czemu/dlaczego

radosna

Senior Member
English- USA
Hi everyone!

I was just wondering if "czemu?" and "dlaczego?" can be used interchangeably or if there is some subtle difference between them.

If there is a difference, does it have anything to do with how formal/informal the setting is? I seem to recall "czemu" being used often in conversations but rarely in front of a pulpit, for example.

Thanks!
 
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  • radosna

    Senior Member
    English- USA
    Ok. That's what I thought. I just wanted to make sure that I wasn't missing some sort of subtle difference between the two in terms of its meaning. One can never be sure when it's not your native language! (Even in your native language, one can't always be sure!)

    Thanks, majlo!
     

    BezierCurve

    Senior Member
    Note: beside its idiomatic meaning, "czemu" might also be used in its original meaning (as dative of "co"):

    "Czemu się teraz przyglądasz?" - "What are you looking at now?"
    "Czemu służy ten przycisk?" - "What is this button for?"
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Can you think of a context in which "Czemu się teraz przyglądasz" would take on the second meaning? I find it very unlikely that anyone could say it to mean this. It would sound extremely weird.
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Can you think of a context in which "Czemu się teraz przyglądasz" would take on the second meaning? I find it very unlikely that anyone could say it to mean this. It would sound extremely weird.
    Hi, Dreamlike. I also agree with you. "Czemu sie teraz przygladasz" will mean only "what are you looking at", to me at least. And the phrase "czemu sluzy ten przycisk" it is hardly ever heard like that, especially in more formal settings. "Do czego sluzy ten przycisk?" would be something that I would use. (I am verry sorry -- I cannot use any diacritics at this time -- the don't appear as an option) Although, after I thought about it some more, I think "Czemu sie teraz przygladasz?" can also mean "Why are you starring (at something or somebody) now?" It would have to be properly stressed though. It will have to be expressed through proper intonation, with the stress on "czemu". It might be confusing in a written form.
     
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    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Majlo, I entirely agree. The thing is that I'd be more likely to say "Czemu się tak temu przyglądasz?" - "Why are you starring at this like that?"

    I'd also say "Do czego służy ten przycisk?" to mean "What is this button for?".
     

    BezierCurve

    Senior Member
    And I'd say so too. And most of Polish natives in most cases. But sometimes you can get confused when coming across the other meaning.

    That's why I wrote "might also be used".
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Yes, it might, in fact. "Czemu sie przygladasz? What are you looking at? "Czemu sie przygladasz/" -- why are you starring (at me -- in most cases). It all depends on the intonation.
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    To be honest, Liliana, I can't conceive of any intontation that would make possible for "Czemu się przyglądasz?" to mean "Why are you starring (at me)". One would have to include "temu/mi".

    "Czemu się temu (tak) przyglądasz?", "Czemu się mi (tak) przyglądasz".
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Czemu się tak przygłądasz. Scene: A woman is cooking soup, adding, every five minutes, two tablespoons of salt to the pot. Her husband is starring at her in disbelief. "Czemu się przygłądasz?", would be a natural reaction, I think. Meaning why are you starring (at me, at me cooking).
     
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    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Yes, that would be a natural reaction, provided that the wife had included "tak". Having said that, I'd be far more likely to ask "Co się tak przyglądasz?" :) "Czemu się tak przyglądasz" would be fine too, though.
     
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    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    It wouldn't make much sense to me without "tak", but given the context of the situation I'd probably understand it. But still, it would feel odd. I wonder what others make of that :)
     

    Indunn

    New Member
    Polish
    I agree with dreamlike. In that situation one would say:

    "Co sie tak przygladasz?" (very colloquial),
    alternatively one could say "Czemu sie tak przygladasz?".

    Another possibility would be: "Dlaczego sie mi tak przygladasz?".

    In each case I would add 'tak' to make the sentence complete.
     

    marco_2

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I agree with dreamlike. In that situation one would say:

    "Co sie tak przygladasz?" (very colloquial),
    alternatively one could say "Czemu sie tak przygladasz?".

    Another possibility would be: "Dlaczego sie mi tak przygladasz?"
    .
    Ha, the most colloquial would probably be: Czego się gapisz? :)
     

    kirahvi

    Senior Member
    Finnish
    Wow, tak a pronoun. I think my mind just exploded, I really need to have a look at Polish grammar one of these days! I've always thought of it as a particle and it has made sense in my anti-grammarian world.

    Getting back on topic of interrogatives:

    How would you rate po co? My friend has a son, and it seems every third thing he says is po co, but when I think of it, I hear it rarely from other sources. Adults in my life, myself included, tend to go for czemu and dlaczego. Is po co primarily a part of kids' language or do I just not pay attention to it when other people use it?
     

    radosna

    Senior Member
    English- USA
    Good addition to the original question, kirahvi! You know, at first I was going to include po co in the OP as well but for some reason, I stopped myself. I feel a stronger delineation separating "po co?' from "dlaczego?" and "czemu?" but I don't know exactly why.

    On a subjective level, to me, "po co?" seems to carry a bit more of an attitude to it. I don't think that's necessarily so, but I do often hear it used in that way -- almost a challenge rather than pure inquisitiveness.

    I could be completely off here, so please, native speakers, do correct me if I'm off base.

    By the way, thanks everybody for all your input. You went much further than I expected... but I probably should have expected that! :)
     
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    kirahvi

    Senior Member
    Finnish
    I can definitely feel the attitude in po co as well, so I don't think you're completely off base. That might also be the case why it's rather rarely used in adult conversations. Then again the way my friend's son uses it isn't always to show attitude and challenge the answer, but rather just a way to add variation to his endless loops of "but why, but why".
     

    Indunn

    New Member
    Polish
    Coming back to 'tak' and the question what part of speech it is... I had to double-check it, as it got really interesting.

    According to 'Pons' dictionary, 'tak' can be a particle or an adverb. It is not a pronoun.
    (a pronoun is substitutable for a noun, you can read the meaning 'pro noun' = for/in place of a noun).

    I think, in this particular case it is an adverb which describes the verb "przygladasz" ("Czemu sie tak przygladasz?").

    The dictionary quotes, among others, the following examples:
    - Jak mogłeś tak postąpić! --- adverb, describing the way/manner of having done something (tak postąpić = have acted/behaved that way)
    - Jabłka były tak smaczne, że zjadł aż trzy --- adverb, intensifying an adjective (tak smaczne = so tasty)
     
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    Indunn

    New Member
    Polish
    I can definitely feel the attitude in po co as well, so I don't think you're completely off base. That might also be the case why it's rather rarely used in adult conversations. Then again the way my friend's son uses it isn't always to show attitude and challenge the answer, but rather just a way to add variation to his endless loops of "but why, but why".

    I think 'po co' has a slightly different meaning. It means 'what for'. A little child might use some vocabulary incorrectly.
    My little sister used to say "czego" instead of "dlaczego". It sounded sweet, but it was incorrect. She has outgrown it though, being almost 30 now :D.

    I am not sure if there is an attitude in this expression, maybe it depends on the context.
    For example "Po co mam tam chodzic?" could imply some attitude.
    On the other hand, "Po co ci ten zeszyt?" means "What do you need this notebook for?". I personally, don't hear here any attitude.
     
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    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    How would you rate po co? My friend has a son, and it seems every third thing he says is po co, but when I think of it, I hear it rarely from other sources.
    There's nothing intrinsically wrong with "po co?". If you adopt a proper intonation and tone, it's just a sloppy way of saying "W jakim celu?". It can be quite coarse and brusque, though, especially coming from a pampered child :)
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I think 'po co' has a slightly different meaning. It means 'what for'. A little child might use some vocabulary incorrectly.
    My little sister used to say "czego" instead of "dlaczego". It sounded sweet, but it was incorrect. She has outgrown it though, being almost 30 now :D.

    I am not sure if there is an attitude in this expression, maybe it depends on the context.
    For example "Po co mam tam chodzic?" could imply some attitude.
    On the other hand, "Po co ci ten zeszyt?" means "What do you need this notebook for?". I personally, don't hear here any attitude.
    Not only "a slightly different meaning". The meaning is clearly different. "Dlaczego" is a question about reason, "Po co" is a question about goal. Small children and unreflected adults may have problems with understanding the difference.
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    I think 'po co' has a slightly different meaning. It means 'what for'. A little child might use some vocabulary incorrectly.
    My little sister used to say "czego" instead of "dlaczego". It sounded sweet, but it was incorrect. She has outgrown it though, being almost 30 now :D.

    I am not sure if there is an attitude in this expression, maybe it depends on the context.
    For example "Po co mam tam chodzic?" could imply some attitude.
    On the other hand, "Po co ci ten zeszyt?" means "What do you need this notebook for?". I personally, don't hear here any attitude.
    Yes, I agree. "Po co" used in the sense of "dlaczego" was always considered a wrong usage in standard, literary Polish. Some people use in the colloquial language -- I am not sure if it is right there, and also in my opinion it is somehow regional.
     

    BezierCurve

    Senior Member
    Not only "a slightly different meaning". The meaning is clearly different. "Dlaczego" is a question about reason, "Po co" is a question about goal. Small children and unreflected adults may have problems with understanding the difference.
    Sometimes we take shortcuts, which causes that difference to blur a bit. Say, a friend of ours has acted in an unusual way. We can ask for the reason: "Dlaczego to zrobiłeś?" or we can assume he had a good reason to act that way - to achieve a specific goal. That's when we can ask about the goal: "Po co to zrobiłeś?". Notice how close the two answers would be.
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Not only "a slightly different meaning". The meaning is clearly different. "Dlaczego" is a question about reason, "Po co" is a question about goal. Small children and unreflected adults may have problems with understanding the difference.
    Although I agree that the difference is clear-cut, and a well-educated grown-up shouldn't use "Po co" instead of "Dlaczego", I'm afraid a lot of people tend to mix up the two in colloquial speech. The reality sometimes isn't reflective of rigid dictionary definitions...
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Although I agree that the difference is clear-cut, and a well-educated grown-up shouldn't use "Po co" instead of "Dlaczego", I'm afraid a lot of people tend to mix up the two in colloquial speech. The reality sometimes isn't reflective of rigid dictionary definitions...
    I would put another way: many people speak without thinking most of the time, almost everybody speaks at least sometimes without thinking, colloquial language is highly imprecise and emotional. Stanisl’aw Lem put it very aptly in his short story about bacteria learning to write: “… most people speak rubbish most of the time …”.
     
    Coming back to 'tak' and the question what part of speech it is... I had to double-check it, as it got really interesting.

    According to 'Pons' dictionary, 'tak' can be a particle or an adverb. It is not a pronoun.
    (a pronoun is substitutable for a noun, you can read the meaning 'pro noun' = for/in place of a noun).

    I think, in this particular case it is an adverb which describes the verb "przygladasz" ("Czemu sie tak przygladasz?").

    The dictionary quotes, among others, the following examples:
    - Jak mogłeś tak postąpić! --- adverb, describing the way/manner of having done something (tak postąpić = have acted/behaved that way)
    - Jabłka były tak smaczne, że zjadł aż trzy --- adverb, intensifying an adjective (tak smaczne = so tasty)
    PWN:

    tak II1. «zaimek, który wyraża wysoki stopień nasilenia cechy lub stanu rzeczy i komunikuje, że jest on większy, niż mówiący tego oczekiwał, np. Mieszkasz tak daleko od nas.»


     
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    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I hate to break this to you but this definition doesn't hold true for "tak" as used in such sentences (and that's what we were discussing all along):

    Czemu się tak przyglądasz?
    Co się tak przyglądasz?

    Here, as Kknd has rightly pointed out in one of his posts, it's an adverb.
     
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    Are we reading two completely different things? To me "tak" is a pronoun here, and I propped my opinion up with a reputable source. Could you do the same please?

    P.S. I don't know about other dictionaries, but PWN doesn't even list "tak" as an adverb. :D
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I'm using common sense and logics and I can't see how dictionaries might be of aid in this situation... Just because PWN lists "tak" as a pronoun doesn't mean that it acts as one in every single sentence.

    Czemu się tak przyglądasz? Czemu się w taki sposób przyglądasz? -- "tak" as an adverb of purpose
    Co się tak przyglądasz? Czemu się w taki sposób przyglądasz? -- "tak" as an edverb of purpose
     
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    kknd

    Senior Member
    polski / Polish
    I'm using common sense and logics and I can't see how dictionaries might be of aid in this situation... Just because PWN lists "tak" as a pronoun doesn't mean that it acts as one in every single sentence.

    Czemu się tak przyglądasz? Czemu się w taki sposób przyglądasz? -- "tak" as an adverb of purpose
    Co się tak przyglądasz? Czemu się w taki sposób przyglądasz? -- "tak" as an edverb of purpose
    it seems that somebody came along my intuition; to be frank i'm not sure of it in the end but as you pointed: common sense and logics seem to back up those thoughts. as for those adverbs—i was thinking about them rather as adverbs of manner… ("how?")
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    No, I meant a pronoun.
    "Tak" is also a particle, but not in this context.
    The problem is that you translate Polish “zaimek” as “pronoun”. “Tak” is defined as “zaimek” in Polish grammar (and it seems that Polish grammarians are pretty isolated in this respect), but it doesn’t make it a pronoun in English.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I don't perceive it as a problem whatsoever.
    Maybe you don't, but The use of words is confusing for the person you discuss with. You use a wrong word in English translating "zaimek [przysłowny]" as "pronoun". This part of speech is not called "pronoun" in English.
     

    kknd

    Senior Member
    polski / Polish
    Maybe you don't, but The use of words is confusing for the person you discuss with. You use a wrong word in English translating "zaimek [przysłowny]" as "pronoun". This part of speech is not called "pronoun" in English.
    zaimek przysłowny! and my problem has been finally solved! thanks!
     

    csowiczek

    New Member
    Polish
    Wow, tak a pronoun. I think my mind just exploded, I really need to have a look at Polish grammar one of these days! I've always thought of it as a particle and it has made sense in my anti-grammarian world.

    Getting back on topic of interrogatives:

    How would you rate po co? My friend has a son, and it seems every third thing he says is po co, but when I think of it, I hear it rarely from other sources. Adults in my life, myself included, tend to go for czemu and dlaczego. Is po co primarily a part of kids' language or do I just not pay attention to it when other people use it?
    Sorry for late reply. I am from Cracow, Poland and po co cant be used as czemu in most cases. If that child was really saying po co instead of czemu then it means he didnt know what is the actual meaning of "po co". "Po co" is used when you ask what is the purpose of that. "Czemu" is used when you ask for a reason.
    For example:
    "Po co on poszedł do sklepu?" - what did he go to the shop for? (It Has a meaning like "we have everything whats needed at home so why did he go to the shop?),
    "Czemu on poszedł do sklepu?" - why did he go to the shop? (You want to know why did he go to the shop because you dont know and youre just curious)

    You have to know that answer for "czemu" is "bo" and answer for "po co" is "żeby" for example:
    "Czemu się śmiejesz? (Why are you laughing?)
    "Bo zobaczyłem coś śmiesznego" (because i Saw something funny)

    "Po co jej pomagasz?" (Why do you help her?)
    "Żeby mnie polubiła" (because i want her to like me)

    In some sentences both are correct to use (but only some) for example:
    "Czemu oni sie bija?" (Why are they fighting?)
    "Po co oni sie bija?" (What are they fighting for? Same meaning as why are they fighting)
    But only those future tense sentences can use both
     
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