Trips Off the Tongue: Plural Verb Forms

Q: Recently I noticed that in Polish you say “wielu ludzi jest” and not “wielu ludzi są”. “Wielu” means “many” so why can’t we use the plural form of the verb?

A: “Wielu”, also known more colloquially as “wiele”, is an undefined numeral, and in this sentence is acting as a subject. In the Polish language we distinguish a few categories of subjects; in the case of the mentioned sentence we need to focus on two: grammatical and logical. Logically, “wielu” is associated with the plural, however grammatically “wielu” requires using the singular, and that is what we need to use in the sentence. A similar phenomenon occurs when using “dużo” and asking “ilu”/ “ile” (“how many”), e.g. “Ilu ludzi jest w pubie?” (“How many people are in the pub?”). Please note that this structure requires the genitive plural case when used with nouns, e.g. “dużo kobiet”, “wielu turystów” (“many women”, “many tourists”).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.