There are numerous theories about the best way to learn a foreign language, but while all these teaching methods differ in detail, they mostly agree on where to start. Just as you start a conversation with a greeting, learning how to greet people is one of the most valuable lessons for beginners. In this article, you’ll learn different ways to say hello in Polish, both in formal and informal situations, and how to follow up greeting someone by asking about their day and well-being.
Knowing at least a few basic Polish greetings will definitely come in handy whether your goal is to become fluent in the language or you simply want to be able to chat a bit with Polish people during your next trip to Poland.
Formal Greetings in Polish
When Should You Use Formal Language in Poland?
The use of formal greetings is preferable:
- when meeting someone for the first time,
- when talking to someone with whom you have a business relationship, e.g. employer, co-workers, customers,
- when you are a customer yourself, e.g., when talking to shopkeepers, taxi drivers, hotel staff, waiting staff, etc.,
- when talking to someone older than you and authority figures, e.g., teachers, police officers, doctors, etc.
Deciding when to speak formally and informally may seem complicated, especially as there are different levels of formality in the Polish language. Of course, as a foreigner and a language student, Polish people will be very forgiving of any mistakes you make and will simply be happy that you’re making an effort to speak their language, but nonetheless, if you want to make sure you are polite and respectful in any situation, it is best to stick to one simple rule: when in doubt, speak formally.
Formal Polish Greetings – Examples
There are two main ways to greet people formally in the Polish language, and these are:
- Dzień dobry: It’s without a doubt the most common greeting in Poland. Dzień dobry literally means Good day, and it’s a greeting phrase used throughout the day to say Good morning and Good afternoon. You can use this greeting to say hello in Polish in any situation.
- Dobry wieczór: In the evenings, usually starting from around 6 PM, most Poles use Dobry wieczór (Good evening) instead of Dzień dobry.
Informal Greetings in Polish
When Do You Use Informal Language in Poland?
The first important piece of information worth knowing about informal Polish is that its use doesn’t always depend on familiarity. There are many situations when Polish people will keep on greeting people formally even when they know each other well in order to show respect.
So when can you speak Polish informally?
- Young people tend to use informal language among themselves right from the first meeting.
- Adults use informal speech when addressing children.
- Adults use informal language once they agree to be on a first-name basis with each other. (Here, however, it is advisable to be cautious, as there are savoir-vivre rules on who can propose a switch to the use of first names and when.)
Common Informal Greeting Examples
- Cześć – Hello
- Hej – Hey, Hi
Both of these informal greetings are very common in Poland and can be used interchangeably in all unofficial and casual situations throughout the day. When appropriate, they can be used instead of good morning, good afternoon (Dzień dobry) and good evening (Dobry wieczór).
Other Common Polish Greetings
To complete our list of Polish greetings, let’s talk about situation-specific greetings:
- Witam – Welcome (used as a way of greeting people who visit you, e.g., at home, office)
- Halo – Hello (It’s a word used only in the context of telephone conversations to say hello when answering the phone. Usually used when the caller is unknown.)
Both of the above can be used as a neutral greeting suitable for both formal and informal situations.
Learn More Than Just a Greeting: Useful Phrases to Start a Conversation
In polite conversations, a greeting is usually followed by a question such as ‘How are you?’ or ‘How was your day?’ or simple expressions like Nice to meet you. In informal settings, such questions can sometimes replace traditional greetings in Polish, e.g., young people will sometimes use Jak tam? (How is it going?) as a way of greeting someone instead of Hej (Hey) or Cześć (Hello).
Useful Phrases to Be Polite in Formal Situations
- Jak się Pan/Pani ma? – How are you, Sir/Madam?
- Jak się Pan/Pani czuje? – How are you feeling, Sir/Madam?
- Miło Pana/Panią poznać. – Nice to meet you, Sir/Madam.
Simple Ways to Start a Conversation With Your Polish Friend
- Jak się masz? Co u Ciebie? – How are you?
- Jak leci? – How is it going?
- Co tam? – What’s up? How’s everything?
- Co słychać? – What’s up?
- Co tam nowego? – What’s new?
- Miło Cię poznać. – Nice to meet you.
- Miło Cię znowu widzieć. – Nice to see you again.
- Dawno się nie widzieliśmy. – Long time no see.
Practice Is the Best Teacher
Now you know different ways of greeting people in Polish and how to ask them about their day. In short, you have everything you need to start a conversation! If you are visiting Poland or you have native Polish speakers around you to talk to, take advantage of such opportunities to practice your new knowledge! There’s no need to wait to speak Polish until you can hold entire conversations in Polish, greetings and small talk are a great place to start practising your skills! Even using such simple words every now and again can help you get used to the pronunciation and gain confidence to express yourself more freely in Polish. So take every opportunity to practice and don’t worry about mistakes, people in Poland love to see foreigners learning their language, and they’ll be more than happy to help you practise and learn more!
At Polka Dot, we focus on teaching our students how to speak Polish in every situation. With us, you will get all the theoretical knowledge in an easy-to-understand way and then immediately start using your newly acquired skills with the help of your Polish teacher. Sign up today and learn Polish in the most effective way!