The morphology of the Polish language is characterised by a fairly regular system of inflection (conjugation and declension) as well as word formation. Certain regular or common alternations apply across the Polish morphological system, affecting word formation and inflection of various parts of speech. These are described below, mostly with reference to the orthographic rather than the phonological system, for clarity.
- Consonants in clusters and at the end of words are affected by the voicing rules; these are generally not reflected in the spelling. For example, the d in sąd ("court") is pronounced /t/, while in inflected forms such as the plural sądy it is pronounced /d/.
- The vowels i and y have restricted distribution: i does not occur (except in some words of foreign origin) after hard c, cz, d, hard dz, dż, ł, r, sz, t, ż/rz, while y does not occur after k, g, l and palatal consonants. This means that in certain inflectional forms i appears in place of the expected y or vice versa (for example, the genitive of mąka "flour" is mąki, not *-ky).
- The vowel e in endings causes the palatalization of a preceding k or g. For example, the instrumental case of dziecko ("child") is dzieckiem, not *-kem.
- Certain endings have the effect of notionally palatizing the preceding consonant. Due to historical developments, the actual effect is dependent on the consonant.
- Endings that include palatization before e (represented as -ie, -iej etc.) combine with the preceding consonant as follows: b+ie becomes bie /bjɛ/ (similarly with p, f, w, m), s+ie becomes sie /ɕɛ/ (similarly with z, n), t+ie becomes cie, d+ie becomes dzie, g+ie becomes dze, k+ie becomes ce, (c)h+ie becomes sze, ł+ie becomes le, r+ie becomes rze. There is also assimilation of s and z with a following palatal consonant, so for example -st + -ie becomes -ście.
- The ending represented as -i (in the masculine personal plural) causes similar consonant changes as in the preceding case, except that ch+i becomes si (as in Włoch/Włosi "Italian(s)"); also sz+i becomes si and ż+i becomes zi.
- Some words are subject to certain vowel alternations (for the reasons for these, see Historical development in the article on Polish phonology). The alternations are as follows (they do not apply to all words containing these vowels):
- Alternations that depend on whether the syllable is closed or open – these are ó–o, ą–ę, and zero–(i)e (occasionally (i)o). Examples: robić ("to do") has the imperative rób; dąb ("oak") has the plural dęby; pies ("dog") has the plural psy; matka ("mother") has the genitive plural matek; kocioł ("boiler") has the plural kotły.
- Alternations that take effect when the following consonant is modified by an i or ie ending – these are a–e and o–e. Examples: wiara ("faith") has dative/locative wierze; kościół ("church", which also undergoes the ó–o alternation described above) has genitive kościoła and locative kościele.
- See also Nouns in the article on Polish grammar.
Declensions are generally divided into hard and soft declensions. Soft declensions are used when the stem of the noun ends in a soft (postalveolar or palatal-like) consonant in all forms, while hard declensions are used by nouns with stems ending in a hard consonant in some (but not necessarily all) forms.
Some nouns follow the adjectival declension (see below), particularly if they are masculine nouns ending in -y/i. This applies even to some words with no apparent adjectival connection, such as Jerzy ("George"). Certain neuter nouns, mostly place names such as Zakopane and voivodeship names such as Wielkopolskie when used alone as nouns, follow the adjectival declension but take -em rather than -ym in the instrumental and locative.
The following generalisations can be made for the inflection of all nouns:
- The nominative and vocative plural are always identical.
- For neuter nouns, the nominative, accusative and vocative are always identical in both singular and plural.
- The accusative of masculine nouns is identical to either the nominative or the genitive.
- The locative, dative and instrumental plural almost always have the same endings (-ach, -om, -ami) no matter how the noun is declined.
Masculine nouns typically end in a consonant, these are the hard and soft masculine "o-stem" nouns. Masculine nouns ending in -a (usually personal) follow the feminine a-stem declension in the singular, and the masculine o-stem declension in the plural. The same applies to male personal names in -o (as Kościuszko), although familiar first name forms like Franio follow the masculine declension throughout.
The following table shows the masculine o-stem declension for inanimate masculine nouns:
|Hard declension||Soft declension|
Animate and personal nouns differ from the above in the following ways:
- In animate and personal nouns, the accusative singular equals the genitive singular, rather than the nominative singular.
- In personal nouns, the accusative plural equals the genitive plural, rather than the nominative plural.
- In personal nouns, the nominative/vocative plural ends in -i in the hard declension (although some take -owie). This ending triggers palatalisation of the preceding consonant.
- Many inanimate nouns have a genitive singular in -u rather than -a.
- Soft nouns sometimes also have -ów in the genitive plural, instead of -y.
- Nouns -anin (such as Amerykanin "American") drop the -in from the stem in the plural. The nominative/vocative plural becomes -ie, genitive plural -ów (or sometimes no ending, as Indianin "(American) Indian" > Indian).
- A few masculine nouns have dative singular in -u. This includes pan "gentleman, Mr", kot "cat", pies "dog".
- The masculines pan, syn ("son") and dom ("house") have -u in the locative singular rather than -ie, and also in the vocative (but pan has the regular panie).
Feminine nouns usually end in -a, although a few end in -i. These are the "a-stem" nouns. A number of feminine nouns ends in a soft or hardened consonant; these are "i-stem" nouns.
The following table shows the feminine a-stem declension:
|Hard declension||Soft declension|
- Feminine nouns in -i (like gospodyni "housewife") have this -i only in the nominative and vocative singular. In all other cases they decline like soft a-stem nouns.
- Soft feminine nouns that are familiar forms of personal names (like Ania, from Anna) have a vocative in -u (Aniu) or with no ending.
The following table shows the feminine i-stem declension:
- Some feminine i-stem nouns, especially those in -ość (a suffix used to form nouns from adjectives) have N/A/V/G plural in -y/i rather than -e.
- Nouns with the suffix -ość, as well as a few other nouns (such as gość "guest" and dłoń "palm") form the instrumental plural by adding just -mi rather than -ami.
Neuter nouns end in -o or -e, these are the hard and soft neuter "o-stems". A few end in -ę, the so-called "n-stem" and "t-stem" nouns.
The following table shows the neuter o-stem declension:
|Hard declension||Soft declension|
- Some neuter nouns take -y/i in the genitive plural, particularly those ending in -e that have a prefix (e.g. narzędzie "tool", G pl. narzędzi).
- Some neuter nouns that were borrowed from Latin end in -um. These are indeclinable in the singular (always -um) but follow the hard or soft neuter declension in the plural.
The neuter n-stem and neuter t-stem nouns decline as soft neuter o-stems in the singular but as hard neuter o-stems in the plural. In addition, they have shortened nominative/accusative/vocative singular forms ending in -ę.
|n-stem declension||t-stem declension|
Notable irregular forms include the following:
- człowiek ("person") has plural ludzie (G ludzi, etc.).
- dziecko ("child") has plural N/A/V/G dzieci (I dziećmi; D dzieciom etc.).
- rok ("year") has the same plural forms as lato ("summer"): lata, lat etc.
- ręka ("arm, hand") has N/A/V plural ręce (also alternative L singular ręku and I plural rękoma); oko ("eye") and ucho ("ear") have plural oczy/uszy etc. (G oczu/uszu). These derive from old dual forms.
- A few masculines have plurals in -a, usually as an alternative to the regular plural (e.g. cud can have cudy or cuda as N/V/A plural).
- pani ("lady, Mrs") has accusative singular panią.
- mężczyzna ("man") has genitive plural mężczyzn.
- przyjaciel ("friend") has genitive and instrumental plural przyjaciół and przyjaciółmi.
- miesiąc ("month"), tysiąc ("thousand") and pieniądz ("money", usually used in the plural) have genitive plurals in -ęcy/-ędzy. The last also has instrumental plural pieniędzmi.
- brat in the plural has N/V bracia, G/A braci, D braciom, I braćmi, L braciach.
- ksiądz ("priest") (G/D singular księdza/księdzu) has V singular księże and plural N/V księża, G/A księży, D/L księżom/-ach, I księżmi.
- książę ("prince") has G/A księcia etc. (with the pattern of the neuters in -ę; V=N), plural książęta etc. (G/A książąt).
- bóg ("god") (D usually bogu) has vocative boże.
- ojciec ("father") (D ojcu) has vocative ojcze.
- sędzia ("judge"): G/A sędziego, D sędziemu, L sędzim, but I sędzią, V sędzio, . Plural sędziowie etc. Similarly hrabia ("count").
The following types of nouns are generally invariant, and do not inflect at all:
- Names of letters
- Some foreign-derived words that do not fit any standard pattern
- Most foreign place names (except well-known ones that fit a standard pattern)
- Personal names of females that don't end in -a
- Normally masculine nouns used as feminines to refer to women (often preceded by pani, which is declined, as in pani profesor)
- Titles of works etc. that do not have the form of nouns/adjectives
- Nouns that are already inflected (e.g. Chrobrego, a genitive, which can be used unchanged in all cases as short for a * street name such as ulica Chrobrego)
- Names preceded by a specifying noun (for example wieś Dębowo, "the village of Dębowo", where only wieś is declined
- Names of gminas such as gmina Czersk)
Foreign personal names of males are declined if at all possible; some special rules are applied depending on the original language. Those that end "-y" or "-i" generally follow the adjectival declension, but these are treated as -i, i.e. the previous consonant is soft, and this is shown in inflected written forms such as Tony'ego.
- See also Adjectives in the article on Polish grammar.
Adjectives agree with the noun they modify in terms of gender and number. They are declined according to the following pattern (dumny means "proud"):
- masculine singular: N/V dumny, G dumnego, D dumnemu, A dumny (for inanimate nouns)/dumnego (animate), I/L dumnym
- feminine singular: N/V dumna, G/D/L dumnej, A/I dumną
- neuter singular: N/V/A dumne, G/D/I/L as masculine
- plural: N/V/A dumne (but for masculine personal nouns N/V dumni A dumnych), G/L dumnych, D dumnym, I dumnymi
Most short adjectives have a comparative form in -szy or -iejszy, and a superlative obtained by prefixing naj- to the comparative. For example, tani ("cheap") has the forms tańszy ("cheaper") and najtańszy ("cheapest") (these forms are inflected like normal adjectives). The following principles apply:
- The longer ending -iejszy is used in certain adjectives, especially those in consonant+ny, for pronounceability: ładny–ładniejszy ("pretty–prettier").
- The adjectival ending -ki or -oki is dropped, as in krótki–krótszy ("short(er)"), szeroki–szerszy ("wide(r)").
- Irregular comparatives include lepszy (from dobry "good"), gorszy (from zły "bad"), większy (from duży "big"), mniejszy (from mały "small"), węższy (from wąski "narrow"), dłuższy (from długi "long").
- For adjectives that do not have such forms, the words bardziej ("more") and najbardziej ("most") are used before the adjective to make comparative and superlative phrases.
Adverbs are formed from adjectives with the ending ie, or in some cases -o. Comparatives of adverbs are formed (where they exist) with the ending -iej. Superlatives have the prefix naj- as for adjectives. Irregular comparatives include lepiej ("better"), gorzej ("worse"), więcej ("more", also bardziej when not concerned with quantity, from bardzo "very"), mniej ("less").
This section gives the declensions of Polish pronouns. For information on meanings and usage, see Pronouns in the article on Polish grammar.
- 1st person singular N ja, G/A/L mnie, D mnie (clitic mi), I mną
- 2nd person singular familiar N ty, G/A ciebie (clitic cię), D tobie (clitic ci), I tobą, L tobie
- 3rd person singular masculine N on, G/A jego/niego (clitic go), D jemu/niemu (clitic mu), I/L nim
- 3rd person singular feminine N ona, G/D jej/niej, A ją/nią, I nią, L niej
- 3rd person singular neuter N ono, A je/nie, other cases as masculine
- 1st person plural N my, G/A/L nas, D nam, I nami
- 2nd person plural familiar N wy, G/A/L was, D wam, I wami
- 3rd person plural masculine personal N oni, G/A ich/nich, D im/nim, I nimi, L nich
- 3rd person plural other N one, A je/nie, other cases as for masculine personal
Polite 2nd person forms: pan (plural panowie) and pani (plural panie) are declined like those nouns. The mixed-sex form państwo (which can also be used as a noun to refer to a mixed-sex group or couple) is masculine personal plural, but declines like the neuter noun państwo ("state, country") except that the accusative is państwa (like the genitive) and the locative państwu.
Possessives: mój, twój, nasz, wasz are declined like adjectives (moja, moje etc.), as are swój and pański. The third-person forms jego, jej and ich are invariant, as are other forms identical to genitives (pana etc.)
Demonstrative: ten, declined like an adjective (tego, etc., feminine ta etc.), except that the neuter N/A is to and the feminine accusative is tę (colloquially also tą). The prefixed form tamten is similar, but with feminine accusative tamtą.
Interrogative pronouns: kto, G/A kogo, D komu, I/L kim; and co, G czego, D czemu, A co, I/L czym. The derived pronouns ktoś/coś, ktokolwiek/cokolwiek, nikt/nic are declined similarly (kogoś etc., note nikogo, niczego etc.), although nic has the unaltered (accusative) form instead of niczego when it is the object of a negated verb.
Others: wszystek, declined like an adjective (fem. wszystka etc.), but neuter singular N/A wszystko, and masculine personal plural N wszyscy. The relative pronoun który (also an interrogative pronoun and adjective) is also declined like an adjective, as are każdy and żaden (każda, żadna, etc.)
Numbers and quantifiers
The declension of numerals is given below (accusative and vocative are equal to nominative unless stated). For information on formation and usage, see Numbers and quantifiers in the article on Polish grammar.
- 1 jeden like an adjective (feminine jedna etc., but neuter N/A jedno). The plural forms also exist (jedni/jedne etc.); they are used to mean "some", or to mean "one" with pluralia tantum (jedne drzwi "one door").
- 2 dwa (feminine N/A dwie, masc. personal N dwaj/dwóch A dwu/dwóch), G/L dwóch, D dwóm, I dwoma (fem. also dwiema)
- 3 trzy (masc. personal N trzej/trzech A trzech), G/L trzech, D trzem, I trzema
- 4 cztery (masc. personal N czterej/czterech A czterech), G/L czterech, D czterem, I czterema
- 5 pięć (masc. personal N/A pięciu), G/D/L pięciu, I pięcioma
- The same pattern as 5 is followed for the higher numbers sześć, siedem (siedmiu etc.), osiem (ośmiu etc.), dziewięć, dziesięć; jedenaście (jedenastu) etc.; dwadzieścia (dwudziestu etc.), trzydzieści (trzydziestu), czterdzieści (-stu), pięćdziesiąt (pięćdziesięciu) etc.; sto (stu etc.), dwieście (dwustu etc.), trzysta (trzystu etc.), czterysta (-stu); pięćset (pięciuset) etc. From 500 onwards (and optionally for the lower hundreds) the instrumental is the same as the G/D/L form.
Higher numbers (tysiąc, milion etc.) are declined as nouns, and their multiples are treated as number+noun combinations (dwa tysiące "two thousand" behaves like dwa miesiące "two months", and so on).
In compound numbers only the last part of the number is inflected, except when there are both tens and units, in which case both of those are inflected. In a compound number the word jeden is invariant.
- dwoje, G dwojga, D/L dwojgu, I dwojgiem
- troje, G trojga, D/L trojgu, I trojgiem
- czworo, G czworga, D/L czworgu, I czworgiem. Similarly for pięcioro etc.
- kilka, G/D/L and masc. personal N/A kilku, I kilkoma. Similarly parę, (paru, paroma), wiele (wielu, wieloma), ile, tyle
- dużo, mało, trochę, pełno, więcej, mniej are invariant (so not often used in oblique cases if the meaning would be unclear)
- forms like kilkanaście, kilkadziesiąt, kilkaset behave like 15, 50, 500
- oba ("both") behaves like dwa (including feminine obie, masculine personal obaj/obu, collective oboje, etc.), but usually with obu where dwa has dwóch. The other word for "both", obydwa, inflects like dwa.
The dictionary form of a verb is the infinitive, which usually ends with -ć (occasionally with -c).
If a verb includes a prefix, then it is generally conjugated like the unprefixed verb, although sometimes the prefix may change its form (e.g. z(e)+brać: infinitive zebrać, but present tense zbiorę etc.)
The present tense (or future tense of perfective verbs) may follow either of the following patterns:
- -m (1st person singular), -sz (2nd singular), - (3rd singular); -my (1st plural), -cie (2nd plural), -ją (3rd plural). This is followed by many verbs in -ać, such as śpiewać ("sing"): śpiewam, śpiewasz, śpiewa etc. It is also followed by mieć ("have"): mam etc.; umieć ("know how to"; similarly rozumieć "understand"): umiem etc.; jeść ("eat", similarly with prefixes): jem etc., but 3P jedzą; wiedzieć ("know", similarly with prefixes e.g. powiedzieć "say"): wiem etc. but wiedzą; and dać ("give", similarly with prefixes): dam etc. but dadzą.
- -ę (1st singular); -ą (3rd plural); other forms with the same endings as above, but possibly with a different form of the stem than for 1S and 3P. For example:
- brać ("take"): biorę, bierzesz, bierze, bierzemy, bierzecie, biorą
- kupić ("buy"): kupię, kupisz, kupi, kupimy, kupicie, kupią
The future tense of być ("be") also follows the above pattern: będę, będziesz, będzie, ..., będą However the present tense of być is irregular:
- jestem, jesteś, jest; jesteśmy, jesteście, są
The past tense of most verbs is formed by replacing the -ć of the infinitive with -ł for the masculine singular, -ła for feminine singular, -ło for neuter singular, -li for masculine personal plural and -ły for other plurals; then adding the endings -(e)m, -(e)ś, -, śmy, ście, - for 1S, 2S, 3S, 1P, 2P, 3P. (The -e- in the singular suffixes appears after a consonant but not after a vowel.) For example, from być:
- 1S byłem/byłam, 2S byłeś/byłaś, 3S był/była/było, 1P byliśmy/byłyśmy, 2P byliście/byłyście, 3P byli/były.
The personal past tense suffixes, which are reduced forms of the present tense of być, are clitics and can be detached from the verb to attach to another accented word earlier in the sentence.
Some verbs form their past stems differently:
- Verbs in -eć have past tense in -ał(-) (the a alternates with e, so the masculine personal plural is -eli(-)).
- Verbs in -ąć have an alternating vowel (ę in place of ą when the following ł is followed by a vowel), although the alternation does not apply before -em and -eś (zacząć "begin": zacząłem/zaczęłam etc.)
- Verbs in -c have a past stem ending with a consonant, related to the (1S/3P) present stem, e.g. móc "be able": 1S present mogę, past stem móg- (with alternating vowel, this time even before -em and -eś:, mogłem/mogłam,... , mógł/mogła/mogło etc.)
- Some other verbs also follow the above pattern, i.e. with a stem ending in a consonant. (Note that the ł is not pronounced when final and preceded by a consonant.) This includes most verbs in -ść and -źć, e.g. nieść ("carry"): niosłem...niósł...nieśli. The verb iść ("go") has the irregular past stem forms szedł/szła/szło, szli/szły (similarly for its compounds: pójść has poszedł/poszła etc.). znaleźć and related verbs have forms like znalazł, znaleźli.
- Some verbs in -nąć drop that ending in some or all of their past stems, sometimes optionally. For example, zniknąć ("disappear") has znikł(a) as alternatives to zniknął/zniknęła.
The conditional (or subjunctive) is formed from the past tense plus by, the personal endings (if any) coming after the by. For example: byłbym/byłabym, byłbyś/byłabyś, byłby/byłaby/byłoby; bylibyśmy/byłybyśmy, bylibyście/byłybyście, byliby/byłyby. The endings (-by, -bym etc.) are detachable clitics, like the past tense personal endings as mentioned above.
The future tense of imperfective verbs (other than być) is formed using the future of być (będę etc.) together with the infinitive, or the past form (inflected for gender and number, but without any personal suffixes), of the verb in question. For example, the future of robić ("do, make") has such forms as będę robić/robił/robiła, będzicie robić/robili/robiły. The choice between infinitive and past form is usually a free one, but with modals governing another infinitive, the past form is used: będzie musiał odejść (not będzie musieć...) "he will have to leave".
The second personal singular imperative is formed from the present tense by dropping the ending (e.g. brać: 2/3S present bierze(sz), imperative bierz), adding -ij for pronounceability (e.g. zacząć, pres. zacznie(sz), imperative zacznij); or (if the present tense is in -a-) by adding -aj (e.g. śpiewać, pres. śpiewa(sz), imperative śpiewaj). Irregular examples include być: bądź, mieć: miej, dawać: dawaj, stawać: stawaj. Add -my and -cie for the 1P and 2P forms. To make third-person imperative sentences (including with the polite second-person pronouns pan etc.) the particle niech is used.
Other forms of the verb are:
- present adverbial participle (imperfective verbs only), also called gerund, formed from the 3P present tense by adding -c (e.g. śpiewać: śpiewając; być has będąc)
- present adjectival participle (imperfective verbs only), formed from the gerund by adding adjectival endings (e.g. śpiewać: śpiewający etc.)
- past active participle (perfective verbs only), formed from the past tense by replacing -ł with -wszy (or -łszy after a consonant), e.g. zabić: zabiwszy "having killed" (this form is invariant, i.e. it is an adverbial participle).
- passive participle (all transitive verbs), in -ny or -ty (conjugated as an adjective). The form used depends on the ending of the infinitive: -ać: -any; -eć: -any but with vowel alternation (i.e. masc. personal pl. -eni); -yć/-ić: -ony/-iony but with vowel alternation (-eni), or -yty/-ity in verbs with present tense in -yje/-ije, like myć "wash" and bić "beat"; -ąć: -ęty (but -nąć: -nięty). Verbs with past stem ending in a consonant form the participle from the (3S) present tense form, e.g. nieść "carry", pres. niosę,... niesie, past niósł, passive participle niesiony. Note also jeść: jedzony.
- subjectless past tense, formed as the past participle but with the ending -o (e.g. śpiewano "there was sung")
- verbal noun, formed from the past participle with the ending -ie, e.g. śpiewanie (note vowel alternation, e.g. rozumieć: rozumiany: rozumienie). This is a neuter noun.
The modal verb powinien ("should") is conjugated with adjective-type and personal endings similar to the past tense (powinna/-o/-i/-y; powinienem/powinnam "I should" etc.) It has only one tense, although sometimes (rarely) był etc. is added to show past meaning.
Prepositions and prefixes
Before some consonant clusters, particularly clusters beginning with a sibilant (in the case of z) or with f/w (in the case of w), the prepositions z and w take the form ze and we (e.g. we Wrocławiu "in Wrocław"). These forms are also used before the first-person singular pronouns in mn-; several other prepositions also have longer forms before these pronouns (przeze mnie, pode mną etc.), and these phrases are pronounced as single words, with the stress on the penultimate syllable (the -e).
When z is used as a prefix, it is spelt s- if it is part of a voiceless consonant cluster. As preposition it is spelt z even if pronounced s. The epenthesis of -e- also applies to the prefixes w- and z-/s-, and to some others, such as roz- (roz- + znać = rozeznać).
- Addition of prefixes to make perfective forms of verbs or to modify the meaning. The prefixes used for this purpose are mostly identical to prepositions (although they also include roz-, and prze-, the latter corresponding to the preposition przez). The same prefixes are used for word formation with other parts of speech also.
- Formation of verbs from nouns using the suffix -ować (as in kolorować "to colour" from kolor "colour"; organizować "to organize", cf. organizacja "organization").
- Formation of adjectives from nouns using suffixes such as -owy, -ny, -ski and -i (as in koci "cat's" from kot "cat").
- Formation of nouns from adjectives, usually using the suffix -ość (to form feminine nouns).
- Formation of nouns from verbs, usually in -nie, sometimes -cie (see the section on Verbs above).
- Formation of nouns from other nouns or other stems, using such suffixes as -nik, -nica, -ec, etc. (with various meanings).
- Formation of diminutive forms of nouns, usually using the suffixes -ek/-ka/-ko (for the respective genders).
- Sadowska, Iwona (2012). Polish: A Comprehensive Grammar. Oxford; New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-47541-9.