"This is a big spider!"
Translation:To duży pająk!
Is the phrase "To duży pająk" really equivelent to "To jest duży pająk"?
It seems the former simply refers to the big spider whereas the latter describes something AS a big spider.
Are these simply interchangeable in spoken Polish, or is the meaning inferred from context?
It is equivalent. "To jest" is often shortened just to "To". "To" is the subject here, and doesn't depend on the gender. So both mean "This is a big spider"
"Ten duży pająk" would be "this big spider".
It could be ambiguous with neuter nouns, as then 'to' could be either the subject, or a neuter pronoun, so theoretically "To duże drzewo" could be both "This is a big tree" and "this big tree". However, if it ends with a dot, than as a sentence it can only mean "This is a big tree".
ten pająk jest duży - My polish girlfriend says that this answer would be equivalent
With meaning, yes, but not exactly for the grammar. Your girlfriend translated "This spider is big", here you need "To duży pająk" or "To jest duży pająk". The difference is small, but important while learning the basics of the language.
I also wanted to use "ten." I said "Ten jest duzy pajak." (Sorry, I do not have the Polish letters on my laptop.) Anyway, my question is why do we use "To" and not "Ten"? Is pajak not masculine? I feel I am missing something. :(
Don't worry, you'll get it :) So basically yes, "ten" is a masculine pronoun meaning "this", and pająk is indeed masculine. It would be used if you were to translate a sentence "This spider is big": Ten pająk jest duży.
But here we have a sentence of the "This is Y" type. And in such a sentence, no matter the gender or the number, whether we will have this/that/these/those in the English sentence, in Polish it will always be "To".
P.S. If you are by any chance an English native, you can just change your keyboard to a Polish one, you will have all that you need for English plus all you need for Polish :)
Oh! I understand now. I somehow missed that basic fact in all my practicing! Your responses are always so helpful! Dziękuję! :)
I know yours is an old comment, but I added the Polish keyboard layout on Windows regional settings. The special characters are the keys to the right of the normal letters, where the punctuation marks are. You just have to learn which is which.
Theoretically yes, but it's kinda like "Behold, a big spider!". OK, 'behold' is a bit too much maybe, but it's in this direction. You show something to someone. It's not a neutral word, it's not used much in everyday language.