Doing the switch from вы to ты?

Discussion in 'Русский (Russian)' started by YellowMelon, Jan 14, 2010.

  1. YellowMelon New Member

    Ok, this may to some appear to be an unrelated question since I'm rather than posing a question about a specific word would be very grateful for the acquisition of some guidelines on the use of вы and ты respectively.

    Generally when speaking to a Russian who is younger than me, I choose to use ты as most find it appropriate. A ты establishment between myself and Russians of my age is usually achieved by asking "Давайте на ты?", most people don't mind.

    I'd never in my life say ты to an old person, neither would I gently ask for it like in the previous case. Babushki and dedushki are to be speaken to with utmost respect no matter what.

    I am, however, irresolute as to acting in the following case: I (female) acquainted with a person through the Internet and keep addressing her with вы, though she quickly shifted to ты. She even addressed me using the suffix that shows strong affection. Still, she's about 12 years older than me and I don't know whether I should do the switch as well, or simply wait for her to tell "Давайте на ты". I know that this is downright individual but what is your general advice on this?
  2. Awwal12 Senior Member

    Moscow, the RF
    It may sound strange, but Russians often have actually the same problem, even being native speakers. :)
    The use of "ты" and "вы" incredibly depends on age and social status of both sides and on the level of relationship between them (which gives an according level of formality to the speech).
    In your situation I personally wouldn't shift to "ты" (but, well, I do that quite reluctantly at all), until she asks you to do that. Of course, you also can avoid any personal addresses at all (avoiding pronouns and using polite impersonal constructions), but that will do only in comparatively short dialogues after all. (And it demands a perfect knowledge of the language to keep a moderate degree of formality and good politeness in these impersonal constructions. - P.S.)
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2010
  3. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    12 years is not a huge difference (at least you do not belong to different generations - she is not your parents' age), so you may consider her a peer. In this case, if she switched to ты, you have all reasons to do the same.

    BTW, how about just asking her? It is a completely normal question Russians ask e.o. all the time. As Awwal mentioned, вы/ты is not always obvious even to the natives.

  4. Maroseika Moderator

    In your case, on my opinion, all depends on how old are you. If you are, say, 30 years old and your acquaintance, concequently, is 42, it would be quite reasonable to shift to ты the moment she has done that. But if yoг are 13 and she is 25, I'm not sure.
    Anyway, Internet is much less formal than the real life; besides, you always can back up.
  5. I completely agree with my colleagues upon the fact that it is sometimes very difficult for us, Russians, to make decision on whether we should use "ты" or "вы" when communicating with someone or just meeting them for the first time in your life. One thing, however, I can say for sure: no precise rules or regulations exist even as regards the elderly as you will see below.

    The key point to understanding which application to choose and which one is the most appropriate is hidden in our subconsciousness. Very often it has nothing to do with your age. Sometimes I meet people who, as I find out later, are 10 years older than me (I am 23 now), but it does not prevent me from using "ты" when applying to them. This does not sound rude at all unless your interlocutor tell you about it, the latter happening very seldom. Why do I do such a thing? Maybe because some people really look younger than they are, in which case we tend to equal each other and start speaking as if we were friends or companions. Now, by contrast, another situation: I meet someone who I DEFINITELY know is the same years of age as me, but even after some time of doing something together I (and probably he or she) feel a sort of a barrier to shift to "ты". The reason why it happens may be that they behave very formally, are a bit unfriendly or just want to restrict to formal converstation. I repeat, in 99,999% of cases I feel it rather than deduce or ask.

    Usually at official meetings, conferences, holiday celebrations and other official occasions it is considered best to say "вы" to a person for the first time. If you then realize that you have a lot in common, are interested in similar things you can replace "вы" with "ты" without even wondering whether your colleague/friend finds it acceptable. As a rule it happens naturally. However, if you are going to cooperate with that person with regard to some work-connected deals it would be better to preserve some distance between each other and avoid using "ты" in your speech.

    Probably, the most obvious situation arises when there is a substantial age difference between two or more people. For example, if a teenager is talking to a senior woman or man on no circumstances can he/she use "ты". The same concerns middle-aged adults talking to an elderly person and a young person talking to a middle-aged one. However, sometimes adults apply to old people using their patronimic only and "ты": for example: "Ивановна,....", "Матвеевна, ...." This was widespread at the beginning of the previous century in Russian villagers where husbands sometimes applied to their mothers-in-law in such a way. It is not offensive at all, but now this kind of application has become archaic. One more addition: when, for instance, an old lady talks to a boy or a girl she can use both. That depends. I consider it better when I hear "вы" from an unfamiliar person. But often the situation is vice versa.

    Finally, one more thing. When people insult each other and/or are going to fight they forget about any decency and usually use "ты" only no matter how old they are.
  6. Your subsequent actions depend not only on the age gap, but on your age. If you are 30 and the other person is 42, it is OK. If you are 50 and your friend is 62, it is also possible. If you are 20 and she is 32, why not? But if you are 10 and she is 22 I had better asked first, though even without asking I think substituting "вы" for "ты" would be OK. Moreover, you said that she even revealed affection towards you and she could even have forgotten that you are still using "вы". Anyway, it would be best, I think, to do as you have suggested: to ask her whether she does not mind if you use "ты" in your messages. I hope you will receive an exhaustive reply!!! :)
  7. dnldnl Senior Member

    Russian, Ukrainian
    If I were to speak with a person who is 39, I'd be sure as hell to use Вы. For me, the iffiness would probably start around the 5-6 year age difference.

    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 15, 2010
  8. Katya34

    Katya34 New Member

    Of course, you can switch as well (if you don't mind).
    When I met people on internet just to chat in ICQ I addressed them with "ты" from the beginning. But on forums I usually address people with "Вы" (If I don't know them personally).
  9. dec-sev Senior Member

    Замечу только, что обычно старший предлагает перейти на ты. Но в нашем случае
    Полностью согласен. И нет необходимости копаться в подсознании :) Последнее относится не к вам.
  10. YellowMelon New Member

    I finally made the switch. :p Simply by sending her "Vprotjem, mozjno na ty?" attached to a message. She accepted. Was a bit anxious as I sent the message, but got a positive response from her. :)
  11. morzh

    morzh Banned

    In case of absence of the drastic age difference, the woman usually is the one who suggests the switching.

    I agree - it is complex, especially when the communication is virtual. In the physical word one goes by instinct and some general rules, some of which were mentioned here.

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