Polish Cases: The Instrumental Case4.9/5(9)

Polish Cases: The Instrumental Case

Polish Cases: The Instrumental Case


This page is part of the chapter “Polish Grammar“.

Introduction

The Instrumental Case (narzednik) is the fifth of seven Polish cases. It is distinguished by the interrogatives

  • (z) kim? – with who? / with whom?
  • (z) czym? – with what?

The Instrumental Case always refers to the object of a sentence, never to its subject.

As the preposition z (with) is not mandatory in the Instrumental Case, it is shown in brackets.

There is no equivalent to the Instrumental in the English language. There is no direct equivalent to the Instrumental in the English language.

Two examples:

  1. I go for a walk with my brother.
    The Polish translation now requires the Instrumental:
    Idę na spacer z moim bratem.
  2. I go by car.
    In this sentence, the Instrumental is used without the preposition z (with):
    Jadę autem.

Find more information on this topic below.

Usage

In the Polish language, the Instrumental Case has several applications:

  1. Combined with the preposition z (with) for expressing “company”.

    Example:
    Z kim mieszkasz? (Who do you live with? / With whom do you live?)
    Mieszkam z kolegami i z psem. (I live with colleagues and a dog.)

    It is also used in other expressions, such as: ciasto z jabłkami (pie with apples), kawa z mlekiem (coffee with milk), dom z ogrodem (house with garden).

  2. For expressing the tool or instrument you use. In English, you would use the preposition “with”. In Polish Instrumental you don’t use a preposition for that construction.

    Example:
    Czym piszesz? (What do you write with? / With what do you write?)
    Piszę długopisem. (I write with a ball pen.)

  3. For expressing profession, relationship or nationality. In most cases, combined with the verb być (to be).

    Example:
    Jestem Polakiem, a on jest Niemcem. (I am Polish and he is German.)
    Julian jest moim bratem. (Julian is my brother.)
    Ona jest nauczycielką. (She is a teacher.)

    In English, you would use the Nominative Case for this construction.

  4. In combination with several vers: być (to be), interesować się (to be interested in), zostać (to become), okazać się (to prove to be) etc.

    Example:
    Ja interesuje się sportem a ona muzyką. (I’m interested in sports and she’s interested in music.)
    Chciałbym w przyszłości zostać lekarzem. (I want to become a doctor in the future.)

  5. For expressing relations, e.g. with the following prepositions: nad (over), przed (before / in front of), pod (under), za (behind), między (between).

    Example:
    Mieszkam nad morzem. (I live by the sea.)
    On stoi przed domem. (He’s standing in front of the house.)
    Stół znajduje się miedzy szafą i krzesłami. (The table is located between the cupboard and the chairs.)

  6. For expressing time and location.

    Example:
    dniem (by day)
    nocą (by night)
    wieczorem (in the evening)
    idę ulicą (I’m walking on the street.) etc.

  7. In other expressions as a so-called logical subject.

    Example:
    W kuchni pachnie ciastem. (In the kitchen, it smells like cake.)
    Powiało chlodem. (It got cold.)

Nouns in the Instrumental Case: Singular (liczba pojedyncza)

Masculine (rodzaj męski)

The declination of nouns in the Instrumental is quite easy and has only a few irregularities.

The first and most important rule is:

All masculine nouns in Instrumental have the ending –em.

Nominative Instrumental
kot (cat) (z) kotem
brat (brother) (z) bratem
syn (son) (z) synem
dom (house) (z) domem
sklep (shop) (ze) sklepem

Masculines with diphthong ie

If masculine nouns contain the diphthong (“gliding vowel”) -ie, the ending –em is attached as usual but the diphthong –ie is removed:

Nominative Instrumental
chłopiec (boy) (z) chłopcem
pies (dog) (z) psem
ojciec (father) ojcem
Niemiec (German) (z) Niemcem

Remove -ie + add ending -em

Masculines with ó

With masculine nouns containing the letter ó such as pokój (room), stół (table) or samochód (car), the letter ó is replaced by o in the Instrumental Case and the corresponding ending (-em) is attached:

Nominative Instrumental
pokój pokojem
stół stołem
samochód samochodem

Replace ó with o + add ending -em

Masculines ending with -ś, -ć, -ń, -ź

The “soft” consonants -ś, -ć, -ń, -ź at the end of masculine nouns are transformed to –si; -ci; -ni; -zi in the Instrumental Case. In short, the diacritical mark (the acute accent on top of the letter) is being removed and the vocal -i is attached.

To clarify this, look at the following examples:

Nominative Instrumental
gość (guest) gościem
koń (horse) koniem
słoń (elephant) słoniem
uczeń (student) uczniem

Replace -ś, -ć, -ń, -ź with -si; -ci; -ni; -zi + add ending -em

Masculines ending with -g or -k

With masculine nouns with the ending -g or -k, an –i is added before the Instrumental ending –em.

Example:

Nominative Instrumental
pociąg (train) pociągiem
zegarek (watch) zegarkiem

Ending g or k: -em becomes -iem

Masculines ending with -a

The few masculine nouns with the typical female ending -a act like feminine nouns in terms of declination.

Example:

Nominative Instrumental
tata (dad) tatą
kolega (colleague) kolegą
mezczyzna (man) mezczyzną

Find more information on the declination of female nouns in the chapter “Nouns in the Instrumental Case: Singular, Feminine” below.

Ending a: Declination like feminine nouns

Neuter (rodzaj nijaki)

The declination of neutral nouns and the corresponding rules are mostly (but not always) identical to the masculine. That means, in the Instrumental Case, all neuters also have the ending –(e)m.

Neuters ending with -e

Example:

Nominative Instrumental
miejsce (place) miejscem
słonce (sun) słoncem

As these words end with -e, they’re only attached the ending -m.

-e becomes -em

Neuters ending with -o

Neutral nouns ending with –o (which is most of them) are declined the same way. The only difference is that the ending –o is replaced by –em.

Example:

Nominative Instrumental
krzesło (chair) krzesłem
piwo (beer) piwem
wino (wine) winem
biurko (desk) biurkem
dziecko (child) dzieckem

The last two examples show the special case of the added –i after g and k. The same rule applies as with masculine nouns.

Replace -o with ending -em

Feminine (rodzaj żeński)

All feminine nouns end with –ą in the Instrumental Case. With feminine nouns ending with –a in Nominative (which is the majority), the –a is replaced by ą. With the few nouns ending with i, the letter ą is simply attached.

Feminines ending with -a or -i

Take a look at the following examples:

Nominative Instrumental
koleżanka (female colleague) (z) koleżanką
mama (mum) (z) mamą
ulica (street) ulicą
książka (book) (z) książką
pani (madam) (z) panią

-a becomes , -i becomes -ia

Feminines ending with -ś, -ć, -ń or

With the feminine nouns ending with -ś, -ć, -ń, -ź, the same rule applies as with masculines (-ś, -ć, -ń, -ź become -si; -ci; -ni; -zi), but they’re added the female ending ą.

Example:

Nominative Instrumental
kość (bone) kością
uroczystość (party) uroczystością
ostrożność (attention) ostrożnością

-ś, -ć, -ń, -ź become -si; -ci; -ni; -zi + ending

Nouns in the Instrumental Case: Plural (liczba mnoga)

Nouns of all genders are added the ending -ami in Instrumental Plural.

Nominative
Singular
Nominative
Plural
Instrumental
Plural
Feminine studentka (student) studentki studentkami
siostra (sister) siostry siostrami
Masculine dom (house) domy domami
zeszyt (notebook) zeszyty zeszytami
Neuter okno (window) okna oknami
jajko (egg) jajka jajkami

As you can see from the examples, in most cases the last letter of the Nominative Plural version is removed, and the Instrumental ending –ami is added. Words ending with -a in Nominative Plural are only added -mi.

In other words, take the word stem of Nominative Singular and add the ending -ami.

All genders: Word stem in Nominative Singular + ending -ami

There are just a few exceptions to this rule (mostly with masculine nouns), where endings are merged.

Example:

Nominative
Singular
Nominative
Plural
Instrumental
Plural
brat (brother) bracia braćmi
gość (guest) goście gośćmi

Adjectives in the Instrumental Case

As mentioned above, the Instrumental Case always applies to the object of a sentence. Accordingly, adjectives describing the object in the Instrumental Case are also declined.

Adjectives in the Instrumental Case: Singular (liczba pojedyncza)

Feminine (rodzaj żeński)

Let’s look at a few examples first:

  1. Kim jest Ania? (Who or what is Ania?)
    Ania jest dobrą nauczycielką. (Ania is a good teacher.)
  2. Kim jest Ewa? (Who or what is Ewa?)
    Ewa jest ładną dziewczyną. (Ewa is a pretty girl.)
  3. Kim się ona okazała? (What did she turn out to be?)
    Ona okazała się dobrą przyjaciółką. (She turned out to be a good friend.)

As you may have noticed, the adjectives relating to female nouns in the Instrumental Case behave like their corresponding noun.

That means: Adjectives relating to female nouns also end with -ą in the Instrumental Case.

Adjective Noun

Feminine: Adjective –ą + Noun –ą

Masculine and Neuter (rodzaj męski i rodzaj nijaki)

  1. On jest dobrym nauczycielem. (He is a good teacher.)
  2. Dominik jest przystojnym mężczyzną. (Dominik is a handsome man.)
  3. Mój syn jest pilnym uczniem. (My son is a hard-working student.)
  4. Auto jest bardzo drogim prezentem. (A car is a very expensive present.)

These sentences show, that the masculine and neuter forms of adjectives have the same ending (but not the same as their corresponding noun like with female adjectives), which is -ym or, less often, -im (after -g or -k).

Adjective Noun
-ym -em
-im (after -g or -k)

Masculine & Neuter: Adjective –ym/-im + Noun –em

Adjectives in the Instrumental Case: Plural (liczba mnoga)

  1. Oni są dobrymi kolegami. (They are good friends.)
  2. Mój brat jeździ drogimi samochodami. (My brother drives expensive cars.)
  3. Moi córki zostaną słynnymi lekarkami. (My daughters will be famous doctors.)

The rule for the plural form can be seen in the above examples:

Adjective Noun
-ymi -ami
-imi (after -g or -k)

All Genders: Adjective –ymi/-imi + Noun –ami

Alternative for Adjectives: “to” + Nominative

You have to learn all the above adjectiv forms in order to understand Polish. But also note that they’re quite rarely used in every day language. More often, they’re replaced by the Nominative form and the word “to” (in the sense of the), without the verb “być”.

Examples:

Instrumental Nominative Translation
Auto jest drogim prezentem. Auto to drogi prezent. A car is an expensive present.
Żywiec jest drogim piwem. Żywiec to drogie piwo. Żywiec is an expensive beer.
Ona jest dobrą nauczycielką. Ona to dobra nauczycielka. She is a good teacher.

Adjectives: “być” + Instrumental or “to” + Nominative

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