1. A common sentence type for identifying persons and things consists of the pronoun to, a copula, and a noun, e.g., To jest student (This is a student), To jest ołówek (This is a pencil). The copula is jest (is) with a singular noun; it is sa (are) with a plural noun, e.g., To są drzwi (This is the/a door).

Most nouns in Polish have both singular and plural forms, but some, like drzwi, have only plural forms, even when they refer to a single object. Other plural-only nouns are okulary (glasses), pieniądze (money), and skrzypce (violin).

·  Form identifying sentences using these nouns: 1. krzesło ("ksze-sło") (chair) 2. książka (book) 3. okulary (glasses) 4. miasto (city) 5. nauczyciel ("na-u-czy-el") (teacher) 6. pieniądze ("pie-ńon-dze) 7. samochód ("sa-mo-chut") (automobile) 8. stół (table) 9. skrzypce 10. profesor (professor) 11. pióro (fountain pen) 12. tablica (blackboard)

2. Questions. The question particle czy introduces a yes-or-no question, e.g., Czy to jest tablica? (Is this the board?). It may be answered affirmatively, Tak, to jest tablica (Yes, that is the board), or negatively, Nie, to nie jest tablica (No, that isn't the board). Note that nie corresponds to both no and not. In the affirmative response jest may be omitted: Tak, to tablica. The negative particle nie and the verb are accented as one word, on the next-to-last syllable: nie jest. Here jest is not omitted.

A negative response can be followed with tylko (but rather) introducing the correct identification: To nie jest profesor, tylko student (That isn't a professor; it's a student).

·  For the nouns given so far, form questions on the model Czy to jest pióro? and answer either Tak, to (jest) pióro or Nie, to nie jest pióro, tylko długopis. (No, that isn't a fountain pen; it's a ballpoint). After Tak and especially Nie, you may insert a very common politeness expression that is used when speaking to adults you are not on a first-name basis with. It is proszę pana (if you please, sir) when speaking to a man and proszę pani (if you please, ma'am) when speaking to a woman.

3. Questions are also formed with interrogative pronouns and adverbs. For example, Co to jest? (What is this/that?), Kto to jest? (Who is this/that?), Gdzie drzwi? (Where is the door?). The last question may be answered Drzwi tu (The door is here) or Drzwi są tam (The door is there).

4. Embedded sentences. Statements can be included within larger sentences using the conjunction e (that), e.g., Wiem, e to jest student (I know that that is a student).

Questions when included within a larger sentence have the same form as free-standing questions. Compare Co to jest? (What is that?) with (Nie) wiem, co to jest (I [don't] know what that is). And compare Czy to jest profesor? with (Nie) wiem, czy to jest profesor. Here czy corresponds to whether or if. Note that Polish has the same word order in embedded questions as in free-standing questions--unlike English, where we say What is that? but I don't know what that is.

·  Form the questions "What is this?", "Who is that?", and "Where is ...?", and respond either "I know what this is; it's a ..." or else "I don't know ...".

5. "Or". Questions with czy can occur in sequence: Czy to jest stół, czy to jest kresło? (Is this a table, or is this a chair?) The second clause is normally reduced: Czy to jest stół, czy kresło? (Is this a table, or a chair?). Here czy corresponds to or. This is the disjunctive or: the object in question is either a table or it's a chair. Similarly we ask, Will you take tea, or [will you take] coffee? (Czy pani weźmie herbatę, czy kawę?), assuming that something is wanted, either tea or coffee. A different (copulative) or occurs in a sentence like Is there tea or coffee?, where or corresponds to albo: Czy jest herbata albo kawa? With the disjunctive or (czy) there is a comma break and falling intonation. With the copulative or (albo) there is neither: Will you take tea or coffee? (Czy pani wemie herbatę albo kawę?). Yes or no? is Tak czy nie?

·  Form questions with reference to various objects or persons for which we have nouns. They may be answered simply, e.g., To jest książka. They may be answered with an embedded sentence, e.g., Wiem, kto to jest, to jest profesor Dąbrowski. Or they may be answered evasively, e.g., Nie wiem, gdzie pieniądze. Disjunctive questions, "Is this X, or Y?", may be answered "It's neither (ani) X, nor (ani) Y; it's (tylko) Z", e.g., To nie jest ani pióro, ani oł#243;wek, tylko długopis (It's neither a fountain pen nor a pencil; it's a ballpoint). Note that in sentences with negative expressions like "neither", "no one", "nothing", etc. the verb is negated as well.

6. "You". In Polish, adult persons with whom one is not on a first-name basis are addressed in the third person, not in the second person plural as in a number of European languages. A woman is addressed as pani (literally, "the lady (to whom I am speaking)"), a man as pan (literally, "the gentleman (to whom I am speaking)"). Third-person address is common also with older relatives, so that "you" can be babcia when speaking to one's grandmother, wujek when speaking to one's uncle, and so on.

6.1 "Your" in such situations is simply the possessive form of the appropriate noun. "Your chair" when speaking to a woman is pani krzeso, "your car" when speaking to a man is pana samochód (pani and pana can also follow the noun).

Other possessive forms are jego (his), jej (her), and ich (their).

·  Speaking politely (using pani and pana), ask "Is this your [noun]?", with the nouns we have had so far. Answer "No, it's your [noun]", or "No, it's his/her/their [noun]" (indicating a person or persons). "No" may be followed with a polite "if you please ma'am/sir".

7. A brief conversation.

ANIA: Dzie dobry. Hello.
BOB: Dzie dobry. Hello.
ANIA: adna dzisiaj pogoda. Nice weather today.
BOB: Przepraszam? Proszę powtórzy. Excuse me? Please repeat.
ANIA: Mówię, e pogoda dzisiaj jest ładna. I say the weather is nice today.
BOB: Tak, bardzo ładna. Yes, very nice.
ANIA: Pan bardzo dobrze mówi po polsku. You speak Polish very well.
BOB: Dziękuję. Thank you.
ANIA: Nie ma za co. Do widzenia. Don't mention it. Good-bye.
BOB: Do widzenia. Good-bye.

8. Polish "Happy Birthday".

Sto lat! Sto lat! A hundred years! A hundred years!
Niech żyje,* żyje nam! May (s)he live (for us)!
Sto lat! Sto lat! A hundred years! A hundred years!
Niech żyje, żyje nam! May (s)he live (for us)!
Jeszcze raz, jeszcze raz, Again, again,
Niech żyje, żyje nam! May (s)he live (for us)!
Niech żyje, nam! May (s)he live (for us)!

*For plural persons being honored, substitute żyją (may they live).


ani neither, nor

jest is

profesor professor

babcia grandma

kawa coffee

proszę please

bardzo very

krzesło chair

przepraszam excuse me

co what

książka book

samochód automobile

czy question particle

kto who


długopis ballpoint

miasto city

skrzypce violin

dobrze well, good

nauczyciel teacher

stół table

drzwi door

nie no, not

student student

dzień dobry hello

okulary eye glasses

tablica blackboard

dziękuję thank you

ołówek pencil

tak yes, thus

dzisiaj today

pan sir, Mr.

tam there

gdzie where

pani ma'am, Ms.

tu here

herbata tea

pieniądze money

tylko only

ich their

pióro fountain pen

wiem I know

jego his

po polsku (in) Polish

wujek uncle

jej her

powtórzy repeat

e that (conj.)