Polish Language Blog

Advanced Grammar – Participles – imiesłowy Posted by on Apr 25, 2010 in Grammar

Today Adam and Anna jointly attempt to tackle Polish participles. Hang on, it will be a crazy ride!

This blog has, for some time, concentrated on cultural issues. Therefore I thought it would be a good idea to focus on grammar for a change. Today we will look into the mystical entity called imiesłów – participle. If you asked me whether you absolutely needed to know this, I would say no. Moreover, I absolutely do not expect you to understand the concept of imiesłów just by reading this post. What I want to do, is to show you that there is a whole world of Polish grammar out there 🙂

It’s an exciting challenge to get there and get it. Some things I don’t think are even possible to be explained in English, as examples don’t really translate.

imiesłów (masc.; pl. imiesłowy) – participle – is a part of speech. Imiesłów is a form of a verb, that possesses qualities of an adjective OR an adverb.
Its counterpart in English is a participle, but unfortunately, participles in English don’t look anything special at all. Usually they look like pretty innocent verbs. And there are just two types of participles in English:
– present participle (ends with -ing, like talking)
– past participle (ends with -ed, like talked, with many irregulars, like done)

Of course things are much different in Polish, where verbs inflect like crazy. Imiesłowy have distinctive forms and further complications arise when we try to negate them.

There are several types of them, but in general, they can be divided into two major groups:
1. adjectival
2. adverbial

In both of those groups, there are several sub-groups. Because it simply wouldn’t be Polish, if things didn’t get all complicated.

But first things first.

Adjectival participles are declined just like adjectives, and must agree with a noun they modify in gender, number and case. Are you still with me?
Fortunately, adverbial participles are a little bit easier, because they don’t decline. Instead they kind of act like uninflected verbs.
And fortunately, both kinds of participles are mainly used in formal writing, or formal speech. In everyday, casual speech, you can get away with using normal conjugated verb forms instead.

But, let’s get back to our participles. The story doesn’t end with “adjectival” and “adverbial”. Oh no! Nothing is ever so simple in Polish.

We can further divide them according to aspect – imperfective and perfective, and action – active or passive.
And then there are such gems as “verbal adjectives of changed state” and “verbal adjectives of ability”.

In our next installment we will look at some very exciting (not!!!) examples.

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  1. Gabriel:

    Weeell, I love the posts where you focus on cultural aspects. Immersing the reader into polish culture is a wonderful way to teach Milosz’s language!

    And yes…. adjectival participles are easy, thank God. The other participles, on the other hand…