You’ll have noticed that the endings of words in Polish change, and the type of ending needed for an adjective or noun depends on the required case. Cases are related to the function of a noun in a sentence, and there are seven of them in total – a fact that leads many to believe that Polish is one of the hardest languages in the world.
We’ve added a page with a handy summary of all the noun and adjective endings for reference, but don’t let this put you off if you’re just starting out. Learning about each case and its function in turn is the best way forward, and the easiest and most familiar case will be the nominative (mianownik) – as this is the form you’ll find when looking up nouns in a dictionary.
The nominative case can also be used to answer the question co to jest? (what is that?).
Let’s look more closely at the nominative singular:
Generally speaking, if you look up a word in an English-Polish dictionary and it ends in -a or, rarely, -i, then it is feminine.
Any adjective attributed to this noun is given the ending -a.
If it ends in -o or -e (less frequently -ę or -um), then it is usually neuter.
The corresponding adjective ending is -e (but you can’t have -ke or -ge – these become -kie and -gie).
If it ends in any other consonant, then it is masculine.
The corresponding adjective ending is -y (but you can’t have -ky or -gy – these become -ki and -gi).
Now let’s look at the nominative plural:
Oddly, the above rules do not apply to plural nouns describing male humans, for which there are different endings. Note that the ending of the adjective for all genders is the same as the neuter singular.
The ending for neuter nouns changes to -a to make the plural.
For both masculine and feminine nouns, the ending changes to -y, unless the noun ends in k or g, where the ending is -i, or one of the letters at the bottom of the table, where the ending becomes -e.
To są małe czapki (Those are small hats)
Also at the bottom of the table you’ll see that some of the letters change (removing the accent and adding -i before -e), such that koń (horse) becomes konie (horses).
The nominative can also be used to describe people with simple adjectives, remembering to use the correct (masculine or feminine) form of the adjective. E.g.
Tom jest przystojny (Tom is handsome)
Here the adjective is simply stating something about Kasia/Tom.
What you can’t say is:
Kasia jest szczupła kobieta (Kasia is a slim woman)
Apart from ‘To jest’ and ‘To są’, sentences with ‘jest/są + [adj] + [noun]’ require the instrumental case, which we’ll be covering shortly!
Table image by justinc, hat image by Katherine
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