Polish cases and their function

The post includes:
– notes on what is the role of cases in the Polish language;
– notes on when each case is used


Polish belongs to the group of inflected languages, which means that words change their forms and endings depend on their position in a sentence. The cases describe the position of nouns, pronouns and adjectives, and signalize the meaning. In English the word order in a sentence has a similar function to the Polish cases. In the sentence: Tom has a cat we know that Tom is the subject and cat is the direct object. We know it because in English the subject goes before a verb and the object after. The same sentence in Polish can have few variants:
Tom ma kota./ Kota ma Tom/  Ma Tom kota./ Ma kota Tom./ Kota Tom ma./ Tom kota ma.
They all mean the same. In Polish word order doesn’t determinate the meaning the way it does in English. It’s the a added to the word that shows kot is the object of the sentence.
Polish use cases to express many functions. Some of these roles are crucial for everyday situations, so learning Polish you should familiarize yourself with the cases and their functions as soon as it is possible.


Polish cases and their functions


MIANOWNIK (nominative)

subject of a sentence e.g. Ania je obiad., Ona ma psa.
after ‘to’ (categorisation) e.g. Kasia to nowa studentka., Filip to przystojny mężczyzna.
– to express a comparison (after the word ‘jak’) e.g. On jest głodny jak wilk.



BIERNIK (accusative)

object in affirmative sentences e.g. mam brata czytam książkę;
with the following prepositions: przez, po (as ‘to pick up’), na (with verbs of motion) e.g. przejść przez ulicę, iść po kawę, iść na kolację;
expressing the time: with days of the week (w poniedziałek, w środę) and in certain phrases (cały dzień, całą dobę, za godzinę)


DOPEŁNIACZ (genitive)

to express negation e.g. nie mam książki, nie lubię sera żółtego;
to express ownership e.g. samochód mojego brata, koleżanka mojej dziewczyny, ściana domu;
with specified and unspecified quantity e.g. kubek herbaty, kawałek ciasta, dużo pracy;
with the following prepositions: niedaleko (near), bez (without), dla (for), do (to, into), od (from), koło/obok (near, by), podczas (during), wzdłuż (along), z/ze (from) e.g. bez mleka,  dla mojej mamy,  niedaleko parku, do pracy, koło samochodu, podczas wykładu, z Polski;
–  with certain verbs expressing absence or lack of something: szukać (to look for, to search), potrzebować (to need), uczyć się (to learn), zapomnieć (to forget), życzyć (to wish), oczekiwać (to expect), słuchać (to listen) and few more e.g. uczę się języka polskiego, szukam mojej książki, życzę Ci miłego dnia, słucham muzyki, potrzebuję nowego samochodu, zapomniałem portfela


NARZĘDNIK (instrumental)

to express professions, relationships or nationalities (combined with the verb ‘być’) e.g. on jest studentem;
combined with the preposition ‘z’ (with) e.g. kawa z mlekiem;
to express the tool or instrument you use e.g. piszę długopisem, jadę autobusem;
in combination with several verbs e.g. interesuję się sportem;
with the following prepositions: nad, przed, pod, za, między e.g. nad morzem, pod stołem


MIEJSCOWNIK (locative)

after following prepositions: w (in), na (on), po (after, on), o (about), przy (next to) e.g. w Polsce, na uniwersytecie, po obiedzie, o pracy, przy domu;
to express location, time, purpose


CELOWNIK (dative)

in impersonal phrases like: miło mi, zimno mi, gorąco Ci, dziecku jest niedobrze;
to express a recipient e.g. pomogę ci, daj dziecku zabawkę;
– with certain verbs: przeszkadzać (to disturb), pomagać (to help), zazdrościć (to envy), wierzyć (to believe) e.g. nie przeszkadzaj ojcu, pomagam mamie, zazdroszczę jej, wierzę ci;
– after following prepositions: dzięki (thanks to), przeciwko (against), wbrew (against, despite, in spite of)


WOŁACZ (vocative)

to address someone
How can you remember it all – the usage and the endings? Well, it takes time and a lot of practise. The best idea is to find few examples, including our favourite food, familiar names or hobbies, to form short sentences or phrases to learn. Good luck!




About the Author



I have started my career as a tutor at Jagiellonian University and now I have been conducting Polish lessons working both with private and business clients from all over the world. I'm a big fan of grammar - Polish grammar especially ;)

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Joseph P Lapinski

    love your site. I am a retired American engineer living in Gdańsk. I am studying Polish every day for 68 consequtive days, using Duolingo which is good, Rosetta Stone which is a waste and another for just vocabulary.

    Can you tutor me via online?

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