Polish grammar noun case identification lesson l

Polish  noun case identification

Polish Grammar objective

The objective of this lesson is to understand, what is a noun case, which noun case to use in a sentence, to prepare you for how to read the Polish grammar case tables.

Polish Noun endings depend on three things

  • Number: singular or plural
  • Gender: masculine, feminine or neuter
  • Case: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative, vocative.

Number

Singular or plural. Example: house or houses.

Polish noun genders

Nouns have one of three genders in Polish. They are masculine, feminine or neuter

Masculine nouns

Masculine nouns usually end with a consonant, but there are some exceptions, usually relating to occupations:
Mezczyznaman, Kierowca – driver, Dentystadentist.

Feminine nouns

Feminine nouns usually end in the letter a. Here are some common exceptions: PaniMrs, lady, Nocnight, Sólsalt.

Neuter nouns

Neuter nouns usually end in o or e. Lózkobed, Wejscieentrance, Imiefirst name. Polish words relating to occupations normally have both masculine and feminine forms. Student, StudentkaNauczyciel, Nauczycielka.

Polish grammar cases

The purpose of this section is to understand what a case is and when to use which of the seven Polish cases. A case is the context the noun is used in the sentence. The context of the noun in the sentence will determine which case category it is classified to. To understand these Polish case classifications is the most difficult part of Polish grammar, so do your best.

Polish, like Latin or Russian, has cases. Cases have many functions, but they mostly allow the speaker to convey ideas with fewer words, as the endings on the words tell the listener what the sentence is about. Some people argue Polish cases really replace or reiterate English prepositions. But there is more to it, as you will see. Which case to use is really based on the context of the sentence.

What are the most important cases? The most common Polish cases are nominative (dictionary form) and accusative, which account for almost 65% of the Polish cases. The nominative, accusative, genitive, and locative account for over 90% of the Polish cases!

Does English have cases? Yes. English used to be rich with cases before the Norman invasion in 1066 A.D, now it has only remnants.

Let’s look at two examples of English pronoun cases, I and she. “I own this house”, “This is MY house”, “This house is MINE”, “This house belongs to ME”. This is the same word but in different ways. The form changes with the case it is used in. More: “SHE is the one I love”, “I am in love with HER”.

Although not a true case another English example is the use of ‘s to show possession. “This is Mark’s house.” The Polish case is similar: Ten jest dom Marka. The noun ending of ‘Mark’ changes in both languages.

Polish grammar cases in detail

Nominative

Subject of the sentence. Answers the questions: What is it? Who is it? It is a Park. What is it? A park. It is Mark. Who is it? Mark. The park is green. What is green? The park. The man is walking. Who is walking? the man.

Usually used with the verb “to be”.

Genitive

The genitive case has five uses:

  • Indicated possession, replaces the English word for ‘of’, answers the question: Whose is it? Of what is it? Mark’s house (or the house of Mark). The cat’s tail.
  • When the negative ‘nie’ (not) is used in what would normally be the accusative case. Answers the question: What is not here? I do not have a bike.
  • Follows certain verbs such as słuchać (to listen to) and szukać (to look for) I am listing to the CD player. I am looking for my watch
  • Used after the prepositions od( from, since) do (to, into) dla (for), kolo (near, by) z/ze (out of, from). I am going to Krakow . I have been happy since my birthday.
  • Used to express quantity, There are many boxes, There are only a few eggs.

Dative

Generally related to the English preposition “to”, that is doing something “to”.

Answers the question: to what? To who? I am giving the book to Marta I am lending Marta the book. Used with verbs like Dawać-give to Pomagać-help to Pozyczać-lend to.

Accusative

The direct object of most verbs; the object of some prepositions.

Answers the questions: What is the action is about? Whom the action is about? I see the tree. I see what? The tree. I see Mark. I see who? Mark. We would like to visit Krakow. What would you like to visit? Krakow. I have a new dress. What do you have? A new dress.

Most common verbs used: I see, I have, I like.

Other examples: I am going to buy a plane ticket. I am going to buy what? A plane ticket. I am going to sell my car. I am going to sell what? My car.

The accusative also follows preposition that indicate going towards or motion. Przez-through Na-on, to, towards, for I am going to the market. I am waiting for my love. I will be on vacation. I am walking through the building.

Instrumental

Generally related to the English preposition ‘with’ or ‘by’ when referring to transportation.

Answers the questions-whom am I doing something with? With what am I doing something with? I am talking on the phone with Joseph. I am traveling by train. This is also a case of location, most commonly used with “Z” or with.” also Przed-in front of Nad-above Pod-under, bellow Za- behind.

Locative

Case of location.

Answers the questions: who I am talking about? What is it on?

Used with some prepositions, often showing location. On, about, this is the case of location.” Na-on W-in Przy-by, at Po-after o-about On the plane, On the street, In the building ,We are talking about the movie star.

Vocative

Answers the questions who or what are you calling – rarely used do not learn it.

To call someone from a distance.

Examples of Polish grammar cases with George Washington as the noun.

Nominative
This is George Washington.
Genitive
George Washington’s house.
Dative
I am giving a dollar to George Washington.
Accusative
I see George Washington.
Instrumental
I am talking with George Washington.
Locative
The hat is on George Washington.
Vocative
George Washington! Come here. Did you chop down that cherry tree?!

25 Replies to “Polish grammar noun case identification lesson l”

  1. This is great. I teach Polish a friend of mine. I am a native speaker and I know Polish grammar quite well, but sometimes i struggle with explaining it to an English person. thanks a lot.

    1. Thank you very much as it took a while to build this site on Polish grammar and I am not a native speaker of Polish, even though my name is Polish and I have a Polish citizenship and I live in Poland.

  2. Thanks for this summary, I just started learning Polish and had no concept of what on earth ‘cases’ were! This really helps. One small suggestion is that maybe you could put the common endings for cases as you did for masculine/feminine/neuter nouns, this would help people link the ideas here with the endings they’ve already encountered (of course if they’re not very regular then please ignore this suggestion).
    Thanks again!

  3. Pzez-through —> you made a mistake in spelling, must be “przez”. Thanks;))

  4. I’d really like to interject that we never write common nouns with capital letters. Don’t know why, even some Polish people write like this, but it’s wrong.

  5. This explanation of Polish cases is great.
    My wife (of 3 years) is Polish and though we live in Australia we return to Europe each July and i really want to get the basics of the language.
    My wife is a native speaker but unfortunately she does not know anything about case either!
    Thanks
    Phil.

    1. Thanks, yes Polish people use cases like we use prepositions and noun articles, we just use them but do not know all the rules.

      1. Marek dzieki for all your time and dedication in creating such a comprehensive guide to cases. If possible could you put into Polish the examples you used w/George so the changes of the endings are apparent at least for singular masculine gender. Much appreciated.

    2. These are Polish cases with some examples, words used: a child (neuter in Polish), an apple (neuter in Polish), a TV (masculine in Polish), a pencil-case (masculine in Polish), a pillow (feminine in Polish), a cup (feminine in Polish)

      mianownik (nominativus) – kto? co? – dziecko, jabłko, telewizor, piórnik, poduszka, filiżanka

      dopełniacz (genetivus) – kogo? czego? – dziecka, jabłka, telewizora, piórnika, poduszki, filiżanki

      celownik (dativus) – komu? czemu? – dziecku, jabłku, telewizorowi, piórnikowi, poduszcze, filiżance

      biernik (accusativus) – kogo? co? – dziecko, jabłko, telewizor, piórnik, poduszkę, filiżankę

      narzędnik (instrumentalis) – z kim? z czym? – z dzieckiem, z jabłkiem, z telewizorem, z piórnikiem, z poduszką, z filiżanką

      miejscownik (locativus) – o kim? o czym? – o dziecku, o jabłku, o telewizorze, o piórniku, o poduszcze, o filiżance

      wołacz (vocatives)

      hope it helps, enjoy

      1. I think that there is a strong need to learn straight Polish questions of every case. So above post is very usefull. Of course it must be translated by the beginner to get to know what it really means and observe it, but it straight should be used and practised in Polish to decline nouns further.
        I’m Polish native speaker experienced in teaching Polish as the foreign language so I can help in it, if anyone needs.

        1. Yes, can you translate it, I am trying to learn this and examples help alot?
          Thanks, Steve

  6. Thanks, I just started learning Polish and this post was very helpful.

  7. Thanks a lot.
    Your explanations are limpid
    The examples with Georges Washington are great, easy to remember.

    1. In my town of Krakow there is actually a George Washington street. I have some pictures and even it appears in writing. One of these days I should post it and you can see how George Washington’s name changes on signs and notices.

      1. Yes, declination of names and surnames in Polish is not really easy for foreigners. Always it is quite problematic for me to explain what and why it happens this way and not other, but I never give up! 🙂

  8. Witam, zapewne jest to tylko i wylacznie przypadek ale nazywasz sie zupelnie tak samo jak mojej babci przyjaciela syn. Moglabym wiedziec skad pochodzisz z Polski? A tak poza tym to uwazam ze ta stronka jest swietna! Nie wiedzialam jak zaczac uczyc swojego meza (british) jezyka polskiego, a tu nagle znalazlam odpowiedz 🙂

  9. It’s so confusing when One word can have seven different sounds. Sometimes its hard to keep up with what’s actually being said.

  10. It’s really a good site to learn from but I have some suggestions if you allow me , it would be better if you can put examples for the cases in polish language not only in english, so that the person can know how the word changes with each case. I think it will be good if you put 3 or 4 examples for each case , masculine, feminine and neuter,single or plural

  11. These cases has been explained very well and has given me a much better understanding as to their relevance (I have been doing quite a bit of searching for information on these cases). I am currently taking Polish classes and I can’t imagine how difficult these polish cases must be to teach to English speaking students even for a very good polish teacher like the one I have. It’s hard enough to understand the Polish cases). Now when I use my polish textbook and workbook. I have a much better understanding as to the seven cases and can clearly see their uses in the written exercise book that I use.

  12. Thanks so much for taking the trouble to provide such a good introduction to Polish cases. I am studying Polish at beginners’ level and you have helped a lot with my homework today!

  13. This really breaks down the cases in plain English. I’ve been searching for good descriptions, the examples with ole GW really help.

  14. Thank you so much for putting this website together. My boyfriend is Polish, so I have been learning. We’re going to Poland in September so I can meet his family and I’m determined to speak Polish and not sound like a total idiot. But let me tell you; these 7 cases have been the biggest stress of the entire process. To finally find a website that explains it in a way an English speaker can more easily understand, is a dream come true. I cannot express how thankful I am for this.

  15. I am a native English speaker and live in a town in England that has a lot of Polish people resident; historically from post WWII and also new immigrants. I had not thought of trying to speak any Polish until I found out my new neighbours are Polish. I spent some time last year learning Latin. If you look at the explanations of cases for Latin and how Latin works the grammar seems very similar – except Latin does not use the locative case much but do use the vocative. What do Polish speakers use instead of the vocative (you say it is uncommon)?

    1. Poles do use the vocative case it just just used when calling out a name basically. Marek becomes Marku.

  16. Thank you! ‘Guess work’ has brought me a little way in learning the Polish language. I thought I would never understand the cases especially the problem of identifying them but now; I believe with the clear simple explanations you have given here I will finally scale the wall, turn the corner and hopefully make great strides. Thank you again.

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