Is „Do widzenia” and „Do zobaczenia” the same thing?

The last note was about informal greetings. Today we’re going to learn something about formal goodbyes. How many phrases for „goodbye” in Polish do you know?


Surely you know „Cześć”, maybe also „Na razie”, „Papa”. Those are informal. But maybe we can use them in some formal contexts? Let’s make it clear: in Polish it’s extremely important to be formal when you’re told to be. And when are you told to be? Almost all the time when you meet a stranger who is adult and is older than you. Besides that, in most of situations which take place at work.

Examples of situations in which you use formal language (some may be surprising):

  • on the street;
  • in the shop;
  • when checking in at the hotel/ hostel/ wherever;
  • in the restaurant.

Let’s introduce the first formal goodbye: „Do widzenia” („To seeing”). We use it all the time. Attention: use it only in „formal” situations (such as these listed above). Saying it to a friend is not suitable at all (unless you’re joking).

Sometimes you can hear „Do zobaczenia” („To seeing”). Although the translations are the same (the only difference is that „widzieć” is imperfective and „zobaczyć” is perfective), we use these two phrases in different contexts.

We use „Do zobaczenia” when we are likely to see each other again soon or when we are sure that we will meet again shortly. Just like „See you soon”. But be careful. We use it only towards people who we actually know, for example their name. We don’t say it towards a salesman in a shop (if she’s not our acquaintance).

What is interesting, we can say that „Do zobaczenia” is a „semi-formal” expression. For two reasons. The first is: some people might say that in highly formal situations it’s inappropriate to say „Do zobaczenia” (for example towards a teacher or the boss). In my opinion it’s a friendly expression and I’m not afraid to use it even in such situations. The second reason for which we can call „Do zobaczenia” a „semi-formal” phrase is: we can use it freely towards our friends and family! I would say it’s the best way to say goodbye to an aunt who you don’t see often and you’re not sure if you should say „Cześć” or „Do widzenia”. The answer is: „Do zobaczenia”! Even if you never see her again. Yes.

To conclude: use „Do zobaczenia” when there’s a reason for which you want to be friendlier than usually. Use „Do widzenia” if not.

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