Identifiers

Countable singular nouns

When you use a noun in English which is countable (policzalny) and singular (w liczbie pojedynczej) you ALWAYS have to use an identifier. As the name suggests, an identifier identifies an object by answering the questions który? or czyj?

This is very different to Polish because you normally use context to give you this information and don’t very often use identifiers.

a and an – indefinite article

Indefinite means niejasny and you use a or an when the listener doesn’t know exactly which thing you are talking about. For example:

the first time you tell somebody about something

Wczoraj kupiłem (jakiś) samochód. (słuchacz wcześniej nie wiedział, że masz nowy samochód)
I bought a car yesterday.

Mam (jakąś) nową książkę.
I have a new book.

it isn’t important exactly which thing you are talking about.

Daj mi (jakiś) długopis. (jaki długopis? – mnie to obojętne)
Give me a pen.

Notice that in English we MUST tell the listener which or whose, even if it doesn’t matter.

the – definite article

Definite means określony or oczywisty and you use the when the listener already knows exactly which thing you are talking about. They might know this because:

The speaker mentioned it earlier (you use the to show you are talking about the same thing you told them about earlier)

Wczoraj kupiłem (jakiś) samochód. (Ten) samochód jest bardzo ładny.
I bought a car yesterday. The car is very nice.

It is obvious from the context

Idę na basen. (Jesteśmy w Skierniewicach. Skierniewice ma tylko jeden basen, więc musi być ten basen)
I’m going to the swimming Pool.

There is only one of these things

Idę do wieży Eiffela. (Jest na świecie tylko jedna wieża Eiffela)
I’m going to the Eiffel Tower.

this and that

We normally use this and that to give the listener an idea about the location of the thing we are talking about. It can be close to us, this, or further away, that.

To (tutaj) ta książka, o której mówiłem.
This is the book I was talking about.

To (tam) ta książka, o której mówiłem.
That is the book I was talking about.

You can also use identifiers to identify something by saying who it belongs to.

Kocham (mojego) syna.
I love my son.

Złamałem (sobie moją) rękę.
I broke my arm.

On pracuje w centrali naszej firmy w Warszawie.
He works at our company’s head office in Warsaw.

Remember: When you use a countable, singular noun in English you ALWAYS have to identify which? or whose? thing you are talking about, even if it isn’t important.