The most important Polish word?

It’s not easy to point the most important word in a language. All the words are important. Without even one of them, the language wouldn’t be the same.


There’s one very characteristic word. It’s very short and doesn’t really give much information. But it’s so widely used that you must get to know it!

Although this word is very common, it’s not very original. Russian language has it; other languages kinda have it too. Alright, let’s reveal it: the word you’re reading about it „no”.

Let’s make an agreement: every „no” in quotation marks in this article is a Polish word (don’t confuse it with English no — „nie”).

„No” can be used in so many situations! That’s why it needed a seperate note about itself. Let’s take a look — when do we use „no”? Attention: „no” is used only on colloquial occasions!

1. „Let me think”.
We use „no” when we need a second to think about the reply we’re going to give.

O której wczoraj wróciłeś? At what time did you come back yesterday?
Noooooooo… Około północy. About midnight.

2. „Damn!”
We use „no” when something irritating happens to us. When we can’t do anything about it. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

  • You’re running after the bus, you’re just at the door but it closes. You say short „no”.
  • You’re going to the bathroom. You’re almost there but suddenly your flatmate goes out of his room and gets to the bathroom earlier. You say short „no”.

Maciek znowu zapomniał kupić chleba. Maciek, again, forgot to buy bread.
No! Co za typ! What a…! OR No co za typ! What a…!

3. „Great!”
We use „no” when we expect something and then it finally happens.

Mamo, dostałam szóstkę! Mum, I got an A!
No! Świetnie! Great!

  • You’re watching a match. Your favourite team plays against some unknown club from a country you hear about for the first time. The match is coming to the end and it’s still 0:0. But finally your team manages to score. You shout „No! Nareszcie! Finally!”.

Słuchaj, przemyślałem sprawę. Masz rację. Jednak zapiszę się na kurs angielskiego. Listen, I thought the case over. You are right. I’m going to take up the English course.
No, i o to chodzi! That’s what it’s about!

4. „Not really”.
We reply „no” when we don’t totally agree with the speaker.

Przyjdziesz o 13:00, tak? You’re coming at 1pm, right?
Nooo, nie, po 13:00. No, after 1pm.

Ciociu, powiedz mamie: byłem grzeczny! Auntie, tell mummy: I was well-behaving!
Nooo, nie powiedziałabym. I wouldn’t say that.

Ile on ma lat? 11? How old is he? 11?
Nooo, tak, może 13. Yes. Or maybe 13.

5. „Yes, yeah”.
We use „no” when we agree.

Przyjdziesz o 13:00, tak? You’re coming at 1pm, right?
No. Yes.

Ciociu, powiedz mamie: byłem grzeczny! Auntie, tell mummy: I was well-behaving!
Nooo, był grzeczny! Yeah, he behaved well!

Ile on ma lat? 11? How old is he? 11?
Nooo, coś takiego. Yes, something like this.

6. „Well, you know”
We start a sentence with „no” to prolong it.

Co u Ciebie? How are you?
No jakoś leci. Not bad.

7. „Tell me!”
We ask „no?” when we are interested what’s next.

Wiesz dlaczego poszedłem na studia? Do you know why I went to univeristy?
Żeby się czegoś nauczyć. To learn something.

Stara, przychodzę dziś do szkoły, a tam… Girl, I came to school today and there…
Nowy nauczyciel matematyki! Jaki przystojny! A new maths teacher! So handsome!

8. Being helpless.
We use „no” when we’re helpless, usually also disappointed.

Nie jedziemy do Anglii. We’re not going to England.
No ale przecież mieliśmy jechać! But we were supposed to go!

To jest taki debil… He’s such an idiot…
No co poradzisz? What can you do about it? OR No co zrobisz? What can you do about it?

Kurs euro rośnie. The Euro rate is increasing.
No cóż… Well…

Synek, za karę masz dzień bez komputera. Son, as a punishment, you’re having a day without computer.
No dlaczego! But why!

9. „I agree, go on”
We say „no” when someone is telling us something (for example a story) and there’s something we agree with and we want our speaker to continue.

Jak stąd dojść na dworzec? How to get to the station from here?
Musisz iść prosto i tam za 200 metrów będzie supermarket. You must go straight and in 200 meters there will be a supermarket.
Tam skręcasz w prawo i jesteś. There you turn right and there you go.

Mam dobrą wiadomość! Ostatnio mówiłam ci, że Marcin chce ze mną zerwać. I have a good news! Recently I told you that Marcin wanted to break up with me.
A dzisiaj został znaleziony martwy w swoim mieszkaniu! And today he was found dead in his apartment!

10. „I’ve said all I wanted to say”.
We use „no” when we want to indicate that we have completed our „speech”.

Mógłbyś pożyczyć mi dwie stówy? Could you lend me two hundred (złotych)?
A po co ci to? And what do you need it for?
Wiesz co, rower mi się zepsuł i potrzebuję go szybko naprawić. Wypłata dopiero za 2 tygodnie i… no. You know what, my bicycle broke down and I need to repair it quickly. The payout is in two weeks and… Yeah.

11. In „phrases”.
There are common phrases which contains „no”.

  • No patrz! Oh!
  • No ładnie! Oh, well!
  • No nie! Oh, no!
  • No nie? Right?
  • No nieźle! Quite interesting!
  • No wiesz… Well, you know…
  • No właśnie! Yeah, I wanted to say so!

All in all, „no” can mean a lot in some cases but in some cases it means quite nothing. However, it’s worth to learn how it’s used (even if you’re not going to use it often).

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