Polish prepositions & cases – explanation / Przyimki i przypadki – wyjaśnienie

Polish prepositions & cases – explanation / Przyimki i przypadki – wyjaśnienie

Co to jest przyimek? What is  a preposition?

Preposition is usually a very short word which informs us about relation between other words. It can help you express direction, distance, location, movement or purpose. In Polish to express relations we use cases and prepositions. Some other languages which don’t have cases, like English, need to use more prepositions. For example preposition “of” doesn’t exist in Polish because its functions is completely covered by Genitive case.

Prepositions are always before nouns (or adjective+noun construction) or pronouns. They are never before verbs.

  •  Rozmawiam z interesującym mężczyzną.
  •  Myślę o tobie.
  • Nie: Chcę coś do jeść. -> Chcę coś do jedzenia.

Dlaczego przyimki są takie ważne?Why prepositions are so important?

Even though they are so small, they can cause problems with understanding what a person is saying because they completely change the sense of the statement. Poles can have problems understanding you if you use wrong preposition but probably will be fine if you just make a mistake with cases.

Let’s analyse how students say “I’m going to the sea”

  • Jadę z morza. – wrong preposition required wrong case; the sense is lost
  • Jadę nad morzem. – correct preposition and wrong case; it’s still easy to undertstand the sense
  •  Jadę nad morze. – correct preposition and case;  this sentence is perfect

Some prepositions can have two meanings and then the case is also very important! 

  • Jem obiad z babcią.(I’m having dinner with my grandma) – this is a normal sentence
  • Jem obiad z babci. (I’m having dinner of my grandma) – this sentence is some kind of macabre

Jak rozgryźć przypadki za pomocą przyimków? How to crack cases with prepositions?

Prepositions are also very important as the keys to the cases. A lof of my students have problems because they are not sure which case should they use with which prepositions. If you remember which case follows which preposition, you will recognize cases in every text in 80%. 

Przyimki i czytanie. Prepositions and reading.

It’s an often situation when students can’t find the subject of a complicated sentence because of Polish free word order. Searching the subject is not as easy as in English when you just have to look at the beginning of the sentence. In Polish you really have to understand who is doing the action. It will be easier for you when you realise there will be no preposition before the subject! If you find two nouns in a sentence and one of them follows a preposition, you may be sure, this is not the subject.

(The bolded words are the subjects)

  • Na imprezę przyszła tylko jedna osoba.
  • Do domu wszedł mężczyzna w kapturze.
  • Do ziemniaków dodały dziewczyny trochę za dużo soli.

When you know where the subject is, it’s much easier to understand the whole sentence!

Możemy używać przyimków z różnymi przypadkami! We can use the same prepositions with different cases!

  • Some prepositions has only one function and links only to one case. 
  • Unfortunately there are plenty of prepositions which can connect with two cases depending on the fact if they are dynamic or static – if we express movement with them or not.

The preposition with only one function are great! Other can be a bit tricky…

Download the PDF with a chart with both kinds of prepositions, their cases and examples here.

Never translate prepositions!

A lot of students try to do it and end up with really terrible constructions like “Jestem zakochany z tobą” instead of “Jestem zakochany w tobie”. You need to learn prepositions with the verbs or phrases. Whenever you learn a new verb, think if you know what preposition will follow. For example remember “prosić” – to ask will be
followed by “o” not “na”.

Another very common preposition which is commonly misunderstood is “dla”. Students tend to say “Idę dla kawę.” or “Płacę dla lody” or even “Daję prezent dla babci.” Remember to say instead: “Idę na kawę“, “Płacę za lody” and “Daję prezent babci“.

I hope this article cleared the idea of prepositions in Polish for you and made you a step closer to fluency! If you have any additional comments, write them in the comment and I will be happy to answer!

Download the story= exercise

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