"Is a tiger not a cat?"
Translation:Czy tygrys to nie kot?
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An alternative way of asking this question is: "Isn't a tiger a cat?". The fact that "isn't" is a whole makes it easier to understand that in Polish you need to negate the whole idea of "being a cat", not just "a cat".
So if you use the actual verb "być" (to be), put "nie" right in front of it: "Czy tygrys nie jest kotem?".
If you use the "to" costruction, this works as if it had an invisible "jest/są" after. In fact "Tygrys to kot" could be worded as "Tygrys to jest kot" as well, it's just that it's relatively uncommon. So you put "nie" in front of this (usually omitted) 'invisible' "jest". We end up with "Czy tygrys to nie kot?".
I'm confused about this sentence. I understand that it is a question and that rules can change between languages in how those questions are phrased. However, I put "Jest tygrys nie kota?" Could someone please help explain why this is wrong and why the right one is right? Thank you!
Well, I'm afraid that most of your sentence is wrong, so it's hard to show why.
Let's focus not on a question, but on a normal, declarative sentence first. Creating questions in Polish is generally very easy: you just add "?" at the end, and it is good (but not obligatory) to start with "Czy" if this is a yes/no question.
So first you have "A tiger is a cat". This can be translated both as "Tygrys to kot" or "Tygrys jest kotem". Those sentences are totally equivalent. The first construction leaves "kot" in Nominative, the second uses Instrumental after a form of "to be".
Now let's negate them. The first sentence doesn't really have any verb, so you negate the second noun phrase. Thus, "Tygrys to nie kot". The second phrase does have a verb so you negate it: "Tygrys nie jest kotem".
And now, you just add "?" and you can add "Czy" at the beginning. Not adding it may make it feel as if you are surprised to hear that a tiger is not a cat, so it's good to use it.
It has no verb, nor the copula word "to" (which we could say is a bit like "="). It's just like "Tiger not cat?".
The word "czy" doesn't really have a meaning. Many learners tend to think that it can mean "is" or "does", but it just shows that you're asking a question. You still need the actual verb.