Polish grammar has…a reputation. Most people say it’s the hardest language in the world. In fact, that’s the reason I even started learning it.
And it’s true! The verb aspects are a pain. Even with numbers, Polish makes it unnecessarily complicated. There are some types of grammatical numbers that you can use, depending on situation and the type of thing you’re talking about. Of course, there are also the infamous case declensions.
But fear not! I’m here to clear it all up. Every type of number you’ll need, when to use them, how to use them. All in one place.
If you want to follow my language learning journey and how I got from zero to this point, don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel, so you get all my tips and experiences earlier!
This guide assumes that you already know what the numbers and their declined forms are, so I can focus on how to use them and when to decline them. I won’t give you a full list, so if you’re lost, Wiktionary has all the declensions.
I also don’t recommend studying directly from this article. Instead, learn the grammar from context, and when you get confused, come back here for a reference.
The Basics…or are they?
Let’s start with the nominative and accusative. The basic, default cases that you use most. Should be simple enough, right?
In many cases, you will be using the default form (nominative) of the number, such as when the thing you are counting is the subject of a sentence. The form of the noun, though, will depend on the number:
1 (jeden): treat jeden like an adjective, and change its ending with the noun.
2–4: use the noun in the plural. Also any number that ends with 2, 3, or 4. Note that dwa becomes dwie with any feminine nouns, but trzy and cztery have no feminine forms.
The Number Takes Over
Before we get any further, I need to explain one phenomenon that I call “the number takes over“.
Normally, when you’re talking about a group of things, the things are the subject of the sentence. The verb works with the things.
Three men walk into a pub.
My two sisters don’t get along.
But in many, many situations in Polish, it works differently. The number becomes the subject of the sentence. It’s treated as the more important part of the phrase, instead of the noun itself. It’s a little bit like the words couple and trio in English, except way more common.Continue reading