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Polish Adjectives, part 1 Posted by on Jul 17, 2008 in Grammar

In my last article, while talking about “grand beaver dwelling places” (oh yes, we talk about some strange things here) I briefly touched on the subject of adjectives. So I suppose it’s only fitting to finally give those adjectives a post of their own.

Polish adjectives get a bad rap among foreign speakers, but totally undeservedly so. Compared to other parts of speech, adjectives in Polish are practically a cake-walk. It’s true that they are marked for number and gender, but so are adjectives of many other languages. And just like in other languages, some adjectives can be used as nouns. And just like in other languages, they also have comparative and superlative forms. So far, so good, nothing unusual here.

But what’s different in Polish is that our adjectives decline. Oh yes, they do. Luckily, they decline in a more or less regular manner.

But before we get to declensions, let’s first see how these adjectives change according to gender and number.

And let’s start with an easy example – głodny (hungry)

The form you see listed in a dictionary is normally a singular, masculine adjective in its nominative case, such as:

  • głodny (adj. singular, masculine) = hungry

Now let’s add a person-masculine noun to it:

  • głodny turysta = a hungry tourist (just like you after a whole day of sightseeing in Kraków)

Even though “turysta” ends with an “a”, it is indeed a masculine noun.

When it comes to adjectives, it is important to make a distinction between person-masculine nouns and other masculine nouns. While it make no difference in singular forms, you’ll see it does change how the adjective behaves in plural versions.

And as a non-person masculine noun, we can use the poor beaver from our last post:

We can stay in the animal kingdom for a feminine noun, what do you think?

  • głodna koza = a hungry goat (yes, a goat is feminine in Polish)

And finally, for a neuter noun:

See, it’s not all that complicated. In singular forms, the adjective endings are as follow:

  • masculine: -y or –i
  • feminine: -a or –ia
  • and neuter: -e or –ie

Things are much, much simpler when it comes to plural forms.
There are only two genders are far as adjectives are concerned: person-masculine and all others. Take a look:

and:

So, the adjective endings in plural are:

  • person-masculine: -i or –y
  • all other genders: -e or –ie

And remember, all the endings above are for the nominative case only!

It’s true that in some cases consonants in the adjective stem change a bit when making a person-masculine plural form, but let’s leave that issue for another post.

And finally, the most important word in today’s article:

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Comments:

  1. Grazyna:

    First-class post, Anna, as usual! 😀 Btw. how do you know the beaver in the photo is hungry? ;-p

  2. Anna:

    hahaha! It looks famished to me! 😉

  3. Gail Fusco:

    Thank you Anna for your reply. I have been referred back and forth from one archive to another and back again. In fact, I have written to most twice with the same discouraging reply. I appreciate your time. Gail

  4. Jagoda:

    hahaha, great explanation- one of those that makes you eager to learn even one of the hardest languages in the world…;)) I came across it as I’ve started teaching Polish to my boss and another work colleague… and they are… Maltese!!!:)

  5. Luis:

    thx for yr explanation, I-m learning Polish and this is very useful 4 me

  6. Paloma:

    I read the blog for the first time and it seems wonderfull for me!
    Thank you!

  7. Derek:

    So, the masculine plural form is the opposite to it’s singular form? I mean, masculine singular adjectives end in -y or -i and their plural form end in -i or-y.
    So if głodny changes to głodni will wysoki change to wysoky and for that matter will brzydki change to brzdky.

    I’m not trying to complicate things but this is where I am getting confused, thanks