When it is a noun, "to" is used.
To są dzieci. These are children. to/these is a noun.
When it's a noun determiner, then it takes the number and gender of the noun.
Te dzieci są małe. These children are little. te/these is a noun determiner of the noun dzieci/children
Why is this not "To są dziećmi"? I thought that the object of forms of być had to be in the instrumental case. Or does using the nominative imply something slightly different from using the instrumental?
Phonemically, there should only be a nasal vowel here, however nasal vowels are in the process of disappearing in Polish (compare the existence of nasal vowels with other Slavic languages). That's why you can often hear [ɔn] or [ɔm] (at the end) instead of [ɔ̃] (e.g. mądry, z mamą) and it is not considered a mistake. The same is the case with the letter ę ([ɛ̃]) - [ɛn] in the middle or reduced to [ɛ] at the end (e.g. między, robię).
Dziękuję bardzo! I was wondering why the "ę" sounded like an "e" at the ends of words. I thought it was just my hearing.
Is that a conjugation of "jest" I've never seen before? I guess I'll have to look up a conjugation table for "to be." EDIT: I now see it is the conjugation for "(they) are"
That's simply not true. Imagine you hear a noise, you go look out the window, you realize it's just kids playing and they kicked over something. You say "oh, it's just kids". The sentence I used is perfectly good english. I just asked how you say that in polish.
I think that such usage translates rather to "To dzieci," than "To są dzieci". Especially visible in your exact example "It's just kids" = "To tylko dzieci".
In your case, the "it's" is referring to the noise, singular, not the kids, plural. You wouldn't say, "they are the kids," when referring to the noise.
No. Te is a noun determiner. It needs a noun to determine. For example, Te dzieci są ludźmi. "These children are people."
To is a noun in this sentence's construction. "These are children."
Why not 'This is the children' ? To say this may sound slightly detached in English since the individuals are lost as they are being taken as a single group, but I might say it for comical effect.