Essential Polish Grammar – Nouns

CASE FORMATION

The way cases are formed should be the first consideration:

This is Robert – To jest Robert but he knows Robert – On zna Roberta
Poland is in Europe – Polska jest w Europie but I live in Poland – Mieszkam w Polsce
Robert – Roberta Polska – Polsce

Both forms are the variants of the same word. Both have a common part that is repeated. This repeated part is called a “stem.” It carries the lexical meaning of a given word. The part that distinguishes one form from the other is the ending. The endings in the Polish nouns express three grammatical categories all at once: case, number and gender.

In the word Polska – Polsc–e notice the change in the stem itself. This is common for some nouns and is called alternation. The alternations are also common in English.

Here is another example of such an alternation: matka – matce; kolega – koledze

A. Nominative is the basic form of a noun. It answers the question kto? co?; who? what?

Subject Predicate Qualifier
Ojciec (Father) Jest (is) Dobry (good)
Matka (Mother) Jest (is) Dobra (good)
Dziecko (a child) Jest Dobre

B. Accusative form is used for the direct object following transitive verbs. It answers the questions: kogo? co?; whom? what?

Subject Predicate Qualifier
Maria (Mary) Kocha (loves) Ojca (father)
Maria Kocha Matkę (mother)
Matka Kocha Dziecko (child)

Here are the endings that differ in both cases:

Nominative = Accusative for the neuter nouns.

In the plural there will be a separate set of endings only for the masculine animated nouns:

Nominative plural = accusative plural for masculine inanimate, feminine and neuter nouns.

C. Genitive answers questions kogo? czego? and has three basic functions:

1.) It marks the direct object after a negated verb.

Nominative Verb Accusative Nominative Nie +Verb negated verb Genitive
Maria kocha ojca Maria nie kocha ojc-a (animate)
Maria kocha jazz Maria nie kocha jazz-u (inanimate)
Maria kocha matkę Maria nie kocha matk-i
Matka kocha dziecko Matka Nie kocha dzieck-a

NOTE: A common mistake among the foreigners who learn Polish is expressing the direct object in accusative for both positive and negated verbs.
REMEMBER: the negated verbs take on the genitive case endings.

2.) The genitive in Polish marks also possession:

To jest samochód ojc-a. This is father’s car.
To jest ojciec Mari-i.This is Mary’s father.
To jest dziecko matk- i.This is the mother’s child.
To jest matka dzieck-a.This is the child’s mother.

Here we can see both the genitive use to express the possession, as well as the altered word order. The person in possession of something comes after the object of the possession.

Other possession-genitive functions:

3.) The genitive is used to express a direction after the preposition do — to, od — from (people),z, ze — from (places)

Noun – subject Verb – predicate Preposition Genitive of direction
Maria idzie — (goes) do ojca
Maria wraca — (returns) od matki
Matka wychodzi — (exits) z domu
Dziecko wraca — (returns) ze szkoły

4.) The endings in the genitive nouns in plural:

5) The endings in the genitive nouns in plural:

6.) Irregular plural nouns:

7.) The compound nouns use the noun modifier in the genitive case with the opposite word order than the same English compounds:

Locative case has three main functions:

Hard consonants ending the stem of

masc. fem. neut.nouns fem
Nom. p    b   m   f   w   s   z   n   t   d   r   ł k   g   ch
Loc. pi   bi   mi   fi   wi   si   zi   ni   ci   dzi   rz   l c   dz   sz

E. Instrumental

F. Dative answers the questions komu? czemu? as in a question whom/what am I watching/looking at?

G. Vocative — this is rarely used.