Polish Language Blog

Polish Verbs of Motion, Part 2 Posted by on Oct 19, 2008 in Grammar

Today’s post is inspired by Pinolona’s comment and her plea for help. Help with what? Polish verbs, of course.

She pointed out that both “iść” and “chodzić” are imperfective verbs, but since I suspect that to most people the word “imperfective” means about as much as “lähteitä tai viitteitä” to me (hint – not much at all), some basic explanations are in order.

Unfortunately, the only things I could find on the subject were written by professional linguists, and as it often happens when you have “professionals” writing about something, their explanations tend to be more or less incomprehensible to anyone who is not a “professional” in the field, as well.

So, what is this “imperfective” business about, huh? In fancy words, they call it “grammatical aspect.” There are two of them in Polish. One is imperfective, and the other – perfective. The difference?

The perfective aspect describes the action as finished, completed, pretty much over and done with. The imperfective, on the other hand, implies that the action is either pending or still going on. That’s it in a nutshell. And that’s the easy part. The hard part is that almost all Polish verbs come in pairs. Yep, you guessed it, perfective and imperfective together. The general meaning of both verbs in such a pair, when translated into English, would be the same – for example, both “iść” and “pójść” mean “to go.” But “iść” is imperfective and “pójść” is perfective.

And this is where things get really funky.
Perfective verbs don’t exist in the present tense, simply because an action which is happening right now can’t be ended, so it cannot be perfective. So, a perfective verb, such as “pójść,” has a basic infinitive form, it has all its future and past tense forms, but no present tense.

Ok, enough of this boring grammar stuff. Let’s take a look at Pinolona’s questions:

  • 1. Could I say ‘pójdę na randkę‘ and would this mean that I am going on one date at a fixed time in the future e.g. tomorrow night?

The answer is “yes” – you committed to a date and you are going, whether you like the guy or not.

  • 2. Can I use pójść if I’m just stepping out of the door or would that be iść?

That would be “iść” – I’m stepping out the door, leaving, going on a date – “Idę na randkę.” Bye mom, see you tomorrow.

  • 3. If I went on a date yesterday would I say ‘szłam na randkę‘ or ‘poszłam‘??

Oooohhh! Here it gets a bit complicated. Let’s say, yesterday you were going a date, and while you were out and going, you ran into your best friend Agnieszka and her new boyfriend along the way. Then you’d say – “Kiedy szłam wczoraj na randkę, spotkałam Agnieszkę i jej nowego faceta.

And when would you use “poszłam” (which is a first person singular, feminine, past tense form)?
Ok, so this guy, Maciek, kept asking you out over and over again and to finally shut him up, you went on a date with him. And it’s over and you’re back and it’s not even morning yet. “Poszłam na randkę z Maćkiem.” – I went on a date with Maciek.

  • 4. I was walking along the street and I noticed a particular shop I’d been looking for. I tried to tell my flatmate ‘I was walking’ and I said ‘chodziłam‘, but she said I could just say ‘szłam‘, and that means ‘I was walking’ – at a particular time but continuously. Have I understood correctly?

Bingo! You got it, lady! 🙂

Here are the forms of “pójść” :
Future tense: audio

  • ja – pójdę
  • ty – pójdziesz
  • on/ona/ono – pójdzie
  • my – pójdziemy
  • wy – pójdziecie
  • oni – pójdą

Past tense: audio

  • ja (feminine / masculine) – poszłam / poszedłem (“poszłem” is not grammatically correct, but is used in everyday conversations)
  • ty (feminine / masculine) – poszłaś / poszedłeś (“poszłeś” is not grammatically correct, but commonly used)
  • on – poszedł
  • ona – poszła
  • ono – poszło
  • my (feminine / masculine) – poszłyśmy / poszliśmy
  • wy (feminine / masculine) – poszłyście / poszliście
  • oni (masculine) – poszli
  • one (feminine) – poszły
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  1. Valter:

    “lähteitä tai viitteitä” ==> “sources or references”

    Got one! 🙂

  2. pinolona:

    Wow thanks Anna! Tons of information! And a lot to think about. Time to hit the books again … *sighs*.

  3. ceci:

    hej anna! polish also??? great! i ll try it!
    kramar, ceci

  4. Anna:

    Hi ceci!
    Oh, no don’t try it! It’s hard and complicated, as Pinolona can tell you. Stick with Swedish, svenska is a VERY easy language.

    Hi P!
    Glad I could help! Anything else you want me to clarify? (Or at least attempt to clarify? LOL!)

    I KNEW someone would know it! I always say that to me Finnish is like Klingon spoken backwards!

  5. lycia:


    Just want to say that your blog is fantastic!!!

    I am an American citizen, I live in Italy, I speak Polish, a bit, but I cannot read or write in Polish, so I have been enjoying your lessons, very much.
    Where do you live?

    Take care,


  6. Anna:

    Hi Lycia!
    And thanks for visiting! Italy, you say? Is it warm where you’re at? I’m thinking of a weekend getaway from this frozen tundra where I live (northern Sweden) right now… And Poland, even though it’s “down south” from me, just doesn’t quite cut it 😉

  7. lycia:

    Hello Anna,

    I live in the northen part of Italy. The weather overhere has been really bad. My husband and I went to Barcelona- Spain, and came back today. The weather there was gorgeous. We have enjoyed ourselves quite a bit. Barcelona is so beautiful! Today we went for a walk by the sea. No coats, no sweaters. Just great. The south of Italy is nice, but Barcelona was much nicer.


  8. Anna:

    Barcelona it is then! Luckily, Ryanair flies there, which in this economy is very important. LOL! 🙂

  9. lycia:


    We flew with Ryanair, paid 1 cent, plus 20.00 euro taxes round trip. We stayed at the Astoria Hotel. Paid 88.00 euro per night with breakfast. the Hotel was fantastic. Do not go to the hotels at the Ramblas. They cost the same and they stink LOL !
    Have fun,

  10. Anna:

    Lycia! Thank you so much!!! I’m hoping to go at the end of November, or whenever I can get a good deal. 🙂

  11. Ronald Small:

    There is a book that you just bought. I am interested in buying it. Right now I still like very much Wsrod Polakow. The questions and answers make you feel like you get from the books more understandanding then just reading the explanations. Unfortunately these books are going out of print. I would like to hear other peoples reviews of Wsrod Polakow I and Wsrod Polak II.
    Anyhow Please Review the Book You Just Bought.

  12. Glossia:


    This is awesome. I was about to quit studying Polish because I couldn’t find a simple explanation for this and I was so frustrated… then I found your blog and I’m starting to get it. I have a degree in Applied Linguistics, I speak 5 other languages and still this was hard to understand but you just made it easy! Dziekuje bardzo!