Translation:Who is the woman sitting behind us?
Compare also two questions that will be the same in English, but different in Polish, because they have different focus and different expected answers:
- Who is the president of the United States? Barack Obama is the president of the United States.
(Kto jest prezydentem Stanów Zjednoczonych? Barack Obama jest prezydentem Stanów Zjednoczonych.)
- Who is the president of the United States? The president of the United States is the most powerful man in the world.*
(Kim jest prezydent Stanów Zjednoczonych? Prezydent Stanów Zjednoczonych jest najpotężniejszym człowiekiem na świecie.)
*just an example that popped in my mind, not any kind of a political statement or even an opinion.
Firstly: no, it will not be grammatical.
Secondly: I now see that my answer was far from being a full answer. I exaggerated a lot, by suggesting that the answer should be in Instrumental. Instrumental somehow 'defines' this person, but Nominative is a very probable option in the answer as well.
So getting back to "Kim jest kobieta..." - although the answer I put earlier is obviously correct, it sounds... formal. Imagine that this actually is your doctor, and then you'll answer "A, to moja lekarka" (Ah, it's my doctor). Or "Ta kobieta jest moją lekarką", but again, maybe it's a bit too formal.
If the woman is your friend, you are more likely to say "To moja przyjaciółka, Klaudia" than "Ona jest moją przyjaciółką" - especially that you can't put her name in Instrumental.
Even if it was Hillary Clinton, your answer will probably be "To Hillary Clinton" than "Ta kobieta jest kandydatką na prezydenta USA" (This woman is a candidate for the president of the USA).
But let's keep it at the notion that the answer CAN be in Instrumental.
Now with "Kto", I hope I have it correctly this time, but the answer should be a specific person (or a group of people), who will be the only correct answer to the question:
Kto jest prezydentem Nigerii? Muhammadu Buhari jest prezydentem Nigerii.
Kto jest ojcem twojego dziecka? Paweł, kolega z pracy. (Who is the father of your child? Paul, a colleague from work.)
Kto jest najpiękniejszy w świecie? Królewna Śnieżka. (Who's the fairest of them all? Snow White.)*
Kto był piątą żoną Henryka VIII? Katarzyna Howard. (Who was the fifth wife of Henry VIII? Catherine Howard.)
Kto jest zwycięzcą EURO 2016? Portugalia. (Who is the winner of EURO 2016? Portugal.)
*Obviously not a literal translation, plus usually 'in the world' translates as na świecie.
There is also a way of asking for definition of a word, and it seems to me that both "kto" and "kim" could work there, but "kto" may sometimes seem a bit like a child's language.
Kto to jest "policjant"? (Who is "a policeman"?) seems like a child asking, while "Kim jest policjant?" seems like a more adult person asking, even if not knowing that is surely strange.
Nie wiesz kto to jest Barack Obama? (You don't know who Barack Obama is?) seems quite good already, although "Nie wiesz kim jest Barack Obama?" seems better.
Concluding, either "who" or the noun phrase in the question has to be in Instrumental, apart from the example with a bit childish asking for definition (which needs "Kto to jest" and not "Kto jest" anyway). I hope this is both clear and correct now :)
Thank you again!!!! I really like your creative examples :) So one should use the instrumental "kim" in a question, when the answer is expected to give some details about the subject, or maybe a definition for it. After all the questions you have written using "kto", there was a simple answer, with no details about a specific subject. However, the answer to the question "Kim jest policjant?", is expected to give some details about the subject "policjant", in order to define it.
It's Instrumental. Imagine a possible answer: "The woman sitting behind us is a doctor". I think you already know that "a doctor" will be put in Instrumental here: Kobieta siedząca za nami jest lekarzem/lekarką.*
So "Who" changes the case because it anticipates the answer to be in Instrumental as well.
*both masculine and feminine forms seem okay with this specific profession.
Shouldn't that be more suited to the 'Passive' lessons? Further to what you say later in this thread Jellei - we are not interested in 'who actually seated her', but merely 'who she is'. Not saying the sentence is wrong, or that no-one says it (as I'm sure people probably do somewhere), but that there is a different lesson for passive sentences, such as this, and (right now) we want to know who that woman is who happens to be sitting behind us at this particular point in time. Racja?
Yes, well, quite. I am completely with you on that. It's basically complicating the sentence for no reason. There are a number of ways you could say it, but unless there is some particular reason to use the sentence passively, then there's not much point in saying it. Also, it reminds me of the formality of biblical verse. In some versions of the Nicene Creed you hear: 'He ascended into heaven - and is seated at the right hand of the Father.' So, (in everyday life) I guess the passive form can just give a bit of added formality to a sentence (for whatever reason).
That sentence actually sounds perfectly fine to me as a native speaker, haha! Actually I think it sounds nicer than "sitting". It's pretty common to say it this way, at least in London / the South East. Having said that I haven't a clue whether it's actually grammatically correct (not that I'm particularly interested).
It's perhaps not (yet) standard, but I would call it colloquial more than "not correct".
It's commonly used by educated speakers in the North of England, and is appearing increasingly in other parts of England, and often in situations where mainly Standard English is being used.
Incidentally it's exactly the same construction as used in French. I confess to rather liking it and I hope it becomes more widely accepted in BrE soon.
Don't worry, I bet in 50 years it'll be absolutely standard in British English.
A lot of people think it's a misused passive, but I think it's simply a participle acting as an adjective, like "assis" in French. Anyway like it or not, it looks as though it's here to stay in BrE, more usually with "was/is".
For more, you'll need to read my post. I seem to be one of the few people to havd discussed this: it's on Google's first page for "was sat". :)