"How can you not know what shape it is?"

Translation:Jak możesz nie wiedzieć co to za kształt?

July 9, 2016

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"Jak możesz nie wiedzieć co to za kształt?": What does za stand for in this context?


It doesn't have any English equivalent in the sentence, but is needed in such a construction. Compare with simpler sentences:

"Co to był za hałas?" - What was that noise?

"Co to był za fantastyczny mecz!" - What a fantastic game that was!

"Co to za kobieta?" - Who is that woman? (Yes, 'co' is used here and not 'kto')

Without 'za' the sentence either wouldn't make sense, or would ask to define the last word: What is "a woman"?

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So I assume "co to za" is kind of like asking for the definition of something. Thank you!


No, it's not that! That's what I tried to say with the last sentence, that it's not that. For example if you really had no idea what "a woman" is, in Polish you'd say: Co to jest "kobieta"? (Or: Kto to jest "kobieta"? if you at least understood that it's a human person)

It's hard for me to explain it differently than by putting these examples... it mostly implies either wondering about something (the examples with noise and woman, also let's say "Co to za zapach?" = "What's that smell?"), and sometimes it strengthens what you say as in the example with the 'fantastic game'. Also for example: Co to była za piękność... = What a beauty she was...


"Co to za" can kind of be translated as "what is that for a...?" (in the sense of "A passing grade? That's good for someone who's bad at math.") Co to za kobieta? What is that for a woman? What kind of woman is that? Who is that woman? It's not a one-to-one translation, but I found it helpful to think of it that way.


Forms of wiedzieć are usually followed by a comma, aren't they? Is it okay if I put a comma after it here?


Yes, that would be correct. Some sentences in this course could definitely use a comma.

I'd just rather say that a comma precedes a new clause, and "Co to za kształt?" can easily be a sentence on its own.


Why wiedzieć not znać?? Another similar question in this lesson uses znać???



"znać" = to know X

"wiedzieć" = to know about X, to know that X

So this sentence is rather like the latter, it has "to know what X is...".


I agree, however a previous question asking about shape uses znać in the answer, next time i see it I will point it out. Great course by the way, I spend far too much time on this!


Thanks :) I mean, I didn't create it, but still ;) And I don't know if you can spend 'too much time' learning... ;)

The sentence you're referring to is "Przepraszam, nie znam tego kształtu." ("Sorry, I do not know this shape.") - grammatically it's constructed as 'to know X'. It's like saying "I am not familiar with this shape". Meanwhile here, it's grammatically "to know what this X is", so it's different.


Yes, you can spend "too much time" learning something (maybe instead of learning/doing something else more urgent). I experience this too with this polish course, as stevenprob do or did, and I think it is also (apart that this exquisitely difficult, interesting and subtle language appeals me) because of the great moderators here, who are so devoted and efficient. It helps a lot to stay motivated. (It seems it is not so like that in some other courses here...). So many many thanks to you and the other guys, your input is really valuable!!


Thank you for your kind words :)


Why is the third option wrong?


nobody knows what "the third option" is. the wrong answers are generated by the program.


Can you use jaki here, for instance, "Jak możesz nie wiedzieć, jaki to kształt"?


Yes, you can. Added now.


I am still confused about znac and wieziec. I thought knowing a fact was znac. Surely this is a fact?


I think the easiest rule is that "znać" takes a direct object ("to know X", a noun phrase in Accusative follows immediately) and "wiedzieć" does not (it takes some more 'descriptive' construction). So "wiedzieć" is for example "to know about X", "to know, that X" and so on.


That's really straightforward. Thanks very much


So for example in these sentences 1 I know the sum of two plus two 2 I know what the sum of two plus two is 3 Do you know the metro 4 Do you know where the metro is 5 I know Pythagoras Theorem 6 I know how to prove Pythagoras Theorem

In 1,3 and 5 it is znac In 2,4 and 6 it is wieziec Is that right?


Yes, perfect :)

Just to point out in case it's not just a typo, because you wrote that twice: it's "wiedzieć", with a "d". "dzi" is one sound here, so you won't hear the 'd' alone.


Why is "Jak nie możesz wiedzieć..." incorrect here?


Well, you negated 'can' (being able to) instead of negating 'knowing'.

Basically it's kinda like "how is it impossible for you to know" vs "how is it possible for you to not know".


I was gonna ask the same thing and although I understand what the exercise wants, I wonder what the difference between the two options would be. The thing is, it would be completely fine both ways in English. "How can't you know" and "How can you not know" are, for all grammar intents and purposes, identical, the only difference is that when you use "can't," the negation (n't) sounds a little weaker than when you use it as a separate word and stress it like "NOT know." In what way are "Jak możesz nie wiedzieć" and "Jak nie możesz wiedzieć" different?


I'm looking at my explanation from a year ago and I don't like it at all right now. True, both English sentences are relatively likely and they aren't very different.

Meanwhile... maybe "Jak nie możesz wiedzieć" doesn't exactly break any rules, but no native speaker would ever say it*.

*Of course I can't guarantee something like that, but I hope you know what I mean. That just doesn't work in Polish.


Is "jak możesz nie wiedzieć, czym krztałt to jest?" a valid sentence?


I'm afraid not, "Czym kształt to jest?" doesn't make much sense.

It could possibly be "jaki kształt to jest?" ("jaki" could be also understood as "what kind of"), although the word order isn't the most usual.

"czym" looks like you took it from sentences like "Czym jest miłość?", which asks for a definition of love, not an example of love.


"Jak możesz nie wiedzieć jak ma kształt?"


"jaki ma kształt" could work, but that means "what shape does it have".


Just to add my rejected effort here: ‘Jak możesz nie wiedzieć, jaki jest kształt?’ … I think that should have been ok?


"Jaki jest kształt" only works if you specify "the shape of what". For example "What is the shape of a plate?". But it doesn't work for pointing at something and asking "What shape is that?".


Ah! Subtle and useful! Many thanks Jellei!


A co ze zdaniem,,jak możesz nie znać tego kształtu,,?


To wtedy po prostu "How can you not know this shape?".

Rozróżnianie między "znać" a "wiedzieć" jest trudne dla obcokrajowców, więc trzymamy się możliwie dosłownych tłumaczeń.

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