Telling the Time

Clock

Once you’ve committed Polish numbers to memory, telling the time in Polish isn’t too challenging – just a few rules and a few endings to learn.

 

Ordinal Numbers

 
The first thing to know is that the ordinal (first, second, third) form of numbers is used to tell the time, rather than the cardinal (one, two, three).

Since ordinal numbers function like adjectives, they have the three adjective endings that you’d expect in the nominative case (-y, -a, and -e for masculine, feminine and neuter respectively).

Hence the word for first, pierwsy, can also be pierwsza and pierwsze. Here though, we’re talking about the first hour, and since the word for hour, godzina, is feminine, the feminine form of the adjective is used to give pierwsza godzina.

Unfortunately, in order to tell the time properly you need to go one step further and remember the genitive/locative forms of these ordinal numbers, but it’s very simple to form these, as you’ll see from the table below.

This is all the building blocks you need to tell the time. Below the table, you’ll see how they’re used.
 

ACardinal [nom/acc' f] BOrdinal [nom f] COrdinal [gen/loc f]
1 jeden pierwsza pierwszej
2 dwa druga drugiej
3 trzy trzecia trzeciej
4 cztery czwarta czwartej
5 pięć piąta piątej
6 sześć szósta szóstej
7 siedem siódma siódmej
8 osiem ósma ósmej
9 dziewięć dziewiąta dziewiątej
10 dziesięć dziesiąta dziesiątej
11 jedenaście jedenasta jedenastej
12 dwanaście dwunasta dwunastej
13 trzynaście trzynasta trzynastej
14 czternaście czternasta czternastej
15 piętnaście piętnasta piętnastej
16 szesnaście szesnasta szesnastej
17 siedemnaście siedemnasta siedemnastej
18 osiemnaście osiemnasta osiemnastej
19 dziewiętnaście dziewiętnasta dziewiętnastej
20 dwadzieścia dwudziesta dwudziestej
21 dwadzieścia jeden dwudziesta pierwsza dwudziestej pierwszej
22 dwadzieścia dwa dwudziesta druga dwudziestej drugiej
23 dwadzieścia trzy dwudziesta trzecia dwudziestej trzeciej
24 dwadzieścia cztery dwudziesta czwarta dwudziestej czwartej

 
‘NB: nom & acc feminine cardinal numbers are the same for number 3 and above only
 

Która godzina? / o której godzinie?

 
Below are the basic formulae to answer the above questions (what’s the time? / at what time?). The letters refer to the columns above, and you’ll notice that our “half past” is expressed in Polish as “half to”!

example
it's x o'clock Jest godzina B it's 8 o'clock jest godzina ósma
at x o'clock o C at 1 o'clock (pm) o trzynastej
it's xx:xx jest BA it's 22:12 jest dwudziesta druga dwanaście
at xx:xx o CA at 08:09 o ósmej dziewięć
it's 'half to' x jest wpół do C it's half past ten jest wpół do jedenastej
at 'half to' x o wpół do C at half past eleven o wpół do dwunastej
x to x za AB twenty to nine za dwadzieścia dziewiąta
x past x A po C twenty past nine dwadzieścia po dziewiątej

 
 
The last two examples could be preceded by jest (it’s) but not by o (at).

Instead of saying za piętnaście or piętnaście po for quarter to and quarter past respectively, you could also say za kwadrans or kwadrans po.
 
 

Formal vs Informal


The standard way of telling the time and the one used in a formal situation is with the 24-hour clock.

For example, at 3.15pm is expressed as ‘at fifteenth fifteen’, or o piętnastej piętnaście, and at 7pm is o dziewiętnastej.

Informally, the 12-hour clock is used and the time can be clarified using in the morning (rano), in the afternoon (po południu), in the evening (wieczorem) or at night (w nocy).

For example, at 8pm could be expressed as o ósmej wieczorem.
 
 

Quiz

 


 

 


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Verbs of Motion

There are four important verbs of motion in Polish – iść, chodzić, jechać and jeździć. This might seem complicated, since in English you can pretty much get away with using the verb ‘to go’ in place of all of them, but each of the verbs has its own special use, and once you can remember which is which, they aren’t so problematic.
 

Mode of Travel

Two of these verbs (iść and chodzić) are used to talk about going somewhere on foot
 
The other two (jechać and jeździć) are used to talk about going somewhere by vehicle
 

Frequency

The verbs iść and jechać are used to talk about something done once or that you’re doing now (the determinate verbs).
 
These determinate verbs can also be used to talk about things happening in the near future.
 
The verbs chodzić and jeździć are used to talk about something you do regularly or habitually (the indeterminate verbs).
 
Adverbs of frequency that can be used with these indeterminate verbs include rzadko (rarely), od czasu do czasu (from time to time), czasem (sometimes), często (often) and zawsze (always).
 

Summary

I’ve put together this table to help make sense of these verbs in the present tense:
 
Verbs of Motion
 
Note that the preposition do (to) is followed by a noun in the genitive case. It’s used for travel to cities, most countries and inside most buildings.

Gdzie jedziesz? Jadę do Krakowa Where are you going? I'm going to Kraków (by vehicle)
Gdzie idziesz? Idę do sklepu Where are you going? I'm going to the shop (on foot)
Często chodzimy do kina We often go to the cinema
Czasem chodzimy do klubu We sometimes go to the club

But for certain places, other prepositions are used, such as w + accusative plural (for mountains) or nad + instrumental (for a body of water), or na + accusative (for events and certain other places):
 
Idę… w góry to the mountains
w Alpy to the Alps
na siłownię to the gym
na koncert to a concert
nad morzem to the seaside
nad jezioro to the lake

 

Specifying the Vehicle Used

The instrumental case can be used to add more detail about exactly how you’re travelling:

samochód car jedziemy do Krakowa samochodem we're going to Kraków by car
pociąg train jadą do Paryża pociągiem they're going to Paris by train
tramwaj tram on czasem jeździ do szkoły tramwajem he sometimes goes to school by tram
autobus bus często jeżdżę do Londynu autobusem I often go to London by bus
taksówka taxi jadę do domu taksówką I'm going home by taxi
rower bicycle jeżdżę do pracy rowerem I go to work by bicycle
metro metro/subway rzadko jeżdżą do supermarketu metrem they rarely go to the supermarket by metro/subway

 

Test

Try filling in the gaps!

 


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