Write to a friend a letter

Discussion in 'Polski (Polish)' started by Odriski, Jul 15, 2014.

  1. Odriski Senior Member

    Good day! I have a question about "Write to someone a letter" in polish. And this is quite different from Czech. For this short sentence I have two options:
    a) Piszę do przyjaciela list
    b) Piszę przyjacielowi list
    Which one is correct?
    In Czech, they usually use celownik to express "to someone", as Polish is very similar to Czech, so I think option b) should be OK. But in the textbook it uses "do kogo" to express "to someone", so it seems that option a) is correct.
    So can somebody tell me which one is correct? "Piszę do przyjaciela" or "Piszę przyjacielowi"?

    Many Thanks and Best Regards

  2. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    Hello, Odriski.

    Both are correct. They don't mean the same, though.
    Piszę list do przyjaciela. -- I'm writing a letter to my friend.
    Piszę list przyjacielowi. -- I'm writing a letter for my friend. (For example, you're doing your friend a favour, who's too busy to write the letter, and you've offered to do it for him. The recipient of the letter will be a different person).

    EDIT: I think it’s also worth mentioning that the syntax ‘pisać coś komuś’ and ‘pisać coś do kogoś’ can mean the same. For instance:

    Napisałem mu wiadomość/sms*/(e-)mail**.
    Napisałem do niego wiadomość/sms*/(e-)mail**.
    I've written a message/an sms/an e-mail to him.

    * in everyday (colloquial) Polish almost always 'smsa'
    ** in everyday (colloquial) Polish almost always 'maila'

    This also applies to your sentence “Piszę przyjacielowi list”. However, to my experience the meaning "I’m writing a letter for my friend." is more likely (in this particular case). So it may either depend on what’s in use or simply be personal. Let’s wait for others to see what they have to say.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2014
  3. jasio Senior Member

    I would also like to turn your attention to the word order.

    The phrases consist of three elements ("do przyjaciela" being always a single element), which can be ordered in any given order. But of the six possible variants, one ("Piszę list do przyjaciela") is considered the most natural and neutral, while all the others, albeit also proper and fully understandable because of flection, are rather used for special purposes, for example in poetry or songs, when you need to maintain accents, rythm, rhyme and melody.

    So for my ear both of your phrases sound like fragments of a poem. :)
  4. Odriski Senior Member

    Thanks for your explanation, we hope more answers for this
  5. Odriski Senior Member

    Thanks, Jasio
  6. vpprof Member

    I don't think the context of doing someone a favor by writing a letter to a third person for them is very common. Therefore, I think it more likely that "Piszę przyjacielowi list" will mean the same as "Piszę list do przyjaciela".
  7. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    If you mean that this is correct Polish, then we haven't got the same mother tongue. Your construction would, however, function well in Russian.
  8. Koralik Member

    Hello, Odriski!
    Well, I wanted to say that the first way you've meant, "Piszę do przyjaciela list" is the right one! But, the way of the phrase construction is a little weird; usually, we would tell: piszę list do przyjaciela. When you put "do przyjaciela" before something we call "podmiot" in Polish you put accent on it and it could be generally used in informal spoken language.
    The second way, "piszę przyjacielowi list", would have meant: "I'm writing letter FOR (not TO) a friend"; e.g. you're writing a school letter for your friend.

    Thomas, I'd like to mention that your response highlights the accent problem;

    addressee of your message isn't so marked.
    This way anaddressee of the message is visibly marked, you've written to HIM, not to somebody else.
  9. vpprof Member

    We do have the same mother tongue but we certainly differ when it comes to age :) and I don't mean anything personal by that. It's just that the last time I have sent someone a real letter written by hand on paper (and that's what's meant by "list" in Polish) was when I was still in elementary school — after that it's been only e-mails, SMS, posts, PMs etc. So while it's natural for me to say "Wysłałem ci mejla/esemesa" or "No właśnie piszę ci mejla" (say, when someone calls me on my mobile impatiently asking when will I write to him), it's less natural when a letter is concerned… :)
  10. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    And this is an example of contamination between two different expressions based on different declension patterns, just like contamination between proverbs and sayings (example "Piec swoją brudną pieczeń"). Anyway, it confirms that the two Polish languages we both respectively use are at almost as different as BE and AE.
    Polecam książkę Stanisława Lema «Doskonała próżnia», a w niej rozdział „Kultur as fehler”.
  11. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Znałem kiedyś człowieka, który mówił dialektem wileńskim języka polskiego i używał celownika kiedy mówił o bólu głowy: mnie boli głowa, tobie boli głowa, jemu boli głowa, itd.
  12. browniePL Member

    I just would lke to correct you on that becouse "list" isn't a subject (podmiot) in this sentece it is an Idirect Object.
    So we just had wrong order between Direct and Indirect Object

    I thought also about "pisze przyjacielowi list" and I don't see either the signification of a favor but still it's quite difficult to define the precise meaning.
    One thing is sure, if you want to say "I write a lettre to my friend" as he is an adressee you'd say "pisze list do przyjaciela"

    good luck

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