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A short guide: What is Genitive Case Useful For

  • 1901

Do not get misguided by the name of the case, the use of Genitive in Polish language is much broader than the name of the case might suggest.

The Genitive Case is used in Polish:

1. In negations - when we negate the verb

When we negate the verb, which is used in Accusative in affirmative phrase - the Object of the phrase is in Genitive.

  • "Ojciec (nom.) nie ma koszuli (noun in gen.)" - The father does not have a shirt
  • "Nie ma chleba (noun in gen.)" - there is no bread (in Polish "nie ma" is a construction with negated verb)
  • "Ja nie robię niczego (indefinite numeral in gen.) złego " - I do not do anything wrong ; it is also correct to say "Ja nie robię nic złego (adjective in gen., but it is due to "nic", which also requires Genitive) "
  • "On nie widzi ciebie (pronoun in gen.)" - He does dot see you
  • "Nie dostarczyli świeżego (adjective in gen.) chleba (noun in gen.)" - (They) did not supply fresh bread

Sometimes we need to express negation without Genitive - it is when besides "nie", also other negation word is used - e.g. "żaden" none : "Żaden ptak (nom.) nie śpiewa" - No bird is singing - but this is case when we can't say what is actually negated: the noun, or the verb. It is tricky, because in Polish you sometimes make double, triple or even more fold negation, and it is correct.

ATTENTION: It is very different when we negate noun or adjective. If we look into a wonderful guide on "X is Y" - and we try to revert it to "X is not Y" - we find there situations, that Genetive is not used there:

X (noun) is not Y (noun) - we keep either Instrumental or Nominative:

  • "Pies (nom.) nie jest ptakiem (inst.)" - A dog is not a bird
  • "Pies (nom.) to nie jest ptak (nom.)" - A dog is not a bird
  • "Pies (nom.) to nie ptak (nom.)" - A dog is not a bird
  • "Czerwień (nom) nie jest moim (inst.) kolorem (inst.)" - Red is not my colour

X (pronoun) is not Y (noun or name) - we keep Instrumental or Nominative

  • "Ja(pronoun in nom.) nie jestem mężczyzną (inst.)" - I am not a man
  • "Ja (nom.) nie jestem Marek (nom.)" - I am not Mark
  • "To(pronoun in nom.) nie pies (nom.)" - This is not a dog

X (noun or pronoun) is not Y (adjective) - we keep Instrumental or Nominative

  • "Ten stół (nom.) nie jest ciężki (nom.)" - The table is not heavy.
  • "Ona (nom.) nie jest piękna (nom.)" - She is not beautiful

2. To describe ownership

When used with a noun:

  • "koszula (nom.) ojca (gen.)" - the shirt of the father

But when the ownership is expressed with a pronoun, the case of pronoun has to be the same as case of possessed noun:

  • "moja (nom.) koszula (nom.)" - my shirt
  • "nie ma mojej (gen.) koszuli (gen.)" - there is not my shirt - Genitive because of negation ("nie ma" is a verb-like construction), not because of ownership.

3. Partitive Genitive

It is used to describe a part of something:

  • "kawałek (nom.) chleba (gen.)" - a piece of bread
  • "odcinek (nom.) serialu (gen.)" - an episode of tv-series

Because the genitive means a part of something whole, the use of case can change the meaning of phrase:

  • "wsyp sól (acc.) do zupy" - Pour the salt (all the salt that you have) into the soup
  • "wsyp soli (gen.) do zupy" Pour some salt into the soup
  • "zjedli (cały) chleb (acc.)" they ate (the whole) bread (a whole loaf or all the available bread)
  • "zjedli (trochę) chleba (gen.)" they ate (some) bread

The use of cały/trochę is optional - without these words the phrase means the same, but with them, it is clearer to understand. In cases where you can use Genitive od Accusative - Genitive means "some of sth." and Accusative may mean "all available sth." or "one whole typical portion of sth." - depending on context.

The same applies to quantifiers / indefinite numerals and like "dużo", "więcej", "mało", "mniej", "sporo", "mnóstwo", "niewiele", "niemało", "kilka", "kilkanaście", "kilkadziesiąt", "kilkaset", "parę", "paręnaście", "parędziesiąt", "paręset" and collective numerals like "dwoje", "troje", "czworo", "pięcioro", "kilkoro", "dziesięcioro", "pięćdziesięcioro" etc. you use Genitive. And you may use it 2 ways:

When speaking of a part of something

Some of the indefinite numerals may be used to describe the amount of something uncountable, or parts of some whole object. In that case you need to use Genitive singular.

  • "mało (nom.) chleba (gen.)" - little bread
  • "dużo (nom.) szczęścia (gen.)" - a lot of luck, much luck
  • "więcej (nom.) miłości (gen.)" - more love
  • "sporo (nom.) grosza (gen.)" (idiom) - a lot of money, literally: a great deal of farthing
  • "wiele (nom.) wody (gen.)" - a lot of water
  • "więcej (nom.) zboża (gen.)" - a bigger part (amount) of grain
  • "dużo (nom.) serca (gen.)" - a big part of (someone's) heart, much affection, lot of heart
  • "wiele (nom.) miejsca (gen.)" - a big part of (available) space

When speaking about a number of items of something

In that case, you use Genitive plural.

  • "mało (nom.) chlebów (gen.)" - few loaves of bread
  • "więcej (nom.) zbóż (gen.)" - more types of grain
  • "kilkunastu (nom.) lekarzy (gen.)" - a dozen or so doctors
  • "wiele (nom.) zwierząt (gen.)" - many animals
  • "wiele (nom.) miejsc (gen.)" - a lot of places

However, you should be very attentive with that, because depending on context, the whole expression may be used in different cases in the phrase, and in Dative, Instrumental and Locative of the indefinite numeral, the case of the noun has to agree with the case of numeral. Also, the indefinite numeral "dużo" creates only forms of Nominative and Accusative (it creates Genitive only with verbs), and in other cases it has to be replaced by "wiele", see:

Case male personal gender others with "dużo"
Nominative (mianownik) kilku (nom.) lekarzy (gen.) wiele (nom.) zwierząt (gen.) dużo (nom.) zwierząt (gen.)
Genitive (dopełniacz) kilku (gen.) lekarzy (gen.) wielu (gen.) zwierząt (gen.) -
Dative (celownik) kilku (dat.) lekarzom (dat.) wielu (dat.) zwierzętom (dat.) -
Accusative (biernik) kilku (acc.) lekarzy (gen.) wiele (acc.) zwierząt (gen.) dużo (acc.) zwierząt (gen.)
Instrumental (narzędnik) z kilkoma (inst.) lekarzami (inst.) z wieloma (inst.) zwierzętami (inst.) -
Locative (miejscownik) o kilku (loc.) lekarzach (loc.) o wielu (loc.) zwierzętach (loc.) -
Vocative (wołacz) o kilku (voc.) lekarzy! (gen.) o wiele (voc.) zwierząt! (gen.) -

Also, special rules apply to numerals in general: they require Nominative, Genitive or Accusative, see the detailed explanation here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_grammar#Numbers_and_quantifiers

4. In comparisons

The second noun or adjective in comparison (the one, that we compare to) should be in Genetive, when the first (the one that is compared) should be in Nominative:

  • "Bułka (nom.) (jest) lepsza od chleba (gen.)" - A roll (is) better than bread
  • "Wolę czerwony (nom.) od zielonego (gen.)" - I prefer the red to the green one

5. To express separation from sth./sb.

  • "oddzielić dziecko (acc.) od matki (gen.)" - to separate a child from the mother
  • "wyjąć zapałkę (acc.) z pudełka (gen.)" - to take a match out of the matchbox

6. With prepositions

Many prepositions require that the following noun is in Genitive case: "od" from, "z" from, off, out of (attention: "z" also means with - but in that meaning the Instrumental case is required), "do" to, "dla" for, "u" at, "bez" without, "prócz" except, "oprócz" except, "obok" by, by side, "koło" by, close to, "około" about, at about, "naokoło" around, "blisko" near, close to, "wśród" between, in between, "znad" from above, "spod" from under, "naprzeciw" in front of, "naprzeciwko" in front of, opposite, "podczas" during, "według" acccording to, "zamiast" instead of.

  • "od domu (gen.) do domu (gen.)" - from house to house
  • "dla mojej (gen.) babci (gen.)" - for my grandma
  • "spotkamy się około siódmej (gen.)" - we meet at about seven o'clock
  • "jesteś naprzeciwko Sądu (gen.)" - you are in the front of the Court

7. With nouns derived from verbs

It is used to describe activities by the noun derived from verb (in English it is gerund - in Polish a new noun) - even if the original verb requires a noun in accusative:

  • "czytać(verb) książkę (acc.)" - to read a book
  • "czytanie(noun) książki (gen.)" - reading of a book

8. With verbs, that require Genitive

In Polish language, the verb rules the case of the noun used with it (sometimes there are more cases possible, each giving a different meaning to the phrase). There are numerous verbs, that require just Genitive.

  • "używać narzędzia (gen.)" - to use a tool
  • "udzielać wywiadu (gen.)" - to give an interview
  • "dolać oliwy (gen.) do ognia (gen.)" - to add fuel (oil) to the flames

And, here is a list of more common verbs that require the use of genitive (the list was prepared by conor.raff + some additions from me):

  • bać się - to be afraid
  • brakować / braknąć - to be missing, to be insufficient
  • chcieć - to want (in some phrases "chcieć" is used with Accusative, but the meaning is different, and some people consider it a mistake)
  • dokonywać / dokonać - to achieve
  • domagać się - to demand
  • dotyczyć - to apply to
  • dotykać / dotknąć - to be touching / to touch (it may be used also with Accusative, but the meaning is different: dotknąć + Genitive means to touch sth. physically ; dotknąć + Accusative means to offend sob. or suffer from sth.)
  • doznawać / doznać - to experience, to feel
  • lękać się, obawiać się - to be afraid
  • nienawidzić - to hate
  • oczekiwać - to wait for
  • odmawiać / odmówić - to refuse
  • pilnować - to guard
  • potrzebować - to need (a common mistake is using "chcieć" with Accusative)
  • pragnąć - to desire
  • próbować / spróbować - to be trying / to try
  • pytać - to ask (also correct with Accusative)
  • słuchać - to listen
  • spodziewać się - to expect
  • szukać / poszukać - to look for
  • uczyć się / nauczyć się - to study / to learn
  • udzielać / udzielić - to grant
  • unikać / uniknąć - to avoid
  • używać / użyć - to be using/ to use
  • wymagać - to demand
  • wstydzić się - to be embarrassed
  • wystarczać / wystarczyć - to be sufficient
  • zabraniać / zabronić, zakazywać/ zakazać - to forbid
  • zapominać / zapomnieć - to forget (also correct with Accusative)
  • zazdrościć - to envy
  • żałować - to regret
  • życzyć - to wish

Closing Remarks

  • Genitive has taken the function of Ablative case which existed in ancient Polish. Ablative does not exist any more, it was preserved only in some proverbs, e.g. "Gość nie w porę gorszy Tatarzyna" - Tatarzyna noun in ablative case = od Tatarzyna preposition + noun in genitive case. This may explain however why Genitive is a particularly complicated and difficult case. You may be also interested in this thread .

  • The form of Genitive singular case is often the same as Accusative plural or Nominative plural (see this thread ), or Genitive plural. You may like to see the tables here or here. Therefore, it is important to understand when Genitive singular/plural should be expected.

  • There are some words which have two or more meanings with the same spelling, but they have different forms in Genitive. Some samples:

    • "bal - bala" wooden log ; "bal - balu" ball, party
    • "model - modela" a person working as a model ; "model - modelu" pattern; a type of (car, dress); maquette
    • "Kisiel - Kisiela" the pen-name of a Polish writer ; "kisiel - kisielu" a jelly-type dessert
    • "Mania - Mani" diminuation of feminine name Maria ; "mania - manii" - obsession, fixation
    • "cis - cisu" yew, tree genus ; "cis - cisa" - misical note c#, c-sharp
  • Here is a concise guide over the 17 main types of declension . Other good declension tables in pl.wiktionary.org . The model of declension containing 17 types (5 male, 6 female and 6 neutral) is however somewhat general and has some exceptions. There are also other models of declension. Some of them are more detailed - on this page you can find a detailed specification of 146 types of declension (some of which have also numerous subtypes), with sample words (you can browse the exhausive list here and associated tables of declension are accessible from here ) Probbaly the best however, is to check the form in a dedicated dictionary: Grammatical Dictionary of Polish.

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DISCLAIMER

I am not a linguist, but an engineer who loves his mother tongue. If there is something missing above, something is wrong or unclear, please do not hesitate to suggest corrections.

===============================================

You may also want to check:

July 9, 2016

27 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/marcofrago3

am i wrong or chcieć requires Biernik in affermative sentences and Dopełniacz in negative? np. ja chcę chleb - nie chcę chleba


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/br0d4
Mod
  • 1901

Yes, you are right.

  • "Chcę chleb (Accusative)" is good. It means "I want a whole (loaf of) bread".
  • But "chcę chleba (Genitive)" is also good, it means "I want some bread". (see point 3. above)

But there are also cases, when "chcieć" may go with Accusative or Genitive, but then it means something completely different:

  • Ja chcę żonę (Accusative) - it is very ambiguous, depending on context it may mean anything from "I want to talk to my/someone's wife", through "I want to see my/someone's wife" up to "I want to kill/imprison/violate my/someone's wife" or just the opposite "I want to get my wife out of the prison".
  • Ja chcę żony (Genitive) - "I want to get married and have a wife".
  • "Chcę krew (Accusative)" - "I want the blood" - is something that a nurse can hear at transfusion (if a physician is in bad mood or in a hurry; also a patient might say so).
  • "Chcę krwi (Genitive)" means "I want to (spill/draw) blood" - is something that you might hear in one of "Game of Thrones" or some Viking saga movies (and I think it is an idiom, but I am not sure).

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/marcofrago3

Thank you! this is a very thin shade, but very important i think. None of my polish teachers ever mentioned this. In every language, some verbs are very important, making difference between being mean or polite.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mizinamo
  • "zabić drozda(gen.)" - [to kill a mockingbird]

Is this not just masculine animate accusative, rather than genitive?

For example, would "to kill a tit" be zabić sikory (gen.) or zabić sikorę (acc.)?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/br0d4
Mod
  • 1901

You are right, that was a mistake: "zabić" connects Accusative. I have removed this example. Have a lingot or two :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Henry_Manelski

The verbs iść and chodzić require genitive too right?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/blairecoucher

If you're using them to express that you're going somewhere, in which you use the preposition "do" (to) after the verb, but for some destinations, the preposition "na" (to) is used, which requires the accusative.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Henry_Manelski

thanks for clarifying! That was a really helpful explanation


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/blairecoucher

Nie ma problemu.

Iść & chodzić are intransitive verbs, so they do not take a case per se. Only when you have prepositions after them to indicate direction/location. So the case that the noun and/or adjective is dictated by the preposition between them and the verb.

Ex: Jedziemy na lotnisko (accusative due to "na")

Chodzę do szkoły (genitive due to "do")

Idziemy z mamą (instrumental due to "z")


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/br0d4
Mod
  • 1901

Hi, "Dziś idę u babci" is not a correct phrase in Polish. You probably should use "do" or "z", depending on what you mean.

You can use "u" with the verbs of motion, meaning "near" eg. a vehicle that is moving ("Psy biegną u sań" = "Dogs are running near the sleigh"), but it is very old-fashioned. This sometimes works with inanimate objects or even body parts ("Ma szablę u ręki" = "He has his sabre at hand"/"He has his sabre near his hand") - but not with animate nouns.

With verbs other than verbs of motion, "u" may mean "at" ("Dziś zostanę na noc u babci" = "I will stay at my grandma's tonight"), or at some context, "with" ("Jesteś u przyjaciół" = "You are with friends")


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/blairecoucher

So to summarize, u is not often used with verbs of motion, only those of location/existence?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Tristus4

Hello, Thanks for it. It helps me a lot.

I have a question about the verbs, which require genitive. Is there a rule how I can detect them?

It seems that they´re irregular and that I just have to learn them intuitive.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/br0d4
Mod
  • 1901

Not only there is no rule, but even worse - the language is evolving, and the list of verbs that require genitive is slowly getting shorter and shorter. In order to be sure I just bought for myself a dedicated dictionary, that lists about 1000 most used verbs (mostly only imperfective, but their durative variant follows the same rule) http://www.publio.pl/praktyczny-slownik-laczliwosci-skladniowej-czasownikow-polskich-stanislaw-medak,p49461.html


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/blairecoucher

If "uczyć się" requires genitive, does this mean that "uczyć" also requires it?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/br0d4
Mod
  • 1901
  • to teach somebody takes Accusative
  • to teach some subject takes Genitive

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/blairecoucher

By "some subject'" do you mean nouns that are not masculine personal?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/br0d4
Mod
  • 1901

No, I mean that "uczyć" takes one of 2 objects (direct and indirect), or both of them, also in English.

The person (or even not-quite-a-person) that is taught, this may be children, adults. One may also teach dogs (say, to walk on 2 legs), or - say - train/teach robots (if the robots gain as much awareness, that they will not be programmed, but trained). It does not matter what is the gender of the one that is gaining knowledge or competences being taught.

The subject is the field of knowledge that is taught. This may be English, mathematics, juggling clubs or fishing tuna fish.

  • I teach English to Italian students = Uczę włoskich studentów (Accusative) języka angielskiego (Genitive)
  • He teaches geography = On uczy geografii (Genitive).

BTW, it takes genitive if it's a noun, but it may be also a verb in Infinitive:

  • My father taught me to swim. = Mój ojciec nauczył mnie (Accusative) pływać (Infinitive).

It is by the way a great feature of Polish: the subject, the direct and the indirect object take different cases - thanks to that you can juggle the word order and do not lose the meaning (unless a word has the same form in the cases that are used - then you need to be careful with the word order).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/blairecoucher

Also, isn't "dotyczyć" also a genitive verb?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/br0d4
Mod
  • 1901

Yes, it is.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/blairecoucher

If "chcieć" is a genitive verb, why is it that when we ask "What do you want?" or "What would you like,?" we use "Co?" instead of "Czego?" Why do we say "Co chcesz?" instead of "Czego chcesz?" or "Co byś ciała?" instead of "Czego byś ciała?" Is it because "czego" is interpreted as rude in this use?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/br0d4
Mod
  • 1901

The pronoun "co" is an exception to the rule: it may be used as "co" or "czego"; "co" is acceptable in speech and colloquial language, while in careful language "czego" should be used. See: Co chcesz? Czego chcesz?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnnKidd4

wow... dziekuje bardzo !!!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Li.Va.

Quite comprehensive. I would just have a remark that this example is not quite correct: "Ja nie robię nic złego (adjective in gen.)" - I do not do anything wrong "złego" refers directly to "nic" and NOT to the verb, it is not genitive due to the negation, but due to the being related to "nic", which here is as if an indefinite numeral (like: wiele - many, dużo - a lot, mało - little etc.) that requires Genitive exactly the same as constructions with regular cardinal numeral constructions when there is 5, 6, 7 up to 21, 25 up to 31 etc. (wiele kobiet > pięć kobiet, mało psów > dziesięć psów, kilku studentów > stu studentów etc).

Actually according to what is written "nic" should be in Genitive - but it is in Accusative. Which Polish do say, but "Nie robię niczego (Genitive) złego (Genitive due to a construction with "nic")" is also possible. Pozdrawiam!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/br0d4
Mod
  • 1901

Thanks! Fixed :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/alik1989

Actually nic and niczego are both treated as genitive forms, which can be used interchangeably in most contexts.

http://sgjp.pl/leksemy/#90009/nic


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/br0d4
Mod
  • 1901

Ha! it's probably the same as with "co" (see my comment to Blairecoucher, above) http://sgjp.pl/leksemy/#90002/co

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