Both zwierzę and zwierzęcie are synonymous. I just had a discussion about whether there is a slight subtle difference or not and it's really hard to tell. Apparently, as a rule of thumb, zwierzę is rather used when refering to bigger animals, while zwierzęcie can be use on any animal. It's probably mostly just a matter of taste.
Not exactly - there is no polish word 'zwierzęcie', but similiar forms appear in declension:
What perhaps confused You is that there is a second word for animal in Polish, which is 'zwierz' (which is masculine, while 'zwierzę' is neuter), but it is rarely used - mostly in fixed phrases or stilizations , as it is considered out-of-date.
I keep seeing people use zwierzęcie from time to time, though itseems that zwierzę is far more popular. Not sure whether zwierzęcie is completely false though. Maybe it just came into use because the other declinations resemble this form. Well, I guess only time (and some professioanl linguists) will tell whether it's completely wrong or just unusual.
No, they are not interchangable. Być is a verb, while to is not. To means just as much like that or that is, so it's quite difficult to translate the given sentence, as you have no verb in it. But it makes perfect sence in Polish and if you want classify something, then it's perfectly fine: Pies to ssak = The dog is a mammal. In all these cases to is always translated with is an... or is a...
If you know Russian, it's easier to define the case. If there is "jest, jestem, jesteś etc.," you must imply there Russian verb "являться" in necessary conjugation. And "являться" requires Instrumental(кем, чем) in Russian, so it gives you a hint that the same case must be used in Polish. And if there is "to", remember Russian "это", and in Russian in the same situation Nominative is to be used. Examples: (Ja) jestem mężczyzną. Я являюсь мужчиной. Tygrys jest zwierzeciem. Тигр является животным. Chłopiec to dziecko. Мальчик - это ребёнок. Lew to zwierze. Лев -это животное. Looks complicated, d there is direct correlation.
Unless you specify ten kot or tamten kot in the polish sentence, it's perfectly fine to translate it as cats are animals because the polish sentence is a generalization. ten/tamten kot would just men this/that cat is an animal, implying that there are cats that are not animals.
Wręcz przeciwnie. Mówiąc kot to zwierze mówi się o kocie jako taxonomiczny okaz, obejmując wszyskie koty na świecie. Dopiero ten lub tamten kierunkuje znaczenie na jedno indywiduum.
On the contrary. Saying kot to zwierze you talk about the cat as a taxonomical species, comprising all individuals of the species. Only ten or tamten direct the meaning on one individual of the species.
Exactly. The correct vesion is to say kot jest zwieręciem. X jest ... always requires you to put the object in the instrumental case. Just a few examples: Golf jest samochodem (the Golf is a car), Kanarek jest ptakiem (the canary is a bird), jabłko jest owocem (the apple is a fruit).
Things look a bit different if what's following the jest isn't an object but a location description (mucha jest na zwierzęciu - the fly is on the animal), in which case we require the locative case.
If what's following the jest is an adjective, because you want to describe how someone/thing is, then the adjective is always in the nominative case: Jestem zmęczony (I'am tired).
There's also the option to use demonstrative pronouns (ten, ta, to = this; tamten, tamta, tamto = that): To jest moja żona (this is my wife). In this case, the object (moja żona) is in the nominative case. If you replace the demonstrative pronoun with a regular pronoun (on, ona, ono) then the object needs to be in the instrumental case again: Ona jest moją żoną (she is my wife).
I know this is very confusing and sadly I can't say more than that you will have to learn it all by heart. As you may have noticed, Polish has extremely complex grammar. Just don't let it discourage you!
Kot to zwierzę seems more like “The cat, it is an animal.” to me. Or “The cat: it is an animal.” Sort of like an appositive in English, in which both the nouns are the subject of the sentence (the appositive describing the subject is also in nominative case). But maybe that could be more clear by saying “It, the cat, is an animal.”, just with the order of KOT and TO switched in English translation. (Perhaps also one might render it as “It - the cat - is an animal.” in English.) I have taken some Russian so I do recognise the cognate это and that actually helps me to understand the Polish better!!! I’m also finding that Polish has numerous cognates with Italian. Is this because Polish adopted Italian words into their own language, and then added their own endings to make them more Polish? (Forgive me, I have forgotten the proper linguistics term for this.) Or purely coincidental, due to Polish having been much influenced by the Latin language?
One thing I do have to ask is that I would like to understand the instrumental case example here. “Kot jest zwierzęciem.” I definitely understand employing the (what seems like) accusative case endings here if the verb ‘jest’ is dictating the type of case for words following it. What I don’t quite understand is why this verb - for a state of being - involves the instrumental case. I understand much of the case usage from having studied Latin over the past decade, so this element of grammar makes sense (verb + acc/instr, somewhat like prepositional phrases being prep. + acc/dat/gen/abl). But there is no separate instrumental case in Classical Latin; it is in effect absorbed into the ablative case. (Ancient Greek did have an instrumental case as I understand it. This is probably why Latin kept certain constructions relating to instrumental use, though the Romans chose to meld it into the ablative.) Is the word following the verb ‘to be’ in Polish, then, always governed by the accusative/instrumental case? Or rather, does the verb ‘to be’ always imply/require the next word - if a noun - to be declined into the accusative/instrumental case?
Sorry, I keep saying accusative because the ending truly reflects the accusative singular in Latin. Just using my Latin knowledge as a reference to understanding Polish!
I have to say that putting 'accusative' in the second paragraph is quite confusing... :D Whatever's the reason for it, in a sentence built as "[noun] is [noun]", the second noun* takes the Instrumental case. That's just something one needs to learn.
As for the Italian cognates, it would probably need to be discussed on specific examples ;)
*It's usually the second one, but in theory you could reverse the word order. That's just rare and rarely natural.