“To jest…” Structure in Polish

Ask learners of Polish what’s the worst thing about the language and they’ll tell you it’s the Polish cases. That’s the reason why it’s nice to have some tricks up your sleeve. One of them is the use of the To jest… (“This is…”) structure that requires the nominative case mianownik, instead of the locative case narzędnik usually required by the verb być (“to be”).

Co to jest? – What is it?

This construction can be used in many situations such as:

  • Presenting people

    To (jest) moja żona. – “This is my wife.”
  • Expressing feelings

    To (jest) okropne! – “It’s horrible!”

    To (jest) naprawdę ekstra! – “It’s really cool!”
  • Indicating things

    To (jest) komputer. – “This is a computer.”

What’s So Cool About It?

The cool thing about this construction is that it requires the nominative case, which means the standard form you get in a dictionary. Compare the two sentences below:

1. To (jest) wysoki mężczyzna. – “This is a tall man.”

Nominative!

2. On jest wysokim mężczyzną. – “He’s a tall man.”

Locative 😦

Note that if there’s no noun to describe the adjective remains in the nominative:

3. On jest wysoki. – “He’s tall.”

These two sentences as well as similar one that you could create are interchangeable in most contexts.

Don’t Get Confused

The verb być “to be” triggers the need for the locative case. However, “jest” is only optional in sentences in the “to jest” structure. It may be easier for you to imagine it’s not there or simply omit it in the beginning. That’s why I put it in brackets in the sentences above. Yet again, it’s also totally acceptable to drop the verb and say:

4. To wysoki mężczyzna. – “This (is) a tall man.”

Nevertheless, “to jest” requires a noun. You can’t use it with an adjective only. No need to get greedy with omissions:

5. To (jest) wysoki [add a noun]. – “This is a tall [you see, you do need that noun]”

Let’s have one more example to make it even more clear:

1. To (jest) niska kobieta. – “This is a short woman.”

To jest + nominative. No funny business.

2. Ona jest niską kobietą. – “She’s a short woman.”

A typical sentence when the verb “to be” (być) triggers the locative case, narzędnik.

3. Ona jest niska. – “She’s short.”

No noun, the adjective stays in nominative.

4. To niska kobieta. – “This (is) a short woman.”

Just a reminder that you can omit the “jest”.

5. To (jest) niska [add a noun]. – “This is a short [again, you really do need that noun]”

No noun, no sentence with this structure, sorry.

Your Turn! – Tocca a Te!

Rather than give you an exercise, today I invite you to try to make your own sentences in the comments section. Questions and doubts welcome too. Cheerio!

Is it a Polish Adjective or a Polish Adverb? Przysłówki and przymiotniki.

One of the areas that cause problems to students is the distinction between adjectives and adverbs in Polish. Occasionally, Polish adverbs align with English adverbs in meaning but it’s not always the case. Hopefully, this article will help you with whatever doubts you may have with the topic.

Polish Adjectives

Polish adjectives undergo declension, which means that they change their form depending on the gender of the noun they describe and the case required. That’s why we say:

To jest inteligentna kobieta.

but

Nie widzę inteligentnego mężczyzny.

You can learn more about Polish adjectives here (and if you can’t click on it, it means I haven’t written this post yet ;)).
The most important things for you to remember today is that adjectives describe nouns and undergo declension.

Polish Adverbs

Good news, folks! Polish adverbs, unlike adjectives, always keep the same form. They describe verbs and often finish with an -o (eg. wolno – “slow”) or and -(i)e (eg pięknie – beautifully). Such adverbs are usually formed from the singular masculine form of an adjective (in the case of examples provided: wolny and piękny).
There are also some irregular adverbs that are easier recognized by their meaning and role. Good examples of such adverbs are wczoraj (“yesterday”), wtedy (“then”) and tam (“there”).

Polish Adjectives vs Polish Adverbs

How to tell the difference between a Polish adjective and a Polish adverb? Sometimes it’s quite easy:

Paweł jest kreatywny. – “Paweł is creative.”

Who is creative? Paweł. It’s pretty clear here that the adjective kreatywny describes the proper noun Paweł.

Paweł myśli kreatywnie. – “Paweł thinks creatively.”

We can’t ask a question about Paweł in this sentence, but we can ask about Paweł‘s thinking. How does Paweł think? Creatively. Here we’re dealing with an adverb kreatywnie describing a verb.

Many cases are straightforward. Verbs are described by adverbs, while nouns by adjectives. The end of the article… NOT.

Things Get Tricky

Unfortunately, Polish sometimes requires an adverb, when English would use an adjective. Here’s a number of more challenging examples:

Jest zimno. – “It’s cold.”

When you speak about the weather or outside conditions you often should use adverbs in Polish. Note that this isn’t an exception, even if the choice of adverb here may not sound natural to you. You could ask a following question:

How is it (outside)? It’s cold!

The “it” here, present in English and implied in Polish is a dummy subject. There’s no “it”, to really speak about (no person nor object) and if you look at the Polish sentence it literally translates into “Is (=Jest) cold (=zimno)“. What’s the conclusion? The adverb still describes a verb. Compare it with the sentence below:

Dziś jest piękna pogoda. – “The weather today is beautiful.”

In this sentence, we describe the noun “weather” (pogoda), hence the use of an adjective beautiful (piękna).

Another good example is when you talk about how someone looks like. In Polish you would say: Ania wygląda młodo. (“Ania looks young.”) using an adverb. Yet again, the adverb describes the verb here. Namely, the way she looks like.

You’d also use adverbs to speak about how you feel:

Czuję się świetnie! – “I feel great.”

Źle się czuję! – “I don’t feel well.”

Last but not least, here are some examples that are predictable based on both the rule provided and your intuition of an English speaker once you think about them:

Poproszę duże/małe piwo. – “A large/small beer, please.”

Piję dużo/mało piwa. – “I drink a lot of/little beer.”

Summary

Adjectives describe nouns. Adverbs describe verbs. If in doubt, form questions to see which part of the sentence a given word should describe. For some more help with a related problem area, have a look at one of my posts to help you see the difference between two adverbs, bardzo (very) and dużo (a lot).
Remember, practice makes perfect or as close to perfect as you can reasonably expect to get!

Check Your Understanding

Here’s a short exercise for you to check whether you understand the difference between adverbs and adjectives in Polish. Change the form of the provided adjective as required, either into an adverb or an adjective in the appropriate form:

1. On jeździ ______________ . (szybki). – “He drives fast.”

2. Jesteśmy _________ . (miły). – “We are nice.”

3. Czytam _________ (duży) i ______________ (szybki). – “I read a lot and (I read) fast.”

4. ___________ (miły) mi cię poznać! – “It’s nice to meet you.”

5. Ten pies jest _________ (stary), ale wygląda __________ (młody). – “This dog is old but it looks young.”

6. _________ (piękny) śpiewa! – “(He/She) sings beautifully.”

7. Ten film nie jest __________ (dobry), ____________ (zły) się go ogląda. – “This movie isn’t good, it’s not easy to watch (literally: it watches badly.).”

8. Ufff, ale ____________ (gorący)! – “Ufff, it’s so hot!”

9. Anna jest ___________ (dorosły), ale zachowuje się ____________ (dziecinny). – “Anna is an adult but she behaves like a child.”

10. Zwykle nie piję ___________ (duży), ale zamówię kolejne _____________ (duży) piwo. – “I usually don’t drink a lot, but I’ll order one more large beer.

Would you like to know how you’ve done? Give me your answers in the comments section and I’ll tell you 🙂 Totsiens!

Forgetting Things in Polish: How to Use the Verb Zapomnieć


The funny thing about being a native speaker is that you don’t realise certain things can cause difficulties, until you hear foreigners struggling with them. I experiencex such an epiphany when I heard some of my students repetitively misusing the word “to forget” zapomnieć. This probably has to do with the fact that you can do different things with this verb in different languages (for instance, “forgetting your phone at home” is acceptable in some but not others). Anyway… here’s what I have to say about it.

Zapominać czy zapomnieć?

First of all, we have two verbs in Polish to express the idea of forgetting: zapominać and zapomnieć. They differ in aspect, which is one of the things to watch out for when learning Polish. Brief, zapominać is used for repetitive or unfinished actions. It can be used in all tenses. Zapomnieć, on the other hand, is used to speak about the completion of actions. It doesn’t have a form in the present tense. Here are some examples for zapominać:

Ciągle zapominam telefonu! – “I always forget my phone.”

On zawsze zapomina o moich urodzinach. – He’s always forgetting about my bday.”

Kiedyś niczego nie zapominałam, ale teraz mam słabszą pamięć. – “Back in the days I didn’t forget anything but now I have a weaker memory.”

And for zapomnieć:

Cholera! Zapomniałam portfela! – “Shit! I’ve forgotten my wallet.”

Helena nie może o nim zapomnieć. – “Helena can’t forget him.”

Zapomnij o tym! – “Forget about it.”

Allowed Structures for Zapomnieć


There’s a number of structures allowed for the verb zapomnieć:

  • zapomnieć, że – “to forget that”

    Zapomniałam, że dziś mam pilates – “I forgot that I had Pilates today.”

  • zapomnieć + gdzie, czy, jak itp. – “to forget where, whether, how etc”

    Zapomniałam, czy dziś mam pilates. – “I forgot whether I had Pilates today.”

  • zapomnieć o – “to forget about”

    Zapomniałam o pilatesie. – “I forgot about my Pilates.”

  • zapomnieć + czasownik w bezokoliczniku – “to forget + infinitive”

    Zapomniałam pójść na pilates. – “I forgot to go to Pilates.”

Useful Phrases with Zapomnieć

There’s also a bunch of useful phrases and idiomatic expressions with zapomnieć:

  • zapomnieć na śmierć – to forget “for death”, meaning entirely (Polish people aren’t usually dramatic but here you go)

    Na śmierć o tym zapomniałam! – “I’ve completely forgotten about it.”
  • kompletnie zapomnieć – to forget entirely

    Kompletnie o tym zapomniałam! – “I’ve completely forgotten about it.” (I know. Two ways of saying something are better than one)
  • zapomnieć języka w gębie – to lose one’s tongue

    No co? Zapomniałeś języka w gębie? – “What’s wrong? Have you lost your tongue?”
  • zapomnieć o całym świecie – to forget about the whole world

    Przy nim zapominam o całym świecie! – “Around him I forget about the whole world.”

Hope this has been somewhat helpful. Any suggestions? Doubts? The comments’ section is waiting for you!
Btw the Polyglot Gathering is happening online this year so I can attend it after all (yay!). You can still get your tickets, if you’re keen. Hurry up, though it starts this Friday! There’ll be speeches by polyglots, crash courses and language tandems. I’m excited and I hope to see you there!

What to Watch Out For When Learning Polish

A lot of people say that Polish is a difficult language to learn. Honestly, I don’t think its matters whether it’s true or not. The reason why you’re learning the language in the first place is because it’s somehow important to you to know it (unless you’re a polyglot and language enthusiast and then whether it’s difficult or not is even more irrelevant because surely you’re just up for a challenge).
The point is that whether it’s because of family reasons or because of career prospects, you want to know it. And yet, your perception of it as being difficult only serves as a deterrent from actually putting the work in. What you do instead of repeating to yourself that what you’re trying to do is difficult (when has that ever helped anyone?) is focus on potentially challenging areas to hack the learning process.

The Dreadful Cases

If there are no cases in your native language you may find the idea weird. This is true for any concept you encounter in a new language or in life in general so just try to be open-minded. Believe it or not, there are some things in your language that someone learning it finds equally weird.
What are grammatical cases and why do they cause so much trouble to students? In brief, cases give nouns, adjectives and pronouns, different forms according to the context. This means that we say Jem kolację (“I’m eating dinner”) in Polish but Nie zrobiłam kolacji (“I haven’t made dinner”) and Poczekaj z kolacją (“Wait with dinner.”).
There are 7 cases in Polish (actually 6 that you really have to worry about). Each of them has different endings. What’s more different parts of speech often have different endings. It’s a bit of a nightmare to wrap one’s head around them initially but you can really overcome difficulties with time and these tricks:

  • Don’t learn all cases together. Learn them one by one and practise a lot with written and oral exercises. Create easy phrases and sentences working with grammar tables.
  • Try to understand what each case is used for, apart from just memorising rules
  • But DO memorise the rules, not only endings for different parts of speech but also which prepositions and verbs require a given case

The Hardcore Pronunciation

Polish pronunciation is a bit hardcore for speakers of many languages. There are many sounds that are somewhat difficult to pronounce as well as clusters of consonants. My short Polish teaching experience tells me that Hungarian, Arabic and Italian students seem to struggle with the pronunciation the least.
The thing about pronunciation is that if you have certain sounds in your language, they’re not a problem. If you don’t, then you have to work on teaching yourself to produce such sounds. Your mouth will go to whatever it thinks is closest in your native language to whatever it is that you’re trying to pronounce. This is why “accents” are somewhat predictable and why people have ideas about how, for instance, a German speaker or a French speaker pronounces certain things in English.
How to learn Polish pronunciation then, seeing that many languages don’t have many of the Polish sounds? By practising the sounds as well as repeating phrases and sentences. Over and over again. You can also try recording yourself, if you can stand the sound of your own voice. Alternatively, pay someone to listen to you during lessons.

The Awkward Aspect

Grammatical aspect isn’t a specifically Polish feature but aspect coding in Polish is different to what you see in English. To show the focus on completion of and action as opposed to the “doing of it“, Polish has produced verbs. The perfective aspect is the one that focuses on completion. The imperfective, on the other hand, on performing.
Almost all verbs in Polish have their counterparts in the other aspect and some of them have more than one. A good example a simple pair are two verbs for “to buy”: kupować (imperfective) and kupić (perfective). Have a look at the difference between them:

Kupuję gazety. – “I’m buying newspaper.” (kupować – imperfective)

Focus on the action that I’m performing, not its completion.

Kupię gazetę. – “I’ll buy a newspaper.” (kupić – perfective)

Focus on the completion of the action that I’m performing – the fact, that the newspaper will be bought once I’m done with the action.

That may seem a bit abstract in the beginning but one really gets a hang of it with time. One thing to remember that’s pretty helpful is that the perfective aspect doesn’t have the present tense (which totally makes sense as I can’t make the action completed as it’s happening). However, I could still form sentences with other verbs in the present tense and a perfective verb:

Chcę kupić gazetę. – “I want to buy a newspaper.”

In this sentence I’m saying that I want the result of buying, that is, to have the said newspaper. If I said Chcę kupować gazetę. I’d be saying that I want the experience of buying the newspaper. As you imagine it’s unusual to hear this sentence in Polish.

Another important tip for aspect learning is learning them in pairs. This is something I’ve picked up when learning Russian as Russian has the same use of aspect in Polish. If you learn the verbs together with examples of their use, chances of you succeeding in using them appropriately increase. Alternatively, you’ll be more aware of mistakes you make which is still better than nothing!

The Final Words

I’ve given you today an overview of Polish problem areas, which hopefully will make your learning process a tad easier. It’s worth focusing on these topics because they predictably cause problems to most students of Polish. Anything else that you find particularly difficult in learning Polish? Let me know in the comments’ section!

Preparing Meals in Polish: Robić and Gotować

In my last post I’ve discussed the family tree of the verb robić. You can check it out to learn words from this verb’s family. Today, I’ll discuss the use of this verb for food preparation. What’s the difference between robić (“to do/to make”) and gotować (“to cook”)? You’ll find out today! (And I’m sure you’re as excited as when you’re about to find out who the wrongdoer in Scooby-Doo is).

Cultural Note

A lot of people will tell you that robić is used for not hot/uncooked meals and gotować for the ones that require warming up. This is true to vast but it won’t make much sense for a person who comes from a different culture.
Of course, the way Polish people eat has been changing to accommodate the modern workplace. Lots of Poles have breakfast, lunch and dinner like other Westerners. However, the language has been around for a while and when certain expressions were created they reflected reality.
Polish people less recently used to eat an uncooked breakfast śniadanie (often sandwiches), second breakfast drugie śniadanie (yet again, sandwiches, this time packed), obiad (a cooked meal around 4 o’clock), podwieczorek (an afternoon snack) and dinner kolacja (and yes, yet again, often sandwiches).
Obiad is very often translated to English as “lunch” but as you can see from the description above it doesn’t really carry the same idea.

Robić or gotować?

The main question is whether we “cook” (gotować) or “make/do” (robić) something. Robić can be used even if something is cooked but it doesn’t work the other way round. That’s why we would say:

  • robić śniadanie – “to make breakfast”

    Tata robi śniadanie dla dzieci. – “Dad is making breakfast for children.”
  • robić/gotować obiad – “to make/cook lunch (for lack of a better word)”

    Robię/Gotuję obiad, oddzwonię później. – “I’m making lunch, I’ll call you back later.”
  • robić kolację – “to make dinner”

    Co robisz na kolację? – “What are you making for dinner?”

Robić AND gotować

Just like in the example with obiad we can use both gotować and robić for some things. There will be a difference in meaning, though so choose wisely.

Robić pierogi means to form them out of pastry. You can also use the verb lepić (literally: “to glue”) here. The verb gotować should be used for pierogi, when you’re making them ready to eat by boiling them in hot water.

By the same token, we say robić makaron when describing the activity of cutting and shaping pasta and gotować makaron for cooking it.

Check Your Understanding

I hope that the difference between these two verbs is clear to you now. Just to make sure, do the test below. Remember to comment with your answers below so that I can tell you, whether you were right or not:

  1. Mama _____________ pizzę. (Mom is making pizza. Hint: forming the dough not baking it)
  2. Karol ____________ śniadania, a ja ___________ obiady. (Karol makes breakfasts and I make lunches.)
  3. ___________ pierogi już od godziny. (I’ve been making pierogi for an hour.)
  4. Zaczęłam ___________ pierogi, będa gotowe za 10 minut. (I’ve started to boil pierogi, they’ll be ready in 10 minutes.)
  5. Po polsku nie mówi się _________ kolację tylko ___________ kolację. (We don’t say cook dinner in Polish but make dinner).

A Family Tree: Verb Robić

I consider “family trees” a very effective method of learning vocabulary. A “family tree” are words related to one another. They look similar but are used in different ways. An example of a small family tree (should I say a shrub?) in English is: comfort (noun), discomfort (noun), to comfort (verb), comfortable (adjective) and uncomfortable (adjective).

Robić is a super important verb in Polish. This is why today, we’ll discuss the robić family tree.

Robić – Verb

Robić means “to do/to make” and is the most commonly used word in Polish to express this idea. It’s an imperfective verb, which means its focus is on the action and not on the completion of a given activity. It’s used with the accusative case, biernik.

Robię zupę na kolację. – “I’m making a soup for dinner.”

Robisz swoją pracę domową? – “Are you doing your homework?”

Paweł nic nie robi całe dnie. – “Paweł does nothing all days.”

Zrobić – Verb

Zrobić also means “to do/to make” but it’s a perfective verb and its focus is on the completion of an action. We can’t use this verb in the present tense as it can merely refer to something we will complete or we’ve already completed. It’s used with the accusative case, biernik.

Zrobię zupę na kolację. – “I’ll make a soup for dinner.”

Zrobisz swoją pracę domową? – “Will you do your homework?”

Paweł nic nie zrobi cały dzień. – “Paweł will do nothing all day.”

Wrobić – Verb

Wrobić kogoś means “to frame someone” or “put someone in a situation when they have to do something they don’t want to do” in Polish slang. It’s used with the accusative case, biernik.

Jestem niewinny! Wrobili mnie! – “I’m innocent! They’ve framed me!”

Nie wrobisz mnie w to! – “You won’t put me in a situation when I’ll have to do it.”

Wrobiła mnie w organizację spotkania. – “She’s put me in a situation when I have to organize the meeting.”

Przerobić – Verb

Przerobić means “to turn something into something else”. It’s often used to speak about clothes. It’s used with the accusative case, biernik.

Przerobiłam moje zasłony na sukienkę. – “I’ve turned my curtains into a dress.”

Przerobić can also refer to material studied at school or at university. In that case it translates as “to cover”.

Nie przerobiliśmy jeszcze tego zagadnienia. – “We haven’t covered this topic yet.”

Przerobić is a perfective verb. An imperfective form is przerabiać. Compare:

Przerabiamy salon na jadalnię. – “We’re turning the living room into a dining room.”

Przerobimy salon na jadalnię w przyszłym roku. – “We’ll turn the living room into a dining room.”

Zarabiać – Verb

Zarabiać means “to earn”:

Wiesz, ile on zarabia? – “Do you know how much he earns?”

Pracuje i pracuje, a zarabiam grosze! – “I work a lot but I still earn peanuts!”

Nie zarabiasz tyle, ile powinieneś. – “You don’t earn as much as you should.”

Zarobić is a perfective counterpart of zarabiać.

Kupię samochód jak na niego zarobię. – I’ll buy a car when I earn enough money.

W przyszłym miesiącu powinienem zarobić więcej. – I should earn more next month.

Zarobiłem na wszystko co mam. – I’ve earned everything I have.

Robota – Noun

Robota is a slang word for work or job. It’s used in many handy expressions such as:

Dobra robota! – “Good job!”

Robota nie zając, nie ucieknie. – A loose translation: “Work can wait.” Literally: “Work isn’t a hare, it won’t run away.”

Mam dużo roboty. – “I have a lot of work.”

Robot: Noun

Do you know what a false friend is? It’s when a word that looks the same or similar in two languages but differs in meaning. Fortunately, robot in Polish is your real friend (or a so-called cognate).

Rumba to robot sprzątający. – “Rumba is a cleaning robot.”

Myślisz, że roboty przejmą panowanie nad światem? – “Do you think that robots will take over the world?”

Robotnik: Noun

Robotnik is a word used for a physical worker. The female version of this word is robotnica and it can also refers to bee workers. There’s also a vulgar slang expression for a physical worker robol.

On jest świetnym robotnikiem! – “He’s a great (physical) worker!”

Robotnice pomagają królowej. – The female workers are helping the Queen.

Nie lubię słowa robol! – “I don’t like the word “robol”. “

Robienie: Noun

Robienie is a noun that translates to “doing” or “making”.

Robienie sobie żartów ze starszych ludzi, nie jest okej! – “Joking about the elderly isn’t okay.”

robić sobie żarty – “to joke”

Robienie własnego chleba nie jest łatwe. – “Making your own bread isn’t easy.”

Nic nie robienie jest super. – “Doing nothing is amazing!”

I hope this post has been useful. If you’re looking for a way to organize your vocabulary use AnkiApp or Quizlet (I have a BIG preference for the latter).

Check Your Understanding

Here’s a short test for you to check your understanding of the difference between these words:

1. Ten _____________ ciężko pracuje. (This worker works very hard.)

2. ____________ więcej niż na początku mojej kariery. (I earn more than in the beginning of my career.)

3. Zachowuje się jak ______________. (He’s behaving like a robot.)

4. Co ___________ ? (What are you doing?)

5. Co ____________ jeśli ona nie wróci? (What will you do, if she doesn’t come back?)

6. ___________ bigosu strasznie długo trwa. (Making bigos takes a very long time.)

7. Adam mówi, że go _____________ i ja mu wierzę. (Adam says he’s been framed and I believe him.

8. _______________ ten temat jutro. (We’ll cover this topic tomorrow.)

9. Ta _________ jest głupia, ale dobrze mi płacą. (This job is stupid but they pay me well.)

How did you do? Remember to comment to get your answers. Adieu!

To Know in Polish: Wiedzieć, Znać and Umieć

One English verb “to know” has three equivalents in the Polish language: wiedzieć, znać and umieć. It’s not surprising that many Polish learners struggle to understand the difference between them. Today, I’ll explain to you how to know when to use them.

Znać

The verb znać is used for general knowledge and knowing people. It’s followed by nouns or modifiers with nouns (pronouns, adjectives etc). It’s NEVER used with a subordinate clause. Here are some examples:

Znam Piotra. – “I know Piotr.”

Znać + noun

Znam rosyjski alfabet. – “I know the Russian alphabet.”

Znać + adjective + noun

Znasz jakieś dobre restauracje w Sieradzu? – “Do you know any good restaurants in Sieradz?”

Znać + pronoun + adjective + noun

On zna trzy języki obce. – “He knows three foreign languages.”

Znać + numeral + noun

Wiedzieć

Wiedzieć is a verb used for knowledge about something specific. It often introduces a subordinate (dependent) clause with words such as że (“that”), czy (“if”), kto (“who”), co (“what”) and similar:

Wiem, że masz rację. – “I know that you’re right.”

Nie wiem, czy pójdę na tę imprezę. – “I don’t know if I go to this party.”

Nic o tym nie wiem. – “I know nothing about it.” (about this particular issue)

Wiemy, gdzie on jest. – “We know where he is.”

Wiem, co masz na myśli. – “I know what you mean.”

Umieć

Umieć means “to be able to do or make something“. This verb is also used in the context of tests and exams. This verb is most often followed by another verb in the infinitive (unconjugated) form:

Nie umiem pływać. – “I don’t know how to swim.”

On zupełnie nie umie śpiewać! – “He can’t sing at all!”

Umiecie robić pierogi? – “Do you know how to make pierogi?”

Umiesz mówić po włosku? – “Can you speak Italian?”

Nic nie umiem. – “I don’t know anything.” (something often said before exams)

More Examples

Let’s have a look at some more examples comparing these verbs so that you can understand the difference better:

Znam Annę. – “I know Anna.”

Wiem, kto to jest Piotr. – “I know who Piotr is.”

Umiem rozpoznać Piotra. – “I know how to/I’m able to recognize Peter.”

Can you see the difference in use?

Znam dobrą książkę kucharską. – “I know a good cookbook. “

Wiem, który przepis wybrać. – “I know which recipe to choose.”

Umiem ugotować tę zupę. – “I know how to/I’m able to make this soup.”

And now?

Nie znam prawdy. – “I don’t know the truth.”

Nie wiem, czy to prawda. – “I don’t know whether it’s true.”

Nie umiem powiedzieć, czy to prawda. – “I’m unable to say whether it’s true.”

It should definitely be clear by now!

Summary

Here’s a quick summary that you can also use to refresh your knowledge at a later stage:

You should use znać to talk about general knowledge and knowing people. It follows the structure:

ZNAĆ + noun

ZNAĆ + modifier(s) + nouns

You should use wiedzieć when referring to knowledge about something specific. The most common structure is:

WIEM + a word introducing a subordinate clause

You should use umieć when talking about your ability to do or make something as well as knowledge you may have (or not) for exams. The most common pattern is:

UMIEĆ + verb

I’ve really done my best but let me know in the comments’ section, if you still have some doubts.

Check Your Understanding

Use the exercise below to check your understanding. The correct answers can be obtained by writing your own answers as a comment 😉

1. Martyna _________________ polski i angielski. (Martyna knows Polish and English.)

2. Wojtek _______________ mówić po niemiecku, angielsku i polsku. (Wojtek knows German, English and Polish.)

3. Nie _______________ jak ludzie uczą się więcej niż jednego języka obcego. (I don’t know how people learn more than one foreign language.)

4. ____________ jej brata. (I know her brother.)

5. Nie __________ co ci powiedzieć. (I don’t know what to tell you.)

6. Nie __________ nic na ten egzamin! (I don’t know anything for the exam.)

7. ___________ takie przypadki. (We know (of) such cases.)

8. Ma dopiero 5 lat, ale już ______________ czytać. (He’s only 5 years old, but he can already read.

9. ___________, że to nie jest łatwy wybór. (We know it’s not an easy choice to make.)

10. __________ tę piosenkę. (I know this song.)

I hope you’ve taken your Polish to a new level with this lesson! Now it’s time to say goodbye for now, Mein Schatz. поговорим позже!

The Difference Between Bardzo and Dużo in Polish

The difference between bardzo and dużo seems to be particularly difficult to understand for learners of Polish. In the first instalment of my new series Polskie poniedziałki (Polish Mondays) I’ll explain the main difference between these two words.

Bardzo and Dużo: Main Differences

The main difference between the two words is that bardzo translates as “very/really“, while dużo is closer in meaning to “a lot/many/much“.

This means that bardzo usually describes adjectives and adverbs:

To bardzo młody naukowiec. – “It’s a very young scientist.”

Jego samochód był bardzo tani. – “His car was very cheap”.

W tym sklepie jest bardzo drogo. – “This shop is very expensive.” (literally: It’s expensive in this shop.)

Dużo, on the other hand, is more often seen hanging out with verbs and nouns:

Mam dużo pieniędzy. – I have a lot of money.

Za dużo wydajesz! – “You spend too much!”

Moja żona dużo pracuje, czasem nawet w weekendy. – “My wife works a lot, sometimes even on weekends.”

Fringe Cases

Sometimes the general rules regarding which parts of speech these words go with simply don’t work. This is why it’s good to remember the second rule about them. Namely, dużo has to do with quantity and bardzo with intensity:

Bardzo kocham moje dzieci. – “I really love my children.”

Bardzo is used with a verb here but speaks about intensity of feelings.

Jesteś dużo wyższa ode mnie. – “You’re a lot taller than I am.”

With comparative adjectives such as wyższa (“taller”), we use dużo. Note that it’d still translate to English as a lot/much.

Sometimes we can also use both words together:

Ona bardzo dużo je. – “She really eats a lot.”

Dużo is an adverb so bardzo can be used as its intensifier. Compare the sentence above with the examples below:

Ona dużo je. – „She eats a lot.”

Ona je bardzo często. – “She eats very often.”

Bardzo and Dużo: Summary

Here’s a short summary for ease of reference:

Bardzo is used to talk about intensity. It’s usually used with adjectives and adverbs but sometimes it be used with verbs, particularly when describing intensity of feelings.

Dużo is used to talk about quantity with verbs, nouns and with comparative adjectives.

Check Your Understanding

Here’s a short exercises to check your understanding of the difference between bardzo and dużo:

1. Ona ________________ się uśmiecha. (She smiles a lot.)

2. ____________ cię lubię. (I really like you)

3. Maja ______________ czyta. (Maja reads a lot.)

4. _____________ zapłaciłeś? (Have you paid a lot?)

5. Twój chłopak jest _____________ miły. (Your boyfriend is very nice.)

I hope it’s been useful! Are you looking for answers? Oh no, Mein Liebchen! You’ll have to write your answers in the comments’ section and I’ll let you know whether you were right or not 🙂 So long! пока!

Best Resources to Help You Learn Polish in 2020

Learning any language isn’t easy and every language has specific concepts that are difficult for language learners.
Thanks to my experience with articles about learning Polish and teaching Polish I’ve discovered a number of really useful resources. Here goes.

Cooljugator

Polish verbs undergo conjugation. This means that a verb has different forms depending on a person and gender. Have a look at the sample sentences with the verb jeść (to eat):

Jem obiad o pierwszej. – I eat lunch at 1 o’clock.

Zosia je obiad o pierwszej. – Zofia eats lunch at 1 o’clock.

Jemy obiad o pierwszej. – We eat lunch at 1 o’clock.

In Polish I have to use three different forms of the verb, while in English all persons in both numbers would have the same form. The only exception is the third person singular which gets an additional “s” (eat -> eats).

Cooljugator shows you all verb forms for different tenses. Due to numerous rules governing Polish conjugation it’s a great tool to increase your familiarity with the forms as well as a verification tool whenever you’re in doubt how to conjugate a verb.

Online Polish Dictionary

Online Polish dictionary gives you many things.
First of all you get noun declensions. Polish has cases which means that the form of the noun will differ depending on the context. For instance we say:

Widzę drzewo. – This is a tree.

Nie widzę drzewa. – I don’t see a tree.

Marek schował się za drzewem. – Marek hid behind a tree.

Yet again, the same word in English has many forms in Polish. The dictionary will provide you with the standard form in the nominative mianownik, even if you insert a word in a different case. You’ll also be able to see all noun forms.
When it comes to verbs you can see forms of a verb in all tenses, similarly like with the cooljugator. You’ll also learn what case follows a given verb. Last but not least, you’ll find out what aspect does a verb carry.
Wait…what’s an aspect? Brief, it’s what tells us whether a verb is ongoing or completed. In English an aspect is expressed with a tense, while in Polish there are different verbs called imperfective (czasowniki niedokonane) and perfective verbs (czasowniki dokonane). Have a look at the following examples:

Marysia ogladała telewizję, gdy zadzwonił telefon. – Marysia was watching TV, when the phone rang.

The verb used in the sentence above is the imperfective oglądać.

Marysia obejrzała ciekawy program w telewizji. – Marysia watched an (episode of an) interesting TV show.

The verb used is in the sentence above is the perfective obejrzeć.

As you can see, this dictionary is more thorough than Cooljugator but I find it less user-friendly.

Quizlet and Anki App

Quizlet and Anki App are both great for learning vocabulary. Quizlet has a number of advantages over Anki: there’s an interactive learning mode and different ways of studying, you get access to many study materials created by other students and teachers and you can choose which set you want to practise with.
Anki, on the other hand, certainly wins in terms of simplicity. You create your own study sets and the app tracks your learning progress.
Check them both out and see which one works better for you. They’re both really cool for learning on-the-go and I’m a massive fan of NOT wasting time. I use these apps whenever I’m queuing. A big plus is that they don’t make any sounds so you don’t have to fear embarrassment.
Polish is particularly rich in verbs because of the perfective and imperfective aspects I’ve mentioned above. Make sure to pay special attention to learning them.

Duolingo

Duolingo is amazing for beginners. You won’t learn a lot of grammar or understand the rules governing the language but you’ll definitely get a lot of basic vocabulary and phrases that will allow you have simple conversations in Polish. It’s also a fun and interactive app so it keeps you motivated.
Duolingo shouldn’t be your only resource for learning. If you want to see any progress with the language, you should get a language tutor or a partner to practise your speaking skills with. You should also either read about grammar concepts and do exercises online or get some structure with a language learning book.

Clozemaster

Full disclosure: I have written an article for Clozemaster’s blog. It doesn’t change the fact that I love the oldschool look of the app and I use it extensively for my Russian. The Polish course isn’t aimed at beginners as it will mostly speak Polish at you. You can start with Duolingo or a different app and then practise with Clozemaster once you’re more or less intermediate.
The big advantages of Clozemaster is that it makes you fill in sentences in a given language, improving your contextual understanding. You basically learn phrases and the way people speak in Polish without even noticing. Super useful for a language that has a lot of variables that change the way you should make a word look like in a sentence or a phrase.

E-polish.eu

E-polish.eu is probably the most comprehensive Polish learning resource out there. They have uploaded content of two books to an interactive platform with loads of different exercises to help you work on your Polish skills.
There are MANY exercises testing the same thing but it’s a good thing. No one learns a form of a verb by forming it correctly once so a variety of exercises on the same topic will really help you grow your vocabulary.
Yet again, you’ll need someone to practise your speaking skills with. I know I’m repeating myself but the worse kind of a language student is someone who thinks they can just learn a language in a vacuum. You can’t and you won’t so please start practising with someone who’s friendly and willing to help you before you deal with actual native speakers on the Polish streets. And I’m really not saying anything about Polish people here. Really.

That’s all for today, my fellow language enthusiasts. If you’re trying to brush up on your Polish for a weekend trip in Cracov, my post “How to prepare a crash course for yourself” will be more relevant.