Tom spytał Mary, czy piła piwo.

The CM translation to English is given as ‘Tom asked Mary if she drank beer.’ In English, this suggests a habit of drinking beer, in other words ‘Tom asked Mary if she (usually) drank beer’. Does the Polish original sentence suggest the same thing? The literal translation would be ‘Tom asked Mary if she was drinking beer’. Is this closer to the meaning of the original Polish sentence? Thanks

It’s definitely not the best translation here. Per the Polish sentence, the question Tom asked Mary was “Did you drink beer?” or “Were you drinking beer” (…or “Have you drunk beer?”).

In Polish, we do never switch tenses when using reported speech. If Tom’s question involved the present tense, you’ll need to use present tense when reporting that to someone else. Poles often forget to do that when speaking English—they say “Tom asked Mary if she drinks beer” or “Tom asked Mary if she is drinking beer” instead of changing the tense to the past.

So “Tom asked Mary if she was drinking beer” would work better as the English translation here, as well as “Tom asked Mary if she had drunk beer”. I hope this makes sense.


Thanks for that, I’ll report this sentence next time I see it.

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