Polish is a highly inflected language, which means some parts of speech such as nouns, verbs, and adjectives take different forms depending on case, tense, or number. Inflection helps speakers to identify the subject of a sentence and its properties (whether it’s singular or plural, masculine or feminine).
Consequently, word order plays a less important role in Polish than it does in English because all the spelling changes and endings convey meanings explicitly. How does it apply to questions? In English, interrogatives are typically formed by means of auxiliary verbs (e.g. do, does, did) or inversion — the change in word order (e.g. She is a teacher. Is she a teacher?).
In Polish, on the other hand, the majority of questions have the same or almost the same structure as affirmatives and their main distinguishing feature is generally intonation, Czy (a grammatical particle), or a question word like Kto, Gdzie, Kiedy, etc. Also, the declension of some interrogative pronouns is rather complex and frequent reference to relevant grammar charts may be required, at least at a beginner’s level.
In other words, the key to questions in Polish lies in the correct usage of inflection, especially with verbs and pronouns.
Polish affirmatives and interrogatives often look exactly the same. In writing, they are differentiated by means of proper punctuation (a full stop and a question mark respectively). In speaking, the change of intonation is required.
Marek mówi po angielsku. (Affirmative)
Mark speaks English.
Marek mówi po angielsku? (Question)
Does Mark speak English?
Możesz iść na imprezę. (Affirmative)
You can go to the party.
Możesz iść na imprezę? (Question)
Can you go to the party?
Mieszkają w Anglii. (Affirmative)
They live in England.
Mieszkają w Anglii? (Question)
Do they live in England?
Pracujemy do późna. (Affirmative)
We’re working late tonight.
Pracujemy do późna? (Question)
Are we working late tonight?
Yes-no questions sometimes begin with “Czy”. This particle indicates that a sentence has an interrogative function. Whether Czy should be used or omitted depends on context, intentions of a speaker, and accent. Questions without Czy often sound more natural. Here are some examples:
Darek ją kocha. (Affirmative)
Darek loves her.
Darek ją kocha? or Czy Darek ją kocha? (Question)
Does Darek love her?
Lubisz zimę. (Affirmative)
You like winter.
Lubisz zimę? or Czy lubisz zimę? (Question)
Do you like winter?
Jedziemy do domu. (Affirmative)
We’re going home.
Jedziemy do domu? or Czy jedziemy do domu? (Question)
Are we going home?
Oni piją kawę.
They drink coffee.
Oni piją kawę? or Czy oni piją kawę?
Do they drink coffee?
I will continu the subject in the next post:)
Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)