Polish/Polish pronunciation

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
< Polish
Jump to: navigation, search

^ Polish ^ < Some useful expressions >


Polish pronunciation is rather regular. Once you learn the rules, you should be able to guess how a word is pronounced and get it more or less right even if you've never heard it before (unlike English which is rather unpredictable).

Vowels are pronounced similar to their counterparts in most other European languages (not English though) but note, there are no long vowels.

Stress is almost always on the penultimate (next-to-last) syllable.[1]

(b d f h k l m n p t z are pronounced as you'd expect them to be.)

IPA Comments/Roughly... Example
a a About this sound praca (work, job)
About this sound brać (to take)
About this sound bałałajka (balalaika)
c ts Like ts in cats.
Equivalent to German z in Zeit.
About this sound a co więcej (what else? / anything else/more?)
About this sound Brodnica (name of town)
About this sound Cypr (Cyprus)
About this sound Wąchock (name of town)
About this sound Słowacja (Slovakia)
e ɛ Like in met. About this sound epidemia (epidemic)
About this sound następnie (next)
About this sound jeszcze (still)
g g Always hard like in game, never like gene. About this sound gips (plaster)
About this sound Zgierz (name of town)
i i feet but shorter.
Acts like Polish j in front of another vowel, thus, niebo (sky) is pronounced like njebo (not an actual word!).
About this sound ulica (street)
About this sound całkiem (completely)
About this sound biały (white)
About this sound świnia (pig)
j j Like y in yes. About this sound jeden (one)
About this sound jej (her)
About this sound Chojnice (name of town)
l l Must be a clear L sound. Avoid dark L. About this sound l (pain, ache)
About this sound żal (sorrow, pity)
About this sound daleko (far)
About this sound dlaczego (why)
o ɔ author or cord. About this sound dobry (good)
About this sound co to jest (what is this?)
About this sound Wołomin (name of town)
About this sound blisko (near)
r r Rolled r.
ɾ is also acceptable.
About this sound krok (step)
About this sound gorąco (hot)
About this sound Wrocław (name of city)
About this sound srebro (silver)
s s Always soft like in silk.
It is never pronounced as a z.
About this sound syn (son)
About this sound pis (to write)
About this sound jasno (clear, bright)
About this sound czasami (sometimes)
u u moose or soup. About this sound usta (lips)
About this sound cudownie (wonderfully)
About this sound ani be, ani me, ani kukuryku (phrase)
w v Pronounced like v.
Before voiceless consonants, it may be pronounced as f.
About this sound wyspa (island)
About this sound pierwszy (first)
y ɨ Somewhat similar to sit or myth.
Compare the verbs About this sound być (to be) and About this sound bić (to beat, hit). The first sounds roughly like the English word bitch while the second is closer to beach.
About this sound syn (son)
About this sound ty (you)
About this sound święty (holy, blessed)
About this sound cytryna (lemon)
About this sound jedyny (only)


Special letters are:

IPA Comments/Roughly... Example
ą ɔn
ɔm
ɔw̃
"Nasal o"
Pronounced like on or om (when followed by b or p) or [ɔw̃]. See ą for details.
When ą is followed by ł, most Poles will pronounce it as o.
About this sound dokąd (To where?)
About this sound dotąd (up to now/here)
About this sound ciągle (still)
About this sound wąż (snake)
About this sound Zagłębie Dąbrowskie (name of region)
About this sound brązowawy (bronze-ish, brownish)
ć
ci
Soft tch. Similar to but clearly softer than cz.

c followed by i is pronounced just like ć.
ciastko, pociąg, stulecie ("cookie", "train", "hundred years") are pronounced as "ćastko", "poćąg", "stuleće" (not "ćiastko", "poćiąg", "stulećie").

About this sound ćma (moth)
About this sound podnieść (to lift up)
About this sound płacić (to pay)
About this sound pociąg (train)
About this sound całkowicie (completely)
ę ɛn
ɛm
ɛw̃
ɛ
"Nasal e"
Pronounced like en or em (when followed by b or p) or [ɛw̃]. See ę for details.
When ę is the last letter of a word, or when followed by l or ł, most Poles will pronounce it like a regular Polish e, slightly lengthened.
About this sound chętnie ("gladly")
About this sound ęboki ("deep")
About this sound węże (snakes)
About this sound ękitnawy (sky blue-ish)
About this sound poręba (clearing in forest)
About this sound mogę (I can, am able to)
Ł ł w Pronounced like an English w as in will.

(L with stroke was originally a special type of l. This is still acceptable and understood by most Poles.)

About this sound łosoś (salmon)
About this sound mgła (fog, mist)
About this sound bawełna (cotton)
About this sound pomyłka (mistake)
ń
ni
ɲ Pronounced like soft n in onion.
Similar to Spanish ñ and French gn.
About this sound kwiecień (April)
About this sound gubiński (from Gubin)
About this sound południe (south, noon)
About this sound gnieźnianin (man from Gniezno)
ó u Exactly the same as u, like tool or soup. Comes from a redundant medieval vowel roughly inbetween O and U, only distinguished and pronounced in the mountains and some parts of the countryside. About this sound dopóki (until)
About this sound móc (to be able to)
About this sound góra (mountain, hill)
ś
si
ɕ Soft sh. Similar to but clearly softer than sz.

s followed by i is pronounced just like ś.
siatka, Kasia, gęsi ("net", "Katie", "geese") are pronounced as "śatka", "Kaśa", "gęśe" (not "śiatka", "Kaśia", "gęśi").

About this sound coś (something)
About this sound śmiech (laughter)
About this sound iść(to go)
About this sound Siedlce (name of town)
About this sound sierpień (August)
About this sound siostra (sister)
ź
zi
ʑ Soft zh. Similar to but clearly softer than ż and rz.

z followed by i is pronounced just like ź.
ziarno, ziemia, gałęzie ("grain", "earth", "branches") are pronounced as "źarno", "źemia", "gałęźe" (not "źiarno", "źiemia", "gałęźie").

About this sound źle (wrongly, badly)
About this sound zima (winter)
About this sound ziemia (earth, ground)
About this sound jezioro (lake)
About this sound październik (October)
ż ʐ Hard zh. Sounds exactly the same as rz.
Fairly similar to Zhivago, vision, measure, treasure, leisure, and French je suis.
About this sound żona (wife)
About this sound że (that {conjunction})
About this sound żółty (yellow)
About this sound dużo (a lot, many, much)
About this sound narożny (angular)


Special letter combos are:

IPA Comments/Roughly... Example
ch x Sounds like "ch" in German 'lachen', Spanish 'j' in 'Javier', or (Scottish) 'Loch Ness'. Most Poles pronounce ch and h identically. About this sound chomik (hamster)
About this sound brzuch (stomach)
About this sound chock (name of town)
About this sound Lech (personal name)
cz Hard tch. Fairly similar to chip. About this sound czas (time)
About this sound początek (beginning)
About this sound cześć (hi, hello!)
dz dz cads About this sound jedzenie (food)
About this sound dzwon (bell, ringing)
About this sound bardzo (very)
About this sound pomiędzy (between)

dzi
Somewhat similar to gene. Similar to but softer than .

dz followed by i is pronounced just like .
dziadek, dzień, powodzie ("grandfather", "day", "floods") are pronounced as "dźadek", "dźeń", "powodźe" (not "dźiadek", "dźień", "powodźie").

About this sound więk (sound)
About this sound źbło (blade of grass)
About this sound dzisiaj (today)
About this sound dziewczyna (girl, girlfriend)
About this sound beznadziejny (hopeless)
John. This is an uncommon sound and usually appears in loanwords. About this sound dojeż (to arrive {by vehicle, not on foot})
About this sound em (jam)
rz ʐ Hard zh. Sounds exactly the same as ż.
Fairly similar to Zhivago, vision, measure, treasure, leisure, and French je suis.
(Even Poles find it impossible to pronounce after k, ch, p, or t. Pronouncing it as "sh" is fine in those cases).
About this sound rzeka (river)
About this sound Rzym (Rome)
About this sound marzec (March)
About this sound narzeczona (fiancee)
sz ʂ Hard sh. Fairly similar to ship. About this sound dusza (soul)
About this sound nasz (our)
About this sound obszar (area, territory)
About this sound płaszcz (coat, cloak)
  • In most cases, vowels are pronounced separately, for example, stoi, moi, twoi, nauczyć, zaufać, About this sound doić (to milk), About this sound Ukraina (Ukraine), About this sound Zaolzie (name of region), About this sound ateista (atheist)
    • The main exception are vowel combos beginning with "i". As explained above, niebo is pronounced "njebo", not "ni-ebo". Other examples: About this sound pięknie (beautifully), About this sound pamiętać (to remember), About this sound bieg (run).
    • Vowel combos right at the beginning of a word are typically pronounced as a diphthong (these are generally loanwords). For example, About this sound Augustyn (personal name), About this sound autograf (autograph), About this sound Europa (Europe).
  • If you don't know how to pronounce hard/soft pairs ( About this sound ciecz (liquid) ) you can use the same form and you will usually be understood. Note: While the rule seems to be effective in most cases, the word ciecz might not be the best example for it. If you end up pronouncing it so that is sounds similar to cieć (pronounced "ćeć", colloq. janitor), you may get funny looks, especially from older speakers (due to the humorous context it had in the old comedy series Alternatywy 4).
  • Doubled consonants are pronounced individually or lengthened, for example, About this sound codziennie (daily), About this sound chłonny (receptive), lekki (light), oddech (breath), dziennik (daily newspaper), zza (from beyond, behind), greccy ("Greek", masculine, plural, nominative adjective), or ssak (mammal).
  • You may also notice something called final devoicing, for example:
    • chodź (come!) sounds like choć (although) : About this sound (be {imperative})
    • final ż sounds more like sz : About this sound gdyż (because, since), About this sound chociaż (although)
    • final b → p : About this sound sposób (method)
    • final g → k : About this sound pociąg (train)
    • final d → t : About this sound błąd (error), About this sound stamtąd (from over there)
    • final w → f : About this sound powiew (puff), About this sound pierwszy (first)
    • final z → s : About this sound rozsądnie (sensibly)

Devoicing is not something you need to focus on but you should be aware of it.

Notes[edit]

  1. As noted above, stress is almost always on the penultimate (next-to-last) syllable. The exceptions are:
    • words with a conditional ending. Here you need to momentarily ignore the ending (which always starts with by), then find the penult:
      • verbs: chciałabym, robilibyśmy
      • other words: żebyście
    • a very small number of foreign loanwords: matematyka, gramatyka. However, most loanwords have stress on the penult.
    • verbs in the past tense using the endings -śmy or -ście (1st and 2nd person plural). Here ante-penultimate stress is more correct. However, some Poles have a tendency to put stress on the penult.[1]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

See also[edit]


^ Polish ^ < Some useful expressions >