Genitive of nouns

Foreigners learning Polish know that cases are the most difficult part of
our language. First I would like to console all the students for whom cases are a
cause of tears and frustration. Cases are the last thing that foreigners normally
learn to use properly. Even those students who speaks fluent Polish, make
some mistakes when it comes to cases and my advice is to accept it and keep
going. Even if we put the wrong ending recipient still understands our message.
There are seven cases in Polish and today I would like to show you how the
Genitive of the nouns works.
To simplify this difficult problem: a noun case is a form which a noun
takes when it meets certain verb or preposition and has to play a special role in
a sentence. For example verb “szukać” (to look for, to search for) always goes
with Genitive.
(Ja) Szukam (kogo? czego?) Adama.
I am looking for (who? what?) Adam. (Genitive form)
In my opinion the Genitive case is the most difficult one in the Polish language
because of its varied usage and exceptions.

  1. Genitive is used in negative phrases. After a negative verb the direct
    object stands in the Genitive case, for example:
    (Ja – subject) Nie mam (verb) brata (direct object). – I do not have a
    Nie lubię tenisa. – I do not like tennis.
    Nie gotuję dzisiaj zupy. – I do not cook a soup today.
    Rose nigdy nie kupuje piwa. – Rose never buy a beer.
  2. Genitive expresses possession and it is translated into English by using
    „of” or “ ‘s”, for example:
    To jest kawa Adama. – This is Adam’s coffee.
    Czytam książkę Stiega Larssona. – I am reading the book of Stieg Larsson.
    Wiem, gdzie jest ulica Mickiewicza. – I know where is Mickiewicz’s street.
  3. Genitive also expresses the quantities and containers, for example:

dużo wody, więcej kwiatów – a lot of water, more flowers
mało czasu, mniej komputerów – a little time, less computers

za dużo mleka – too much milk
parę stołów– few tables
trochę herbaty – a little bit of tee
nic nowego – nothing new
coś ciekawego – something interesting
butelka wina – a bottle of wine
kawałek sera – a piece of cheese
plasterek szynki – a slice of ham
kilogram pomidorów – 1 kilogram of tomatoes
pół pizzy – half of pizza
We can use it a lot in the grocery shop.

  1. The Genitive form appears as a direct object in sentences which are not
    negative after the following verbs (in imperfective and perfective forms,
    if it exists), for example:
    Boję się pająków. – I am afraid of spiders.
    Brakuje mi czasu. – I am short of time.
    Ewa potrzebuje pieniędzy. – Ewa needs money.
    Ignacio uczy się języka polskiego. – Ignacio is learning Polish.
    Joseph słucha muzyki. – Joseph is listening to the music.
    Nienawidzę chrzanu. – I hate horseradish.
    Życzę ci zdrowia. – I wish you health.
  2. The Genetive is often used to express a direction after the prepositions
    “do” (to), “z” (from), “od “, for example:
    Adam idzie do Ewy. – Adam goes to Ewa’s place.
    Peter idzie do klubu. – Peter goes to the club.
    Juan jedzie do Wrocławia. – Juan goes to Wrocław.
    Ewa wraca z Madrytu. – Ewa comes back from Madrid.
    Rafael wraca z Londynu. – Rafael comes back from London.
  3. Let us bear in mind that any time when we must use numerals, we must
    be very careful because with numbers from 5-21, from 25 –31, from 35 –
    41, from 45-51 , generally after number 5 and onwards, the Genitive
    plural form is used. After numbers 2,3,4, 22,23,24 32,33,34,
    42,43,44 or any number with 2,3,4 at the end, the Nominative
    plural form is used.
    2,3,4 stoły, ale 5 stołów (tables)
    2,3,4 sukienki, ale 25 sukienek (dresses)
    2,3,4 komputery, ale 75 komputerów (computers)

2,3,4 kobiety, ale 578 kobiet (women)
The endings of Genitive singular case are very similar to the endings of
the Accusative case but a number of exceptions make it a little bit more
complicated. For masculine gender in Polish, we have in the Accusative
and Genitive cases the category “alive” and “non-alive”. In Polish
grammar, “alive” means masculine people and animals, and “non-alive”
means masculine objects. It does not matter for feminine and neutral
Genitive forms. Let us have a look at the Genitive singular pattern:
Masculine sg. Feminine sg. Neutral sg.
For alive we have ending
Nie ma lekarza, psa,
kurczaka. (There is no
doctor, dog, chicken

for non- alive we have
endings –u or – a !!!
Nie ma papieru, zegara,
ziemniaka, komputera.
(There is no paper,
clock, potato and
computer here.)
Nie idę do pubu, ani do
klubu. (I am going
neither to the pub nor
the club.)

-y (after hard
consonants: p, b, w, t,
d, s, z, k, g, ch, m, n, r, ł
and c, cz, sz, ż, dz, dż, rz
Nie ma kobiety, Ewy,
pracy. (There is no
woman called Ewa,
working here. )

-i (after soft consonants
pi, bi, wi, ć, ci, dź, dzi, ś,
si, ź, zi, , chi, mi, ń, ni,
and k, g, l, j)
Nie ma tutaj studentki z
Hiszpanii. (There is no
student from Spain

Nie ma jabłka, piwa,
dziecka, słońca. (There
is no apple, beer, child,
sun here. )

It’s hard to clarify the rules as to when to use ending –a and when to use
ending –u for masculine non-alive words in Genitive singular. Generally

ending –a is used for tools and dishes ( Nie ma noża, widelca, komputera,
talerza. – There is no knife, fork, computer, plate here.), for months (Nie
lubię stycznia, grudnia, kwietnia. – I do not like January, December, April.),
for parts of body (Ból nosa, brzucha, palca nie pozwala mi spać. – A Pain in
the nose, stomach, finger does not allow me to sleep.), and for polish cities
(Jadę do Wrocławia, Lublina, Tarnowa. – I go to Wrocław, Lublin, Tarnów.)
We use ending –u in masculine singular for non-alive objects for Genitive
singular in uncountable nouns (Nie ma piasku, maku. There is no sand,
poppy seed here.), collective nouns(Nie lubię tłumu, lasu. – I do not like
crowd, a forest.), foreign-international nouns ( Idę do tramwaju albo do
baru. – I go to the tram or to the bar.), and foreign cities (Często jeżdżę do
Londynu, Rzymu, Madrytu, Pekinu. – I often go to London, Rome, Madrid,
Beijing. Exceptions are: Jadę do Paryża, Berlina, Wiednia).
Sometimes foreigners are confused when we start using people’s names. A lot
of you have doubts if we talk about a man or a woman, especially with very
similar names. For example masculine name “ Aleksander” in Nominative will
be “ Aleksandra “ and in Genitive (Nie ma Aleksandra. – Aleksander is not here.)
Feminine name “Aleksandra” in Nominative becames “ Aleksandry” and in
Genitive (Nie ma Aleksandry. – Aleksandra is not here). The same happens
with the masculine name “Daniel” (Nie ma Daniela.- Daniel is not here.) and
feminine name “ Daniela” (Nie ma tutaj Danieli. – Daniela is not here).
At the end please have a look into the pattern of Genitive plural.
Masculine pl. Feminine pl. Neutral pl.
-ów (after hard
consonants) Nie ma
profesorów, zeszytów,
psów. (There are no
professors, exercise
books and dogs here).
-y (after hardened
consonants) Nie ma
lekarzy, talerzy, węży,
koszy. (There are no

Ø (after hard consonants)
Nie ma żon, kobiet,
bluzek, nóg. (There are
no women, blouses, legs
-y (after hardened
consonants) Nie ma nocy,
myszy, rzeczy. (There are
no nights, mice, things

Ø Nie ma piw, zwierząt,
okien. (There are no
beers, animals, windows

-y (after hardened
consonants) Nie lubię
wybrzeży. (I do not like

doctors, plates, snakes,
baskets here.)
-i (after soft consonants)
Nie ma nauczycieli, liści,
pokoi. (There are no
teachers, leaves, rooms

-i (after soft consonants)
Nie lubię kawiarni. (I do
not like coffee bars. )

-i (after soft consonants)
Nie ma narzędzi. (There
are no tools here.)

This article is a general introduction to the Genitive form in Polish. I hope I have
not frightened you. It would be ideal to try and memorize these rules and start
practicing as soon as possible, but everyone has his/her own speed. We should
accept it and I have to tell you secretly that some forms will naturally come into
your head …with time.

This article was published in “The Wrocław International”- Wrocław’s first
English-language newspaper, May 2011, Issue 7, ISSN 2082-730X