"tamto, tę, to, ten, tamten." Etc Words in Polski that confuse me.

So, I've not been learning polish for very long and I've got pretty far and soem of it is okay and fun and easy to learn, however i have hit a road block with directional learning. When practicing i cannot tell when "to" is this - or that. Same with "Tę, tamten, tamte, tamta." etc and i find this to be a big problem for me.

if anyone can shine some light any try to explain how it works in a simple way that would be much appreciated because its very confusing. One word can have three or four different meanings depending on context.

Also, if you have any stories about speaking and learning polish for the first time that would be massively appreciated, as i love hearing them and they give me confidence.

December 17, 2018


I realise that these things may seem very confusing for a Polish learner. Unfortunately Polish has a lot of different pronouns and, what's worse, they are subject to the case system. I will try to shed some light on them. :)

"To" is "this" or "it".

"Tamto" is "that".

"Ten" is "this one" in relation to masculine singular nouns.

"Ta" is "this one" in relation to feminine singular nouns.

"To" is "this one" in relation to neutral singular nouns.

"Tamten" is "that one" in relation to masculine singular nouns.

"Tamta" is "that one" in relation to feminine singular nouns.

"Tamto" is "that one" in relation to neutral singular nouns.

"Te" is "these ones" in relation to plural nouns.

"Ci" is "these ones" in relation to plural masculine persons.

"Te" is "these ones" in relation to plural feminine and neutral persons.

"Tamte" is "those ones" in relation to plural nouns.

"Tamci" is "those ones" in relation to plural masculine persons.

"Tamte" is "those ones" in relation to plural feminine and neutral.

"Tę" or "tą" is more difficult to explain. It is used in connection with Dative or Instrumental cases in relation to feminine nouns.

As a rule of thumb, if the noun ends with "ę", you use "tę" pronoun (fortunately "tamtę" form is now extinct :) ).

I know that i barely scratched the surface of Polish grammar and not being a philologist, my explanations may not be as clear as I intend them to be, but I hope they are helpful.

December 17, 2018

You surely must have meant accusative instead of dative

December 18, 2018

Indeed, I meant accusative (Polish biernik), but also instrumental case (Polish narzędnik) but the topic is too extensive for me to try to cover it in detail here.

December 18, 2018


December 18, 2018

Comments are always shifted rightwards from the post they are referring to. Furthermore, you didn't make a factual statement regarding the dative case. So, I can't have meant you.

December 18, 2018

ah okay

December 18, 2018

Wow, this is a very detailed answer, thank you very much! i guess i will have to look up some pronouns and do a little bit of english and polish research. This definitely helps. i can't really remember the definition of Pronoun, dative, etc. aha.

December 17, 2018

I'm glad that I can help. To be honest, I'm glad that Polish is my native language and I don't have to learn its grammar the way the foreigners do. :) I really appreciate all the people who decide to learn Polish. It is a hard task, but hopefully rewarding. And as for Polish grammar, Wikipedia has a pretty good description of the basics. Check it here.

December 18, 2018

Thank you again, i never expected such an amazing response. Its really nice to know that people want to help and i really do think that polish is a fantastic language. i also hope that one day ill be able to visit over there as well.

December 19, 2018

Consider three magnitudes of distance. Very close/rather close/far.

In Polish, it's ten/ten/tamten, whereas in English it's this/that/that. This is why "ten" can be translated as both "this" and "that".

Everything else (case and genders distinction) is evident from those two tables:,_tamten

"To" however, is a whole topic on it's own. Here's a very good post that explains everything:

December 18, 2018

Thank you very much i will have a look at this as soon as possible :) miłego dnia!

December 18, 2018

As you said, the meanings of Polish and English demonstrative pronouns do not exactly match. You aren't the only one that has trouble with this, Poles learning English also do :) I'll try to break it down for you into groups of meanings.

to jest/są => this/that/these/those/it is/are

Above is the construction used to:

1) point at things and people ("This is Mike", "This is my bike")

2) state what something is ("This/that/it's a bike", "This/that/it's a bird", "Those/these are cars")

3) state that something is something else ("The car was a BMW", Cats are mammals)

4) state that something is the case ("This/that/it is true", This/that/it is great)

This is one of the things that gives Polish people pause: in English there are 5 words in total (including "it") to differentiate between for a simple Polish "to". In Polish, in this case the distance from the speaker is not important at all.

Also, the thing to remember about the constructions with "to be" is that in the present tense it usually sounds more natural in Polish to just drop the "to be" part - especially in the spoken language.

Some examples:

1) Pointing at things and people:

  • Agnes, to jest Mike. = Agnes, this is Mike.

  • To (są) moje przyjaciółki, Ania i Asia. = These are my friends, Ania i Asia.

  • To (są) moje samochody. = These/those are my cars.

2) Stating what something is:

  • To (jest) krowa. = This\that\it is a cow.

  • Myślę, że to był pies. = I think (that) it was a dog.

  • Ktoś wszedł do pokoju. To był Adam. = Someone walked into the room. It was Adam.

3) Stating that something is something else:

  • Ten ptak to (jest) wróbel = This bird is a sparrow.

  • Samochód, który widziałem, to było BMW. = The car I've seen was a BMW.

  • Koty to (są) ssaki. = Cats are mammals.

4) Stating that something is the case:

  • To (jest) prawda. = This/that/it is true / the truth.

  • To nie będzie łatwe. = This/that/it won't be easy.

  • To było świetne. = This/that/it was great.

  • To (jest) wszystko = This/that is all.

The above is a special case, I think separate from the "normal" usage of demonstrative pronouns in Polish, so I had to get it out of the way first.

ten\tamten etc. + noun => this\that + noun

Demonstrative pronouns in Polish have different forms, depending on grammatical case, grammatical gender, grammatical number, and distance from the speaker:

  • grammatical he => ten (close), tamten (far), e.g. ten/tamten stół, ten/tamten chłopiec

  • grammatical she => ta (close), tamta (far), e.g. ta/tamta ławka, ta/tamta dziewczyna

  • grammatical it => to (close), tamto (far), e.g. to/tamto krzesło, to/tamto dziecko

  • grammatical they (male persons) => ci (close), tamci (far), e.g. ci/tamci chłopcy

  • grammatical they (everything except male persons) => te (close), tamte (far), e.g. te/tamte stoły, te/tamte ławki, te/tamte dziewczyny, te/tamte krzesła, te/tamte dzieci

Now the difficult part is the distance. Ten doesn't translate 1:1 to this, similarly tamten isn't exactly that. I think that conceptually there are in fact 3 different distances, not 2:

  • this (here) ; this one (here)=> ten

  • that (there); that one (there) => ten

  • that (over there); that one (over there) => tamten

Because of this, in Polish "tamten" is used much more sparingly than "that" in English: "tamten" is only used for things really far away (physically or conceptually), or if you have to differentiate between two things based on distance, for example:

  • A: Podaj mi długopis. B: Ten? A: Nie, tamten drugi. = A. Pass me the pen. B: This one? A: No, that other one.

  • To i tamto to są dwie różne rzeczy. = This and that are two different things.

Otherwise, you'll use "tamten" etc. only when the "distance" is considerable:

  • Czy pamiętasz tamten zimny poranek? = Do you remember that cold morning?

  • Czy widzisz tamten dom na wzgórzu? = Can you see that house on the hill?

ten\tamten etc. => this\that one

You can also use "ten/tamten" etc. when speaking about a concrete object, meaning this/that one:

  • Ten jest niebieski. / Ta jest niebieska. / To jest niebieskie. = This one is blue.

  • Ta była inna. = That one was different.

Additionally, there is a matter of the English "the" article. Sometimes, when "the" is used specifically to mean "this exact thing", in Polish you may use "ten/ta/to/te/ci" (the demonstrative pronouns that mean "this here"):

  • Ta cała sprawa była trochę zabawna. = The whole thing was a bit amusing.

  • Ta walka była przegrana od samego początku. = The fight was lost from the very beginning.

  • Tego człowieka tam nigdy nie było. = The man was never there.

I think the rule of thumb here is that if you can replace "the" with "this" without changing the meaning, then you can probably use "ta/ten/to" etc in the Polish version.

Well, I think this covers all (or at least most) of it...?

December 19, 2018

Wow! This is fantastic! I'm so grateful for this, this much have taken ages. Hopefully with everyones help ill now get the hang of it more. Dziękuję i Miłena dnia!

December 19, 2018

Hi Helen. On Duo here, we are taught that ten, ta, to, etc means "this" and tamten, tamta, tamto, etc means "that" - and that's the generally accepted translation on here.

However there seems to be an overlap of the usage of "this" and "that" between the Polish and English, which I'm still not quite sure about myself either, but it comes up in the sentence discussions.

Hopefully a native or somebody else who's got it nailed will offer some simple explanation for us both :)

December 17, 2018

on duolingo it's like this:

December 17, 2018

Hi LICA98.

Thanks for the reply. That's my grey area really ---- "to" can mean both "this" and "that", but is there a general rule for when "tamto" must be used instead?

December 17, 2018

i find it confusing a well because they mix it up and the explanations they give don't make much sense to me really, i guess its figuring out the context?

December 17, 2018

definitely. The explanation above is really good if you know the definition or meaning of pronouns and dative etc. I think maybe some research is in order. Powodzenia with whatever you end up doing and learning polish though :)

December 17, 2018
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