Cardinal Numbers Posted by Anna on Mar 4, 2009 in Grammar, Vocabulary
The post where I attempted to count priests (is it “dwaj księża” or “dwóch księży”?) made me realize that we’ve never talked about numbers before. Hmmm… I wonder why I’ve been avoiding this particular topic. Really, no reason at all.
Ok, in that case, let’s get started.
I’m sure that most, if not all of you, know the simple jeden, dwa, trzy, cztery, etc already.
The good news that these simple, straightforward numbers are super easy. The bad news is that these simple, straightforward numbers are only used in algebra and accounting.
In normal conversations these simple, straightforward numbers morph into more complicated forms.
But first things first. What you need to remember is that numbers in Polish must agree in gender and case with the nouns that follow them. Yeah, yeah, they decline. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
So, let’s get some examples:
masculine personal noun:
- mężczyzna – a man
- jeden mężczyzna – one man
- dwaj mężczyźni – two men
- trzej mężczyźni – three men
- czterej mężczyźni – four men
- pięciu mężczyzn – five men
See what happened with the noun here? Instead staying in Nominative, the case changed to… yeah, changed to what? It may look like it’s Genitive, but on closer inspection it seems to be Accusative. And to confuse the matters even further, regardless of what it seems, it’s used just like your regular, standard issue Nominative.
masculine non-personal noun:
- pies – a dog
- jeden pies– one dog
- dwa psy – two dogs
- trzy psy– three dogs
- cztery psy – four dogs
- pięć psów – five dogs
Same thing here. You hit five and stuff happens.
Let’s see how it looks with a feminine noun:
- kobieta – a woman
- jedna kobieta – one woman
- dwie kobiety – two women
- trzy kobiety – three women
- cztery kobiety – four women
- pięć kobiet – five women
Woohoo! Here we go again. It’s the number five curse.
And one more left-
- jajko – an egg
- jedno jajko – one egg
- dwa jajka – two eggs
- trzy jajka – three eggs
- cztery jajka – four eggs
- pięć jajek – five eggs
However, that’s not exactly totally true when it comes to neuter nouns. Dziecko (a child) is also a neuter noun. But strange things happen to it when you try to count those kids:
- jedno dziecko – one child
- dwoje dzieci – two children
- troje dzieci – three children
- czworo dzieci – four children
- pięcioro dzieci – five children
See? Those pesky children – dzieci – stay the same no matter the number.
And what happens when you get to numbers above five? They still follow the same Accusative-like pattern.
And some important grammatical terms:
- liczebnik (masc., pl. liczebniki) – numeral (number)
- liczebnik główny – cardinal number
- liczebnik porządkowy – ordinal number
This post should keep you busy counting various things at least until next week.
I am moving and will be bez internetu (without internet) until March 11th.
I will try to keep an eye on you and respond to comments from a cybercafe, or somesuch. (That is, if I manage to dig myself out from under all these boxes first!)
In the meantime, take care and do zobaczenia wkrótce (see you soon)!
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