Introduction to Polish:
Lesson 1

By Linas

Polish for I is ja.

Polish for it is to.

Although words for am, is and are exist in Polish, Poles can and do often get away without using them. They would just skip them and that’s it.

How would you thus say it is me which in Polish comes out as it is I or simply it I:

It is me.

Answer: To ja.
Not correct. Please try again.

Polish for Poland is Polska.

Now it is easy for you to say:

It is Poland.

Answer: To Polska.
Not correct. Please try again.

Good. Let’s get to the serious business though:

Polish for I have is ja mam.

I have a maaaaam and a daaaaaaaaad.

You could just leave out the ja and simply say mam to mean I have and you usually do that when you speak in Polish. We will stick with using ja to recall this word and its usage better in this course.

As a rule of thumb, the word to sneaks in the middle of short sentences (in fact, it does so in a lot of Slavic/Baltic/Hellenic languages as you can notice in this site). How would you say literally I it have:

I have it.

Answer: Ja to mam.
Not correct. Please try again.

So the word for I have is mam. Let’s call mam an m-word because it ends in m.

To be able to say he has instead of I have you simply get rid of that m. A famous Polish name is Nowak. Say:

Nowak has it.

Answer: Nowak to ma.
Not correct. Please try again.

You could actually learn to use the word for he as well with that sentence:

Polish for he is on.

Side note: she being ona. Thus you could replace Nowak with he and say the same sentence again:

He has it.

Answer: On to ma.
Not correct. Please try again.

Saying Nowak or he is not enough. Let’s learn how to say mister in Polish:

Polish for mister is pan.

The word originally has the meaning roughly equivalent to lord: a term used to address the rich but it came to mean mister by its evolution (it still means lord too, though; the English word mister also comes from the word master). If you add one more i to that word, you have the word for missus:

Polish for missus is pani.

Wicked. You could now say:

Mister has it.

Answer: Pan to ma.
Not correct. Please try again.

If you actually say it, you can either mean some mister there has it or more likely you could mean you have it! That’s what you usually mean too.

It is, however, a formal way of addressing people. Generally whenever you would call somebody mister or missus in English, you would call him pan or pani as well. So, there are two versions of the same word: depending on whether you are talking formally to a man (pan) or a woman (pani).

There is an informal way of saying you as well. We will learn it lat... let’s learn it now!

Polish for you informally is ty.

Whenever you call somebody by their first name, you use ty with them. Moreover, there is a bonus:

To make any pan or pani verb into a ty verb you simply add sz to the end.

This sz sound is nothing other but the sh sound in shoe. Let’s practice it with our beloved word mam. First say:

Missus has it.

Answer: Pani to ma.
Not correct. Please try again.

Add this sz to ma and say:

You (informal) have it.

Answer: Ty to masz.
Not correct. Please try again.

So now we have ja for I, ty for you (when talking informally), pan and pani for you when talking formally and on, ona for he, she.

That’s not good enough for us, is it? Let’s learn to say no:

Polish for no is nie.

As a matter of fact, and fact matters, the word nie is not only the word for no but also the word for not. It goes in front of the verb that it wants to deny (just like don’t does). Thus I don’t have would be I not have or ja nie mam.

I bet you think you could say I don’t have it but if you want to say that, there is a trick:

When you have nie in the phrase, the word to begins showing his ego and becomes tego.

The position stays as it were. So you can say:

I don’t have it.

Answer: Ja tego nie mam.
Not correct. Please try again.

You (formal, male) don’t have it.

Answer: Pan tego nie ma.
Not correct. Please try again.


She doesn't have it.

Answer: Ona tego nie ma.
Not correct. Please try again.

Now that’s all good and nice and we are ready for the next lesson.