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Forming of the Polish Plural

Now there's a title with a lot of 'P's' if I ever saw one, and a particularly daunting one when you think how many alterations each one of those 'P's' represents when it comes to formulating your Polish past tense sentence. But it's not that bad at all - after all, the last 'P' is 'Polish', and we all know we'll be speaking in Polish whatever happens. That said, there are specific changes to make for both speaking in the past tense and in the plural. Let's take a look at what they are and what they look like.

Plural Formation

Forming the Past Tense Plural

As with the past tense singular in Polish, it's important here to understand what's known as the various 'personal endings' of verbs, as these will form the basis of our past tense, and indicate what plural subject it is we are speaking about.

Actually, it's not hard at all to familiarise yourself with the personal verb endings required to form the plural past tense as these are remarkably similar to the verb endings of perhaps what is Poland's most common present tense verb, the verb 'to be' (być). Where in the present tense, the three plural endings are -śmy, -ście and nothing so the past tense personal endings are -śmy and -ście for the first and second person past plural, and no ending for the third person past plural.

In addition to being able to add the relevant ending for each subject, you will also have to know the gender endings for past tense plural expressions in Polish. There are only two, and each brings with it a slight variation if the subject of the sentence is male or female. The alteration that is made here comes before the personal ending, where verbs ending in a vowel + , take the ending -li in the masculine plural.

The following examples, which use the verb mieć (to have) show the use of each personal ending in the masculine.

First Person Plural: -śmy[m]

Mieć (to remember): Mieliśmy[m] (We had)

Second Person Plural: -ście[m]

Mieliście[f] (You [plural] remembered)

Third Person Plural

Mieli (he remembered)

The following examples show the same past tense verb rendered in the feminine:

First Person Plural: -śmy[f]

Mieć (to remember): miałyśmy[f] (We had)

Second Person Plural: -ście[f]

miałyście[f] (You [plural] had)

Third Person Plural

miały (she had)

Notice here the variations between masculine and feminine past tense plurals, in particular, the -li addition in the masculine that occurs in all verbs ending in a vowel + when seen in thier nominative future form.

The rules with forming the past tense plural in Polish is largely similar to the singular rules for past tense verbs; there's still a marked softening of present tense verbs and you still need to add the relevant personal ending. Also, because there are gender distinctions built in to past tense verbs, the few pronouns that are used in the present tense aren't required at all in the past (ona/on etc).