Category Archives: polish your Polish

Polish language explained – try it! It’s not THAT difficult!

Polish your Polish, part 20 – numbers from 11 to 20

Continuing with our exploration of the Polish numerals. Today, we’re looking at numbers 11 to 20.

Here is how to spell them:

polish numbers 11-20

The most important thing to remember is that the Polish ‘teens’ always end in ‘-naście.

Eleven to thirteen and seventeen/eighteen are created by adding –naście to either one, two, three, seven or eight. So from jeden we get jedenaście. Dwa becomes dwanaście and trzy becomes trzynaście. Siedem gives us siedemnaście and osiem – osiemnaście.

The remaining numerals up to and including nineteen are created in the same way, but the resulting word has one or two letters modified.

Here’s how to pronounce them:

By the way, a teen or a teenager in Polish is called ‘nastolatek‘:

Here is the first part of this series on Polish numbers, covering zero to ten.

Polish numbers – polish your Polish, part 19

Numbers are the most basic words you can learn and they prove hugely useful particularly when you travel to Poland.

The following table should help you understand them when you notice them written down:

Polish numerals 0-10


And here is how to pronounce them:

What’s important to remember is the fact these are the Polish numerals. Not nouns. In other words, you can use them to say ‘one ticket’ or ‘3 beers’. But in most cases the nouns used to describe the number itself are slightly different.

In the next episode of ‘Polish your Polish’ we’ll cover the basic rule that will allow you to recognise and use the numbers between 11 and 20. Such fun.
More in the “Polish your Polish” series

Great! Cool! Awesome! – polish your Polish, part 18

Great! You want me to keep on blogging on here. I asked you a week or so ago whether this blog should continue and within 24 hours almost 20 people voted to say yes. Thanks, guys, that’s really awesome.

The vote is still open, at the time of writing 58% of you wanted me to blog whenever I can and 42% wanted regular posts. I won’t make any false promises – all I can say, I won’t abandon the blog. I’ll post whenever I can and when I do it will be something you probably didn’t know about Poland, its people or its language.  Once again, thanks for your support.

Right, so it’s all awesome, cool, great and perhaps even – if you’re so inclined – amazeballs. I’m not down with the (Polish) kids these days, so I can’t offer a direct translation of the last word.

But I can definitely teach you how to express your amazement or positive surprise in Polish.

Probably the most commonly used word to say something is great is


which means ‘great’ or ‘that’s great’.  A great movie would be:

Świetny film

Another commonly used word is:


which translates as ‘excellent’. This is the masculine form of the adjective, the feminine is:


The often used (and equally often hated) Americanism ‘awesome’ translates as:


This word also can mean ‘unbelievable’ and can therefore be used to express disappointment or surprise.

And the word for cool? Try ‘kool’….

Test your knowledge of Polish slang

Wow. I never thought I would say this, but I’m really impressed by the latest attempt by the Polish Foreign Ministry to promote Poland. They have just launched a website called “Do you know Polska?” which is a cross between a quiz, a social media-powered photo- and language-sharing site and a promotional hub aimed at English-speaking audiences.

Through a series of large-format images of Poland with superimposed words and their definitions the Ministry is clearly hoping to promote Poland as a young, vibrant and cosmopolitan destination. The opening screen asks you whether you “know Polska” and if your answer is “yes”, you take a short test. You are then able to add new words and images, share the existing words and phrases through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, or simply browse the (hopefully soon to be expanded) library of mostly slang or at least informal words and phrases. Linguistically the site is probably of limited use as it doesn’t explain for example the difference between the infinitive and other cases and therefore may be a bit confusing.

I have to say, many of the words and phrases there have surprised me – I clearly need to watch more MTV Polska.

So far I’ve counted 24 words and their definitions on the site, which seems very little, so it’s going to be interesting to see how this project develops. It’s clearly aimed at a younger audience and the simple and sleek design should help. It looks like the site nicely complements other promotional activities which so far have either focused on some traditional aspects of the Polish culture or on mass tourism, or were aimed at foreign investors. This, although a bit niche, reaches out to the younger audience for whom social media is second nature. Therefore it’s likely to reach more people worldwide.

Have you played with the site yet? If so, what do you think? Czaisz bazę?

Polish tongue twisters – polish your Polish, part 17

Twisted tongue image by Abu via Flickr (CC licence)
Twisted tongue image by Abu via Flickr (CC licence)

Go on, admit it. You’ve ALWAYS wanted to impress your friends with a Polish tongue twister. Right?

And if you think “She sells sea-shells on the sea-shore” is difficult, try these. Here is my top five.

Let’s start with one of the most difficult pieces of Polish literature, a short poem by Jan Brzechwa, called “Chrząszcz” (“Beetle”). Actually, it’s just the opening line of the poem – about a beetle buzzing in reed in the town of Szczebrzeszyn – that has become probably the most famous Polish tongue twister ever:

W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie.

And how was that? I bet you’ve never seen so many consonants in one sentence in your life! The next one is also full of them, but this time it’s more about ‘s’ vs. ‘sz':

W czasie suszy szosa sucha.

Which translates as “The road is dry during a drought”. Was that any easier?

How about this one, which uses rather long and complex words to covey a rather simple message – “We isolated ourselves from an enthusiastic crowd”:

Wyindywidualizowaliśmy się z rozentuzjazmowanego tłumu.

The next one makes many people cheat. Sorry, simplify things. Why would you say:

Stół z powyłamywanymi nogami.

which means “A table with its legs broken out”, when you can just say:

Stół bez nóg.

“A table with no legs.” Cheeky. But not as cheeky as the last tongue twister in my collection, which plays tricks on your tongue, but also on your brain.

Alliteration occurs when all words in a phrase or a sentence start with the same letter. This nonsensical tongue twister means “Tooth, tooth soup. Oak, oak soup.” But try to fool your brain and make it forget about the alliteration in the first half of the tongue twister. Now say it really fast:

Ząb, zupa zębowa. Dąb, zupa dębowa.

If you managed to fool your brain (and your tongue) – well done. If not, I’ll let you Google the word you’ve just created…

More in the “Polish your Polish” series

How to say “I’m cold” in Polish – polish your Polish, part 16


The weather in London has been really mild over the past few weeks, but don’t let it fool you. It’ll get cold and miserable soon.  Already everyone on the tube is sneezing and it made me realise that I never really told you how to express your dissatisfaction with lower temperatures, did I ?

If you want to simply say “I’m cold”, the best phrase to use is

Zimno mi.

Or if you prefer to use the full sentence:

Jest mi zimno.

If you want to ask someone if they’re cold too, simply say:

Zimno ci?

Or if you feel brave enough to go for a full question (which also may sound a bit more formal):

Czy jest ci zimno?

Obviously, the word ‘cold’ in English has also another meaning. So when you want to say that your nose is blocked and you feel like staying under the duvet with some hot tea (in other words, you have a cold), you say:

Jestem przeziębiona (female)

Jestem przeziębiony (male)


Mam katar.

That’probably easier to remember, isn’t it?

And if someone sneezes, just say

Na zdrowie.

Coincidentally, this is what you say when you raise a glass or two. Cheers! And stay warm.

PS. Sorry the usual audio files are not there this time.

More ‘polish your Polish phrases

Blu Sky image by Voyageur Solitaire-mladenovic_N via Flickr, used under the Creative Commons licence