Cases in Polish: Genitive Posted by Anna on Jun 27, 2008 in Grammar
It’s time for some grammar now, don’t you agree? And since we’ve already started with nouns and declensions a couple of weeks ago, I think we should continue.
The case we’re going to discuss today is my least favorite. Why? Because on the surface, it seems deceptively easy. Almost too easy, in fact. Yet when you start looking at it up close, it’s anything but. Of course, in everyday speech we don’t stop to think, “oh gee, there’s a genitive in this sentence”. We just say what we need to say without paying much (or any) attention to the grammatical bits and pieces.
And yes, it’s time for the GENITIVE case today.
dopełniacz = genitive
You all know what the genitive case does in English. It shows that one noun is the possessor of another noun. And it also indicates various relationships other than who owns whom or what. In English, in it most basic form it’s done by the handy construction of “apostrophe plus s”. Like this one:
Actually, as several generations of Polish children know, it’s not Agata, but Ala, who has a cat. So let’s keep the tradition alive and add Ala to our examples:
That’s in English, stick an apostrophe and an “s” and your work is done. In Polish it’s not quite as simple, because to decline a noun you need to change its ending. In this example, our nouns are two lovely ladies named Agata and Ala.
So this is how it would look it Polish:
kot = cat
And see what happened to the name “Agata“? It changed to “Agaty”. That “-y” ending signifies the fact that the cat belongs to Agata, and that Agata is in genitive.
The name “Ala” changed to its genitive form “Ali”.
How the ending changes depends on the gender of the noun in question (in our example, both ladies were feminine, naturally) and number.
Here’s a handy cheat-sheet.
- Feminine singular nouns take the ending –y or –i.
- Masculine singular nouns take the ending –u or –a. And very rarely, if a noun in the nominative case ends with an “a”, then in the genitive, it will get –y.
- Neuter singular nouns take the ending –a.
For now, why don’t we just stick to singular nouns? We still have a couple of things to discuss about this Polish dopełniacz. And for that we need to torture this poor cat and our ladies, Ala and Agata, again.
Now the cat has escaped and while it’s still missing, we can say that:
The girls don’t have a cat.
Now notice what happens to the cat in Polish:
Dziewczyny nie mają kota.
dziewczyny (plural noun, feminine, nominative case, sentence subject) = girls
nie = indicates negation, no, don’t and so on…
mają (3 person plural present tense form of the verb “mieć”) = have
But the word “kot” (singular noun, masculine, object) acquired a new ending –a.
Yep, you guessed correctly, the object of the sentence – our Polish cat is in genitive. Which means that genitive is also used when a verb affecting the object expresses negation.
There’s more to dopełniacz – altogether it has FIVE different functions in Polish, but I think we’ll stop here for today.
To be continued…