Nouns or Verbs – who is in charge?

When you start learning Polish it may seem utterly bewildering how many different endings, grammatical forms, gender forms etc. you need to remember to construct even simple sentences. No wonder many claim that Polish is one of the hardest languages to learn.   It’s easy to get overwhelmed and disheartened.  But learning a language is a skill, no different to learning to drive or to cook or to draw. The key to successful learning is to break down the big task into much smaller, easily ‘digestible’ chunks snd slowly built up your skill base.  The first step is to learn ‘what goes with what’.  For example: adjectives always accompany (or modify to use the grammatical term) nouns, and adverbs always accompany or modify verbs.  Hence it’s helpful if you learn nouns and adjectives together and verbs and adverbs together. 

It’s no different to learning the relationship between nouns and verbs in Polish.  The process is called verb governance or rekcja in Polish.   

To answer the question in the title of this blog – nouns or verbs – who’s in charge? – it’s verbs which are more important in this relationship. It will always be the verb which dictates what ending the noun will adopt in a particular context. Certain verbs are always followed by nouns in a certain case (i.e. with a particular ending).

Because both nouns and verbs have a number of different endings it’s helpful to split them into smaller groups of a verbs which require a noun in a particular form.   

In the next series of blogs we will explore groups of  common verbs and nouns in one particular case which follow a verb. 

We start with :  Verb +  nouns in Mianownik  nominative case  

Mianownik nominative is the ‘basic’ form of a noun which you can find in a dictionary.  For example:

dom a house, park a park, bank a bank, telefon a telephone, komputer a computer, hotel  a hotel, lampa  a lamp, woda water, mleko milk, wino wine, piwo beer

The word mianownik comes from miano name. Similarly, nominative is Latin for case for naming.  As the name indicates you ‘point and name’ nouns using this case. It answers the question kto? who? and co? what? for example:

Co to jest? What is it?

To jest dom. This is a house.

To jest park. This is a park. 

To jest lampa. This is a lamp. 

Kto to jest?  Who is it? 

To jest Tomek. This is Tom.

To jest Maria. This is Maria. 

To jest pan Kowalski. This is Mr Kowalski.

Być to be, is the verb which requires a noun in the nominative when describing a thing or a place using phrases like:

To jestThis is

To są These are

Jest There is 

There are 

For example:- 

Na fotografii są moi rodzice. 

These are my parents in the photograph. 

Na Rynku są domy.

There are houses in the Market Square. 

Na Rynku jest pomnik.

There is a monument in the Market Square.

Polish tutor tip:

Why not use a photograph (such as the one below) to learn how many things you can name in it. It is a simple but very effective way of learning.

How many things can you ‘point and name’ in this photograph using this is / these are … there is / there are phrases.



You can utilise a mind map to help you remember the phrases.  For example:- 

Na Rynku