MÓWI SIĘ, ŻE WIDZIANO ICH RAZEM – impersonal constructions in Polish

Posted on Posted in Advanced, Intermediate

The term ‘impersonal construction’ refers to a sentence with no grammatical subject. This is quite a foreign concept to English speaking learners, however there are some structures in Englishwhich play similar role.  Take the sentences with ‘one’ (One shouldn’t smoke here.), ‘you’ (You should keep the quiet here.) or ‘they’ (They say it’s going to be sunny tomorrow.) – the pronouns don’t refer to anyone in particular. Such sentenses in Polish can take numbers of forms. Let’s have a look at two the most popular constructions.

 

Tu się nie pali – constructions with ‘się’

 

Very often to form an impresonal sentence we use a verb in third person singular  and add the reflexive pronoun ‘się

Tu się nie paliOne cannot smoke here.
Tę zupę gotuje się bardzo szybko! – You can cook this soup quickly. This soup is easy to cook.
Dawniej pisało się listy a nie maile – In the past one/we wrote letters not emails.
W przyszłości będzie się robić zakupy tylko online. – In the future one will shop only online.

There are some sentences – expressed by the same structure- which translate in English diferently.

Dobrze się czyta tę książkę – This book is well written. (lit. One reads this book well)
Przyjemnie się spaceruje, kiedy jest ładna pogoda. – It is nice to walk when the weather is good.
Komputer się zepsuł. – The computer is broken. (lit. The computer broke itself.)

 

Ten dom zbudowano 15 lat temu – forms with the endings -no and -to

 

Another way to create impersonal forms is by adding to a verb the ending -no or -to instead of the personal endings.

If the stem of the verb ends in -a or -e we add the ending -no

pisać – pisano,  myśleć – myślano,  czytać – czytano, rozumieć – rozumiano

 

If the stem of the verb ends in y/i or grup of consonant, the ending is -ono

uczyć – uczono,  bawić się – bawiono się,  tańczyć – tańczono, jeść – jedzono

 

The ending -to is used when the stem ends in or -u, with one syllable verbs and some of the perfective forms of the verbs.

wynająć – wynajęto, pić – pito, odkryć – odkryto,  myć – myto, wypić – wypito

 

The forms with -no and -to translate in English to passive voice and can be used only in the past tense.

Szkołę zbudowano trzy lata temu – The school was built 3 years ago.
Pytano mnie o to wczoraj. – I was asked about it yesterday.
Uczono go, żeby traktować kobiety z szacunkiem. – He was taught to treat women with respect.

 

In the title of this post you may see the sentence: Mówi się, że widziano ich razem. Do you understand now what it means?

 

LET’S PRACTISE

 

If the exercise doesn’t work, you may find it here

 

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