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Polish tenses?

How many tenses are there in Polish? Present, simple future, past, etc.?

March 16, 2016



depends on your definition of tenses:

If you accept the definition that English has two, then Polish has two : - past and present/future, as every verb (other than być=be) has only two forms.

We usually say we have 3 present, past and future, but future can be formed differently for different verbs, perfective verbs have future form, and imperfective verbs use

będę ( it changes with person and number) + infinitive or 3rd person past form of verb.

as mixhal mentioned there used to be also sth like past perfect tense, but it is not used anymore.

Our verbs have aspects though, so most verbs come in perfective/imperfective pairs, some have extra "continuous" one. there is good post on aspects, that @mixhal linked.


It depends how you count. Polish distinguishes three basic tenses - past, present and future. But there is also distinction between perfective and imperfective verbs so one English verb can have two or more equivalents in Polish (perfective and imperfective respectively). You can read more about it for example in this post: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/12724322. There is also archaic Pluperfect (czas zaprzeszły).


Pluperfect is not archaic but obsolete(it's meaning is still clear to every native speaker and there are some older speakers who sometimes use it) – archaic tense in Polish would be Aorist, which is totally gone from the language by now. ;-)


Let's look at dictionary. "Archaic" means:

  1. Very old or old-fashioned.

1.1 (Of a word or a style of language) no longer in everyday use but sometimes used to impart an old-fashioned flavour.



Interesting, English meaning of archaic is slightly different than Polish "archaiczny". Anyway, I meant that it is still productive, you can easily construct a sentence using it, which is not the case with Aorist, where the forms that Polish used for it cannot be constructed for modern verbs any more.


You translated to wrong Polish word:

archaizm [gr. archaíos ‘dawny’], forma wyrazu, wyraz, jego znaczenie, konstrukcja składniowa, które wyszły z użycia i są przestarzałe z punktu widzenia normy językowej danej epoki,


English tenses combines the concept of "time" (past, present, future) and "aspect" (perfect and imperfect or completed and uncompleted). Then, following the English concept of tense, typical modern Polish has 5 common tenses: Past Perfect, Past Imperfect, Present Imperfect, Future (Compound) Imperfect, and Future Perfect.

The verb „być” is the only one that has independent forms for all three "times". Other imperfect verbs need additional „być” to form a future tense, and perfect verbs does not exist in present tense.


There are only three tenses in Polish, but in every tense there are various forms of verbs to specify e.g. if the activity was finished. So in other words, in English when you change the form of verbs you say it is a different tense. In Polish you say this is the same tense even though the verb is changed.

For example: I go - ja chodzę (In English Present Simple, In Polish czas teraźniejszy) I am going - ja idę (In English Present Continuous, in Polish it's still czas teraźniejszy)

I write it as a native speaker trying no to use much grammar nomenclature.

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