If the instrumental case in Polish is used to designate the tool with which an action, or state of being, is being performed/is, how is it that the instrumental is also used to express time and locations, professions, nationality and relations, etc.

Also, why is it used with certain verbs (być, interesować się, zostać...), and certain prepositions (z, na, przed...)?

I'm essentially struggling to understand how, from this basic premise of "tool with which an action is performed", other usages such as the examples used above can also be included within this same case. I have found no complete grammatical guide on this case (or other cases for that matter) online, because most learning tools focus on usage and endings without explanations.

Any help?

  • 3
    A case usually has the main meaning (instrument) and lots of side meanings and uses, often there's little if any logic behind that, but that's how it works, “just because.” Languages are often idiosyncratic and you'll just have to accept that. It's just the same as asking why in English you look at something, while at means the place where the action happens, how can it be that in 'I'm standing at the door and looking at the far-away mountain' the same preposition at is used for close and far-away things at the same time? I draw with pens, I walk with friends - the same 'with'.
    – Yellow Sky
    Sep 26, 2021 at 1:13
  • 2
    In cognitive linguistics these meanings are actually not seen as arbitrarily related (see e.g. the work of Tyler & Evans). It seems impossible to predict the range of meaning a preposition or case is going to mark, but at the same time there are cross-linguistic tendencies that can be explained cognitively. I don’t know Polish to be able to answer this, but it’s definitely not true that there would be no logic behind it.
    – Keelan
    Sep 26, 2021 at 7:19
  • @YellowSky I absolutely disagree with the idea that there's no logic behind it, and it may be sufficient to you to think "that's just how it is", but having a detailed explanation personally helps me understand and assimilate the language, hence why I even asked this question on a linguistic forum in the first place.
    – FMB
    Sep 26, 2021 at 15:34


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