Polish Polite Polish Vs English

Phrasebase Archive

Return to the POLISH Archive
Forward to the Current POLISH Disussion

Wednesday 21st of December 2005 12:33:34 PM
Polite: Cześć

I found this article at http://www.polish-translator.net/Translation-Articles/polite-english-polish.html .
It is very interesting, and thought I would share it with you all.

How Do We Manage to Be Polite in Polish and English Respectively?
It is an intriguing and quite complicated question. As it is widely known, Polish is a very formal language - every single person, no matter his social position, above the age of approximately sixteen (after puberty) - even a cleaner in the street, is a "Pan" (a mister or a Sir) or "Pani" (a madam or a lady).

An obvious exception to the rules is how the Poles address under-aged youth. "You" is fine as long as one has not reached puberty - just like in English, but from then on the Poles are the experts on the "savoir-vivre."

Even if you are familiar with a person you write a letter to, a "you" that you use to address this person has to be spelled with a capital letter to show proper respect - forget that and you'll get an enemy for life (just joking)!

A special polite form has also to be used when addressing people in formal relations.

I am afraid, "Dear John, how are you doing?", won't get you very far when translating a business letter. In fact, the choice of the right form of address to the right person is an essential part of any letter writing in Polish. Most common form is "Szanowny Panie/Szanowna Pani" literally meaning "Respected Sir/Madam," which is both respectful and neutral and would be translated as "Dear Sir/Madam." On the other hand "Drogi Panie/Pani" meaning also "Dear Sir/Madam" has a touch of distance to it unless the first name of the person addressed is added with or without "respected." Thus "Drogi Panie Romanie" or even shorter "Panie Romanie" translated simply as "Dear Roman" is the form of choice to be used when addressing someone we are well familiar with.

The funny thing is that the word "Pan/Pani" that originally meant a "master/lady" nowadays has lost its original meaning and is used to address anyone in any position. Try to address a street-sweeper by calling him "you" (with or without a capital letter) and you will - and rightly so - hear an angry reply. Addressing the cleaning lady is no different in this respect. Forget the "lady" and watch out! In Polish: once a lady, always a lady.

Two guys quarrelling in Polish in the street will still address each other as "Pan," although the other invectives are far from as gentle. It is not uncommon to hear "Pan jest idiotą" meaning literally "Sir, you are an idiot." Omitting the "Sir" in this context denotes utter disrespect for the person that is being abused on all levels. Not only is his mental capacity questioned, besides he is totally worthless as a human being. Beware of the dire consequences! "You" when rightly pronounce in Polish is an abusive word!

Lately, due to the influence of English, the use of the "Pan/Pani" has become less strict in the everyday speech, especially between young people and in communication over the Internet. Thus, in this context, it is not uncommon to address even unknown and unrelated persons as "you" and also skip the initial capital. On the other hand, when looking for work in Poland you'd better keep the "Respected Sir/Madam" in the proper place or you'll lose out

There has also been a tendency to stop using the now old-fashioned "Panna", designating an unmarried woman and corresponding to "Miss." The modern society obviously is nowadays not interested in one's marital status which is reflected in both languages. Presently, "panna" when infrequently used to address someone can have a bit of outdated feeling about it and, thus, as an address form it is not recommended.

As a plural form when addressing an unknown group of people or a married couple, a word "Państwo" is always used preceded by "respected." It is a common form of addressing formally a group of people. The closest translation here would be "Ladies and gentlemen" when it comes to addressing a group of people, but "Mr. and Mrs." when addressing a married couple. Using the Polish "wy" - with or without the capital letter which is an equivalent of the plural "you" in English- in this case, would mean upsetting a large group of people with possibly very dire consequences. And, of course, we wouldn't want that, would we?

(By the way "wy" is the standard address form of choice in the military for addressing the enlisted privates. In the military respect is no longer a necessity! And let me tell you: "Wy" can sound really nasty when pronounced in the military fashion.)

I have just scratched the surface when it comes to the crucial matter of translating polite or impolite forms of address in Polish. There is much more to be uncovered still waiting for the right person for the job. A bit of advice, though: when in doubt, treat every Pole as a master, even the bellboy or a waiter, call everyone "Pan", "Pani" or "Państwo" and you can't possibly go wrong.

He he, this article just goes to show how polite and nice the Polish people are. :D

Wednesday 21st of December 2005 09:39:45 PM
Thanks for the article, very informative! Keep them coming!

Thursday 22nd of December 2005 02:51:28 AM
Dzieki, pan mattiie!

Thursday 22nd of December 2005 11:07:49 PM
Szanowny Panie Mattiee:p

Very interesting, indeed:)

That's true, you need to be very careful when addressing oldre people. I hate when somebody call me 'Pani'... I'm not that old after all:p !
I never forget to use capital letters in 'Ty, Cię, Ciebie' etc. Even online (though the article says it's acceptable). It shows your respect and sounds nicer.
Lol, the sentence 'Pan jest idiotą' sounds weird, indeed! Ad very old fashioned. On a bus, for example, if somebody pushed me I'd say 'Proszę się nie pchać' (Please don't push - very nice, isn't it:p) but if s/he keeps doing it and is rude I'd say 'nie pchaj się' (don't push - using 'ty' form) and without using any invectives I'm impolite.
About 'panna' (miss): now it's more often used to expres a 'girlfriend'. But it's not that common and girls can feel ofended when called this way.

Just some personal observations;)


Friday 23rd of December 2005 05:21:25 AM
Dziekuje Panna Marta! Hej, what the heck we know each other sort of..lol dzieki, Marta! ssg

Saturday 24th of December 2005 12:36:38 AM
*Dziękuję Panno Marto!

Lol, czuję się jakbyśmy żyli 100 lat temu:p

Lol, I feel as we lived 100 years ago:p

z poważaniem,
Panna Marta:D

Saturday 24th of December 2005 02:45:29 AM
lol. marta, co znacz? what do you mean by that? is that the way poles greeted each other 100 years ago/ lol what does z powazniem mean?

Saturday 24th of December 2005 07:05:59 AM
Yeah, I mean people 100 years ago were even more polite and they used to call each other PAN/PANI/PANNA even if they knew each other pretty well.
'Z poważaniem' is used at the end of formal letters, means 'your sincerely'.


Saturday 24th of December 2005 09:15:34 AM
ooo, a co znacz panno marto? dlaczego to "o"?

Saturday 24th of December 2005 06:19:18 PM
Panno Marto znaczy Miss Marta (przeczytaj artykuł uważnie:p), kiedy się do kogoś zwracasz. Na końcu musi być 'o', bo jest to forma w wołaczu.


Panno Marto means Miss Marta (read the article carefully:p), when you're addressing somebody. At the end there must be 'o' because it's a vocative form.

Sunday 25th of December 2005 05:59:42 AM
isn't the vocative form pracitcally extinct and only used to offend someone?

Sunday 25th of December 2005 07:26:27 PM
Yeah, it's pretty extinct but it does sound nice and I like using it:D And I've just said that using the word 'panna' is old fasjioned:)

Sunday 25th of December 2005 07:26:51 PM
Yeah, it's pretty extinct but it does sound nice and I like using it:D And I've just said that using the word 'panna' is old fashioned:)

Monday 26th of December 2005 07:57:53 AM
wouldn't panno be evn more extinct?

Monday 26th of December 2005 07:37:41 PM
Lol, it would. But as I said before it's used in different contexts so sometimes it's acceptable and doesn't sound odd.

Tuesday 27th of December 2005 11:20:43 PM
a! I see. widze. Rozumiem teraz!

Monday 02nd of January 2006 10:58:26 AM
Thank you very much for that article, that was very informative.

Oh! Here is something for you tony... 'nie pchaj się' is what we like to call in english the imperative (command). For most verbs it is formed by taking the third person plural (example vt. czekam: czekają (third person plural) and then dropping the ą. Hence 'czekaj' or 'wait!'. Other verbs do not follow this though, and you should learn those also. But 'uważaj!' (be careful), this should only be used when you are around friends or as commands, the imperfective verbs are for negative commands.. And the perfective verbs tend to be used more for positive commands.. For example 'poczekaj' is more positive than 'czekaj'.

Here now I will be really tricky. Now if you are talking to a group of people using commands.. add -cie. 'poczekajcie' (wait! to for example a group of your friends). And here is the last one, to for example say like "lets wait" add -my. 'poczekajmy'. I have to restrain myself now before I teach you some really bad polish..

Myśl o tym.

Monday 02nd of January 2006 12:17:13 PM
mysl o tym- think about this? well, thanks stefan! Dzieki! So,It's impolite to say'czekaj'? I don't know , this seems comfusing 'troche za...' I learned 'Czekaj' from my friend . She told me it meant'hold on'.. wich is I guess close to 'wait'...SSg!

Wednesday 01st of March 2006 03:44:03 AM
Polish people are really polite... the only thing that weirds me out still is they shake hands constantly and stand way too close together when they talk... O.o

Return to the POLISH Archive
Forward to the Current POLISH Disussion