Past tense in the Polish language 4.29/5 (7)

Learn everything about the past tense and its usage in the Polish language using many practical examples!

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

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

Past tense in the Polish language (czas przeszły w języku polskim)

In the Polish language, in contrast to the German and English, only one past tense exists which is often compared to the German Präteritum past tense. Real usage of this tense covers both German Präteritum and the Perfekt. It refers to activities that took place in the past, both in unfinished and finished manner.

The past tense in the Polish language is not difficult, but it can provide some confusion among the learners with the related gender form creation.


The initial form to create the past tense of the verb is always the infinitive, which is obtained by removing the suffix, in most cases -(e)n or -(a)ć (detailed explanations about this topic can be found in the chapter about Present tense in the Polish language) and adding the -łem/-łeś/ (for masculine) or -łam/-łaś/-ła (for feminine) ending.

We take a look at this phenomenon using verbs czytać (read) and pisać (write) as examples:

Masculine conjugation examples

Jaczytałem / pisałemMyczytaliśmy / pisaliśmy
Tyczytałeś / pisałeśWyczytaliście / pisaliście
Onczytał / pisałOniczytali / pisali

Example sentences:

  1. Wczoraj czytałem ciekawą książkę.
    I have read a good book yesterday. / I read a good book yesterday.
  2. Napisałeś już ten list?
    Have you written this letter yet?

Feminine conjugation examples

Jaczytałam / pisałamMyczytałyśmy / pisały
Tyczytałaś / pisałaśWyczytałyście / pisałyście
Onaczytała / pisałaOneczytały / pisały

Example sentences:

  1. Czytałam we wczorajszej gazecie interesujący artykuł.
    I have read an interesting article in the newspaper yesterday.
  2. Przeczytałaś już tę książkę?
    Have you read this book to the end?

Neuter conjugation examples


It stands to a reason that neuter is the third person singular. For all other persons either the feminine or masculine conjugation should be used, depending on the gender. We use as an example the word dziecko (child). From a grammatical point of view dziecko is a neuter.

Accordingly, we use it in the third grammatical person:

  1. Dziecko czytało książkę.

The child has read a book.

  1. Czytałam książkę. (if the child is a girl)


  1. Czytałem książkę. (if the child is a boy)

The same rule applies to the plural.

It should be noted that, like in the present tense personal pronouns are not always used in the past tense, because verb endings clearly indicate grammatical person.


In the plural form the past tense in the Polish language uses, as well as in German and English three grammatical persons. However Polish has the specific peculiarity – in all three persons two gender-specific variants are relevant: masculine personal and masculine non-personal (all other).

The masculine conjugation, also ending with-li is used only for men or for group in which at least one man is present. For feminines and neuters feminine conjugation is used with the extension -ly. Examples of specific conjugation for grammatical persons were already described (see above).

Example sentences:

  1. Chłopcy (oni) grali na komputerze a dziewczynki (one) bawiły się lalkami.
    Boys (they) played computer games and girls (they) played with dolls.
  2. Dzieci (neuter) grały w ogrodzie w piłkę.
    Kids played the ball in the garden.

Overview of the endings for the past tense

1. Pers.Masc.Fem.Neut.Masc. personal.Other nouns
2. Pers.-łeś-łaś-liście-łyście
3. Pers.-ła-ło-li-ły

Verbs być (be) and mieć (have) in past tense

The conjugation of the verb być is in fact a regular one. But it is listed separately below, as this verb is difficult for learners in general.

być (be)

ja byłemja byłam
ty byłeśty byłaś
on byłona byłaono było
Masculine personalOther nouns (masculine non-personal)
my byliśmymy byłyśmy
wy byliściewy byłyście
oni bylione były

The conjugation of the verb mieć (have) and other verbs with similar consonants in their stem are affected by the phonetic change in the plural form. The letter -e before ł- (also for feminine and neuter forms) change to -a. Masculine form receives also -l letter before ending.

mieć (have)

ja miałemja miałam
ty miałeśty miałaś
on miałona miałaono miało
Masculine personalOther nouns (masculine non-personal)
my mieliśmymy miałyśmy
wy mieliściewy miałyście
oni mielione miały

The same pattern could be also applied to the following verbs: znaleźć (find), nieść (wear), zacząć (begin). Verbs znaleźć and nieść additionaly require some consonant changes (in the singular form z is replaced by ź).

On, ona, onoznalazł/znalazła/znalazłoOni/oneznaleźli/znalazły

The verb nieść (carry) and also some other verbs have -e before ending -ł replaced by -o/ó (-e before the ending -l will stay intact).

On, ona, ononiósł/niosła/niosłoOni/onenieśli/niosły


Just like in the present tense, in the past tense there are many special verb forms. The most important ones are shown below:

iść (go)

Masc.Fem.Neut.Masculine personalOther nouns (masculine non-personal)

wejść (enter)

Masc.Fem.Neut.Masculine personalOther nouns (masculine non-personal)

usiąść (sit)

Masc.Fem.Neut.Masculine personalOther nouns (masculine non-personal)

zjeść (eat)

Masc.Fem.Neut.Masculine personalOther nouns (masculine non-personal)

Special forms in the past tense apply to the following verb groups:

  • Verbs whose infinitive ends with -c, -ść, -źć
  • Verbs whose infinitive ending contains /-ną

Some verbs of these groups retain the letters -ną in the past tense (for example those with a vowel preceeding -ną letters), some others drop them. For few verbs both variants are possible.

Examples of verbs keeping -ną letters in the past tense form:

  • płynąć (swim)
  • minąć (pass)
Masculine personalOther nouns (masculine non-personal)

Past tense form of the following verbs is created using the same rule (it applies to both aspects – refer to chapter Future tense) even they have no vowel before the -ną letters:

  • zasnąć/zasypiać (fall asleep)
  • puknąć/pukać (knock)
  • szczeknąć/szczekać (bark)
  • gwizdnąć/gwizdać (whistle)

Past tense form of verbs ending with -nąć is created without the -nąć part. In some cases, both forms are possible, for example:

pęknąć/pekać (break)on/ona/ono pękł/pękła/pękło
chudnąć (becoming thinner)on/ona/ono chudł/chudła/chudło
*marznąć (freeze)on/ona/ono marzł (marznął)/marzła/marzło
*rosnąć (grow)on/ona/ono rósł (rosnął)/rosła/rosło

Found this helpful?

Why not support us by telling your friends?

Just a small click for you, but a giant help for our website 🙂

Please rate this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

twelve − seven =