Aspect - Imperfective and Perfective verbs in the Polish Language Table of contents
- What is Aspect in the Polish language?
- How to tell if a verb is Imperfective or Perfective
- When do you use Imperfective verbs?
- When to use Perfective verbs in the Polish Language?
- How to conjugate verbs (ja, ty, on, etc)
- Some key points to know / exceptions
- List of verbs in Polish with their Imperfective and Perfective version
In English we have several ways of using verbs. For example "I read a book" (i finished reading a book), "i was reading a book" (it was in progress) etc.
In Polish you distinguish between these slight differences in meanings by using the correct aspect.
Most verbs (probably 95% or greater) have two versions - the Imperfective and Perfective versions. They will both translate to just one word in English. For example pomogać (imp.) and pomoć (perf.) are both the verbs for to help.
On a very simplified level (see below for much more detail), basically one group (imperfective) can be thought of as 'incomplete' or 'currently doing it'. (e.g. I am reading the book = still in progress, not complete).
The perfective version can be thought of as meaning 'complete' or 'finished'. (e.g. I read the book = I finished reading the book)
It is a confusing concept. But hopefully some of the rules on this page will help you out!
You just have to learn it!
But a rough rule is that the perfective version will often have a prefix such as po-, na-, do-, za-, etc. See the table at the bottom of the page. There are quite a few verbs where the perfective and imperfective are not very similar too (see the exceptions table at the bottom).
- habitual action - something that keeps happening again and again (or part of a routine).
- When an action is incomplete
BTW imperfective verbs have all 3 tenses.
- Actions that are finished, that are done
BTW perfective verbs have only 2 tenses - past and future. It can't exist in the present tense, as you can't 'finish' an action if it is happening right now (if that makes sense!)
Past tense is the same for perfective and imperfective. It is easy to learn!
For example, mowić (imp.) = to speak.
|ja mówiłem||ja mówiłam||I spoke|
|ty mówiłeś||ty mówiłaś||You spoke|
|on mówił||on mówiła||on mówiło||He/she/it spoke|
|my mówiliśmy||my mówiłyśmy||We spoke|
|wy mówiliście||wy mówiłyście||You (plural) spoke|
|oni mówili||one mówiły||one mówiły||They spoke|
Notice the slight differences between masc/fem (and neutur).
Follow the usual rules for present tense verbs. E.g. for mowić (imp.) (=to speak):
- ja mówię = i speak
- ty mówisz = you speak
- on/ona/ono mówi = he/she/it speaks
- my mówimy = we speak
- wy mówicie = you (plural) speak
- oni/one mówią = they speak
Some verbs have slightly different endings, but the rules are easy to learn.
Future tense of imperfective verbs is quite easy to do!
pomogać (imperfective) means to help.
To use this in future tense, you have two options:
- (Ja) bedę pomogać = i will help
- (ty) będziesz pomogać = you will help
- (on/ona/ono) będzie pomogać = he / she / it will help
- (my) będziemy pomogać = we will help
- (wy) będziecie pomogać = you (plural) will help
- (oni) będą pomogać = they will help
You also have a slightly different option:
You can also use the past tense (of the on/ono/ona form), after bedę (etc). See below:
- (Ja) bedę pomagał = i will help
- (ty) będziesz pomagał = you will help
- (on/ona/ono) będzie pomagał = he / she / it will help
- (my) będziemy pomagali = we will help
- (wy) będziecie pomagali = you (plural) will help
- (oni) będą pomagali = they will help
(shown above for male speakers. For female speakers use pomagała instead of pomagał, and pomagały instead of pomagali
Same as Imperfective past tense (see above).
Present tense of perfective verbs don't exist!
Future tense of perfective is like present tense endings.
For example, pomóc (=to help) is perfective. Future tense of this verb:
|ja pomogę||I Help|
|ty pomożesz||You Help|
|on/ona/ono pomoże||he/she/it Help|
|my pomożemy||We Help|
|wy pomożecie||You (plural) Help|
|oni/one pomogą||They Help|
Notice how it looks like imperfective present tense? This is one of many reasons why Polish is confusing!
|uczyć się||nauczyć się||to learn|
Some key exceptions/irregular ones:
|iść||pojść||go (by foot)|
|ubierać||ubrać||to get dressed|