Polish Verbs of Motion

Polish Verbs “iść” and “jechać”

In Slavic languages, the verbs of motion form a separate system, which you have to get to know. It rests upon the two verbs: iść, jechać. Iść means to go on foot (i.e. in Polish we may apply it referring to people, animals and … clock). Jechać means to move by means of transportation. Poles do not use any verb meaning movement in general, like French “aller” or English “ to go”, but automatically define a specific kind of movement: on foot or by vehicle.

Polish Verbs "iść" and "jechać"

The specificity of conjugation of these verbs consists in the stem change. In the 1st person sg. and the 3rd person pl. we can see the stem id-, jad-, in the rest idzi-, jedzi-.

Remember that if the stem of the verb changes, it always follows this rule: the stem of the 1st person sg. and the 3rd person pl. is the same and differs from the stem of the other forms.

The verb pojechać is translated as ‘go’. However, the English ‘go’ can be expressed in many different ways in Polish. For example, there is a distinction between jechać and jeździć.

Conjugation word "iść"

The present tense is probably the easiest of them all. Only two aspects are possible here, and the number of verb forms is relatively low. Still, there are some quirks you should be aware of.

Present tense is the only tense that doesn’t allow for the perfective aspect. The perfective aspect emphasizes completion, and no matter how you look at it, you can never say that completion is “happening” right now. So when you’re talking about an action, it has either already been completed in the past, or will be completed in the future.

Present Tense: Imperfective Indeterminate

The imperfective indeterminate aspect is used to talk about habitual and repetitive motion, which is why it is the only aspect in which Polish verbs of motion can be used together with adverbs of frequency.

These tend to appear with present tense verbs and include zawsze (“always”), często (“often”), czasami (“sometimes”), rzadko (“rarely”), and nigdy (“never”).

Present Tense: Imperfective Determinate

The imperfective determinate verbs iść and jechać are mostly used to talk about continuous motion that is happening right now.

This aspect in the present tense is also used to talk about the future. Actually, this is the most common way to talk about future plans or scheduled events.

Past Tense: Imperfective Indeterminate

The imperfective indeterminate verbs in the past tense are used to talk about repetitive or habitual motion that took place in the past. They sometimes go together with adverbs of frequency.
Just as in the present tense, the imperfective indeterminate aspect can refer to movement without any specific direction

Past Tense: Imperfective Determinate

The imperfective determinate aspect in the past tense typically describes one-time directed movement that may or may not have been brought to completion. It is often used when viewing the motion from the perspective of the time when it was happening.

Past Tense: Perfective

If you take a look at the table at the beginning of the section, you will quickly realize that perfective forms are created by adding the prefix po- to the imperfective determinate forms.

Future Tense: Perfective

The perfective verb forms are actually created in a quite straightforward way: you just add the perfective prefix po- to imperfective indeterminate present tense forms and change the initial i into j, while also changing the o into ó in the case of pójść.

Future Tense: Imperfective Indeterminate

The imperfective determinate verbs in the future are made up of the auxiliary verb być (“to be”) followed by verb forms that are “borrowed” from their past tense counterparts.

The “borrowed” verb forms are always third person forms (chodził, chodziła, etc.) for each of the genders. Thus, a man would say będę chodził, while a woman would use będę chodziła instead.

Future Tense: Imperfective Determinate

As far as conjugation is concerned, the imperfective determinate aspect in the future tense works similarly to the imperfective indeterminate aspect described above – it “borrows” the past tense imperfective determinate forms and adds the auxiliary verb być in front of them.

This aspect used to talk about motion which will happen in the future without any emphasis on whether it’ll be completed or not. The only thing it gives away is that the motion will start and last for some time.

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