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"Pan" or "Ty" - how people address each other in Poland?


Kazikowski 17 | 101
9 Feb 2012  #1
Hiyaz! In too many movies and media younger people address older people by using "Ty". Seems inappropriate as traditionally you would say it formally "Pan" or "Panie" or "Pani". Whats it actually like in Poland??? Also, as I'm in my 20's, is it customary to address everyday people of my same age as "pan" or "ty"???
a.k.
9 Feb 2012  #2
In most situation you can address them "ty" even if they are strangers, except formal situation (serving a client).

In too many movies and media younger people address older people by using "Ty".

It doesn't happen normally. They want to be seen as laid back.
InPolska 11 | 1,821
5 Nov 2015  #4
Moved from another thread, edited
Poles are very formal and love to use titles "Pani Magister" to the pharmacist, for instance, which cracks me up. A few times, I was called "Pani Magister" too because I have a Master's Degree.... In French, people are much more informal. French grammar first of all enables people to use first names and both a formal and an informal pronoun whereas in Polish, it is not possible and that's the reason why, I'll say "Magda" or "Jacek" without "Pan" and 'Pani". Well, consult grammar books ;)

PS: what I'm saying is that your husband, just mine was, is only ONE example out of so many millions of Poles. In my opinion, ONE single individual does not reflect a whole social group. People either Polish or anything else are no clones.
Atch 17 | 2,712
5 Nov 2015  #5
French grammar first of all enables people to use first names and both a formal and an informal pronoun whereas in Polish, it is not possible

But does that mean that you then address them with the 'ty' form?
InPolska 11 | 1,821
5 Nov 2015  #6
It is NOT only a matter of grammar but also and mainly a way to address people and to talk about them. Poles are very formal. Sorry, I don't want to be called "Pani Magister". It happened to me 2 times and the first time, I looked around me because I thought the "Pani Magister" was addressed to someone else. Once an uncle of my husband's was referred to by a neighbor as "Mr. Professor" (ok, the guy was very high at the university and also well known at the time in Poland) and I got shocked; French people whould have called him by his first name or said 'your uncle"

That's what I mean when I say that relationships in Poland are more ... "Eastern" because in the West, people go straight ahead ....

PS: to finish, when I talk about or to a doctor, I just say 'Mr. X" or "Mrs. Y" but Poles make such a big deal....
TheOther 5 | 3,567
5 Nov 2015  #7
"Eastern" because in the West, people go straight ahead .

Have you ever been to Austria; especially Vienna? As formal as it gets. Herr Studienrat, Frau Professor, Herr Geheimrat ... they certainly love their titles.
delphiandomine 83 | 17,531
5 Nov 2015  #8
Austrians are insane about their titles. I've heard funny stories about how even Germans end up insulting them because they don't address them with their full academic and professional titles.
Polson 5 | 1,771
5 Nov 2015  #9
PS: for me "Eastern Europe" is NOT pejorative.

For you it's not, but it is for many people, even if they may not be really aware of it. It just doesn't sound good. There are many things related to 'Eastern Europe' and it's not just good stuff, if you know what I mean ;) Unless one has travelled throughout Europe, the picture we get from that part of Europe is not positive. Because we've heard/read/watched too many things in our media.

I know that this general 'feeling' about Eastern Europe is wrong, I mean it doesn't fully reflect reality, at all. But it will take time to finally change people's inconscious and overcome stereotypes.

Does not matter what it makes you think or what you associate it with, culturally Poland is an Eastern European country whether you like it or not or prefer otherwise.

Ktos, I posted that 8 years ago. I was young back then ;)
Still, since you want to speak 'culturally', do you think a Pole from Silesia or Poznan is as 'Eastern' as a Pole living on the Ukrainian border?
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,449
5 Nov 2015  #10
the 'ty' form?

No, it is: "Dzień dobry Panie Jacku, wybiera się Pan do śródmieścia?"
InPolska 11 | 1,821
6 Nov 2015  #11
@Wulkan: I do NOT open new accounts (I do indicate who I am). Sometimes I do type in a message and then I realize that I am not connected so I type in anything just to have my message appear.

As said, I am 100% westerner, was married to a Pole, came for first time to Poland in March .... 1990 so believe me, I have nad tons of opportunities to notice a lot of things that are more Eastern than Western Eurpean. Normal since Poles are slavs and speak slavic language! As said again several times, I do NOT see anything negative in the term "Eastern". If you do, you have an inferiority complex and if so, do consult psy.

I don't have time because I happen to work (crazy hours which are different every day) so no time to list all the examples I can think of but trust me, there are tons of différences between Western and Eastern Europeans.

Get over your inferiority complex!

PS: On Wednesday, I saw your good friend, MP ... Kukiz ;).
Wulkan - | 3,251
6 Nov 2015  #12
Normal since Poles are slavs and speak slavic language!

Western slavic :-)

I do NOT see anything negative in the term "Eastern".

Nor do I.

there are tons of différences between Western and Eastern Europeans.

There are more differences between Western Europeans themselves. Poland is much closer to Finland than for example Portugal that has absolutely zero in common with Finland but yet they are both so called Western Europeans.

I have nad tons of opportunities to notice a lot of things that are more Eastern than Western Eurpean.

I think there is about 50/50, just like Atch stated who is also married to a Pole and I agree with her. Poland has a bit of from the east and a bit of from the west, it's in the middle, in the Central Europe. That's my opinion if you don't mind me to have one or does that automatically makes me having inferiority complex? ;-)
Atch 17 | 2,712
6 Nov 2015  #13
No, it is: "Dzień dobry Panie Jacku, wybiera się Pan do śródmieścia?"

Yes Pol, I understand that. I've been listening to people talking Polish for many years now (and I'm finally beginning to understand some of it!). It's normal to use the christian name with the Pan prefix. That's why I was confused by InPolska saying that she uses people's first names, I thought she meant without any prefix which, in my opinion, would be quite rude. You simply do not use the 'ty' form with someone you've just met or indeed with anyone unless they tell you to drop the Pan/Pani. I also know about the old custom of addressing people by their professional titles but then the Germans and Austrians used to do that with their Herr Doktor etc and even Frau Doktor to the wife of the doctor. I can't agree with InPolska that it's eastern.

to finish, when I talk about or to a doctor, I just say 'Mr. X" or "Mrs. Y" but Poles make such a big deal....

Why is that? Look, if you're not on first name terms with people and that person has a professional title by which society normally addresses them, then it's correct form to use it. To be honest I think it's somewhat ill-mannered to do otherwise and suggests that you yourself have issues around self-assurance. Do you feel it diminishes you in some way to acknowledge that the person is a doctor?? Interestingly in the British Isles anyway, a surgeon is always addressed as Mr and they're quite snobbish about it. They don't want to be confused with a common or garden GP, a mere MD. At one time they were addressed as Surgeon so-and-so but that's way back in the 1700s.
InPolska 11 | 1,821
6 Nov 2015  #14
@Atch: I am not talking about ONLY Polish language but also talking to and about Poles in other languages. No, in some languages (including but not only mine) it is NOT rude to talk to and about people by their first names and not using their titles. I do happen to speak to many Poles a lot in French and in English. For instance, in French, you would never say "Pan" or "Pani" in front of a first name because insulting (to a woman, it would imply a bor]]lo owner or a "retired" prostitute and "Pan" to a guy would imply that he is a "pimp" ;). In Polish they do because in Polish grammar they do not have pronouns such as "vous" in French or "Sie" in German, just to mention a couple of other languages (I know that in Russian, they use "wy" in such circumstances). Even when (French speaking) journalists for instance interview politicians, they just say "Jacek Kowalski" or "Sir", when talking to them. When I for instance write French consul, I use the title in the greeting but when I talk to him in person, a simple "Sir" is alright because normal...

I may not always be clear as I get carried away very easily (my Mediterranean blood ;)) but it seems to me that you don't always understand. However, you have to understand that every culture is different and therefore social relationships are different too as per culture. ;)
Atch 17 | 2,712
6 Nov 2015  #15
I get carried away very easily (

You do indeed but there's nothing wrong with that. A bit of 'temperament' is a good thing, as long as it works both ways for you. It can mean an added passion for life and joie de vivre, n'est ce pas? Better than being a dull pudding of a woman.

it seems to me that you don't always understand.

InPolska, being condescending is my area of expertise!

Well I"d say that French culture has its own formalities which are perhaps more subtle than Polish, but they exist all the same.
Ziemowit 12 | 3,316
6 Nov 2015  #16
Poles are very formal and love to use titles "Pani Magister" to the pharmacist, for instance, which cracks me up.

This is a traditional and very specific title for a pharmacist serving customers in the apteka. It is just as the Anglo-Saxon title "Mr" rather than "Dr" used for a surgeon. I think you have a similar phenomenon in French when addressing military men of higher rank, adding "mon", for example, mon colonel or mon général.

A few times, I was called "Pani Magister" too because I have a Master's Degree....

It is coming out of use. Definitely in Warsaw it is considered out-dated and a bit peasant-like. In the company I work for, no one uses this title speaking to anyone. Sometimes I receive letters from the "provinces" with this title preceding my name and I find this really bizzare.

In Polish they do because in Polish grammar they do not have pronouns such as "vous" in French or "Sie" in German, just to mention a couple of other languages (I know that in Russian, they use "wy" in such circumstances).

You are confusing things, In Polska. In Polish we have the form "vous" which is "wy". For a long time it was the traditional form used to address people in the country rather than in town instead of "Pan/Pani", so it was used exactly like it is used in French today (Byliście dzisiaj w kościele, Genowefo?).

The German form "Sie" is literally not "vous", but corresponds to the Fench "ils/elles". You conveniently don't mention the Spanish language which has the forms exactly corresponding to the Polish forms "Pan/Pani/Państwo" which are "Usted/Ustedes".
InPolska 11 | 1,821
6 Nov 2015  #17
@Ziemi; I'm not confusing anything ;). Yes, you do have "Wy" in Polish but it's the plural of "Ty" and you don't use it when talking to ONE person, whereas "vous" is used to address one person (formally) or several persons (both formally and informally). For instance, in French, it can be "Magda, vous" or "Magda, tu" . Sorry, no time and no desire to teach you grammar ;). As to German "Sie", I know that it means "oni/one" or "ils/elles" but when used to address someone, it corresponds to French "vous". I am been told by several Russians that in Russian, they use "wy" when addressing also one person.

I am not confusing anything, in conclusion:

Pol. Ty
French: tu
German: Du

Polish: Proszę Pana/Pani = NO pronoun
French: vous (which is ALSO the plural of "tu" = "wy" in Polish)
German: Sie (althougn meaning "oni/one", "ils/elles"
Atch 17 | 2,712
6 Nov 2015  #18
The German form "Sie" is literally not "vous",

Isn't it both? I mean the word 'sie' is used for you formal, you plural and they.
InPolska 11 | 1,821
6 Nov 2015  #19
Yes, re German but as to Polish language, it does not change the fact that Polish language has no formal pronoun to address one person and that's why they use "Pan/Pani". As a result, a lot of Poles when speaking for instance French use "Monsieur Pierre" or "Madame Marie", because for them, using first names is automatically "ty" whereas in French, use of first names can be either formal or informal depending upon pronouns (and verb endings). To French speakers, Polish way is even laughable and can be insulting but in my case, I know that it's because of Polish grammar not having a pronoun so when Poles talk to me in French as 'Madame + my first name", I explain and we laugh together as they are aware that I neither run a bordel]]]o nor am a retired hook..###. However, I am told that Russians use "Wy" when talking to ONE person. In Polish, "Wy" being the plural of "Ty", it is used obviously when talking to several persons.

Languages can be very different from each other.
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,449
6 Nov 2015  #20
do not have pronouns

Not true! The grammatical equivalent of vous and Sie is 2nd personal plural wy which is used to address several familiar people -- family, friends, etc.. Before the war and on into the post-war years it was used when addressing an adult inferior, for instance a citydweller holidaying in the countryside. Rather than using"pan" (originally lord) to a peasant smallholder, he might say instead: "Gospodarzu, może macie trochę świeżych jaj?" As a reflex of Russian, which uses 2nd personal plural as the usual formal form of address, Polish commies addressed each other publicly with "Towarzyszu, nie było Was na ostatnim zebraniu." A joke goes with that, where the party member replies: "Gdybym wiedział, że ostatnie to bym przyszedł z dziećmi i teściami!"

Re using Pan with Christian names, that is simialr to the Spanish, eg Don Pedro = Panie Piotrze. The formal form of address Pan is likewise similar to the Spanish Usted (short for Vuestra Merced = Your Grace).
Ziemowit 12 | 3,316
6 Nov 2015  #21
In Polish, "Wy" being the plural of "Ty", it is used obviously when talking to several persons.

I told you about it. Using "wy" when talking to ONE person was once a traditional form of addressing people in Polish, paralel to addresing them with "Pan/Pani". The social class to which they belonged made the difference. For example, someone of the gentry addressing a peasant would say: "Byliście dzisiaj w kościele, dobra kobieto/Genowefo? Notice that the "byliście" form is in plural, but "dobra kobieto" or "Genowefo" is singular. Thus, we in Poland are perfectly familiar with the form "vous" ("wy") as a way of addressing people. It is out of date in Poland now, although still heard in some villages.

Poles when speaking for instance French use "Monsieur Pierre" or "Madame Marie", because for them, using first names is automatically "ty"

It is a usage mistake that only shows they were taught French improperly. These people should not talk in French since they do not know basic things about the basic sociolinguistic contexts.

Polish language has no formal pronoun to address one person and that's why they use "Pan/Pani"

The form "Pani/Pan", although formally is perhaps not referred to as "pronoun" is exactly a personal pronoun replacing the pronoun "on/he/il" or the pronoun "ona/she/elle". It is exactly that and nothing more than that. The sentence "Czy Pani była dzisiaj w kościele?" is formed precisely on the same pattern as the sentence "Czy ona była dzisiaj w kościele?". As I said before, this is identical with how the word "usted" is used in the Spanish language. Sometimes the form "on/ona" is jokingly used between people in Poland when addressing one another.

edited
kpc21 1 | 763
6 Nov 2015  #22
It is out of date in Poland now, although still heard in some villages.

Exactly. It used to be used. Now you use just "Pan"/"Pani"/"Państwo" as a formal pronoun. Forget about "wy" in this use, unless you are reading a novel or watching a movie with the action taking place in the past.

It's simple and easy. If you are talking to an adult person you don't know, you use "Pan"/"Pani"/"Państwo". Otherwise - "ty" (which is usually neglected in the sentence, you know it's "ty" from the verb form).

Some people have traditional titles. But it's not an issue of personal pronouns, rather of beginning a talk to such a person. You don't ask a university teacher (of the PhD degree):

"Czy może mi pan doktor polecić jakąś książkę, z której można przygotować się do egzaminu?"
(Can you recommend me a book, with which I can prepare for the exam?")
but rather:
"Panie doktorze, czy może mi Pan polecić jakąś książkę, z której można przygotować się do egzaminu?"
or, if there was already a question with "Panie doktorze..." (meaning something like "Dear Doctor...") earlier during the same talk:
"Czy może mi Pan polecić jakąś książkę, z której można przygotować się do egzaminu?"

It's especially important in case of the university teachers. Some of them (not all) feel offended if you don't address them with their title (and you should always use the proper title, like "profesor", "doktor", "magister", if he's the faculty dean, then "dziekan"; if a person has a few titles, it's enough to mention the most important one, if it's, for example, a vice-dean ("prodziekan"), you still address him as "dziekan", not as "prodziekan"). Similarily in case of a president of a bigger company ("Panie Prezesie..."), or in the government and parlianment ("Pani Minister...", "Panie Prezydencie...", "Panie Pośle...", "Panie Prezesie..." to a boss of a political party - you can hear such forms all the time on TV in the news).

While talking to a doctor (medical doctor in a clinic or hospital, not a person with a PhD title at the university) or a pharmacy employee it's not so important to call them "doktor" or "magister", even though it's still a kind of tradition. But it's nothing unusual. People, especially older ones, still do so. I think, it comes from the times when there was not so many people with higher education, then it had to be usual to call all of them with the title. And a doctor or a pharmacy employee were the only such people with whom an average person had some contact. Maybe also a lawyer, in case of whom the traditional form is "Panie Mecenasie...".

Also "profesor" is a title used with respect to the teachers in high school (but not primary school), although they don't ususally even have a PhD title, not to mention the title of a professor.
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,449
6 Nov 2015  #23
"Pan"

There's still another form which I don't think has been mentioned here, namely the use of Pan with 2nd person singular as in. Weź pan stąd tego psa!

or Daj pan spokój! It has a touch of impatience and irreverence.
kpc21 1 | 763
7 Nov 2015  #24
Yes. This is a very specific form of the imperative.

Normally you would say either:
"Weź tego psa" - the informal form
or:
"Niech Pan weźmie tego psa" - the formal form.

But when you are angry; let's say, a dog - of a person you don't know - is jumping on you or wants to bite you, and you don't want to be polite at all, you use then a form which is something like of combination of both, so:

"Weź pan tego psa".
Even though it's impolite, it maintains some respect to the dog owner. On the contrary to the first version - "Weź tego psa". You really don't say anything like this to a stranger you don't know (unless he is a child).

Different ways to express the same on different level of politeness:
(the least polite)
1. Weź pan tego psa!
2. Niech Pan weźmie tego psa!
3. Proszę zabrać tego psa!
4. Przepraszam, czy mógłby Pan zabrać tego psa?
(the politest)
There is not so much choice talking to a child or to a person you know well - then you say:
1. Zabierz tego psa!
2. Czy mógłbyś zabrać tego psa?
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,449
7 Nov 2015  #25
czy mógłby Pan

How about:
Czy mógłby Pan z łaski swej zabrać stąd tego cholernego psa?
NocyMrok
7 Nov 2015  #26
In this form you're being polite towards the dog's owner and rude towards the innocent puppy. :)
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,449
7 Nov 2015  #27
It'd be rude if someone said: pieprzonego kundla...
landora - | 199
7 Nov 2015  #28
Poles are very formal and love to use titles "Pani Magister" to the pharmacist, for instance, which cracks me up

In all my 33 years of life in Poland I've never heard anyone doing this. I think it's a very outdated habit, maybe still present in some villages, but definitely not in the cities. After all, who doesn't have "magister" title right now?
Lyzko 20 | 6,054
7 Nov 2015  #29
As a foreigner, I'll typically use "Pan" or "Pani" when addressing a stranger, even an older teenager. Once I assess the nature of the situation, i.e. friendly vs. formal, only then will I switch register!
kpc21 1 | 763
7 Nov 2015  #30
It'd be rude if someone said: pieprzonego kundla...

Yes and not. "Cholerny" is, I think, stronger than "pieprzony", but "kundel" is definitely stronger than "pies" :) Especially when it's in fact a dog of a specific breed, not a mongrel (the literal meaning of "kundel").


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