Polish Language Blog

More Perfective and Imperfective Goodness Posted by on Jan 13, 2009 in Grammar

Pinolona gave us a list of several verbs that cause her a lot of grief. And I would assume, not only her. They cause me a lot of grief, too.

Up until very recently, I never really paid much attention to Polish verbs. I mean, what was there to pay attention to? You stick a verb in a sentence and hope to make yourself understood, right? All this stuff about perfective and imperfective, aspects, tenses is just a vague cloud in the back of your mind. Or at least, in the back of my mind.

But in all seriousness, this stuff is important if you want to learn a new language. And even if you think you know the language already (like me), you still may not know the inner workings of grammar. Because speaking a language and actually explaining its grammatical rules are two different things.

A few posts back when I talked about imperfective and perfective verbs, Michael suggested that it was much easier and less messy in the long run if you’d learn to think about perfective and imperfective forms of the same verb as two distinct verbs instead of bundling them up in pairs. And he was right. Pairing verbs up can only get you so far. But sooner or later you will run into a bunch of examples where it’s best to keep the aspects apart. And Pinolona provided just the examples we need.

Well, let’s read her comment and then see what we can do about it, OK?

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??)?

OK, let’s take it from the top. First on the list is our old pal “stawać się.” According to what I know, and I hope what I know is correct, this is an imperfective verb. Why? It occurs in the present tense, as in our favorite example: Staję się coraz głupsza.

What is the perfective equivalent?

  • Stać się, if you are talking about “to become” (stawać with się) and
  • stanąć if you are talking about stawać without się – meaning “to stand up.”

starać się means – to try, to endeavor, to seek, to strive, to do one’s best.
Starać się is also an imperfective verb. You can say – Staram się. – I’m doing my best, I’m trying.

  • Its perfective form is – postarać się.

See, many Polish verbs become perfective through the use of prefixes. “Postarać się” is one of them.

OK, next on the list is “zostać.” That’s a perfective verb. It means – to remain, to stay, to be left over.

  • Its imperfective form is “zostawać.”

For example:
Zostaję tutaj – I’m staying (remaining, not leaving) here.

It can also mean “to become.”
For example: Kiedy skończę szkołę, zostanę nauczycielką. – When I finish school, I’ll become a teacher. (Yeah! In your dreams maybe! Ha!)

And finally, stawiać. It also has several meanings, and some depend on that pesky little “się.”

  • stawiać – to put, to place something somewhere
  • stawiać czoło komuś/czemuś – to defy someone /sth, to face and deal with a person/ problem
  • stawiać na swoim – to have /get your (one’s) way

and many other expressions, I think I will list them in a separate post.

  • stawiać się – to put one’s foot down (as in disagree with someone), or – to appear, to show up (in court for example)

Stawiać is an imperfective verb. You can say:
Zawsze stawiam na swoim. – I always get my way (get what I want).

  • Its perfective form is “postawić.”

And the best for last:
zostawiać – to leave behind, to abandon, to let it be
Zostawiać is imperfective, you can use it in present tense, for example:
Zostawiam to dla ciebie – I’m leaving this for you.

  • Zostawić is its perfective equivalent.

OK, Pino, have I missed anything? 🙂

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  1. pinolona:

    Thank you! That’s great! Although now my head hurts. I think that’s everything, but if I think of any more…

  2. Basia Lomnicka:

    Pinolona’s head is hurting, me, I feel a little nauseous. Noun declensions seem downright simple by comparison.

    Hope you are kicking back and enjoying a lovely “umbrella” drink near the water’s edge.

  3. Anna:

    Hi Pino!
    Glad I could help. If you have anything else, bring it on! Grammar is always oh-so-fun, isn’t it? 😉

    Hi Basia,
    Oh yes! Thank you for reminding me – it’s time for us to continue with the declensions here, too. I totally forgot! And you’re right, after all this hardcore verb stuff, nouns will be easy peasy.