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Polish Present Tense Posted by on Apr 21, 2009 in Grammar, Polish Language

Of course, since last time I bravely announced that the next post would be about grammar, I put on my procrastinator’s hat and have been doing everything possible to put it off for as long as possible. But then today my friend said “you’re stupid, the sooner you explain this grammar stuff, the sooner you can devote your time to more interesting things – like visiting me, for example.” And then she went on and actually did the grammar explaining as well:

“It’s really simple, OK? In English they have this whole bunch of useless tenses, the one with ‘do you blah blah’ and the one with ‘ing something something’ and then the one with ‘been ing whatever, anyway you know it and besides who cares? All your people really need to know that in Polish all this nonsense turns into one normal present tense, just how gods intended it to be in the first place. End of grammar lesson, now, when do you come visit me? I kup jakieś ciasto po drodze, OK? (and buy some cake on your way)”

(Now, if all Polish teachers could be like that! Wow!)

Unfortunately, I’m sure that now “my people” are staring at their computer screens and thinking “come again? ing blah something whatever? huh?”

So, let’s go over it again. And this time let’s use a handy example. How about the one from the previous post, the one about “Ja uczę się polskiego”?

In English you can say the following things:

  • I study Polish.
  • I’m studying Polish.

and

  • I’ve been studying Polish.

And yes, “uczyć się” can be translated into English as both “to learn” and “to study” and don’t listen to Poles telling you otherwise.
In Polish the verb “studiować” (to study) is used almost exclusively when referring to higher education, as in “I studied psychology at Harvard.” – Studiowałam psychologię na Harvardzie. (no, not really, I’m not that ambitious.)


But a sentence such as: “I’ve been studying Polish for two years” can be translated into Polish as “Uczę się (języka) polskiego od dwóch lat.” So for today, we’ll stick with “to study – uczyć się”, OK?

And see what happened above?

The “been ing whatever” (I’ve been studying Polish by myself) became simply “Uczę się polskiego od dwóch lat” in Polish.

By the way, here’s a little something worth remembering. In English we say “for two years” while the Polish equivalent is “od dwóch lat”, which when translated back to English means “since two years.” Which explains why plenty of Poles say it like that when speaking English.

And how about “I study Polish when I have time.”?
Uczę się polskiego kiedy mam czas.

See, again just a regular present tense in Polish. Nothing fancy.

So how about “I’m studying Polish, be quiet.”?
Uczę się polskiego, bądź cicho.


And again the “ing something something” became the same old boring present tense in Polish.

And voila! My friend was absolutely correct. And it only took her 15 seconds to explain this issue. Man, I have a lot to learn… Now, what kind of cake should I buy? I’m thinking “drożdżowka” (yeast cake).

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Comments:

  1. Jim Morrison:

    Hi,
    nice blog. by the way, you could show your lessons (with audio) using the embeddable ‘MLN Player’ (it is FREE).
    have a look at this Polish lesson:

    http://www.mylanguagenotebook.com/MLNProjects/project83.aspx

    Just double click on a sentence to hear it.

    You can easily make Polish notes/lessons and embed them in your blog or link to them.
    Anyway, all the best.
    Jim Morrison