na stól / na stole

pacadansc

Senior Member
English
The following two sentences come from a short reading for beginners in Polish. I don't have any problem with the meaning, but I can't work out why in one sentence it is "na stól" and in the second sentence it is "na stole".

The verbs seems similar in both cases, that is, the action of putting something down. I was unable to find any information on whether either of these verbs would require a particular case.

Can anyone help ?
Many thanks.

Potem Ania odłożyła nożyczki na stół.
Pusty kawałek papieru Ania położyła na stole.​
 
  • zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    My first thought was that it would be something to do with with verbs of movement, but this will not work.
    You can say "Połóż to na stole" or "Na stole były kwiaty". Generally in most cases we will say 'na stole' but indeed "Odłożyła nożyczki na stole" doesn't work.

    Other examples:
    Usiadł na stole.
    Rozlał kawę na stół.


    You can also say "Zbieram pieniądze na stół" but that's a different story.
     

    jasio

    Senior Member
    This is called case government: the verbs require objects in specific cases (or, perhaps more precisely, specific preposition and noun phrase in a specific case). Typically the verbs which belong to specific classes (like directional movement, indirectional movement, doing something with the object etc) use specific cases, but you cannot rely on it to be 100% correct. For every grammatical case sample verbs are assigned, which require this case. But, in fact, this is more useful for native speakers to recognise the cases than for foreign learners.
    • Kto/co jest (what is) - Nominative
    • Kogo / czego nie ma (what is not) - Genitive
    • Komu / czemu się przyglądam (what I look on) - Dative
    • Kogo / co widzę (what I see) - Accusative
    • (z) kim / (z) czym idę (with what / whom I go; can also be "do") - Instrumental
    • o kim / o czym mówię (what about I am talking) - Locative
    • O! - Vocative (actually it should be 'Hi', but traditionally it's 'o')
    I quoted all these questions also to demonstrate that verbs of similar meaning (look on and see) can require nouns in different cases.

    So in your example, "odłożyć na" requires accusative - odłożyć na stół, odłożyć na krzesło, odłożyć na podłogę, odłożyć na koc, etc.
    "Położyć na" requires instrumental - położyć na stole, na krześle, na podłodze, na kocu, etc, albeit accusative is also possible at least in some contexts.

    I am afraid that at the end of the day you will have to learn the proper cases by heart along with the verbs and prepositions.
     
    Last edited:

    haes

    Member
    Polish - Poland
    Potem Ania odłożyła nożyczki na stół.
    Pusty kawałek papieru Ania położyła na stole.​
    Do not lose your time, buddy. There is absolutely NO difference at all saying "położyła na stół" vs "położyła na stole". Both are used, both are 100 % correct, there is not even shade of difference between the two. Of course, you might split the hair (in this case in 100, not 4, as the difference is possibly on molecular level, if at all), but really - is life worth it? Yeah, reading this 12th time I could say "na stół" accentuates the direction of action towards the place and "na stole" underlines the palce itself but honestly, this would be sick to go into such nonsense theories.

    EDIT: Sorry, I was reading faster than thinking - as jasio above says, yes, it depends on the noun case, you have to learn it. SO sense is absolutely the same, but word "stół" "stole" can change, depends on the case (kind of like German akkusative/dative or French a/de")
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    With all due respect, I can't imagine anyone saying "położyła na stół"
    I can. It's a quite normal and current combination. Think again! Both "położyła na stół" and "odłożyła na stół" are used.
    But "odłożyła na stole" is not.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Ok, I see, I still can't and I've asked 10 colleagues at work, all of them rejected "położyła na stół". Perhaps it is a regional thing. Here in the south of Poland we are often different. :)
     

    grassy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Potem Ania odłożyła nożyczki na stół.
    Sounds fine to me.

    Pusty kawałek papieru Ania położyła na stole.
    The grammar is fine but what on earth is an empty piece of paper? :confused:
    Also, the word order is unusual, though it can work in some contexts. The usual, textbook-style word order would be Ania położyła na stole pusty kawałek papieru.

    Ania położyła nożyczki na stół
    I find it acceptable but indeed you'll be more likely to hear "położyła na stole".
     

    pacadansc

    Senior Member
    English
    The grammar is fine but what on earth is an empty piece of paper? :confused:
    A blank sheet/piece of paper is more common in English.

    Thank you all for your comments. Examples are much appreciated, and I'm finding the discussion very interesting and helpful.
     

    jasio

    Senior Member
    Also, the word order is unusual, though it can work in some contexts. The usual, textbook-style word order would be Ania położyła na stole pusty kawałek papieru.
    This is OT in this thread, but since we started discussing syntax and semantics, I'd rather say Ania położyła na stole czystą kartkę papieru. Or perhaps kartkę czystego papieru. "Kawałek" can be as well, albeit it brings to mind a torn-off piece of paper rather than a regular sheet. The phrase is not all wrong though, and it may happen that in a specific context or within a longer story it could be ok - especially that Polish is very flexible. But as an individual phrase it just looks a bit awkward indeed.
     

    pacadansc

    Senior Member
    English
    The phrase is not all wrong though, and it may happen that in a specific context or within a longer story it could be ok
    For me, trying to learn, it doesn't seem OT at all.
    The context is that Ania takes scissors from the table and cuts a sheet of paper in two. On one of the two resulting pieces of paper, she writes a phone number, and she places the blank piece of paper on the table.
    I'm wondering if the two verbs are interchangeable here.
     

    jasio

    Senior Member
    For me, trying to learn, it doesn't seem OT at all.
    The context is that Ania takes scissors from the table and cuts a sheet of paper in two. On one of the two resulting pieces of paper, she writes a phone number, and she places the blank piece of paper on the table.
    I'm wondering if the two verbs are interchangeable here.
    Thank you, @pacadansc. Your explanation clarifies quite a lot.
    1. Both verbs can be used fully interchangeably. They are differentiated for stylistical reasons only, to avoid repeating very similar phrases one after another. Of course, you have to remember about the case governance, as one of the verbs requires the noun in accusative, while the other - in locative case (thank you, @Lorenc :) ).
    2. This also fully explains the word order. If your two phrases come one after another, the second one sounds better if new information is placed first, as more important (and for stylistical alternation).
    3. In fact, the subject of the second phrase could be entirely omitted, as it's already known from the first phrase and the form of the predicate verb identifies it quite clearly - though I am not sure if this is already your level of learning. Also in English you would probably use a pronoun instead of repeating the first name, wouldn't you?
    4. This also fully justifies using the word 'kawałek'.
    5. ...and ''pusty', which in the context even sounds better than 'czysty' (although there may be regional, dialectical or personal preference to use one over the other) because of a clear opposition between the piece with information on it and the blank one.
    6. Another viable option would be 'drugi', (here meaning: the other) but it really depends on specific words used to describe the first piece of paper and where exactly it comes earlier in the whole story.
    As you can see, the proper context makes some of our comments null and void, and even disturbing. That's why it's good to provide it right at the beginning, along with a broader story, to avoid confusion and receive more accurate information. Even, if at the first glance it does not seem to be necessary.
     

    pacadansc

    Senior Member
    English
    For me the entire discussion has been useful and interesting.

    Yes, we do the same in English, trying not to repeat the same words, trying to vary the sentence structure.

    While I didn't have any trouble understanding the sentences, I was focused at first on why in one case was it na stól and in the other case na stole.
    Like zaffy mentioned, I first wondered if it had something to do with motion toward an object, but it seemed clear that the two verbs had similar meaning.
    Then it occurred to be that one verb might be attached to a particular case (like potrzebować requires the genitive). Usually wiktionary provided this information, but this time it didn't help.
    I'm learning Polish on my own with the help of various web sites and books, and I'm very grateful to be able to come to this site to clear up some doubts. I've learned a lot from this thread.
    Thanks again.
     

    jasio

    Senior Member
    Like many natural phenomenons, case governance has more to do with observations than with linguistic theories, and from virtually any rule you may find exceptions. That's why you often find "rules", which are so complex that they are pretty useless in practice. I do not have much experience learning languages with constructs significantly different from the languages I already have a grasp of, but perhaps an approach of identifying typical use cases of grammatical cases, and learning by heart everything which differs from the scheme could be helpful. For example, the phrase subject is (typically) in the nominative case, while if you call or summon someone/something you use the vocative case.

    But I don't think it would be a piece of cake anyway. Especially with case convergence, which makes some grammatical forms look or sound identical.

    Perhaps @Lorenc could be more helpful with this respect than us, native speakers. The guy is really good.

    PS. I remember a conversation with a German academic, who spoke quite good and fluent Polish. He told me that what helped him most, was Latin, as many Polish structures worked in s similar manner. While I can't judge it, if you happen to speak some Latin, perhaps it could be also a hint for you.

    In any case, if you encounter any problems - just post a question in this forum.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Ok, I see, I still can't and I've asked 10 colleagues at work, all of them rejected "położyła na stół". Perhaps it is a regional thing. Here in the south of Poland we are often different. :)
    Perhaps you have biased their response in the way you presented the question. People have also a tendency to disregard utterances that are less frequent as "not used" or even "incorrect". Often they don't make an effort to imagine a possible context in which the given combination of words would function well. I would suggest that you study a corpus of Polish texts. I think you will find many cases of "położyć na stół".
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    As I said, this might a regional thing. My Cracow ears really can't bear this form, just like yours probably can't bear 'Oglądnąłem dobry film' and here in Malopolska everybody says so.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    As I said, this might a regional thing. My Cracow ears really can't bear this form, just like yours probably can't bear 'Oglądnąłem dobry film' and here in Malopolska everybody says so.
    I would say that rather the fact that your ears can't bear this form is a regional thing. The expression "położyć na stół" (with accusative) is analogical to many other combinations, like: "położyć na podłogę, szafę, półkę, etc". There is no grammatical rule banning the combination of "położyć na" with accusative. The usage can vary, and the corpus of Polish texts gives more finds of "położyć na stole" than "położyć na stół". However the Google search here gives as many as 18 000 finds for "położyć na stół", so it proves that it is an expression that is being used in whole Poland (maybe except Kraków).
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I might accept "Co położyć na stół?" in the infinitive form, however in the past form "Położył to na stół" sounds odd.
     
    Last edited:

    grassy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    'Oglądnąłem dobry film' and here in Malopolska everybody says so
    I myself have used the 'ąłem' form a couple of times in my life and I think there's something light-hearted about it.
    But indeed, it sounds like something the grammar purists like Benny here may not approve of. :)
     

    wolfbm1

    Senior Member
    Polish
    The following works for me.

    Potem Ania odłożyła nożyczki (na co?) na stół/na biurko/na półkę/na parapet. Then Ania put the scissors back on the table ...

    Pusty kawałek papieru Ania położyła (na czym?) na stole/biurku/na półce/na parapecie. Ania put the blank piece of paper on the table ...
    Pusty kawałek papieru Ania położyła (na co?) na stół/biurko/na półkę/na parapet. Ania put the blank piece of paper on the table ...
     
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