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The polite form in Polish

Hi everyone!

Can someone enlighten me a bit on the polite form in Polish? What should be used for example in an email to a group of people you don't know (such as a company/online store to ask for more information) to make it polite but not too formal?

Is Państwo with the 3rd person plural the only acceptable form? Does it have to be capitalized? I know Państwo can also be combined with the 2nd person plural, but my grammar says "only in spoken Polish". And would using the "wy" form be rude?

How should email be addressed? Is "Dzień dobry" ok or should it be more formal?

December 1, 2016



Okcydent: The thread is probably too long and I can't reply to you anymore.

I actually knew all the words (apart from "baca") but didn't notice the word play. It totally reminds me of this joke though:

Podchodzi sprzątaczka do laboranta: sprzątaczka - Co Pan robi? laborant - EkstraHUJE sprzątaczka - To ja poproszę dwa!


You said that you are from a Slavic country? Which one? If you know this vulgarism you probably know Russian. I know that the phrase (I like it very much): c???e muje dzikie węże was borrowed from it.

At least parts of Russian humour can be translated as in both languages there are words like c??j and jaja.


I'm Slovenian and don't speak any Russian. I know some curse words because I've learned them. Language learners should know at least some of these words in my opinion. And you can't avoid them even if you wanted to, they're all over the Web.


I am somehow curious if there are curses are common amongst Slavic people. I know that Czechs find the Polish word szukać (to look for) very vulgar. I also know that some thins are common between Polish and Russian, which makes somehow easier to understand them.

When I got my first German Dictionary I looked for every curse-word i could find. I can understand you. If you had some friends in Poland they would quickly learn you some basic vocab :) Sometimes they made a joke out o you and tell you that course is some common thing, laughing out of your not-understanding the meaning every time you say it.


Exactly, I've learned them because I don't want to find myself surprised at the wrong moment :-) And yes, there are common swearwords among Slavic languages. I used to think we Slovenes were using Serbian curses before realizing there was more to it when I started learning Polish. The nouns k????, p????, j???, d??? and the verb j???? are virtually the same as ours/Serbian, while some other Polish swearwords (such as the verb p????????) are unrecognizable. If you're interested, you'll find many comments from different Slavs under this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUNCfUesgLw


As for an email you can start with plain and simple „Dzień dobry”. „Witam” is rather too colloquial. Depending on how much politeness you want to show you can start with Szanowny Panie (x)/Szanowna Pani (x), Szanowni Państwo (x). In place of (x) you can place either name or a function. To do 'improve' it even more, you can place wielce (greatly) before Szanowny. Omitting name/function in singular case is not recommended. Szanowny comes from szacunek = respect. Instead of Szanowny you can try to use Szacowny. Some people have their very special titles: Jej/Jego Wysokość - His/Her Majesty, Jej/Jego Magnificencja - Rektor, Head of the university, Jego Świętobliwość - Pope, Jej/Jego Ekscelencja President, Jego Eminencja - Cardinal.

The rule is, you capitalize everything that refers to the person to whom you are directly referring.

Try not to use "wy" in your formal letters. This is considered to be a communist relic.


To me, "wielce szanowny" would sound so 'absurdly' respectful and official that I would read it as sarcastic. Or butt-licking. That's definitely too much... in my opinion, of course.


Thank you both. I guess my problem is that none of the other languages I have studied requires a polite form even when addressing several people, so any form with Państwo looks extremely formal to me, and I just wanted to make sure it's not an overkill.

Communist grammar? Polish is so full of shocks that I really can't complain about being bored learning it :-)


What I mean is:

  • in formal and semi-formal situations use Państwo
  • in complete informal situations you can use "wy" to address many people. By that I mean you just skip the pronoun. There is an idiom "być na ty" (to be able to skip pan, and refer to someone as you (singular) - just skipping pronoun. This means very close contacts. Generally there are three steps in relationships Panie + last name/position/job/title, semi-formal, but still polite, Panie + first name and completely informal "na ty" with just first name or without any pronoun. The last is sometimes associated with drinking an alcohol to 'improve' the relationship. If you are a boss you shouldn't allow your employees to call you by name, this can really kill productivity. As far as I know in English there are only two tiers. There are some companies that are trying to render English (American?) way of referring by name into Polish just by the least formal way in Polish. I find it wrong.
  • Pan/Pani mean Lord/Lady. Lord Jesus is referred to as Pan Jezus. The tradition of calling someone Pan is relatively young but it replaced older one where the nobility referred to themselves using similar Pattern using words like: waszmość (still here we have wasz - yours), acan, waćpan, waszmość pan etc. Generally there were no princes, barons etc, but the nobility used their offices, position in country's hierarchy like wojewoda, stolnik (seneshall), cześnik (cupbearer). In modern times more egalitarian Pan/Pani was introduced.
  • Państwo is also a word used to denote a country
  • The tradition of using you plural to refer to a single person preserved only in small local dialects. The jokes with górals (Polish highlanders) usually make an use of it. In other places it was replaced by pan/pani.
  • During their fifty years of rule, the communists tried to reintroduce this you plural for a single person. This was viewed as copying Russian way of speaking and was discontinued after the communists lost their power.

  • 1649

Pan/Pani are just Mr./M(r)s. respectively. If you write to 'Dear Sir/Madam', then it is 'Wielce Szanowni Państwo', Just 'Szanowny' is a level lower, and then need vocative Panie in masculine (feminine is the same Pani), titles also must be in the vocative case (dyrektorze, profesorze) for men but for women Pani Dyrektor, Pani Profesor.

When addressing by the last name, the name is in nominative case, while Pan in the vocative: Szanowny Panie Kowalski / Szanowna Pani Kowalska

When addressing by the first name - semi-formal way - you can use Drogi/Droga, and the name in vocative: Drogi Panie Piotrze / Droga Pani Anno.

The least formal is 'na ty'. For the paper letters the tradition is to capitalize the first letter: Ty, Ciebie, Tobie etc, for e-mails, probably, too - to express your positive feeling towards the addressee. The introduction would be (slightly formal) like above, but without Pan/Pani, or just Witam, Cześć, Ahoj, Serwus etc. (btw. Ahoj is more popular in Czech)


Thanks for the extensive explanation. Being a native speaker of another Slavic language, I understand exactly how these "levels of formality" work, including this part: "The last is sometimes associated with drinking an alcohol to 'improve' the relationship." It's just the plural form that confused me for a while, but it's all clear now. Not so with this góral joke though, which is either not funny or I don't get it:

Facet pyta bacę: - Ahoj, baco co tam robicie? - Ahoj was to obchodzi?


Facet - comes from Latin word denoting something funny, in contemporary Polish it is just like saying a guy.

Baca - highlander shepherd

Ahoj - it is greeting, popular amongst seamen

robicie - second person plural !

Generally the meaning of this 'joke' is:

  • Ahoy, Baca. What are are you doing there?

  • Why the f*** do you care?

The whole 'funny' thing is based on similarity between Ahoj ("Hi") and a c??? (cię to obchodzi), c??? is a vulgar word to denote penis. And as a phrase it means why do you care, why should i tell it to you. I assume that there are no vulgarism/curses here on duo.

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