neuter form because the quantifier itself if neither masculine nor feminine: "w tym filmie dwóch mężczyzn walczyło na skrzydle podczas lotu." (However we would still write, "w tym filmie dwaj mężczyźni walczyli na skrzydle podczas lotu." etc) Perhaps the most surprising thing for me is adjectival agreement. Despite the fact that we have just said that the verb agrees in number and gender with the quantifier, for some strange reason the adjective agrees in number and case with the thing being quantified giving "Dwóch mężczyzn(gen.plural) jest(singular) mądrych (gen.plural )", "Pięc kotów(gen. pl) było (neuter, singular) głodnych(gen. pl) " etc.
Lyzko 30 | 7,510
27 Feb 2018 #6
Can't argue with you, Ziutek!

After "five", the entire Polish counting system goes haywire, that is, for foreigners learning the language:-)
I always try to remember:
Dwa rachunki [SA].. up through "cztery" (four), from then on "Piec rachunKOW"...
Dwaj przyjaciele przyda (with kreska!!!) - plural always
DWOCH przyjacieli ma... - singular because of "dwoch"

Takes practice.
Ziemowit 13 | 4,397
28 Feb 2018 #7
"Dwóch mężczyzn walczy" - a very strange language pattern for a foreigner, indeed. But quite common in Polish, much more common in fact than a more 'normal' construction - "dwaj mężczyźni walczą". It has even its special name in grammar, but I fail to find it on the internet.
Lyzko 30 | 7,510
28 Feb 2018 #8
Again, it's a question of when to use collective numbers. Heard once when I was in Poland that "Dwoch" might be considered colloquial in some circles:-)
kaprys 3 | 2,498
28 Feb 2018 #9
Still for a beginner, whenever possible, it may be 'safer' or more natural to use a plural masculine noun in the nominative form and the plural verb (dwaj przyjaciele mają) than a masculine noun in the genitive form and the singular verb ( dwóch przyjaciół ma).
Lyzko 30 | 7,510
28 Feb 2018 #10
It can though occasionally be confusing where mixed gender nouns, such as "dzieci" are being counted. For example, since children can be either male or female in English (even if "dziecko" is neutral in Polish), you still say/write DWOJE dzieci maja, as though it were a plural verb form:-)

If the two children in question are males, nonetheless, "dwoje" rather than "dwaj" is used, at least until the boys reach puberty or adolescence!
kaprys 3 | 2,498
28 Feb 2018 #11
I'm afraid, it's actually 'dwoje dzieci ma' and we can't say 'dwaj dzieci'.
Lyzko 30 | 7,510
28 Feb 2018 #12
Aha, gosh thanks for that!

That one can't say "dwaj dzieci" is obvious, as far as my first sentence, realize my mistake as "dwoje" unlike "dwaj", "dwie" or "dwa" is clearly a collective numeral designation when referring to mixed gender nouns. Cf. "Dwaj przyjaciele zgineli.... in the plural" vs. Dwoje Polakow zgineLO...", in the singular, for instance. My carelessness, that's all.

jgrabner 1 | 75
1 Mar 2018 #13
piggypacking on this numerals thread: is there ever a way to correctly use the form "cztery drzwi"? Since drzwi is plural only, it should be "czworo drzwi", but the usage of "cztery drzwi" by far trumps the supposedly correct one. Am I missing something?

(interestingly, with 3, troje drzwi is used a bit more often then trzy drzwi).
Ziemowit 13 | 4,397
1 Mar 2018 #14
it should be "czworo drzwi", but the usage of "cztery drzwi" by far trumps the supposedly correct one.

No, you are right. 'Czworo drzwi', but 'cztery okna'.
Lyzko 30 | 7,510
1 Mar 2018 #15
.....not to mention "dwoje" "dvojga", "troja" and so forth. Polish counting's frighteningly exact! Almost reminds me of the pitfalls of certain Asian languages such as Korean and Japanese where numerals are subdivided in the texture, density, even weight and size, of countable objects:-)

Practically makes Polish look easyLOL

Just an afterthought, but might the reason for "czworo drzwi", but "cztery okna" be that in Polish, the word "drzwi" is automatically plural, for which no singular form exists, whereas there is "okno" for one, and "oknA" for more than one? Furthermore, I believe in former times, doors in Poland where in two parts which opened separately, whereas a window was always one single unit.

Merely an afterthought, as I said:-)
Ziemowit 13 | 4,397
1 Mar 2018 #16
"troja" and so forth

Well, 'Troja' (beginnning with the capital T) is in Polish what 'Troy' is in English (the setting of the Trojan War described in the Iliad).
Lyzko 30 | 7,510
2 Mar 2018 #17
This is why I spelled it with a lower-case "t":-) Apologies by the way for "dvojga" rather than "dwojga"!
NoToForeigners 10 | 1,032
2 Mar 2018 #18
there's no Polish word such as "troja" with lower case. "Troja" is exclusive for Troy. There's no such word in Polish. In counting we use "trojE", "trojGA".

I see no progress in your Polish. It's still primary school level with bad grammar.
Dirk diggler 9 | 4,676
2 Mar 2018 #19

it can really be both I guess... walczy is plural also and implies that they are fighting during a flight
Lyzko 30 | 7,510
3 Mar 2018 #20
And, NoToForeigners, is your English any the better were you not copying from GoogleTranslate, for FREE no less??!

In Polish, "dwoje" and "troje" are used for denoting a mixed group of people. The difficulty for foreigners learning Polish involves distinguishing whether or not a particular noun indicating humans is masculine, feminine or neuter.

You must have figured mine was an orthographic error rather than a lapse in knowledge.

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