The trap of the "How are you?" question - Learn Polish 10 ways of saying hello October 03 2015, 1 Comment

Everyone wants to sound friendly, especially when they start using a foreign language with native speakers. Undoubtedly, among the first expressions you want to master are hello and how are you. Watch out for the trap of the How are you? question in Polish, though. 

No matter how tempted you are to say How are you? in Polish, don't. It doesn't belong to the greeting ritual as it does in English and sounds unnecessary, unnatural and in some cases even nosy.

In fact, saying Dzień dobry (formal hello used during the day) or Dobry wieczór (formal good evening) will just do.

I bet that you were already taught by a Polish person, or came across in a Polish course book with the following phrase: 

Jak się masz? or even it's formal equivalent: Jak się pan/pani ma?

Indeed, they translate to How are you? but are not really used in this meaning. If at all, you will hear it when we check someone's wellbeing after an illness or some tragic events.

However,  Jak się czujesz?/Jak się pan/pani czuje? (How are you feeling? [informal/formal]) sound far more "Polish" and in place here. 

Here are a couple of the How are you? phrases reserved for contacts with family and friends:

Co słychać? (How are things?)

Co nowego? (What's new?)

Co u ciebie? (What's new with you?) 

Be aware! To Poles they all may sound like an invitation to a long-winded story about whatever happened in their lives, no matter whether it was good or bad. You'll hear it all. So, if you are in a rush - better avoid it!

Also, don't use them when you see someone frequently as they all carry the following extra meaning: We haven't seen for a long time or We've got some catching up to do or Tell me what happened in your life.

If you hear it, you can answer quickly with one of these phrases:

Nic nowego. (Much the same; literally: nothing new)

Wszystko dobrze. (All good)

Po staremu. (Much the same; literally: [things are] the old way)

Dziękuję, wszystko w porządku. (Thank you, everything is all right)