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Polish Passive Voice

[Strona bierna] (passive voice) is the construction very often used in the English language. In Polish it is less common, but still generally known, recognized and used both in writing and speech. Below is the presentation which shows how this aspect looks in both languages.

Polish Passive Voice

The English scheme of the passive sentence is:

be + past participle

Similar situation takes place as far as Polish is concerned:

być/zostać + imiesłów przymiotnikowy

Now, I would like to show how it works in practice.

Czas teraźniejszy (Simple Present/Present Continuous):

[Strona czynna] (Active):

On pisze list. (He writes/is writing a letter.)

My jemy jabłko. (We eat/are eating an apple.)

[Strona bierna] (Passive):

List jest pisany. (A letter is/is being written.)

Jabłko jest jedzone. (An apple is/is being eaten.)

Czas przeszły dokonany (Simple Past):

[Strona czynna] (Active):

On napisał list. (He wrote a letter.)

My zjedliśmy jabłko. (We ate an apple.)

[Strona bierna] (Passive):

List był/został napisany. (A letter was written.)

Jabłko było/zostało zjedzone. (An apple was eaten.)

Czas przeszły niedokonany (Past Continuous):

[Strona czynna] (Active):

On pisał list. (He was writing a letter.)

My jedliśmy jabłko. (We were eating an apple.)

[Strona bierna] (Passive):

List był pisany. (A letter was being written.)

Jabłko było jedzone. (An apple was being eaten.)

Czas przyszły dokonany (Future Simple):

[Strona czynna] (Active):

On napisze list. (He will write a letter.)

My zjemy jabłko. (We will eat an apple.)

[Strona bierna] (Passive):

List będzie/zostanie napisany. (A letter will be written.)

Jabłko będzie/zostanie zjedzone. (An apple will be eaten.)

Czas przyszły niedokonany (Future Continuous):

[Strona czynna] (Active):

On będzie pisać/pisał list. (He will be writing a letter.)

My będziemy jeść/jedli jabłko. (We will be eating an apple.)

[Strona bierna] (Passive):

List będzie pisany. (A letter will being written.)

Jabłko będzie jedzone. (An apple will being eaten.)

Móc (Can):

[Strona czynna] (Active):

On może napisać list. (He can write a letter.)

My możemy zjeść jabłko. (We can eat an apple.)

[Strona bierna] (Passive):

List może być/zostać napisany. (A letter can be written.)

Jabłko może być/zostać zjedzone. (An apple can be eaten.)

Musieć (Must):

[Strona czynna] (Active):

On musi napisać list. (He must write a letter.)

My musimy zjeść jabłko. (We must eat an apple.)

[Strona bierna] (Passive):

List musi być/zostać napisany. (A letter must be written.)

Jabłko musi być/zostać zjedzone. (An apple must be eaten.)

Powinno się (Should):

[Strona czynna] (Active):

On powinien napisać list. (He should write a letter.)

My powinniśmy zjeść jabłko. (We should eat an apple.)

[Strona bierna] (Passive):

List powinien być/zostać napisany. (A letter should be written.)

Jabłko powinno być/zostać zjedzone. (An apple should be eaten.)

As we notice, the word zostać is not used in every case.

In order to show the agent we use the word “by" in English which in Polish is przez, e.g.

[In Polish]

Złodziej był/został złapany przez policję.
Książka była/została napisana przez Dickensa.

[In English]

The thief was/has been caught by the police.
The book was/has been written by Dickens.

There are certain verbs in English that can be transformed from active into passive in two ways. This also happens in Polish:

Dać/Dawać (Give) e.g.

[Strona czynna] (Active):

Mike dał Alice kwiaty. (Mike gave Alice flowers.)

Mike dał kwiaty Alice. (Mike gave flowers to Alice.)

[Strona bierna] (Passive):

Alicji dano kwiaty. (Alice was given flowers.)

Kwiaty dano Alicji. (Flowers were given to Alice.)

Oferować (Offer) e.g.

[Strona czynna] (Active):

Oni zawsze oferują nam pomoc. (They always offer us help.)

[Strona bierna] (Passive):

Nam zawsze oferuje się/oferowana jest pomoc. (We are always offered help.)

Pomoc zawsze oferuje się nam/jest nam zawsze oferowana. (Help is always offered to us.)

Wysłać (Send) e.g.

[Strona czynna] (Active):

Wysłałam Sandy list. (I sent/have sent Sandy a letter.)

Wysłałam list Sandy. (I sent/have sent a letter to Sandy.)

[Strona bierna] (Passive):

Sandy wysłano/był/został wysłany list. (Sandy was/has been sent a letter.)

List wysłano/był/został wysłany Sandy. (A letter was/has been sent to Sandy.)

Other such verbs are: obiecać (promise), pokazać (show), uczyć kogoś (teach), płacić (pay), sprzedawać (sell), etc.

Another structure that appears when talking about passive voice is:

it + passive verb + clause containing reporting verbs

There are a lot of verbs used in this case:

Mówić (Say) e.g.

[In Polish]

Mówi się, że klimat się ociepla.

[In English]

It is said that the climate is getting warmer. / The climate is said to be getting warmer.

Wierzyć (Believe) e.g.

[In Polish]

Wierzono, że on tego nie zrobił.

[In English]

It was believed that he had not done that./He was believed not to have done that.

Przypuszczać (Suppose) e.g.

[In Polish]

Przypuszcza się, że zima będzie łagodna.

[In English]

It is supposed that winter will be mild./Winter is supposed to be mild.

Oczekiwać (Expect) e.g.

[In Polish]

Oczekuje się, że rząd zrobi coś z bezrobociem.

[In English]

It is expected that the government will do something with the unemployment./The government is expected to do something with the unemployment.

Other verbs are: zgadzać się (agree), ogłaszać/oznajmiać (announce), wyjaśniać (explain), rozumieć (understand), etc.

As we see, although in English there are two versions of the same sentence, in Polish there is just one possible version.

Finally, one more difference is that there is no Polish equivalent of the English structure “have/get something done".

It is obvious that there will be some differences between languages as it is inevitable. Fortunately, as far as passive voice is concerned, there are not so many of them which makes it possible and easier to learn and master this particular and important aspect of grammar.