Polish Cases: The Genitive (dopełniacz) 4.43/5 (14)

Find out everything you need to know about genitive 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

Genitive (dopełniacz), the second case in Polish grammar, anwers to the questions:

  • kogo? / czego? – whose?

Genitive plays an important role in Polish grammar and is thus much more often used than the genitive in English or German.

The question kogo? refers to people, while czego? refers to things.

Genitive is often used with interrogative pronouns, where questions czyj?/czyja? are asked, being close to the English question “whose?” and its usage of genitive. These pronouns follow the same declension rules as adjectives, which were explained in details in the chapter Interrogative pronouns in the Polish language .

Questions of genitive: kogo? and czego? (whose?)

Usage

In the Polish language, genitive is used in the following context:

  1. To specify who is the owner of something or what something belongs to

    Examples:

    1. Kogo/czyj to ołówek?
      (Whose pencil is this?)
    2. To jest ołówek mojego kolegi.
      (This is the pencil of my colleague.)
    3. Torba mamy leży na podłodze.
      (My mother’s bag lies on the flor.)
  2. In sentences with certain verbs, expressing negation, as well in sentences describing defect, absence or increase of something.

    Examples:

    1. Nie lubię tego kolegi.
      (I don’t like this colleague.)
    2. Nie piję piwa.
      (I don’t drink a beer.)
    3. Nie mam pieniędzy.
      (I have no money.)
    4. Nie znam go.
      (I don’t know him.)
    5. Zabraniać palenia.
      (Smoking prohibited.)
    6. Oczekiwać pomocy.
      (Expecting help.)
    7. On odmówił pomocy.
      (He refused to help.)
    8. Szef wymaga od pracowników punktualności.
      (The boss demands the punctuality from his employees.)
  3. Verbs like szukać (search), potrzebować (need), słuchać (listen), uczyć się (learn), nienawidzieć (hate), zapomnieć (forget), używać (use), bać się (be afraid of), pilnować (pay attention), bronić (defend) and more

    Examples:

    1. Słucham radia.
      (I listen to the radio.)
    2. Zapomniałem paszportu.
      (I forgot my passport.)
    3. Ona nienawidzi fizyki.
      (She hates physics.)
    4. Uczniowie zapomnieli zeszytów.
      (The students have their notebooks forgotten.)
  4. A few prepositions that require the genitive: niedaleko (near), bez (without), dla (for), do (to, into), koło/obok (near, by), podczas (during), wzdłuż (along), z/ze (from).

    Examples:

    1. Niedaleko szkoły.
      (Near the school.)
    2. Ze srebra.
      (From silver.)
    3. Obok kina.
      (Near the cinema.)
    4. Podczas wakacji.
      (During holidays.)
  5. With specified and unspecified quantity

    Examples:

    1. kilo kiełbasy
      (kilogram of sausage)
    2. butelka mleka
      (bottle of milk)
    3. 200 gramów sera żółtego
      (200 grams of cheese)
    4. szklanka herbaty
      (glass of tea)
  6. In many sentences describing the specific time.

    Examples:

    1. pewnego dnia
      (some day)
    2. pewnego wieczoru
      (one evening)
    3. każdego dnia
      (every day)
    4. ubiegłego roku
      (last year)
    5. and so on.
  7. After a number used with a noun.

    Examples:

    1. pięć domów
      (five houses)
    2. sześć osób
      (six persons)
    3. dziesięć książek
      (ten books)
    4. and so on.

The most important function of the genitive, in addition to the usages described above is the negation. Even if the noun is in the affirmative sentence in the accusative or nominative form, this is the genitive that always is a part of the negation!

Please take a look at the following examples:

  1. Czytam książkę. (accusative) -> Nie czytam książki. (genitive)
    (I read a book. -> I don’t read a book.)
  2. Adam jest w domu. (nominative) -> Adama nie ma w domu. (genitive)
    (Adam is at home. -> Adam is not at home.)
  3. Kupiłam chleb. (accusative) -> Nie kupiłam chleba. (genitive)
    (I have bought a bread -> I didn’t buy a bread.)

Noun in genitive

Singular (liczba pojedyncza)

Masculine (rodzaj męski)

Masculine nouns in genitive form have –a or –u endings.

Animate masculine

Animate masculine (people and animales ) in genitive always receive –a ending.

Examples:

NominativeGenitive
kot (cat)kota
brat (brother)brata
i (son)syna
student (student)studenta
pies (dog)
ojciec (father)
psa*
ojca*
gość (guest)
koń (horse)
gościa*
konia*

* Include masculine noun with the diphthong–ie, which in genitive form is lost, as usual. The soft consonants like –ć, , are replaced by –ci, -ni, -si or vice versa (see the noun koniec below).

Inanimate masculine

Most of the inanimaten masculine nouns (things and abstractions) in the genitive get -u ending.

Examples:

NominativeGenitive
sklep (shop)sklepu
dom (house)domu
stół (table)stołu
plac (square)placu
las (forest)lasu
zeszyt (notebook)zeszytu

There are also a number of inanimate masculine nouns that do not end with -u but instead use -a suffix. Unfortunately the Polish grammas does not specify clear rules for them. Generally speaking physical object tend to have -a ending , while abstractions mostly use -usuffix . This is not supposed to be taken as the strict rule though.

Examples:

NominativeGenitive
nos (nose)nosa
ratusz (city hall)ratusza
koniec (end)końca
kwiatek (flower)kwiatka
wstyd (shame)wstydu
głód (hunger)głodu

Exception!
Personal masculine noun ending with the vowel -a like mężczyzna(man), kolega (colleague), tata (dad) will follow the declesion rule for feminine nouns.

Neuter (rodzaj nijaki)

Neuter nouns in the Polish language have in genitive in most cases the -aending .

Examples:

NominativeGenitive
pole (field)pola
krzesło (chair)krzesła
miejsce (site)miejsca
muzeum (museum)muzea
dziecko (kid)dziecka
niebo (heaven)nieba
okno (window)okna

Some neuter nouns that in the nominative ends with e get in the genitive fom -ta suffix.

Examples:

NominativeGenitive
zwierzę (animal)zwierzęta
niemowlę (baby)niemowlęta

Exceptions:

NominativeGenitive
ramię (arm)ramiona
imię (name)imiona

Feminine (rodzaj żeński)

For most feminine nouns, the genitive ending will be the same as the personal masculine, which is -y.

For nouns ending with –ka, -ga or consonants like –ć and , as well as a few more feminine the –yending is replaced by –i. In these cases letters –ć and are removed and replaced with “normal” consonants.

Examples:

NominativeGenitive
kobieta (woman)kobiety
siostra (sister)siostry
szafa (wardrobe)szafy
ulica (street)ulicy
noc (night)nocy
szklanka (glass)szklanki
przyjaciółka (girlfriend)przyjaciółki
złość (anger)złości
sala (room)sali
droga (road)drogi

Exceptions:
Feminine nouns of foreign origin often have -ii or -ji endings in genitive.

NominativeGenitive
telewizja (television)telewizjii
kategoria (category)kategorii
partia (part)partii

Noun in genitive: plural (liczba mnoga)

Endings in the genitive plural are not equal for all grammatical genders.

Masculine (rodzaj męski)

For masculine genitive plural forms -ów and -y/–i endings are used, some have no suffix at all. The –ów ending is specific for the genitive and occurs solely in this case.

In the masculine form nouns ending with hard (“non-palatal”) consonants, and in some personal maskulina with the -a, the –ów ending dominated. Usually where “necessary”, the –ie is omitted (refer to example: pies).

Nominative
singular
Genitive
plural
dach (roof)dachów
pan (man)panów
ptak (bird)ptaków
pociąg (train)pociągów
dom (house)domów
list (letter)listów
kolega (colleague)kolegów
pianista (pianist)pianistów
pies (dog)psów

Ending: hard consonants and masculine personal with -a:
nominative singular + ów = genitive plural

The most masculine nouns with the “soft” ending consonants like -ć, -ś –ź, -dź, -ń (they are usually changed to -ci, -si, ni etc.) or with -ąb and -w ending get in the genitive plural -isuffix.

Nominative
singular
Genitive
plural
koń (horse)koni
łabędź (swan)łabędzi
niedźwiedź (bear)niedźwiedzi
kamień (rock)kamieni
dzień (day)dni
żółw (turtle)żółwi
gołąb (pigeon)gołębi

Ending: soft consonants and -ąb or -w:
nominative singular+ i = genitive plural

Only a few masculine nouns (mostly with the -sz or -cz endings) in genitive plural use -y instead of -i ending , for example:

Nominative
singular
Genitive
plural
wiersz (poem)wierszy
notariusz (notary)notariuszy
biegacz (Läufer)biegaczy
klucz (key)kluczy

A small group of masculine nouns in the genitive plural does not have endings at all. They are mostly words for some indications of origin, ending with -anin, for example:

Nominative
singular
Genitive
plural
Rosjanin (Russia)Rosjan
Słowianin (Slav)Słowian

In this case just remove -in.

But for example:

Nominative
singular
Genitive
plural
Afrykanin (African)Afrykanów

Many nouns being indications of origin do not have -anin ending will receive -ów suffix, for example:

Nominative
singular
Genitive
plural
Polak (Pole)Polaków
Niemiec (German)Niemców
Czech (Czech)Czechów

Neuter (rodzaj nijaki)

The most neuter nouns have no ending in the genitive plural form. -o or -e endings from the singular form are dropped and the vowel change occurs very often. If at the end of the word are letters -ni (like mieszkanie), they will be replaced by .

Nominative
singular
Genitive
plural
serce (heart)serc
mieszkanie (flat)mieszkań
pióro (feather)piór
piwo (beer)piw

Neuter nouns ending with –ko or –ło, after the dropping of “o” receive -e before adding –k/-ł ending.If after the removal of the letter -o the part “kn” remains, letters -ie are placed before the ending.

Nominative
singular
Genitive
plural
okno (window)okien
biurko (desk)biurek
jajko (egg)jajek
krzesło (chair)krzeseł

Exception:

Nominative
singular
Genitive
plural
dziecko (kid)dzieci

Neuter nouns ending with are subject to –ę to –ą replacement and then -t is added:

Nominative
singular
Genitive
plural
zwierzę (animal)zwierząt
niemowlę (baby)niemowląt

Nouns of foreign origin ending with –um will receive –ów suffix, for example:

Nominative
singular
Genitive
plural
muzeum (museum)muzeów
akwarium (aquarium)akwariów
centrum (center)centrów

Feminine (rodzaj żeński)

Most of the feminine nouns in the genitive form have no endings. Similar to neuter the -a letter is dropped and the vowel changes are also possible (following the same rules as for neuter).

Nominative
singular
Genitive
plural
gazeta (newspaper)gazet
ulica (street)ulic
osoba (person)osób
pani (lady)pań
gitara (guitar)gitar
bułka (bun)bułek
książka (book)książek
partia (part)partii

Exceptions are the feminine nouns with consonants at the end, for example:

Nominative
singular
Genitive
plural
noc (night)nocy
myśl (thought)myśli
odpowiedź (answer)odpowiedzi

They receive the –i/-y ending .

Overview of most common endings in genitive

Masculine: -a, -u
Neuter: -a, -ta
Feminine: -y/-i
Plural: -ów, -y/-i, no ending

Adjectives in genitive

As in all cases in the Polish language, also in the genitive adjectives are declined. The adjective endings in the genitive are different than noun ending.

Adjective in genitive: singular (liczba pojedyncza)

Masculine and neuter (rodzaj męski i rodzaj nijaki)

Example sentences:

  1. Spotkaliśmy się obok tego nowego budynku.
    (We met near that new building.)
  2. Nie widziałam twojego nowego swetra.
    (I didn’t see your new sweater.)
  3. Pewnego słonecznego dnia.
    (One sunny day.)
  4. Nie lubię ciemnego piwa.
    (I do not like the dark beer.)

Examples above show you clearly that the adjectives referring to neuter and masculine nouns in the genitive form receive -egoending.

Masculine & neuter: adjective –ego + noun –u/-a

Feminine (rodzaj żeński)

Example sentences:

  1. Mojej najlepszej koleżanki nie było w domu.
    (My best friend was not at home.)
  2. Nie kupiłam nowej kurtki, bo miałam za mało pieniędzy.
    (I didn’t buy a new jacket because I had not enough money.)
  3. Wszyscy zazdrościli mi mojej eleganckiej torebki z Paryża.
    (Everyone was jealous of my elegant handbag from Paris.)

Here again, the rule is really easy to remember: all adjectives that refer to the feminine genitive, receive the -ej ending.

Feminine: adjective –ej + noun –i/-y

Adjective in genitive: plural (liczba mnoga)

Example sentences:

  1. Mało jest dobrych ludzi na świecie.
    (There are a few good people all around the world.)
  2. W bibliotece jest dużo ciekawych książek.
    (There are many interesting books in the library.)
  3. Ona nie życzy sobie drogich prezentów na urodziny.
    (She expects no expensive gifts for her birthday.)
  4. Szukam tanich mieszkań do wynajęcia.
    (I’m looking for an affordable flats to rent.)

Most adjectives in genitive plural form has -ych ending. These ending with -g, -k, -n receive -ich ending instead of-ych.

Plural for all grammatical genders:
Adjective –ych/-ich + noun –ów, -y/-i or without ending

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2 Responses to Polish Cases: The Genitive (dopełniacz)

  1. Lex says:

    I noticed halfway the verb usage section, that there is a typo.

    “Zapomniałem paszportu.
    (I forgot my password.)”

    Paszportu means passport, not password, password would be Hasło.

    Thought I’d let you know 🙂

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