Michał Karzyński


If you would like to know just how inflected the Polish language is take a look at the following word.


This single verb contains a whole sentence full of information…

verb stem The stem of the word it “-CZYTA-” which comes from the infinitive “CZYTAĆ”, meaning “to read”.

tense The present tense is indicated by a lack of any letters between “Ł” and “BYM”. A past tense could be constructed by adding a “BYŁ” syllable to make “PRZECZYTAŁBYŁBYM”, but that’s not a common construction.

person The letter “M” at the end of this word indicates the first person. A second person construction would be “PRZECZYTAŁBYŚ”.

mood The special syllable at the end of this verb “BYM” is an indication of the grammatical mood. It converts the indicative mood to a subjunctive. This syllable is an add-on, but as we’ll see in the following examples it is also inflected following it’s own rules.

number The letter “Ł” in the word indicates a singular form. In a plural form “LI” would substitute the “Ł”. In the case of this word however the last syllable “BYM” would also have to be changed to make: “PRZECZYTALIBYŚMY”.

gender The “Ł” letter also indicates the masculine gender. In the feminine form it would be substituted by “ŁA” and in neuter by “ŁO”, as in “PRZECZYTAŁABYM”.

voice This special place holds one more message, which is the active voice of this verb. In passive voice “NO” would substitute the “Ł” to make “PRZECZYTANOBY”.

aspect The last bit of information is contained in the prefix “PRZE”. It changes the imperfect verb “CZYTAĆ” to the perfect form “PRZECZYTAĆ” and indicates that the person intends to complete the reading.

Overall this single word contains enough information to fill a whole English sentence: “PRZECZYTAŁBYM” = “I, a male, would read [something] from cover to cover”.

I would like to hereby express my greatest admiration for all people who learn a Slavic language as their second.