There are two classes of verbs in Polish - perfective verbs to talk about actions that are completed or will be completed, and imperfective verbs for actions that are taking place in some moment (no indication of completion). Very often they form pairs.

Perfective verbs don't have a present tense - if something is already done you must use the past tense and if it's not - the future tense. This "future perfective" tense is identical in form to the present tense. Let's take the imperfective and perfective verbs for "to drink":

  • Kot pije mleko - "The cat drinks milk" or "The cat is drinking milk now", pije is an imperfective verb
  • Kot wypije mleko - "The cat will drink (all the) milk", wypije is a perfective verb

To form other tenses besides the present and future perfective we need two more verb forms - the infinitive and the participle.

The infinitive usually ends with "-ć". The participle depends on the subject's number and gender:

Aspect Meaning 3rd person singular Infinitive Participle
Singular Plural
Feminine All masculine genders Neuter Person-masculine Other genders
Imperfective To drink pije pić piła pił piło pili piły
Perfective wypije wypić wypiła wypił wypiło wypili wypiły
Imperfective To eat je jeść jadła jadł jadło jedli jadły
Perfective zje zjeść zjadła zjadł zjadło zjedli zjadły
Imperfective To see widzi widzieć widziała widział widziało widzieli widziały
Perfective zobaczy zobaczyć zobaczyła zobaczył zobaczyło zobaczyli zobaczyły
Imperfective To read czyta czytać czytała czytał czytało czytali czytały
Perfective przeczyta przeczytać przeczytała przeczytał przeczytało przeczytali przeczytały
Imperfective To write pisze pisać pisała pisał pisało pisali pisały
Perfective napisze napisać napisała napisał napisało napisali napisały
Imperfective To have ma mieć miała miał miało mieli miały
Imperfective To think myśli myśleć myślała myślał myślało myśleli myślały
Perfective pomyśli pomyśleć pomyślała pomyślał pomyślało pomyśleli pomyślały
Imperfective To drive jedzie jechać jechała jechał jechało jechali jechały
Perfective pojedzie pojechać pojechała pojechał pojechało pojechali pojechały
Imperfective To do / to make robi robić robiła robił robiło robili robiły
Perfective zrobi zrobić zrobiła zrobił zrobiło robili zrobiły
Imperfective To earn zarabia zarabiać zarabiała zarabiał zarabiało zarabiali zarabiały
Perfective zarobi zarobić zarobiła zarobił zarobiło zarobili zarobiły

Very often a perfective verb is formed from the imperfective by some prefix. Another class of pairs is verbs which are already derived from some other verb by prefixing. In Polish double prefixing is very rare, so an alternative form of base verb is used with the same prefix.

Participles usually have regular endings showing the number and tense of the verb's subject: "ła", "ł", "ło", "li", "ły". In some cases "a" also changes to "e" in the plural person-masculine, where a softened consonant is used. This is one of the typical features of the Polish language, and it can also be found in other places, for example the locative of the noun "miasto" (city) is "mieście".

The future imperfective is formed by the future form of the verb "to be" (equivalent to "will" in English) and either the third person form of the participle or simply the infinitive. The participial form is more common, however, if you're unsure of the correct ending, just use the infinitive.

Singular Plural
First person będę będziemy
Second person będziesz będziecie
Third person będzie będą
  • Basia będzie czytać książkę - Basia will be reading a book.
  • Basia będzie czytała książkę - also correct
  • Basia przeczyta książkę - Basia will read the (whole) book
  • Dziecko będzie jadło ciastko - "The child will be eating a cake", or "The child will eat part of cake" (it might eat the whole cake, but the sentence doesn't specify this)
  • Dziecko będzie jeść ciastko - also correct
  • Dziecko zje ciastko - the child will eat the (whole) cake
  • Zrobisz obiad? - will you make dinner? (question about effect or result, that is dinner. Contains implied expectation of completion of action)
  • Będziesz robić obiad? - will you make dinner? (question about action. No indication if dinner is expected to be completed)

You can also use the verb "to be" on its own:

  • Ciastko będzie smaczne - The cake will be tasty (the cake probably hasn't been made yet, but when it is made, it will be tasty)
  • Basia będzie mamą - Basia will be a mother (Basia is pregnant)
  • Adam będzie inżynierem - Adam will be an engineer (maybe he's studying engineering)

Past tenses - past perfective and past imperfective - were originally formed in a similar way, but later the auxiliary verb merged with the participle. The Polish past perfective doesn't have anything to do with the English perfect tense - it's used for completed actions and is more similar to the English simple past.

The participle alone is the correct third person past tense:

  • Basia zrobiła kawę - Basia made coffee (past perfective tense, important thing is that coffee is available now)
  • Basia robiła kawę - Basia was making coffee (past imperfective tense, answer for "what was Basia doing when you last saw her" or "what is all that mess in the kitchen". No indication if the action was completed.)

In first and second person you have to add:

  • First person singular - "m"
  • Second person singular - "ś"
  • First person plural - "śmy"
  • Second person plural - "ście"

Note that for the masculine singular ("-ł") you have to add an extra "-e-":

  • zrobiłem kawę - I made coffee (masculine I)
  • zrobiłam kawę - I made coffee (feminine I)
  • zrobiłeś kawę - you made coffee (singular masculine you)
  • zrobiłaś kawę - you made coffee (singular feminine you)
  • zrobiłyśmy kawę - we made coffee (... and we are all girls)
  • zrobiliśmy kawę - we made coffee (... and there is at least one man among us)

There is also a tense to mark something that happened before a given event in the past, like the English "pluperfect", but it's very archaic now and rarely used in modern Polish.

External linksEdit

^ Polish ^ Polish pronunciation