W dzień i w nocy

Discussion in 'Polski (Polish)' started by Lorenc, May 13, 2014.

  1. Lorenc Senior Member

    I've always found the expression w dzień i w nocy a little paradoxical and a good example of the inpredictability of grammar rules. The 'paradox' is that w dzień uses w+Accusative while w nocy w+Locative, that is two different grammatical structures are used for completely equivalent meanings. I was wondering if there is any rationalization of this different treatment of `day' and `night'. Would there be anything logically or grammatically wrong with w dzień i w noc ?
  2. Polilotte Senior Member

    Polish - Warsaw, Poland
    Perhaps "dzień i noc" ("Powtarzam ci dzień i noc żebyś tego nie robił" - while speaking to a child who doesn't listen). Other examples: " w ciemną/mroźną noc" - I don't think you can use it without adjective.
  3. sonorous Banned

    when? w dzień
    when? w nocy
  4. jasio Senior Member

    I would rather say that this example includes several semantic nuances.

    In the expression 'w dzień i w nocy', meaning 'day and night' (someone kept doing something), day and night are indeed in different grammatical cases. But the same idea can be expressed as 'dniem i nocą' (somewhat archaic for me) or in plural 'dniami i nocami' where both nouns are in the same cases (Dative, singular and plural respectively).

    'W dzień' in fact means 'during the daytime'. There is also a similar phrase using Locative, 'w dniu', which refers to a date, or a day identified in a certain way (like 'w dniu swoich urodzin wyjechał na wakacje', 'in the day of his birthday he left for a vacation'). In an official style you may also say or write 'w dniu 21 marca' ('on March 21nd').

    With the night you may say 'w nocy poprzedzającej wyjazd' ('in the night preceding someone's departure'), 'w noc poprzedzającą wyjazd' (almost the same meaning), or 'w noc wyjazdu' ('in the night of the departure'), but not '*w nocy swojego wyjazdu' ('w nocy, w której wyjechał' or 'w nocy z 21 na 22 maja' would be ok though).

    Perhaps the difference is there because there are usually many things happening during the day, or in a specific day, while nights are usually not that occupied, and distinguishing between them is not that important. Or, if there was a case change, phrases with days may be more conservative because they are used more often, while phrases with the night, would stick to more general rules (somewhat like irregular verbs in English, many of which are used quite often, and retain relics of old inflection patterns).

    It's complex indeed, and the only solution seems to be remembering the whole constructs. It's not very exotic, in English you say 'in the building', but 'at home'. 'In July', but 'on July 2nd', in Italian: 'in Italy', but 'a Roma'. For us it's exoctic, because in all cases you would use the same preposition ('w').
    Last edited: May 14, 2014
  5. Lorenc Senior Member

    Thank you all and in particular Jasio, your comments are extremely interesting. To a large extent I guess one just has to accept that one says things one way and not some other and that the reasons underlying `strange' grammatical rules may be difficult or impossible to unravel completely.

    As to the slight difference between 'w nocy poprzedzającej wyjazd' and 'w nocy poprzedzającą wyjazd' would think it acceptable to translate the former as 'in the night preceeding departure' (the night is seen as a point in time) and the latter as 'during the night preceeding departure' (the night is seen as an extended period of time)? Any particular explanation of why 'w nocy wyjazdu' is incorrect...?

    Yes, I had in mind a similar rationalization for `w dzień i w nocy', that is `w dzień' emphasises the duration of the day, while `w nocy' the night is considered as a whole (a point in time). Does it make sense?

    Well, of course any language has its quirks :) However in the examples you quote, say 'in Italia' vs 'a Roma', these stuctures are part of a general rule ('locative' for cities vs countries), while the 'w dzień i w noc' thing as far as I know does not form a general pattern. There are as far as I know four possible ways in Polish to translate time expressions, depending on the situation: simple genitive (następnego dnia), w+ACC (w dzień), w+LOC (w dniu), simple instrumental (dniem). And then of course one can use other expressions such as 'w ciągu dnia', 'przez cały dzień' and so on. Quite a few to choose from :)
  6. sonorous Banned

    There is a very good Polish novel "noce i dnie", btw
  7. jasio Senior Member

    I've heard that when Panini wrote his Sanskrit grammar, he wrote rules for everything. When he identified something which did not match existing rules, instead of commenting it as an irregular feature, he created another rule. But indeed, I doubt if anyone goes that far in modern times. ;)

    'w nocy poprzedzającą wyjazd' -> "w noc(!) poprzedzającą wyjazd". It's accusativ. When I start saying "w nocy poprzedzającej...", my tongue automatically wants to say "w ciągu nocy", which expresses continuity, so perhaps when "ciągu" is missing there is no continuity indeed. But I would not go that far unless you really need a rationalisation. You may find a lot of phrases using "w dniu", "w dzień", "w noc", "w nocy" - they just slightly differ in semantics, sometimes only in style.
  8. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    The explanation is following: the fixed expressions "w dzień" and "w nocy" were created in different times, when the case endings were different. Every language has such "fossilized" expressions from earlier epochs of the language. Another example in Polish is "innymi słowy" where we still use an instrumental ending that became archaic already in the XIX century.

    By the way, I have never heard the form "w noc" meaning the same as "w nocy". "w noc" means "into the night", and is used mostly in poetic texts, like "odszedł w noc" (He went into the night".
  9. Lorenc Senior Member

    Thanks for your comments. Do you have any reference which could confirm your explanation? In a certain 'Gramatyka historyczna języka Polskiego' (Ерома / Павлюкевич) which can be found online I found the following passage in section 5.f `relikty dawnej końcówki deklinacji spółgłoskowej w związku frazeologicznym we dnie i w nocy (porównaj w dniu)' which from what I understand indicates that once upon a time the locative of dzień was dnie (not dniu) and that (apparently) in the 'night and day' expression one had locative in both members (as it 'should' be). Maybe dnie was eventually felt to be an accusative plural and therefore changed into dzień (acc. sing.), which logically makes more sense.
  10. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    There has occurred a misunderstanding. What I meant concerned an expression consisting only of the preposition "w" and "noc", without any additional determination of the night, as for example "w noc poprzedzającą" which is a common expression.

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