Morphological Defectivity in Polish: Verbs

There are times when a language’s grammar may not offer a means to express specific forms of a word. Words that do not appear in all possible inflected variations are referred to as having paradigm gaps, or being defective in their inflection.1

The above definition represents one way to look at defectivity (sometimes also refered to as defectiveness). An alterntive approach to this phenomenon considers a formal paradigm where it is impossible to differentiate between individual inflectioal categories based on the morphology alone.2 Think of the English lexeme ‘fish’ which features the same form in singular and plural.

If this brings to mind morphological syncretism, it it because the two terms appear to be related.3

This post focuses on defectivity as it pertains to the Polish verbal system. In doing so, it attempts to employ the above two definitions to scetch out a taxonomy of defective Polish verbs. Rather than being exhaustive, this simple inventory is meant as a point of departure for further exploration and analysis. Any further suggestions, remarks, or corrections are absolutely welcome.

In addition to the above paradigm juxtaposing uninflected and inflecteced verbs, Polish defective verbs can be also grouped in the following categories:

Lastly, it may also be helpful to organize these verbs in terms of the type of their defectiveness. Here one can distinguish between verbs that are formally defective and those that are defective both formally and functionally.



  1. Gorman, K. (2023, July 8). Category: Defectivity. Wellformedness.
  2. Dukiewicz, L. (1984). Morfologia (R. Grzegorczykowa i in., Red.). Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe.
  3. Dyszak, A. (2001). Rzeczowniki i czasowniki defektywne w systemie fleksyjnym współczesnej polszczyzny. Bulletin de la Société Polonaise de Linguistique, 57, 141-154.
  4. Jodłowski, S. (1977). Podstawy polskiej składni.