How many summers do you have?

There are 3 common words you’ll see when talking about years.

Rok – One year

Lat / Lata – Years (plural)

As with other numbers, there’s a special rule for when to use Lat and when to use Lata, which is connected to the Genitive (Dopełniacz) case, which I’ll explain in a moment. First though I’d like to point out where the word comes from, because once you know, you’ll remember it forever and that’s another free word in your memory!

The word for Summer in Polish, is Lato.

So when you’re counting in years, you’re actually counting in summers.

Lato is a neuter noun and since we’re dealing with counting, we’re going to be converting it to either :

Lat Genitive plural (Dopełniacz) for numbers greater than 5
Lata Nominative plural (Mianownik) for numbers ending in 2, 3, 4 (but not 12, 13, 14)

Some examples

Masz 1 rok : You are 1 year old

Masz 2 lata : You are 2 years old

Masz 3 lata : You are 3 years old

Masz 4 lata : You are 4 years old

Masz 5 lat : You are 5 years old

Masz 12 lat : You are 12 years old

Masz 22 lata : You are 22 years old

Masz 25 lat : You are 25 years old

Or perhaps it would be easier to remember in this format :

 1  rok
 2, 3, 4  lata
 5 – 21  lat
 22, 23, 24  lata
 25 – 31  lat
 32, 33, 34  lata
 x5 – x1  lat
 x2, x3, x4  lata

The gender of numbers

In Polish, you get used to changing the ending of adjectives to suit the gender of their associated noun.  Numbers are similar, but fortunately only the first two, which makes life simpler!  In the table below you can see that for one and two, the word changes for a Masculine, Neuter & Feminine noun.  Whereas for three and greater, the word for the number is the same for all.

Masculine Neuter Feminine
jeden kot jedno jabłko jedna kobieta
dwa koty dwa jabłka dwie kobiety
trzy koty trzy jabłka trzy kobiety
cztery koty cztery jabłka cztery kobiety
pięć kotów pięć jabłek pięć kobiet
sześć kotów sześć jabłek sześć kobiet
siedem kotów siedem jabłek siedem kobiet
osiem kotów osiem jabłek osiem kobiet
dziewięć kotów dziewięć jabłek dziewięć kobiet
dziesięć kotów dziesięć jabłek dziesięć kobiet

The other thing you might have noticed if you were paying attention, was that from five, the nouns change too.  This is one of the rules for the Genitive (Dopełniacz) case coming in to play, where a quantity of five or more changes the case to Genitive.  Well, mostly.  Except where the number ends with the word dwa, trzy or cztery (ie, 22, 23, 24, 32, 33, 34, 42…).  But that wasn’t the focus of this post and I’ll cover the rules for Genitive another day.