Polish Language Blog

Co się tutaj stało? – What happened here? Posted by on Jan 10, 2009 in Vocabulary

In the comments to the previous post, Yellerbelly made a very valid point regarding “co się stało?

He said that he thought it meant “what’s wrong?”

I think it’s a reflection of our collective Polish psyche that something so innocent as “what happened” can imply “what’s wrong?” in our language. Just goes to show you that we, as Poles, always expect the worst.

Let’s take a closer look at “co się stało?

  • co – what
  • się stało = stało się – happened, 3rd person singular, neuter, past tense

Now imagine this:
Your teenage daughter calls you and with a serious dose of panic in her voice says, “Dad, please don’t be mad…”
Your immediate reaction is “co się stało?” which here can be translated as “what’s wrong?”
“I totaled the car,” your daughter answers.

And this:
Your teenage daughter calls you and says, “Dad, ohmygod, you’re not gonna believe this!”
You ask “co się stało?” and here it simply means “what happened?”
“I got accepted to Stanford!” your daughter squeaks happily while you’re frantically trying to calculate in your head how on earth you’re going to pay for it.

Stawać się,” as this verb looks in its basic dictionary form, also means “to become.”

For example, when in one of my moments I misspelled the name of the street I live on, and then can’t figure out why the mail is not getting to me, I can say “ostatnio staję się coraz głupsza i głupsza.” – I’m becoming stupider and stupider lately. Duh!

So, when you see this verb used in any other form than 3rd person singular, neuter, past tense, it will most likely mean “to become.”

In that 3rd person singular, neuter, past tense – “stało się” – it will most likely mean “to happen.”

And while we’re on the topic of “stało się,” here’s a handy Polish saying:

  • Co się stało, to się nie odstanie.

Literally, it means something like “what happened/what’s done, can’t be undone.”

So, when your daughter totaled your car and is crying over the phone, after asking her if she’s OK, you think to yourself “co się stało to się nie odstanie, but next time she’s definitely NOT borrowing MY car.”

And speaking of, have you noticed what happened here?
Zauważyliście co się tutaj stało?

The blog got a face-lift. Do you like the new design? I love it!

And now we’re also on Twitter!
Polish Blog on Twitter

So between blog posts here, you’ll be able to find me there, twitting away.

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  1. pinolona:

    I get mixed up with stawać się, starać się, zostać, zostawać, stawiać. I often confuse ‘to leave’ (as in to leave something behind) and ‘to become’ So stawać się is to become and zostawiać is to leave or drop? What’s the difference between zostać and zostawić and what are their imperfective equivalents (are they perfective??)?
    Ostatnio staję się coraz głupsza…