Polish grammar

Polish cases.

There are seven cases in Polish (more detailed description is below):

nominative – who? what? (Who did it ? Robert did it - case of the subject : Robert (nom.) to zrobił)

genitive – whose ? (similar, but much more common than the Saxon genitive) Robert's house - dom Roberta

dative – to whom ? indirect object case : I give it to Robert - daję to Robertowi

accusative – whom ? what? (do I see: I see a woman - widzę kobietę - case of the direct object)

instrumental – it corresponds to the English structure “with” + noun:

piszę piórem – I write with a fountain pen; but the instrumental is also a case of the substantive predicative: on jest lekarzem – he is a doctor (substantive predicative is the noun after the verb być - be and some other verbs)

locative – occurs after many prepositions

vocative – rarely used today, vocative expresses an exclamation

Three things are important in deciding what case to use:

- Function of the noun in the sentence (subject is in nominative, direct object in accusative, indirect object in dative)
- After prepositions: the preposition decides, for example after "do" it's always genitive, after "przez" it's accusative
- Verb government : sometimes it's the verb which decides, for example : pomagać (help) demands dative. Substantive predicate can be called a case of verb government.

The cases are a problem specific for Polish, though they existed also in English, and there are their remnants in the language: one is Saxon Genitive, one is the form „me, us, him, her, whom”, different from „I, we, he, she, who”. They exist also in German, for example, and in Romance languages their rests – like in English – are preserved in forms of pronouns.

Functions of the cases :

1. Nominative is the case of the subject.
The cat likes the dog. Kot (subject) lubi psa (direct object).
I love him. Ja (subject) kocham go (direct object).
Both „kot” and „ja” are in nominative, because they are the subject of the sentence.

2. Accusative is the case of the direct object. In the sentences above, „psa” and „go” are in the accusative. The forms „me, us, him, her, whom” in English are put where Polish puts the accusative.

3. Genitive is the case of belonging, similar to the Saxon genitive or to the construction with „of”.
Dom chłopca – the boy's house.
Początek rozdziału – the beginning of the chapter.
In Polish, its use is wider, though :
A. When in the sentence there is a negation, the direct object is in the genitive :
Widzę dziewczynę (accusative) – I see a girl.
Nie widzę dziewczyny (genitive) – I don't see a girl.
B. The genitive is also placed after many prepositions. Some verbs also govern the genitive.
It's necessary to learn what case is after what preposition. 1-prepositions.htm

4. Dative is the case of the indirect object.
Daję mu książkę – I give him a book / I give a book to him.
Here „mu” is in the dative. In English, the dative is often translated by the preposition „to”.

5. Instrumental is the case of the tool and of the predicate, like mentioned above.

6. Locative is the case used only after some prepositions, for example after „w” (in):
in Cracow – w Krakowie

7. Vocative – the case of exclamations – can be used when we address somebody. But it can be substituted by the nominative in most situations. The two vocative forms are used very often : panie is vocative from "pan" and Boże from "Bóg".

Endings of cases - short description.

Rules of formation of cases (very shortened). There is much more information on the pages given in the table of contents below (Case endings, Case endings - feminines and so on).

In many masculine nouns ending in a consonant (and some feminine nouns in a consonant) there is change of vowel when the genitive is made (e or ie is removed, ó > o, ą > ę). In nouns ending in a vowel : last -a, -e, -o is removed before endings. These changes must be remembered.
Some nouns in -a, -e and all nouns in -i, -y decline as adjective - their declension is not described below, but in the chapter about adjectives.
Genitive ending is : -a in masculine names of persons and animals, -a or -u in masculine names of things, -a in neuter nouns, -i or -y in feminines (the choice depends on the last consonant, -i is after soft consonants and l).
Dative ending is : -owi in masculines (rarely -u), -u in neuter nouns, same as in genitive in feminines.
Accusative: same as genitive in masculine names of persons and animals, same as nominative in masculine names of things, in feminine nouns in consonant and in neuter nouns, -ę in feminines in -a and -i, -ą in pani.
Instrumental: -em in masculine and neuter nouns, -ą in feminines.
Locative: -u or -e (e with consonant change) in masculine (depending on the last consonant), -u in neuter nouns in -e, -ko, -go, -ę, -e , -e with cons. change in other neuter nouns in -o. Feminines: -e or -i in nouns in -a (depending on the last consonant), -i in feminines in consonant and -i.
Vocative: mostly identical with locative in masculines, identical with nominative in neuter nouns, -o in feminines in -a, -i or -y in other feminines.
Nominative plural : -a in neuter nouns, -i, -y or -e in feminines, very complicated in masculines (endings -i, -y, -e, -owie).
Genitive plural : -ów (seldom -i, -y) in masculines, removing the last vowel (seldom -i, -y) in feminine and neuter nouns.
Dative plural -om, Instrumental plural -ami, Locative plural -ach.
Accusative plural: same as genitive plural in masculine names of persons, same as nominative plural in all other nouns.

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