To express simple possession in Polish, you need to conjugate your verbs and any associated adjectives to what’s known as the genitive case. This means applying a number of different rules to these words in the masculine, feminine and neuter genders, and another set of rules to their plural forms.
With practice this isn't that difficult, and, as you may have already seen, the genitive case is one of the Polish language's most common, being used for a number of other functions as well as expressing possession. So, it’s worth getting to grips with how to use it.
Take a look at the sentence examples below, expressing simple possession for nouns in all three genders, and keep an eye out for the different rules that are applied to each noun, and the other parts of speech. Take particular notice to what happens to the endings of the associated adjectives here, as there are certain exceptions with the noun-adjective syntax in Polish, which we'll take a look at after.
Expressing Possession for Masculine Nouns: dom mojego brata (meaning, 'my brother's house', where the dom is the object, mój is the adjective [in this case a pronoun] and brat is the subject).
Expressing Possession for Feminine Nouns: dom twojej matki, rower mojej siostry (meaning 'your mother's house' and 'my sister's bike' respectively. Where dom and rower are the objects, twoja and moja are the associated adjectives [in this case, pronouns], and matka and siostra, are the subjects).
Expressing Possession for Neuter Nouns: rower naszego dziecka (meaning 'our child's bike', where rower is the object, nasze is the associated adjective [again, here a personal pronoun], and dziecko is the subject).
One thing you will probably notice straight away is that Polish is different to English in that the object of possession precedes the subject (or possessor); in Polish, we say 'bike of our sister', not 'our sister's bike'. For each example I've listed the subject, object, and relevant adjective so you can easily identify the Polish syntax.
As we have said, in order to express the simple possession of the sentences above, you need to use the genitive case in Polish. The three examples show the various conjugations that need to be applied to adjectives (pronouns in the examples above) and nouns in the genitive.
Briefly the rules are as follows: Feminine nouns take the ending -i or -y, and feminine adjectives take the ending -ej. Masculine nouns take the ending -a and masculine adjectives get -ego. Neuter nouns and neuter adjectives behave just like the masculine gender when expressing possession.
Expressing Plural Possession
Expressing plural possession in Polish can be a bit trickier than simple, singular possession, but, if we stick with using the rules defined by the genitive case, it's actually not as bad as it seems.
Look at the following sentences expressing plural possession, notice how there are only two separate rules governing both masculine, and feminine and neuter nouns (as opposed to the usual three):
Expressing Possession for Masculine Plural Nouns: dom moich studentów (meaning 'my students' house', where dom is the object, moi is the associated adjective [here a personal pronoun], and studenci is the plural subject).
Expressing Possession for Feminine and Neuter Plural Nouns: konie naszych matek (meaning 'our mothers' horses', where konie is a plural object, nasze is the associated adjective [here a personal pronoun], and matki is the plural subject); And Zabawki naszych zwierząt (meaning 'our animals' toys', where zabawki is the plural object, nasze is the associated adjective, and zwierzęta is the plural subject).
Briefly the rules for masculine nouns is to add the ending -ów, -i or -y, the former for the genitive of hard consonant stem ending plurals and the latter two for soft consonant stem endings. The rule for masculine adjectives is to add the ending -ch.
The rules for feminine and neuter nouns are identical in each gender, but there are a few variations depending on the noun stem endings. For most genitive feminine and neuter nouns, you need simply to remove the ending to get the stem. However there can sometimes be alterations in the noun itself, where the vowel endings are changed (-o to -ó and -ę to -ą).
You'll be safe if you learn the plural endings (but be warned there quite a few exceptions) for the genitive case, and, whenever you are trying to express remember that it is with the genitive that it’s done.