Polish Cases: The Dative (celownik) 3.83/5 (6)

Find out everything you need to know about dative case in the Polish language and their usage, using many practical examples!

This page is part of the chapter “Cases in the Polish language“.

This article is under development. It may still contain presentational or spelling errors that will be resolved shortly.

Introduction

The dative, called celownik in Polish, is the third case in Polish declension and the one that has the greatest similarities with the German Dativ. It answers to the following questions:

  • komu? / czemu? – who / what?

The question komu? refers only to people, while czemu? is used in relation to things. Most common usage of dative in the Polish language is to describe target objects of specific activity.

Questions of dative: komu? and czemu? (who/what?)

Usage

Compared to the genitive or instrumental cases, the dative is used quite rarely and is relatively easy to learn.

The dative in the Polish language is used in the following situations:

  1. In conjunction with the following prepositions: dzięki (thanks), wbrew (withstand, contrary), naprzeciw (against), przeciwko (towards)

    Examples:

    1. Dzięki rodzicom mogłam skończyć studia.
      (Thanks to my parents I could take my studies to the end.)
    2. Dzięki komu?
      (Thanks to who?)
    3. Wbrew zakazowi wyszedł z domu.
      (Contrary to the suppression he left the house.)
    4. Wbrew czemu?
      (Contrary to what?)
  2. In connection with certain verbs, such as:

    1. dawać/dać (give)
    2. (po)darować (donate)
    3. dziękować (thank)
    4. gratulować (congratulate)
    5. imponować (impress)
    6. odpowiadać (answer)
    7. odmawiać (refuse)
    8. opowiadać (tell)
    9. pasować (fit)
    10. pomagać (help)
    11. podobać się (please)
    12. pozwolić (let)
    13. pożyczyć (lend)
    14. smakować (taste)
    15. wierzyć (believe)
    16. przebaczyć (forgive)

    Example sentences:

    1. On podarował swojej narzeczonej pierścionek.
      (He has given his fiance a ring.)
    2. To nie odpowiada prawdzie.
      (This is far from being true.)
    3. Dziękuję ci za pomoc.
      (Thank you for your help.)
    4. Dziadek zawsze opowiada wnukom ciekawe historie.
      (The grandfather used to tell his grandchildren exciting stories.)
    5. Wczoraj znowu pożyczyłam szwagrowi pieniądze.
      (Yesterday I again lent money to my brother of law.)
  3. In dependancy on a few adjectives, such as: wierny/a (faithfu), przychylny/a (well disposed).

    Example sentences:

    1. On jest wierny swojej żonie.
      (He is faithful to his wife)
    2. Egzaminator był przychylny tej studentce.
      (The examiner was well disposed to the student )
  4. In impersonal expressions about logical object.

    Example sentences:

    1. Czas dzieciom szybko mijał.
      (The time passed quickly for the children.)
    2. Zimno/ gorąco mi (się zrobiło).
      (It become cold/hot.)

Nouns in dative

Singular (liczba pojedyncza)

Masculine (rodzaj męski)

Most have masculine nouns have the ending -owi in their dative form. Similar to all other cases, there are also the well-known variations like vowel change (ą to ę) or vowel dropping (e) possible.

Examples:

NominativeDative
lekarz (doctor)lekarzowi
syn (son)synowi
dom (dom)domowi
mąż (husband)mężowi
koń (horse)koniowi
dziadek (grandfather)dziadkowi

Only a small group of common masculine nouns ends in the dative with -u. They are summarized in the following table.

Examples:

NominativeDative
brat (brother)bratu
kot (cat)kotu
świat (wordl)światu
chłopiec (boy)chłopcu
pan (mister)panu
bóg (god)bogu
ojciec (father)ojcu
lew (lion)lwu
ksiądz (priest)księdzu
pies (dog)psu

However, some masculine nouns can use both forms, for example:

  1. osioł (donkey) – osłu / osłowi
  2. lew (lion) – lwu / lwowi
  3. bez (lilac) – bzu / bzowi

Neuter (rodzaj nijaki)

All neuter nouns in the dative (after the removal of the last letters -e/o) end without any exception with -u.

Examples:

NominativeDative
serce (heart)sercu
dziecko (kid)dziecku
miasto (city)miastu
słowo (word)słowu
okno (window)oknu
imię (name)imieniu*

Nouns of foreing origin in neuter forms ending with -um, like muzeum (museum), centrum (center), etc., are not declined in the dative singular.

Feminine (rodzaj żeński)

Most feminine and masculine nouns ending with vowel have dative singular form >–(i)e suffix.

In such situations often occur cconsonant change or softening, for example:

  1. Ending -ka will change to–ce
  2. -ga/-da to –dze
  3. -ta to –cie
  4. to –l
  5. …and so on.

Many consonants get softened by -i, such as:

  1. -p (will change to –pi)
  2. -m (will change to -mi)
  3. -n (will change to -ni)

Examples:

NominativeDative
koleżanka (colleague)koleżance
mama (mom)mamie
lekarka (doctor (female))lekarce
szkoła (school)szkole
gazeta (newspaper)gazecie
córka (daughet)córce
kobieta (woman)kobiecie
droga (road)drodze
tata (dad)tacie
lampa (lamp)lampie

Some feminine nouns, usually ending with consonant or of foreign origin have in their dative form the same ending as in the genitive, which is -y/-i.

Examples:

NominativeDative
praca (work)pracy
telewizja (television)telewizji
lekcja (lesson)lekcji
chemia (chemistry)chemii
historia (history)historii
noc (night)nocy
myśl (thought)myśli

Nouns in dative: plural (liczba mnoga)

Nouns of all three genders in the dative plural form get the –om ending without any exceptions. Sometimes a vowel change or softening may occur according to the known rules.

Examples:

Nominative
singular
Dative plural
Femininestudentka (student (female))studentkom
siostra (sister)siostrom
babcia (grandma)babciom
książka (book)książkom
Masculinedom (house)domom
zeszyt (notebook)zeszytom
mąż (husband)mężom
koń (horse)koniom
Neuterokno (window)oknom
jajko (egg)jajkom
krzesło (chair)krzesłom
dziecko (kid)dzieciom*
niemowlę (baby)niemowlętom*
muzeum (museum)muzeom

Examples presented above clearly show that creating plural forms of dative is rather easy because there is one ending for all three genders and vowel changes occur very rarely.

Overview of common endings in dative

Masculine: -owi, -u
Neuter: -u
Feminine: -(i)e/-y/-i
Plural: -om

Adjective in dative

The declension of adjectives in the dative is relatively simple and practically no exceptions occur. As always, the possessive pronouns are declined in the dative following the same rules as adjectives. We will look closer at them using some example sentences.

Adjective in dative: singular (liczba pojedyncza)

Masculine and neuter (rodzaj męski i rodzaj nijaki)

Example sentences:

  1. Nieznajomy dał mojemu młodszemu synowi lizaka.
    (A stranger gave my younger son a lollipop.)
  2. Ona przyglądała się temu nowemu budynku.
    (She was looking at the new building.)
  3. Małemu dziecku było zimno.
    (The small child was cold.)

Examples presented above clearly show that adjectives referring to neuter and masculine always use -emu ending in their dative form.

Masculine & neuter: adjective –emu + noun –owi/-u

Feminine (rodzaj żeński)

Example sentences:

  1. Swojej najlepszej przyjaciółce mogła powiedzieć wszystko.
    (She was able to tell her best friend everything.)
  2. Przechodzień pomógł starszej kobiecie.
    (The pedestrian has helped an elderly woman.)
  3. Babcia opowiadała swojej chorej wnuczce ciekawe historie.
    (Granny told interesting stories her ill granddaughter.)
  4. Starszej pani nagle zawróciło się w głowie.
    (The elderly lady got suddenly dizzy.)

Adjectives referring to the feminine nouns in the dative, will use the -ej ending.

Feminine: Adjective –ej + noun–i(e)/-y/-i

Adjective in dative: plural (liczba mnoga)

Example sentences:

  1. Małym dzieciom nie podobały się nowe klocki.
    (The young children did not like the new bricks.)
  2. Starszym ludziom często doskwiera samotność.
    (Older people often suffer from loneliness.)
  3. Dziecko przyglądało się drogim zabawkom.
    (The child stared at the expensive toys.)

Most adjectives in dative plural form use –ym ending. For those with stem containing soft consonants or ending with –g, -k or -n instead of – ym the -in is used.

Plural for all genders:
Adjective –ym/-im + noun –om

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2 Responses to Polish Cases: The Dative (celownik)

  1. Octavius says:

    I speak Portuguese. In São Paulo there are no books about Polish Grammar nor Dictionairies! So, I’m learning Polish with your help. It’s well written! Thank you!.

  2. Linda says:

    I thought there are more mistakes, so I wrote “there are”, but then I realized there was only one mistake, but forgot to change the verb “to be” to singular. Since I cannot edit my own coment I’m leaving the explanation in another one.

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