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  5. "It is a book."

"It is a book."

Translation:To jest książka.

May 11, 2016



Hopefully somebody can help me out with a question I have. I was under the impression that when we define something using the verb być, we had to change the ending of noun being defined. I believe we use the instrumental case for that kind of sentence structure. However, here we don't do that, and I don't quite know why.

I was playing around on Google translate after running into this sentence again, and I found the following:

She's a woman => Ona jest kobietą vs.
It's a woman => To jest kobieta

Does this change simply have something to do with using "to"? Or is it that the two sentences are intended to mean different things?

While this hasn't come up in the course yet, my understanding is that it's correct to refer to objects in Polish as she and he based on their grammatical gender, so is there a semantic difference between me saying, "Ona jest książką" and "To jest książka"?

Thanks in advance!


Well, if "She is a book" made sense semantically, then yes, "Ona jest książką" would be a correct sentence. But no one would say that in Polish and I believe the same is true about English. While of course "książka" is feminine, the personal pronoun is... personal. Maybe it could be used for pets.

You have two different constructions here. "She's a woman" is an example of "X is Y". Here, X is a personal pronoun and Y is a noun phrase. In such a sentence, X takes Nominative, then you have a form of "być" (to be), and then Y in Instrumental.

"It's a woman" is an example of what we call here "This is Y". It starts with a dummy pronoun ("[this/that/it] is" or "[these/those] are") and all those dummy pronouns, regardless of the grammatical number and gender, will always be translated as "to". And then Y takes Nominative.

More info about those here: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/16373167 :)


"But no one would say that in Polish and I believe the same is true about English."

Interestingly, we actually do say stuff like this in English, though it's one of those weird specific case things. For example ships, cars, and mechanical objects in general are often referred to as she. Another interesting case is when things are named. My girlfriend and I have a silly tradition of actually naming many of our devices, as when you boot them up for the first time it asks for a name. For these objects we also refer to them by the gender usually associated with the name we chose.

However, in this example I was actually thinking more about German though, as English doesn't have grammatical gender, so it's hard to know what rules apply. I've taught in Austria quite a bit and I know that the students often referred to feminine or masculine inanimate objects using the gender appropriate personal pronouns. It seems that in Polish this is limited to this, that, those, and these, etc.

Anyway, thank you for your explanation. Everything you said makes perfect sense.


We also say it in english being poetic. "She is a candle, Bright and warm in the everlasting darkness"

Or whatever haha. Not typically used in everyday speech, but it can be used in this way as well, though it doesnt literally mean "she IS a candle."


kashakot, side question: "She is a candle, Bright and warm in the everlasting darkness"- where is that from i am wondering?


If we say 'x is y' then Y takes instrumental.

If we say 'this is y' then Y remains in nominative.

However, be careful with the 'this'..... Saying 'this is y', Y remains in nominative, but saying 'this x is y' is really just a variation of saying 'x is y' (so, as before, Y takes instrumental).

One extra info....

When Y is an adjective-noun, (tasty coffee), both the adjective and the noun will take instrumental.

But if ever an adjective is on its own (eg this coffee is tasty), then 'tasty' ,will remain in noninative. Though I think the gender will change if X was defined.

If it was 'to jest smazcny' then I dont know if smazcny should change to the gender of whatever the 'to' items gender is?? Maybe someone can answer that for me


I believe that "to" is (always) neuter, so your "smaczny" becomes "smaczne".

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