“Both” in Polish Language

One simple word in English – a nightmare in Polish 🙂 Let’s see how this word works in Polish!

Both – all the possible forms in Polish

In the tables below you can find all possible forms of the word both. Later I’ll explain when to use which form.

case masculine personal masculine non-personal, neuter feminine * 🙂
Nominative obaj oba obie oboje
Genitive obu obu obu obojga
Dative obu obu obie obojgu
Accusative obu oba obie oboje
Instrumental oboma oboma obiema obojgiem
Locative obu obu obu obojgu

Alternative forms (they are created by adding “ydw” part). You can use them interchangeably with the forms from the first table:

case masculine personal masculine non-personal, neuter feminine * 🙂
Nominative obydwaj obydwa obydwie obydwoje
Genitive obydwu obydwu obydwu obydwojga
Dative obydwu obydwu obydwie obydwojgu
Accusative obydwu obydwa obydwie obydwoje
Instrumental obydwoma obydwoma obydwiema obydwojgiem
Locative obydwu obydwu obydwu obydwojgu

Usage

both + noun

  • both: must be from correct group (one of the columns from the tables above) and in correct case
  • noun: must be plural and in correct case

Examples in Nominative:

mężczyzna – man obaj mężczyźni – both men
samochód – car oba samochody – both cars
kobieta – woman obie kobiety – both women
dziecko – child oboje dzieci – both children

Examples in Genitive (sorry, they don’t make much sense 😛 ):

I forgot both men. Zapomniałem obu mężczyzn.
I forgot both cars. Zapomniałem obu samochodów.
I forgot both women Zapomniałem obu kobiet.
I forgot both children Zapomniałem obojga dzieci.

Masculine personal

Forms from the first group are used with masculine nouns, which are personal. Examples of such nouns:

  • mężczyzna (man): masculine gender, is a person
  • student (student): masculine gender, is a person
  • pracownik (worker): masculine gender, is a person

examples of wrong nouns:

  • kobieta (woman): feminine gender – wrong
  • samochód (car): masculine gender, but is not a person – wrong
  • pies (dog): masculine gender, but is not a person – wrong

Masculine non-personal, neuter

Forms from the second group are used with masculine nouns, which are not personal and neuter nouns. Examples of such nouns:

  • samochód (car): masculine gender, not a person
  • okno (window): neuter gender
  • pies (dog): masculine gender, not a person

examples of wrong nouns:

  • mężczyzna (men): masculine gender, but is a person – wrong
  • kobieta (women): feminine gender – wrong
  • *dziecko (child): neuter gender, seems fine but it’s an exception. This noun belongs to the last group – wrong

 Feminine

Forms from the third group are used with feminine nouns. Examples of such nouns:

  • kobieta (woman): feminine gender
  • książka (book): feminine gender
  • toaleta (toilet): feminine gender

examples of wrong nouns:

  • mężczyzna (man): masculine gender – wrong
  • samochód (car): masculine gender – wrong
  • dziecko (child): neuter gender – wrong

Last group with *

Forms from the last group are used with nouns denoting:

  • people of mixed sex
  • children
  • young animals whose nominative plural ends in -ęta
  • objects, which have only plural form in Polish

Case with people of mixed sex is quite tricky. Polish people make mistakes quite often here. In this specific case the noun stays the same, but “both” changes, depending on who we talk about. The best way to explain it is to show an example. Let’s translate this phrase: These are my both students

To są moi obaj studenci. It means two students, who are men
To są moi oboje studenci. It means two students, where one is a men and second is a woman

As I said before, the word dziecko – child belongs here, although it has neuter gender. Examples:

Oboje dzieci śpią. Both children sleep.
Idę na spacer z obojgiem dzieci. I’m going for a walk with both children.

The case with young animals is so rare, but if you want – here you are 🙂 :

Nie ma obojga jagniąt w stodole. Both lambs are not in the barn.

And the last case – verbs which are only plural. I think one of the most common one is drzwi – door. (If you have ever heard a Polish person talking doors instead of door now you know why! It is our common mistake, when we talk in English).

Nie można wyjść obojgiem drzwi jednocześnie. You can not go out with both doors at the same time.

Summary

I hope this post helped you undestand how the word both works in Polish. In all the examples above I could use forms from the second table interchangeably, but I only used forms from the first table for simplicity.

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