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Some of substantives have singular form but behave themselves as plurals, e.g. państwo in the clause ci państwo wreszcie przyszli (one of the possible translations is ‘these master and mistress have come at last’).
There exist masculine-personal and non-masculine-personal genders in plural. Masculine-personal nouns describe men, but also groups of men and women, e.g. ludzie ‘people’. All masculine substantives which end with ~a are masculine-personal (ex. poeta, łowca, hrabia). Of course also substantives which ends in ~ca are masculine-personal, e.g. drapieżca, ludożerca, morderca, padlinożerca, roślinożerca, zwycięzca, even if some of them never denote persons: te słonie i inni wielcy roślinożercy (‘these elephants and other large plant eaters’; a man who eats plants is termed jarosz or wegetarianin and not roślinożerca). In the present language also the words mieszkaniec ‘inhabitant’, myśliwiec ‘predator’, nowożeniec ‘bridegroom’, tubylec ‘native, aborigine’, współplemieniec ‘countryman (of the same tribe)’ are masculine-personal, even if they do not denote persons: jaguary to myśliwcy amerykańskiej dżungli. Almost all masculine substantives which have adjectival declension are also masculine-personal, e.g. myśliwy, wikary, służący. Exceptions are chodzony, mielony, spalony, złoty (masculine animate) and luty (masculine inanimate).
An unpredictable and interesting feature of the Polish grammar is the masculine-personal gender when even one among some words of different genders is personal – even if it does not denote a man. That is why the complex subject kobieta i dziecko ‘a woman and a child’ is masculine-personal (but not kobieta i dziewczynka ‘a woman and a girl’ – both nouns are of the same gender here). This rule may be obeyed even if no persons are mentioned: suka i jej szczenięta poszli (‘the bitch and her poppies went’), byk i słup stali (stały?). Similarly masculine-personal gender is in use in honorificative phrases concerning to a single person, even if to a woman: Czy skończyliście już jeść, babciu?.
This is, most of all, the case of the subject. It should be emphasized here that one can build sentences in Polish in which the (logic) subject is expressed with another case. On the other hand, the use of nominative is sometimes wider than in English, e.g. compare On to zrobił. To on! – He has done it. It is him!. The nominative case is used in both Polish sentences, but only in the first English one. The nominative case is also the case of the predicative, but only if it is expressed with an adjective alone, e.g. on jest dobry ‘he is good’. Besides, instrumental is used, except colloquial phrases like jesteś leń patentowany ‘you are a notorious sluggard’. Nominative is used also in sentences with the pronoun to like to jest książka ‘it is a book’.
This is the case of an attribute expressed with a substantive. It responds both English ’s-
genitive and the construction with of. The use of genitive is needed by some prepositions: od, do, z, dla, u, bez, prócz, oprócz, obok, koło, około, naokoło, blisko, wśród, znad, spod, naprzeciw, naprzeciwko, podczas, według, zamiast. The genitive case is used as partitive too, to express a part of a whole. In this function it is the case of the subject (e.g. wody wciąż przybywało ‘there was more and more water’) or the direct object – cf. daj mi wina (genitive) ‘give me some wine’ and daj mi wino ‘give me (the) wine’ (accusative, the whole, e.g. a bottle). By such partitive use of genitive, the rule of employing of this case for the direct object after negative verbs comes from. Cf. mamy wodę, sól, książkę ‘we have the water, salt, book’ (accusative), but nie mamy wody, soli, książki ‘we have not the water, salt, book’ (genitive). The use of genitive is needed for the direct object by some affirmative verbs, e.g. artysta udzielił wywiadu ‘the artist gave an interview’, dolej benzyny do baku ‘pour some more gas to the tank’, zabrania się postoju ‘stopping is prohibited’, zapomniał dowodu ‘he forgot his identity card’, pies pilnuje jego mienia ‘a dog guards his property’, oczekują zmian ‘they wait for changes’, also by ambiguous ones like dostać anginy = nabawić się anginy ‘get an angina’, although this verb governs accusative elsewhere. It is needed by gerunds, e.g. czytanie książki ‘reading a book’, even if the given verb needs accusative, e.g. czytać książkę ‘to read a book’. Sometimes it is the case of the indirect object too, e.g. należy unikać przeziębienia ‘one should avoid a cold’. Finally, it signifies the adverbial phrase of time, but only when used together with an attribute, e.g. wojna wybuchła pierwszego września ‘the War broke out in 1st September’, było zimno tamtego ranka ‘it was cold that morning’. In other cases instrumental or a prepositional phrase with locative is used for qualifying time. The form of genitive singular is sometimes identical as the form of accusative (masculine animate substantives in singular and masculine-personal in plural), and sometimes as nominative or genitive plural, what may be an obstacle to understand the statement by those who are learning Polish.
This is the case of an addressee of the act, so it is the case of the indirect object, which cannot be transformed into the subject of a sentence in the passive voice (like in he is given the book). In English the oblique case (which has, except pronouns, the same form as nominative) is used here, e.g. give me the book, give Mark the book, or the phrase with to, e.g. give the book to Mark. The use of a separate form in Polish here lets release the word order in the sentence and achieve interesting stylistic effects impossible to translate into languages with the stable word order, e.g. like in English. The dative case is needed by part of verbs with one object, e.g. Anka podoba się Rafałowi ‘Annie appeals to Rafael’, Marek towarzyszył dziewczynie ‘Mark accompanied the girl’, wiosce zagraża wybuch wulkanu ‘a volcanic eruption impends over the village’. Dative denotes sometimes the subject, what characterizes it as more passive: (ja) jestem smutny ‘I am sad’, Piotr miał szczęście ‘Peter was lucky’ (nominative) besides jest mi smutno – literally ‘it is sad to/for me’, Piotrowi się poszczęściło (dative) ‘it came off well to/for Peter’. Dative is needed by the preposition ku ‘to’, rarely used at present, as well as by dzięki, wbrew, przeciw, przeciwko.
This is the case of the direct object, however you should compare remarks on the function of genitive. It is also used with different prepositions (na, w, o, po, przez, pod, nad, przed, za, między), the same as instrumental or locative, but in another context, usually related to moving, translocating. Only feminine names in singular (however not all) have a specific form of accusative. Besides, it is equal to genitive (masculine animate in singular, masculine-personal in plural) or nominative. For English speakers the differentiation moja piękna żona jest tutaj ‘my beautiful wife is here’ (nominative) – mam piękną żonę ‘I have a beautiful wife’ (accusative) may seem to be exotic. But though it is enough to use a personal pronoun instead of the nominal phrase (she is here – I have (got) her) and one can notice this differentiation.
It is used for denoting the thing with which the act is being done: jechać autobusem ‘to go by bus’, pisać długopisem ‘to write with a ballpen’. It is also the case of the predicative expressed with a substantive or a group of words: on jest dobrym człowiekiem ‘he is a good man’ (instrumental) – on jest człowiekiem ‘he is a man’ (instrumental) – on jest dobry ‘he is good’ (nominative). Sometimes it denotes an adverbial phrase of time: czasem, czasami ‘sometimes’, wrócił późnym wieczorem, nocą ‘he (has) returned in the late evening, in the night’, in other cases genitive or a prepositional construction with locative is used here. Sometimes it even denotes the direct object (after verbs meaning directing: prezydent rządzi krajem ‘the president governs the state’, ten generał osobiście dowodził bitwą ‘this general himself commanded the battle’) or indirect (ona handluje kwiatami ‘she deals in flowers’, niektórzy gardzą sławą ‘some men despise the glory’). It is used also with the prepositions z, nad, pod, przed, za, między.
In today’s Polish locative is used only with the prepositions na, w, o, po, przy. Generally it signifies a place in space, e.g. w lesie, na łące, przy stole ‘in the forest, on the grass/meadow, at the table’, or in time, e.g. o brzasku, w styczniu, o piątej, w nocy, przy okazji, po przyjściu ‘at dawn, in January, at five o’clock, in the night, by the way, after coming’. Rarely it is the case of the adverbial phrase of manner or condition, e.g. przeżyć o chlebie i wodzie ‘survive with bread and water only’, przy odrobinie szczęścia ‘with a little luck’, w takich okolicznościach ‘in such circumstances’. It is also the case of the indirect object, e.g. opowiadać o lecie ‘tell about summer’, biegać po schodach ‘run upstairs and downstairs’, polegać na przyjaciołach ‘rely on friends’, skupiać się na swojej pracy ‘concentrate on sb’s job’, upierać się przy swoim zdaniu ‘insist on sb’s opinion’.
It expresses the direct expression to a person, not joining other words making a sentence. Only masculine and feminine substantives have a special vocative form in singular, the other nouns (pronouns, adjectives, neuter substantives, substantives in plural) have one form for vocative and nominative. Old vocative also yielded to nominative in declension of proper names (especially surnames), e.g. Grzegorz! (my first name) instead of Grzegorzu! – the old forms are still used for giving the specified style to the statement. Vocative is the right form also when the name is used with pan, pani (‘Sir’, ‘Lady’, acting as pronouns here): panie Grzegorzu!, pani Jolanto! ‘Sir Grzegorz!’, ‘Lady Jolanta!’.
Sometimes it is the other way round: old vocative supplanted nominative in masculine diminutive first names, e.g. zrobił to Krzysiu instead of Krzyś ‘Chris did/has done it’. It is used in its proper function here as well: Krzysiu! ‘Chris!’.
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