Polish Language Blog

On Bielsko-Biała and Białystok Posted by on Oct 6, 2009 in Grammar

Polish declensions. We all love them, right? All the funky case endings, exceptions, and then exceptions to exceptions. Life in Polish is never boring.

But just when you think you’ve finally managed to master the genitives, datives and accusatives, and you’re no longer kept awake at night by the adjective+noun combinations, you meet Bielsko-Biała. Or rather, Bielsko Biała. I’m confused, one dictionary I have spells it with a hyphen, the other – without. At least in the nominative case. Because both of them hyphenate it in all the other cases. And what fabulous cases these are!

I’m sure that Bielsko Biała is a great town. But couldn’t the good people of Bielsko Biała agree on a little easier way of declining that name?

You see, even though “bielsko” ends in “o”, it’s followed by “biała”, which is most definitely a feminine adjective. Which results in this:

  • do (to) Bielska-Białej
  • ku (towards) Bielsku-Białej
  • Bielsko-Białą
  • w (in) Bielsku-Białej

And as if that wasn’t enough, there’s also an adjective derived from that proper name: bielsko-bialski, but that one I’m not going to touch with a ten foot Pole (or a Hungarian, for that matter).

OK, so with Bielsko Biała, it’s logical to assume that both parts of this proper noun would decline, because they are two separate words.

But then how do you explain Białystok? Technically, it’s just one word, right? So why does it do this:

  • do (to) Białegostoku
  • ku (towards) Białemustokowi
  • w (in) Białymstoku


Now you can easily guess which two Polish towns I’m definitely not fond of. And we haven’t even covered Bielsk Podlaski yet!

PS. Any funky computer language today?

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  1. sila:

    today it’s ok

  2. Andreas:

    Well, Zakopane (do Zakopanego, w Zakopanem), Oborniki Śląskie (do Obornik Śląskich, w Obornikach Śląskich) and Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski (do Ostrowca Świętokrzyskiego, w Ostrowcu Świętokrzyskim) are a big pain to decline as well 😉

  3. Maria Clara Soares Correia:

    Yessssssssssss! I got it right today! Behave, computers!
    Lovre from

  4. yellerbelly:

    You see the problem with learning Polish is that the more you think you understand, the less you do. I’m undertaking 5 hours worth of lessons a week now (its hell and extremely confusing sometimes) but telling me thinks like this just scares me more!!

    “ku Białemustokowi” is a good one though! 🙂

  5. Gabriel:

    Seriously, I really love polish Polish declensions. And I loved the declensions of Bialystok!

  6. urszula:

    you can say what you want, but I was born in Bialystok and I love it! 🙂 It’s a cool place with really kind and warm people. Very quiet, but welcoming. Plenty of pubs and cafes btw.

  7. Lori:

    Oh dear! I have always been able to buy a train ticket do Siedlce without anyone telling me I had done that wrong.

  8. Mchl:

    Bielsko and Biała used to be two separate cities in the past, that’s why we still decline each part of the name separately. Białystok on the other hands baffles me as well.

  9. Mchl:

    P.S. Bonus points for everyone, who can tell without checking in a dictionary, how to call an inhabitant of Bielsko-Biała.