The Genitive Case

If there’s one case that’s worth learning in Polish then it’s the genitive (dopełniacz). It’s used in lots of situations, including to negate statements and express possession; and its use is compulsory after certain prepositions, verbs, quantifiers and numbers.

First, let’s look at how to form the genitive:
 
Polish Genitive Case Endings
 
Nothing too challenging here – though it’s not always easy to know whether masculine nouns in the singular take -a or -u as an ending. Generally the latter is reserved for inanimate objects, but it’s best to learn which noun takes which, and a dictionary will usually give you the genitive form in brackets.
 
Feminine nouns will usually end in -y in the singular, unless you’d end up with -ky, in which case the ending will be -ki.
 
In the plural, masculine nouns will usually take -ów if they have a hard stem, for example those ending in p, b, t, d, z, n, ł, g or k. Others will take -y or -i. Again here it’s best to consult a dictionary or learn by experience, because the rules aren’t hard and fast.
 
Feminine and neuter nouns leave the ending behind entirely in the plural and you are left with the stem, i.e. piwo (beer) becomes piw. You will come across some exceptions, a common one being that words ending -ka take the ending -ek (butelka -> butelek).
 

Negation

Negation
 
This is an important use of the genitive. You’ll probably know that the accusative case is used after useful verbs such as mieć (to have), lubić (to like), znać (to know) any many, many others.
 
But if you want to say you don’t have, like or know, then you need to use nie and the genitive:

mam siostrę I have a sister nie mam siostry I don't have a sister
lubię czarne koty I like black cats nie lubię czarnych kotów I don't like black cats
czytam gazety I read newspapers nie czytam gazet I don't read newspapers
lubię pić zieloną herbatę I like to drink green tea nie lubię pić zielonej herbaty I don't like to drink green tea

 

Possession

House
 
Where in English we use ‘s to indicate possession, as in “my brother’s house”, in Polish the genitive case is used:

mój brat my brother dom mojego brata my brother's house
moja siostra my sister mąż mojej siostry my sister's husband
Adam Adam żona Adama Adam's wife

 

Numbers, Quantifiers and Containers

Abacus
 
Most quantifiers are always followed by the genitive form. Examples are trochę (a little), mało (few) and dużo (lots).

If you’re talking about things in containers, such as bottles (butelki) of water or packets (paczki) of pasta, then you’ll also need the genitive for the word that follows of in these examples.

Finally, the genitive plural is used instead of the nominative plural following any numbers ending with 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 0 (except that all numbers 5-20 also take the genitive). This is the reason for the odd behavior of złoty we saw in Going Shopping, though złoty, exceptionally, takes the endings of an adjective.

butelka wody a bottle of water
trzy butelki wody three bottles of water
pięć butelek wody five bottles of water
dużo pracy Lots of work
sześć domów Six houses
trochę czasu A little time
paczka chipsów A packet of chips/crisps

 

Prepositions

ToFrom
 
Many prepositions are followed by the genitive. Examples are bez (without), dla (for), z (from), od (from), do (to) and u (at someone’s place).

sklep shop do sklepu to the shop
mięso meat bez mięsa without meat
Kasia Kasia u Kasi at Kasia's
czas time od czasu do czasu from time to time
Kraków Kraków z Krakowa from Kraków
samochód car dla samochodów for cars

 

Certain Verbs

Penguin
Common verbs that are followed by the genitive include bać się (to be afraid of), słuchać (to listen to), szukać (to search for), uczyć (to teach) and uczyć się (to study). Careful with the pronunciation between these two:
 


pająk spider bać się pająków to be afraid of spiders
muzyka music słuchać muzyki to listen to music
praca work szukać pracy to look for work
język Polski the Polish language uczyć się języka Polskiego to study the Polish language

 

Test

 
If you’re comfortable with the above, try this quick test. If you have any questions, feel free to comment on the post below!
 
If you aren’t sure how to type Polish letters, look here first.
 

 


 



Audio credits: Pl-słuchać.ogg ‎by Derbeth, Pl-szukać.ogg ‎by Faselhase (both CC-BY-SA-2.5)

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