Polishism #4.0

To check if you make these common mistakes, first take the “check your knowledge” quiz below. Once you are finished taking the short quiz, scroll down past the picture to check your results and learn how to correct your mistakes. Throughout my lesson, if you see a more complicated word that is italicized, then you can click on it for the definition from Diki.pl.

Please translate the following sentences from Polish into English:

  1. Wytłumaczyłem Bartkowi teorię.
  2. Musisz mi udowodnić, że jesteś w tym dobry. (to prove)
  3. On udowodnił swoją niewinność. (Innocence)
  4. Dzięki swojemu przyjacielowi, jesteśmy spóźnieni
  5. Dzięki Bogu, mamy nowego prezydenta!
  6. Polecałem Eljasza jako świetnego nauczyciela.
  7. Poleciłam Eliaszowi żeby pojechał na wakacje do Grecji.






Prismatic Thermal Springs – Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.







  1. I explained to Bartek the theory.
  2. You must prove to me that you are good at it.
  3. He proved his innocence.
  4. Thanks to your friend, we are late!
  5. Thank God, we have a new president!
  6. I recommended Eliasz as a great teacher.
  7. I recommended to Eliasz to go to Greece for vacation.

Lesson: What I am checking for here, is if you are using “to whom?” or in Polish “Komu?” Most likely, you said something like, “I explained Bartek the theory,” without the “to.” The real way it should be is: “I explained to Bartek the theory.” And the best way would be, “I explained the theory to Bartek.” However, because Polish people naturally construct the sentence in their mind as, “Wytłumaczyłem Bartkowi teorię.” This sentence will almost always come out of the Polish speaker’s mouth as:  “I explained Bartek the theory.” For the overwhelming majority of my students that have a normal ability to learn language (I am not talking about those naturally gifted people at learning a language), it is extremely hard for my students to completely reorder the sentence into the most native English way. In my 14 years of teaching Poles, it’s a struggle.

Therefore, if there is only “Bartek” without the “to Bartek” It is 100% incorrect. If you can make the student conscious of adding the “to whom?”, it will automatically sound much much better. Later, when the student becomes very aware of this “Komu?/to Whom?” connection, can you start fine tuning the sentence to be the very best spoken form of English. If you say “He explained the people the problem,” it is completely wrong, because we have no “to whom?” anywhere in that sentence.  If you say, “He explained to the people the problem.” you are good, and later once your English is better and you feel more confident with the language in general you can start finding all the nuances within the language.  I cannot go into all the small details in a 30 minute lesson, and I will elaborate on this in another post “Polishisms 4.1” in a few months. For now, focus on becoming aware of this “Komu?/to Whom?” connection, as it will greatly improve your grammar in English.

So, just to stress my point,  this “to” may seem like a small word, but grammatically it is very important and without it, it changes the meaning of the sentence completely. This is one of the biggest and juiciest Polishisms there are! Even advanced students that are learning English often make this mistake. You can ask any of your friends to translate such a sentence, and 9 out of 10 times it will be wrong.

In spoken English, “to whom?” is often replaced with “who?” In literature and among better educated people, you will still hear “to whom” spoken. Still, even if we drop the formal “to whom?” in spoken speech, we cannot loose the “to” in the grammar. If you drop the “to” it sounds more like “Kogo?” not “Komu?” to the English ear. Look again at the examples from above:

  • Polecałem Eljasza jako świetnego nauczyciela. =  I recommended Eliasz as a great teacher. (kogo?)
  • Poleciłam Eliaszowi żeby pojechał na wakacje do Grecji. = I recommended to Eliasz to go to Greece for vacation. (komu?)
  • Musisz mi udowodnić, że jesteś w tym dobry. =  You must prove to me that you are good at it. (komu?)
  • On udowodnił swoją niewinność. = He proved his innocence. (kogo?)

Therefore, without the “to” added, it is incorrect. Native English speakers will probably understand you, but it sounds funny to the English ear. For that reason, if you want to become fluent in English, this is a Polishism that you will need to fix.

Sometimes, it happens that the languages do not use “komu?/to whom?” in the same way. For example, in English, we use to whom with “According,” but the Polish “według” takes Kogo? Example: According to John, the law isn’t good. To whom? To John! Według Johna, prawo nie jest dobre. Kogo? Johna!

Or  let’s take the Polish “wbrew” or “Against” in English.  “Against” doesn’t take “to Whom,” when in Polish it does take “Komu?” For Example: On zrobił to wbrew swoim wartościom. Komu? Czemu?  He did it against his values. (not to whom?)

Also, English has dropped the “to Whom” with the verb “to give” when in Polish it’s definitely Komu?  For example: Dałem mu samochód. Komu? I gave him the car. (not I gave to him the car.)

Lastly, another often made Polishism that is related to this is: “Thank God!” Not “Thanks God!” In the Polish “Dzięki Bogu!”,  Komu? is used, where in English, it is a command/imperative (tryb rozkazujący) form. We are literally saying: THANK! GOD! or PODZIĘKUJ! BÓG!

Normally, however, the construction:  “Thanks to whom” is used. For example: Thanks to him, we understand English better. = Dzięki nim lepiej rozumiemy język angielski. This works except in the construction: THANK GOD!

Ask your friends to translate: Dzięki Bogu!… and see what you hear. 😉

That being said, I would give an estimation that 85% of the time there is Komu? in Polish, you will need the “TO whom?” in English. OK OK… Maybe 86.45% if we want to be accurate. So become conscious of this connection. 

Now check yourself again. First translate the sentences and then scroll down to find the answers:

  1. Dzięki Bogu jest piątek!
  2. Dzięki niemu, nie żyjemy już w wolnym kraju!
  3. On obiecał ludziom, że będzie bronił wolności.
  4. Zasugerowałem dzieciom, żeby dobrze się bawiły podczas nauki.
  5. Wytłumaczyłem jej zachowanie sędziemu.
  6. Dzięki naszemu nauczycielowi jesteśmy dobrzy z angielskiego.
  7. Dzięki Bogu jesteśmy w domu!













  1. Thank God it’s Friday!
  2. Thanks to him, we don’t live in a free country anymore!
  3. He promised to the people that he will defend freedom.
  4. I suggested to the kids to have some fun when learning.
  5. I explained her behavior to the judge.
  6. Thanks to our teacher, we are good at English.
  7. Thank God we are home!

Hope this has been helpful!

Elijah Pendergraft


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  • Mateusz says:

    Very nice work! But I think there is a small mistake here:
    “Thanks to him, we understand English better. = Dzięki nim lepiej rozumiemy język angielski.”
    It should be “niemu” 😉
    It’s nice to read your thoughts about Polish students so keep on going 😉

  • Agata says:

    So why do we often hear people saying “promise me” and not “promise to me”?

    • Elijah Pendergraft says:

      Good Question! Because here you are using the imperative (tryb rozkazujący) So it’s like Obiecaj mi! 🙂 Hope that helps!

  • Seta says:

    I feel some of those sentences need present perfect?

  • Joanna says:

    Elijah,,as a graduate of both Polish and English studies, I LOVE your texts and admire your language awareness!!!!

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