How Confucius explained the Present Tense Rule

This is what Confucius said about the Present Tense Rule and verb endings in Polish:

Słyszę i zapominam.

Widzę i pamiętam.

Robię i rozumiem.”


Strictly speaking Confucius was not talking about Polish verbs when he said:

I hear and I forget

I see and I remember

I do and I understand”


but it illustrates the principle of the Present Tense Rule perfectly.


What is the Present Tense Rule and how it can it help you to learn Polish?


The Present Tense Rule, or PTR in short, is a simple and effective way of predicting the endings of verbs for each person (i.e. I, you, he, she etc.) in the present tense in Polish.


All Polish verbs in the Present Tense can be divided into two broad groups according to the ending for the 1st person singular (ja /I): the –m group and the –ę group.


In the quote by Confucius these are:

zapominam (I forget)

pamiętam (I remember)

rozumiem (I understand)


słyszę (I hear)

widzę (I see)

robię (I do)


This is how it works:

If you know the ending for the 1st person singular (–m or –ę), the next step is to find the ending for the 3rd person plural (oni/one – they)

ja zapominam – oni/one zapomina

ja pamiętam –  oni/one pamięta

ja rozumiem – oni/one rozumie


Can you see the pattern?  -ją replaces –m


The next step is to learn the ending for the 3rd person singular (on/ona/ono – he/she/it).


ja zapominam – oni/one zapominają – on/ono/ono zapomina

ja pamiętam – oni/one pamiętają – on/ona/ono pamięta

ja rozumiem – oni/one rozumieją – on/ona/ono rozumie


The final –m is removed leaving just –a.


From then on it’s plain sailing, you just use 3rd person singular to form the rest

Add –sz to form 2nd person singular – ty / you)

(ty zapomina-sz / pamięta-sz/ rozumie-sz)

Add -my to form 1st person plural – my / you

(my zapomina-my/pamięta-my / rozumie-my)

Add –cie to form 2nd person plural – wy / you

(wy zapomina-cie/pamięta-cie / rozumie-cie)

Present Tense Rule diagram
Present Tense Rule









A very similar process happens with the –ę group of verbs.


The 3rd person plural will be the same except –ą replaces –ę.

The 3rd person singular will be the same except –y or -i replaces –ą

And then use the 3rd person singular to form the rest as above:


ja słyszę / widzę / robię                             my słyszymy / widzimy /robimy

ty słyszysz / widzisz / robisz                     wy słyszycie / widzicie / robicie

on/ona/ono słyszy / widzi / robi               oni/one słyszą / widzą / robią

Confucius and his wisdom may prove very helpful when you learn Polish – and not just for the verb endings.  His quotes are short and an enjoyable way of practicing translations.


Polish Tutor tip:


Research the internet for: ‘Konfucjusz cytaty’ and ‘Confucius quotes’. You’ll find that the same quotes are frequently displayed both in English and in Polish.


Choose the ones you like and study them.


Then, learn them by heart in Polish.

Confucius quotes

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