Polishism #1.0

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.

Please translate the following sentences from Polish into English:

1)  Zjadłem za dużo na imprezie.

2) Co ona powiedziała? Powiedziała nam… “UCIEKAJCIE!!!”

3) Mapa wisi na ścianie.

4) Powiedziała mi, że mnie kochasz.

5) Byliśmy na basenie.

Please say the following words out loud:

(record yourself if you can on your phone to check yourself)

a) Focus b) Venus c) Minus d) Delicious e) Curious f) Famous

STOP scrolling down until you finish your quick “check your knowledge” quiz. The answers will follow after the picture.


–Horseshoe Bend National Park, Arizona – USA





1)    I ate too much at the party.

2)    What did she say? She told us… “RUN!!!”

3)    The map is hanging on the wall.

4)    She told me that you love me.

5)    We were at the swimming pool.

Lesson: Questions 1, 3, and 5 are checking if you can correctly use the English prepositions ‘ON’ and ‘AT’ for the Polish ‘NA’.  English uses ‘On’ and ‘At’ for two different situations which in Polish there is only one preposition – ‘Na’. Because of this, Poles often make this Polishism where they overuse “ON” when really they should be using “AT”.

Most likely you said, “I ate too much ON the party,” or “We were ON the swimming pool.” In English, this sounds very funny. Why?

= “AT” –  is used during social interactions and is more abstract.


= “ON” – is used for when something is physically on top of something else.

If you said, “I was on the party,” it sounds to an English speaker like in fact you are on the roof or ceiling of the building where the party is.  The pen is ON the table. (Physically).  He was sitting ON the bench. (Physically). We were AT the meeting. (Socially). Mom cried AT the wedding.  (Socially)

To help you understand this, study the picture below. Which guy is on the bus stop and which guy is at the bus stop?

Tom is waiting AT the bus station and John is ON the bus station.

Questions 2 and 4 are checking if you know the difference between “to Say” and “to Tell,” which are both “Powiedzieć” in Polish. You have no difference between the two in Polish and so often you can make this Polishism.

When learning Polish, as an English speaker, I had a problem to understand in which contexts to use “Wiedzieć” and “Znać.” You cannot say “Wiem go.” or “Znam o co chodzi.” Both are “to know” in English.  Similarly, you will have to know when do we use “to Say” and when do we use “to Tell” which both mean the same thing in Polish. The great thing is that the difference between “to Say,” and, “to Tell,” is very clear and simple:

1) We SAY something

2) We TELL someone something.


1)    She said “Hello!” or She told us “Hello!”

2)    What is she saying, I can’t hear her? or What is she telling our boss, I can’t hear her?

We can also use “to Say” followed by “to” in the past. Ex) I told him. or I said to him.

However, I recommend avoiding this structure.

Lastly, the pronunciation of words ending in –us or –ous make a specific sound in English. 95% of such words with this ending come from Latin, which means they have a more of an “ys” sound than an “us” sound. The letter “y” comes from the Greek alphabet and so in Latin, the “u” also made the same sound as “y” when it came at the end of a word. In English, we copy this sound. Listen again to the way you pronounce the words: Focus, Venus, Minus , Delicious, Curious, and Famous. Probably it sounded like ‘Fo-KUS’ when it should be ‘FO-kys’ or ‘MIN-ys’, ‘VEN-ys’.  You can also apply this to words ending in –ous. As in Delicious, Curious and Famous.

Now try a few more even if you aren’t sure what it means, just try the pronunciation:

Cactus, Status, Hummus, Virus, Jesus, and: Conscious, Hilarious, Obvious and Religious.

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

  1. Siedzimy na ławce.
  2. Kupiłem perfumy na lotnisku.
  3. Spotkaliśmy się na weselu.
  4. Powiedz mu, że jest Ci przykro.
  5. Proszę, pozwól mi powiedzieć jedno słowo.

















  1. We are sitting on the bench.
  2. I bought perfume at the airport.
  3. We met at the wedding party.
  4. Tell him, you’re sorry.
  5. Please let me say one word.


I hope this was helpful, if you have any questions please write them below in the comments.

Elijah Pendergraft

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