Pozdrowienia na ty i na Pan

Can someone give me a rundown of which greetings you can use with someone with whom you are "na Ty" and which you can use with "Pan/Pani/Państwo"? For example, as I understand it, you shouldn't say "Cześć" to Pan Andrzej, nor should you say "Szanowna Katarzyna" to your friend you use "Ty" with. However, other things such as "Dzień dobry" seem to be ok for either. So what can you say to who?

Dziękuję z góry!

December 19, 2016


The easiest situation is with "Pan/Pani/Państwo".

  • TV anchors, lecturers and in general people that formally greet audience will always stick to the forms: "Dzień dobry/Dobry wieczór Państwu". This is the starter. Next can be "Witam was na..." (I am greeting you here in ...) and you can start sentences with "Szanowni Państwo" or when you are in tv/theatre you can use "Szanowni widzowie", in radio "Szanowni (radio)słuchacze". Generally "Szanowni" + title that characterises your audience.
  • If you speak formally but to individual person you also use "Dzień dobry/dobry wieczór". Although you can start sentences with "Szanowny Panie/Szanowna Pani" this is rarely used, maybe when two university professors debate etc.

Informal greetings There is a lot of them. Depending on age, education, slang, geographical location ... There is a wide choice.

  • With very close friends etc or people that are hm in equal rank like you, usually similar age etc. one does not use "Dzień dobry". It feels strange, it builds distance, it feels to formal.
  • Cześć is a common opener. It is neutral. You can add to it "Jak leci/Jak idzie?" - how is it going?
  • Other starters: witaj/witam, czołem, powitać, kopę lat, a kogo to moje oczy widzą, Jak się masz, co słychać
  • Young people use multiply different forms: siema, siemka, hej, hejka, strzałeczka,

PS. Cześć literally means respect

December 19, 2016

Dziękuję bardzo! This is very helpful. One more question (only one for now, but there may be more later). Does any of this change for phone conversations? In English I'll often end a phone call with "Bye bye", even though I only say that to young kids when speaking face to face. Do you do that sort of thing in Polish too?

December 19, 2016

Yes and no. Polish adapted English/German way of greeting someone with Hello/Hallo. This word is absent from language, and present only when people phone call. Usually when someone receives phone call the first thing he may say is Halo? - this signalizes that he is ready to answer the phone. So our telephone call starts usually this way:

  • Halo? (Receiver)
  • Dzień dobry, tu xyz ... Czy rozmawiam z panem XTX? / Czy dodzwoniłem się do DFEW? (Hello, this is xyz ... Am I speaking with XTX? / Have I called DFEW?)
  • Dzień dobry, tak/nie. (Hello, yes/no).

Ending of a conversation is also different. In normal talk one can say "bye bye" by saying "Do widzenia" (this means something like: until the time we see us again) and many people say it also in a phone call. For the phone calls there is a special form: "do usłyszenia" (until the time we will hear us again). One can also end with "miłego dnia" (Have a nice day). To be rude one can use simple "Żegnam (pana/panią)" (Hereby I say goodbye, (it is like saying go away)). The colloquial endings are: Trzymaj się (literally Keep yourself ..., ending disappeared, not that long time ago it was "ciepło", keep yourself warm), na razie (another shortening, literally means now/at this time ... ), bywaj (imperative and repetitive from be!) or bywaj zdrów (be healthy).

PS. Theoretically one when he ends letter/message could use "do przeczytania" (until the time we read from us again), but it is purely theoretical.

December 19, 2016

if you ask "jak idzie" is the person supposed to actually answer it, or is it like in English where you always say "I'm fine" even if you're having the worst day of your life?

December 20, 2016

We're Polish, we will always answer about what currently sucks in our life ;)

Oh, also I'd interpret "Jak idzie" only as "How's it going with this task/thing we were talking about?", and "Jak leci" as general "How's it going?"...

December 20, 2016

I'd better not start answering Polish style then, or I'll be talking until I run out of vocabulary. :D

December 20, 2016

Well, it depends on your interlocutor. Generally he should give you quick general answer like: "Jakoś (tam) idzie" - (more or less good), powoli (Things are developing slowly or everything is calm). normalnie/zwyczajnie (normally), nic nowego (nothing new), do bani/do chrzanu/do niczego (bad, no vulgar words here but one might use some). For some strange reason I don't find answers "dobrze", "świetnie" (fine, better than fine) to be natural. Maybe because Poles like to nag and complain.

Of course you don't have a guarantee that your interlocutor won't start to tell you his all life. You just don't. He may actually give you a big report on how does he feel.

December 20, 2016

"Dzień dobry" is a greeting for all the people whom you respect and you should be polite to, for instance: a teacher, a neighbour, a cashier, a doctor or an aunt whom you see very, very seldom. You can also use "witam" when you greet a person in a place you are owner of, but never contrariwise. That means, one of the readers at the university can say "witam" to his students but they should not do that. "Witaj" (to one person)/"Witajcie" (to more than 1 person) is not used often and I would evaluate that it can be found rather in literature or acts, yet there are some older people who greet each other like that, keep in mind though that it sounds kind of cultural or even ceremonial.

I, as a native speaker, would never say mentioned above phrases to my friends, colleagues or close family. The better idea would be to use "cześć", "hej", and more loose greetings, which are really colloquial, e.g. "hejka", "hejcia", "hejo", "siema", "siemka", "siemano", "siemasz", "serwus", "salut", "cze", "elo", "czołem" etc.

Remember also about "dobry wieczór" which is used instead of "dzień dobry" at evenings and nights.

December 19, 2016

This was too easy before, so there have to be regional variations (I'm going to guess that that's what's going on). Thank you very much! How would you answer the question I asked Okcydent?

December 19, 2016

Yes, I shall answer the question. Polish people usually say "Halo?" or "Słucham?" at the beginning of the phone conversation (if they are responding, not calling). And yes, at the end we usually say "papa" (Bye bye) or just "pa" - which are the most popular, but of course you can also use "cześć", "dobranoc" (at evening/night), "do usłyszenia" (instead of "do widzenia"/"do zobaczenia", when we intend to call later), "żegnam" (when it's the last time ever you hear/see each other) or normal "do widzenia".

December 19, 2016

Thanks both. Seems fairly straightforward, for a change. I'm sure you don't need them, but please accept some lingots in token of my appreciation.

December 19, 2016
Learn Polish in just 5 minutes a day. For free.