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!