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How to pronounce "y" in Polish?

kepler 4 | 19
17 Jul 2012 #1
Hello everyone,

I've been learning Polish for almost a year but I'm still struggling with pronouncing the sound "y". Can anyone tell me how should I make this sound properly, for example, in which position should my lips and tongue be, at which place of my throat should I create the sound, etc.

Nightglade 7 | 97
17 Jul 2012 #2
'i' as in 'bin', 'myriad'. At final position it seems to take a bit more of a route towards 'e' as in 'me' if they are stressing it (like dzień dobryyy)
17 Jul 2012 #3
Pretend you're shrugging. What is the SOUND of a shrug? "Ihhhh".
gumishu 13 | 6,140
17 Jul 2012 #4

i believe this is the closest you get in English

as for the remark of 'y' being similar to 'e' at the end of words - well - I don't think so
17 Jul 2012 #5
The closest you can get is the second vowel sound in "roses", in some American speakers. The best way to learn the sound is to find recordings of it being pronounced by native speakers and try to repeat. I cannot post links, but you'll find some easily if you google:

polish "y" phonetics

with the quotation marks.
Polonius3 994 | 12,367
17 Jul 2012 #6
The Polish vowel y is similar if not identical to the short i in English bit, hit, sh*t, fit and tit.
17 Jul 2012 #7
Similar, indeed. Very similar in some speakers.
Peter Cracow
18 Jul 2012 #8
"Y" looks most beautiful in the word "myth".
recall - | 4
18 Jul 2012 #9
hi tahnks for your informaiton
Ignoramus - | 3
29 Jul 2012 #11
Hi everyone. This is my first time here, so apologies for not first saying a little about myself, and also if this post appears in the wrong place (no practical experience of this forum yet). But I understand where kepler is coming from, as this question is one (there are a few!) that's been bothering me since taking an interest in the language a year ago.

Oscar Swan's "Polish Verbs & Essentials of Grammar" says that "y" is always pronounced as in the English "bit" and gives two examples: dym and ty. Dym is fine; it's simply as in the English "dim". But "ty", on nearly all the recordings I have (YouTube and FORVO mostly) seems to have a vowel sound which is difficult to describe, as some of the other comments have suggested, but definitely different. It seems to be between an English "i" and the vowel sound in the hesitant English "er...." (obviously with no "r") but kind of dipthongised with a sort of rising intonation.

Another example would be jesteśmy: I just don't hear the "y" there as being the short "i" in English "bit".

People may feel this has already been adequately covered and I hesitated before posting, but any further thoughts would be much appreciated. Also, given the difficulty of representing Polish sounds in English, does anyone know of any standardised transliteration system? Nothing very helpful comes up in Google. Dziękuję bardzo!
Wulkan - | 3,203
29 Jul 2012 #12
Oscar Swan's "Polish Verbs & Essentials of Grammar" says that "y" is always pronounced as in the English "bit"

Ignoramus - | 3
30 Jul 2012 #13
Thanks Wulcan. I hope I can trust Swan on grammar, if not on pronunciation. It shows how difficult it is to convey Polish sounds. I suppose that's partly due to some variety, perhaps regional, in the way Polish people say the words. Eg. different books suggesttak should be pronounced with a short "a" ("tack"), long "a" ("tahk") or even like our "u" ("tuck"). I guess you just have to accept it.
Wulkan - | 3,203
31 Jul 2012 #14
man, what you're on about? vowel sounds are the easiest part of learning Polish, maybe apart for "y" sound. All vowel sounds in Polish are short, you can make it long if you want to emphasize it but that's up to you and "tak" is always like "tack" never like "tuck" lol
Ignoramus - | 3
1 Aug 2012 #15
I do take your point and could have phrased it better! (Thanks for the info about making a vowel long for emphasis, which I didn't realise). Just saying that for those using books - which seem reputable - to help them, there seems so much confusion & unintended misinformation. The suggestion that "a" is pronounced like English "u" comes from the Lonely Planet phrasebook - LP are supposed to be reasonably reliable, but got that badly wrong. Without videos and audio recordings, and for people like me who don't have constant personal contact with Polish speakers, it would be impossible to get an idea of how the language sounds just from books. But of course you could say the same about any language.
Warszawette - | 128
1 Aug 2012 #16

In fact, "y" Polish sound is exactly like "é" French sound.
grubas 12 | 1,384
1 Aug 2012 #17
The suggestion that "a" is pronounced like English "u" comes from the Lonely Planet phrasebook -

It is in Amglish (American English).Maybe the book is for American students.

and "tak" is always like "tack" never like "tuck" lol

In Amglish it is much closer to "tuck" than "tack" which in Amglish is pronounced more like "tek"."A" in Polish is pronouced like "u" in "truck" or "bus" in Amglish.I was going to say it earlier but then I noticed that you are from UK.
Ziemowit 14 | 4,278
1 Aug 2012 #18
In fact, "y" Polish sound is exactly like "é" French sound.

While I wouldn't agree with this,

Oscar Swan's "Polish Verbs & Essentials of Grammar" says that "y" is always pronounced as in the English "bit" and gives two examples: dym and ty.

I would agree with that.
gumishu 13 | 6,140
1 Aug 2012 #19
In fact, "y" Polish sound is exactly like "é" French sound.

snd Polish "a" sounds like Italian 'a' in words like pasta, basta, mangiare - simple
9 Mar 2021 #20
The confusion comes from the fact that sounds that are considered to be distinctly different by native speakers of a language are actually more similar than they realize and sometimes non-native speakers have trouble distinguishing between the nuances of accents, flexible pronunciations, and standard pronunciations.

As an American who has had some exposure to Polish, I would agree that the Polish "y" sound is like the "i" in "bit" when it's fully emphasized, but sometimes it's less emphasized and sounds like the UNACCENTED "e" in French (like in "Je"), or, as someone else mentioned, the "e" in "roses".

In fact, "roses" is probably the most similar case because sometimes people emphasize the "e" and it sounds like the "i" in "bit" and sometimes they barely pronounce it, and both ways are sometimes used with the Polish "y".
Lyzko 45 | 9,430
10 Mar 2021 #21
A schwa somewhere in between bIt and and bUt:-)
26 Mar 2021 #22
I was tought that -es is pronounced as /ɪz/ thout would mean e in roses is pronounced exactly as i in bit. And I've listened to people pronouncing it in and they pronounce it as I wrote. As to the French "je" - im surprised, because most people (but not all) in forvo pronounce it as (using Polish spelling) ży. At least it sounds so. Some of them pronounce it as (again using Polish spelling) że. But in the record at google it sounds as że.

Polish y, as was stated above, is a sound intermediate between i in English bit and e in the ending -er (without r of cource). Everyone can pronounce it as i in English bit and it will be ok.
jon357 74 | 22,054
26 Mar 2021 #23
This is a good way of describing it.

Another good way is to compare it to ywhen pronounced as a final letter/sound by someone from Yorkshire.
25 Jul 2022 #24
The "y" in body is pronounced as a long e. Bod-e. Noticed my polish friend doesn't seem to say it, just leaves it off. Hope this is helpful.
jon357 74 | 22,054
25 Jul 2022 #25
"y" in body is pronounced as a long e

Not usually, unless you're in Barking or the Isle of Dogs or somewhere similar.

Even if you want to pronouns it as a long vowel rather than a short one, it's still an unstressed sound.
Paulina 16 | 4,373
25 Jul 2022 #26
"Y" looks most beautiful in the word "myth".

"Y" in "myth" is the closest to Polish "y", imho.
jon357 74 | 22,054
25 Jul 2022 #27
I'd say it's almost the closest.

The y in Billy as pronounced in a Northern English accent is pretty well identical to the Polish y.
Ania Polka Dot 2 | 4
6 Jan 2023 #28

I read on a blog that it is worth doing speech organ exercises. Apparently, it helps in the later time for better pronunciation of the Polish language.

Here is the link to the post:

There are also interesting pronunciation materials on the Online Polish Courses profile ( It's worth a look.


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