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Correct form of BYĆ. Please help!

z_darius   Apr 24, 2008, 11:37pm /  #
The gender may be surplus to requirements when determining the correct form of byc

Luckilly, for the present tense this requirement doesn't exist for the word być. Just in case you're still struggling a little, let's start with some basics. I will make some statements that might seem to those in the know as not really rules, but for now I may be rounding some things up.

The simplest sentence in Polish requires two parts:

Subject + Predicate i.e. (the person or object who/which performs an action or activity) + (the activity)

Actions can be performed by an individual subject, or by a collection of subjects. For instance "I am" or "we are". The bolded words are subjects, the ones in italics are the activities. Here the bolded words happen to be also so called personal pronouns, i.e. words generically denoting a person. When I speak about actions I perform, I will use the personal pronoun "I", isntead of my fist name.

When I say "John is whatever" then I am not using a personal pronoun, but if I continue talking about Jonh, I don't need to continue using his name. Instead I will use the personal pronoun "he". I hope this is logical to you. In short, personal pronouns specify (in Polish and in English, among others) the number of persons performing an action (one or more i.e. singular or plural), and sometimes the gender. What is also important, the persona pronoun describes the relation of the speaker to the person who performs some action.


Speaking about myself I will say "I am doing something". I am one person so the personal pronoun is called 1st person singular. Yup, grammar acknowledges the egotistic tendencies in humans. The enumeration of personal pronouns always starts with I. It's a rule.

When I speak to one person directly I will address them by "you" (second person, singular), but when I talk to anybody about actions of a person not being addressed, I will use she, she or it - this will be 3rd person singular.

The good news is: this is the end of personal pronouns, but , the bad news is: thus far we dealt only with singular form of personal pronouns. Let's recap before hitting on the plurals

English - Polish
1st person singular: I - ja
2nd person singular: you - ty
3rd person singular: he/she/it - on, ona, ono

The above is to be remembered for ever and ever. Amen.

Plural forms are pretty much direct derivatives of of singular forms, and the order in which we enumerate them starts from within and goes outward too, i.e. again in the egocentric fashion. The plural form for "I" is "we", you doesn't change in English but it changes in Polish. Let's look at the table below:

English - Polish
1st person plural: we - my
2nd person plural: you - wy
3rd person plural: they - oni, one

Another table to remember till your last breath, or at least as long as you speak a foreign language

In the above you will notice some differences in the number of pronouns for both languages for 3rd person. "They" is a collection of persons or object. In English "they" will be used regardless of the gender of individual components of that collection, but not so in Polish. The rule is simple: if at least one member of the collection (3rd person, plural) is male then "oni" is used. Otherwise "one" is correct.

Just a side note, and to be sure you understand; in the plural forms table, when we call a pronoun 1st or 2nd or 3rd person, the word person is a grammatical concept, so it the word itself does not assume plural form.

Let's put the personal pronouns and "być" together in another table:

English - Polish

1st person singular: I am - ja jestem
2nd person singular: you are - ty jesteś
3rd person singular: he/she/it is - on/ona/ono jest


1st person plural: we are- my jesteśmy
2nd person plural: you are - wy jesteście
3rd person plural: they are - oni, one są

Notice that within the same person of the same plurality the form of the word "być" does not change. So "ona jest" and "on jest". This is exactly the same as in English.

In your original post you appear to be unsure what forms of "być" to use when the subject of the sentence is a name. This requires a quick mental substitution and things become clear.

Using some of your examples:

There is one Michel. Nobody accompanies him in the sentence, so we know it's singular. Half of the job is done.


You are not Michel, so the form of "byc" for 1st person singular (I) does NOT apply.
You are talking to Michel so form for 2nd person singular (you) does NOT apply.
The only one left is 3rd person singular, i.e Michel = he. If that was Michelle then the personal pronoun to use as a substitute would be "she".

Thus we arrive at the final answer Michel is 3rd person singular, so the form "jest" will apply.

Similar process will be used to take care of the other examples.

Agnieszka i Robert - more than one person, so they are plural
They are not you, and they are not who you are addressing. Instead they are who you are talking about, so they are 3rd person plural.

OK< I hope I didn't make it harder than I thought it was for you before this post.

ArcticPaul   Apr 25, 2008, 09:01am /  #
Wonderfully helpful, z_darius.
The pieces are starting to fall into place nicely.

I have just had my fifth lesson. We looked at nationalities and professions:

On jest lekarzem.
Ona jest lekarka (hooked A - Polish letters unavailable, as yet, on my keyboard).

Fryzjer/Fryzjerka (Male/Female nominative).
On jest fryzjerem. (He is a barber)
Ona jest fryzjerka. (She is a hairdresser)

Any tips, advice or recommendations will be of enormous use to me.
Again, thank you for your guidance and support.

benszymanski   Apr 25, 2008, 09:22am /  #
Is it really obscure ???

I learnt Polish (and am still learning) from zero. I agree with the consensus that introducing these old verb forms to a total beginner is just totally confusing.

I don't think it's helpful to teach someone archaic forms that aren't used or aren't going to be heard, when the student will still have to learn the modern forms anyway. At least not to a total beginner.

Also, it is a very alien concept to a native English speaker such as myself that there are mobile particles such as "m" and "ś" that can detach and join pronouns. I think that learning that is beyond total beginner level.

Krzysztof Edited by: Krzysztof    Apr 25, 2008, 01:30pm /  #
Polish letters unavailable, as yet, on my keyboard

just look what you see above the box when you're typing here:

B I -- "..." [hyperlink, image, YouTube symbols » Attach a file [?]
Ą ą Ć ć Ę ę Ł ł Ń ń Ó ó Ś ś Ź ź Ż ż <<<<< those can be useful for people without Polish keybords, just click on the correct letter and it appers in your massage to be posted

FoxxiGold Edited by: FoxxiGold    May 2, 2008, 08:12am /  #
Thread attached on merging:
HELP! What is BYĆ? Struggling to Self Teach ...

I will be embarrassed if I'm asking a really dumb question, but as I'm trying to teach myself with no Tutor and no Classroom environment then I'm having to prowl the forum to find hints and tips, and now I come across BYĆ. Is this an abbreviation for some sort of table to do with pronouns and verbs? Please can someone translate or give description of? thank you.

And how is this phonetically pronounced?

benszymanski   May 2, 2008, 09:31am /  #
no don't worry - "być" is just the verb "be" in the infinitive form, i.e. "to be".
Pretty much sounds like the English word "bitch"

ArcticPaul   May 2, 2008, 02:11pm /  #
301 Polish Verbs by Klara Janecki may be helpful,

BYĆ.(The verb 'to be')
These are the present tense forms you will use most as a starter (like myself).
Jest, Jestem, Jesteś, Jesteśmy, jesteście, są

You use the appropriate form in context to the meaning:
Ja jestem (I am)
Ty jesteś (you are)
on/ona/ono jest (he/she/it is)
my jesteśmy (we are)
wy jesteście (you/they are) wy=plural, no gender 'you'.
oni są (you/they are) oni=plural, masculine 'you'.
one są (you/they are) one=plural feminine 'you'.

Basically you must learn your pronouns (jestem, jest etc) and your forms of być, then practise 'fitting' them together.

Then you move on to using names to determine the correct form of być needed:
Jan jesteś....
Jan and Sylwia są....

benszymanski   May 2, 2008, 03:00pm /  #
learn your pronouns (jestem, jest etc)

Just to be clear on terminology, pronouns are words such as ja, ty, wy, my (English I, you, we, etc..). Jestem, jesteś etc.. are the various conjugations of the verb.

ArcticPaul   May 3, 2008, 09:25am /  #
I should have said
'Learn your pronouns and the forms of być (jest, jestem, są) that fit correctly.

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