Tu-Vous/tu-usted distinction

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by federicoft, Mar 2, 2008.

  1. federicoft Senior Member

    Most languages have different second person pronouns that distinguish varying levels of politeness or social distance (the most notably exception being English).

    Does your mother tongue have that too?

    What person are you expected to use when talking with:

    your parents:
    your grandparents:
    a friend of yours:
    a friend of your parents:
    other relatives:
    parents of your spouse:
    teachers at school:
    professors at university:
    boss at work:
    waiter at a restaurant:
    a shopkeeper:
    strangers of your own age:
    strangers older than you:
  2. federicoft Senior Member

    In Italian it would be something like that.

    tu - informal pronoun
    Lei - formal pronoun

    your parents: tu (but probably my grandparents would have answered Lei).
    your grandparents: tu (same as above).
    a friend of yours: surely tu if he's an intimate friend, but it's possibile to hear people using the formal pronoun even in long-standing acquaintanceships.
    a friend of your parents: usually Lei, unless he's an intimate, you have know him for years and such.
    other relatives: tu, but I could expect Lei addressing a very old aunt, especially in the South and in rural provinces.
    colleagues/classmates: usually tu.
    spouse: tu.
    parents of your spouse: Lei, it can turn to tu through time.
    teachers at school: Lei.
    professors at university: Lei.
    boss at work: usually Lei.
    waiter at a restaurant: that depends. I'd say Lei, unless he's very young and the restaurant is not a high-end one.
    a shopkeeper: Lei, at least polite people say so.
    strangers of your own age: tu until about thirty years of age, then Lei.
    strangers older than you: Lei.

    There's a third, even more formal pronoun (Voi), but it's very rarely used nowadays, unless you are talking with the President of the Republic or something like that.

    Finally, there's a formal plural pronoun, Loro, used when addressing a group of people, but it is falling into disuse too since the informal pronoun is already perceived as respectful enough and can fit well in most situations.
  3. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    In Austria (Austrian German) we still have three distinctions:
    - du = "T" (tu/te/ti/...)
    - sie = "V" (usted/vous/vas/...)
    - es (= ihr) = between 'du' and 'sie'; as I didn't grow up in Eastern Austria I am rather unsure when 'es' would be considered appropriate there, so if I don't indicate 'e' for the East this doesn't mean that it couldn't be used, but means only that I don't know

    The form 'es' by the way is plural and mostly used in plural if you don't want use the formal 'sie' but you aren't sure wether 'du' is appropriate; it could be used in singular too, but anyway it's used in dialect only nowadays, not in standard language (any more), and 'sie/du' is beginning to replace 'es' especially with the younger generation

    The same might still apply for parts of Switzerland and Southern Germany, but it might be that there it is reduced to two already (or at least in urban areas).

    In the list I'm making a distinction between E (= East and South-East: more formal; and that's the region where I live now) and W (= West and North-West: more informal; and in this region I grew up):

    your parents: E: d nowadays, but about a century ago it was s at least in the upper classes and in the nobilityW: d only, and I think only in the upper classes it ever once was like in the East
    your grandparents: E: d now, but s a century ago W: d only, and probably e (or partly s) in former times
    a friend of yours: E: d usually, but there indeed exist friends who say s to each other (this was more common decades ago than it is now) W: d only
    a friend of your parents: E: d or s would be my guess W: d or e (probably, but not very likely s)
    other relatives: E: d but again in former times this was s W: d and again in former times e or s
    colleagues/classmates: E: d (I'd guess) for classmates but predominantly s for colleagues (d in some workplaces), and e also works: I've tried it several times on my Viennese workplace, no one felt offended W: d for classmates always and mostly for colleagues though in some workplaces it could be s, and e also is an option here
    spouse: E: d W: d
    parents of your spouse: E: simply don't know, could initially be 's' for all I know, but my guess would be 'd' W: d always
    teachers at school: E: s I guess, though I don't know as my school years were in the W -> W: no pronoun use (yes, it's possible!) and address with "Herr/Frau" would have been proper when I was young until the age of 14 years, use of 'd' would have sounded comic and could have resulted in laughter of the children, while the teachers always did use 'd'; later, with children of 15+ years, 's' was used in both directions; this all, however, may have changed since
    professors at university: E/W: s once was the only possible address in this case, but since the 1970ies this has changed dramatically, now it depends on the professor: many will offer their students collectively, at their very first meeting when presenting themselves, the d-word quite casually - but there are also professors who do not appreciate of this and like to keep it at the formla s
    boss at work: E: s (but the d exists too) W: d is not rare at all, probably even the most common, but s also in use
    waiter at a restaurant: E: s (sometimes d) W: d is widely used, but s also occurs, e is not very likely (the ones who use e at all most likely will use d in this context); and in this case, if you are not entirely sure if you should use d, you might also just avoid the pronoun but nevertheless use second person singular, so another 'mixed' form
    a shopkeeper: E: s (sometimes d); this even goes for a Swedish furniture store (so, a furniture 'supermarket'; I won't offer the name) which encourages the use of d in their commercials and in contact with customers (because that's what in Sweden seems to be the norm): but Eastern Austrian tradition (most of the times) overrules with s W: d is very common but s also in use (especially in more urban areas); alternatively, e might be used
    strangers of your own age: E: s W: d or s or e depending on region, in many rural areas predominantly d ---> both in E+W the use of d will be the norm between younger people, especially between students where d almost is to be considered obligatory
    strangers older than you: E: s W: d or s or e depending on region, in many rural areas predominantly d, or e

    Ah yes, and then there's the extremely formal address in pluralis majestatis which would be "Eure Majestät wünschen zu ...". It is not used with our president but only for comical reasons nowadays - once it was for addressing our Emperor (when Austria still was a monarchy).
  4. Mahaodeh Senior Member

    Arabic and English
    In Arabic If you wanted to be polite to someone of a higher ranking you can use the plural (that's quite out of the fashion though unless you are talking to a CEO or the President). In the singular it's the same. However, people do avoid saying "you" in the singular when trying to be extra polite even if they don't use the plural by adding some respect words (something similar to "madam" and "sir" - as in: is madam coming to the meeting tomorrow?). In general though this does not apply to parents and grand parents...etc. since the informal relationship makes it very acceptable to simply say "you". (unless of course, you're in trouble and want to avoid being grounded ;) ).
  5. Mjolnir

    Mjolnir Senior Member

    Israel, Hebrew, English
    We don't have that in Hebrew.
  6. nino4ka Senior Member

    In Finnish:
    you (French tu) = sinä (or usually colloquially sä/sää/sie depending on the region)
    You (French vous) = Te

    your parents: sinä
    your grandparents: sinä
    a friend of yours: sinä
    a friend of your parents: if I've met him/her twice already- sinä, if I've never seen him/her- Te.
    other relatives: sinä
    colleagues/classmates: sinä
    spouse: sinä
    parents of your spouse: sinä
    teachers at school: sinä
    professors at university: sinä
    boss at work: sinä (at two of my former workplaces the bosses corrected my error as I in the beginning did a mistake and called them with 'Te'.)
    waiter at a restaurant: Te
    a shopkeeper: sinä (if we tend to chat every time), Te (if we usually don't chat)
    strangers of your own age: sinä
    strangers older than you: Te (although some of them don't like being called with 'Te' - it's hard to forecast their preference)
  7. Nizo Senior Member

    No distinction exists in Esperanto. We use vi for you in every circumstance.
  8. dudasd

    dudasd Senior Member


    ti - you, singular
    vi - you, plural (polite addressing)

    your parents: ti
    your grandparents: ti
    a friend of yours: ti
    a friend of your parents: vi (except in cases when it's a very close person who is almost a kind of "aunt" or "uncle".
    other relatives: ti
    colleagues/classmates: ti (except at university maybe, where you'll address the significently older colleagues with "vi")
    spouse: ti
    parents of your spouse: depending on mutual choice
    teachers at school: vi
    professors at university: vi
    boss at work: vi (except if you have a very friendly boss)
    waiter at a restaurant: vi
    a shopkeeper: vi (even if she/he is younger - at least polite people do so)
    strangers of your own age: depending on age. In 20's "ti" sounds naturally, but from 30's on the most of people will say "vi"
    strangers older than you: vi
  9. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Portuguese is not too different from Italian, overall. There's an informal pronoun which governs verbs in the 2nd. per. singular (tu), and various other forms which govern verbs in the 3rd. per. singular (você, o senhor, a senhora, and other expressions).

    In Portugal:

    - tu is informal
    - você is intermediate
    - o senhor, a senhora and other similar expressions are formal

    In most of Brazil, você is informal. My replies below concern European Portuguese only.

    It's very common in Portugal to address a person formally by using their name, for example o Frederico, and also to omit the personal pronoun whenever it can be inferred from the context.

    You can also show formality in the plural, though this is usually reserved for very formal settings.

    - vocês is informal (+ 3rd. per. plur.)
    - os senhores, as senhoras (+ 3rd. per. plur.) and other similar expressions are formal

    There's another pronoun vós (+ 2nd. per. plur.) which has become disused in most places, but is still used as a formal "you" in religious contexts, and as an informal plural "you" in a few regions of Portugal.
  10. MarX Banned

    Indonesian, Indonesia
    your parents: Mama, Papa
    your grandparents: Oma, Opa
    a friend of yours: kau, kamu, eloe
    a friend of your parents: Om, Tante
    other relatives: too complicated
    colleagues/classmates: kau, kamu, eloe
    spouse: ngana
    parents of your spouse: Papi, Mami
    teachers at school: Bapak, Ibu
    professors at university: Bapak, Ibu
    boss at work: Bapak, Ibu
    waiter at a restaurant: depends
    a shopkeeper: depends
    strangers of your own age: depends
    strangers older than you: Bapak, Ibu

    Bapak & Ibu can be shortened to Pak & Bu

    Our system of addressing others is much more complicated than European languages in general.
    The words that directly translates to English you are basically used only for people of the same age you know, and for those who are younger than you.


  11. mgwls Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    Spanish (Argentina)
    In Argentina (and some other Spanish-speaking countries) there are two ways of addressing someone, by vos (informal) and by usted (formal).

    your parents: vos.
    your grandparents: vos.
    a friend of yours: vos.
    a friend of your parents: vos.
    other relatives: vos.
    colleagues/classmates: vos.
    spouse: vos.
    parents of your spouse: usted until the relation has grown up.
    teachers at school: in primary school we mostly address teachers as vos but in secondary school this changes to the formal usted.
    professors at university: usted.
    boss at work: usted.
    waiter at a restaurant: usted or vos, depends on the age of the waiter I guess.
    a shopkeeper: the same as with the waiter.
    strangers of your own age: vos.
    strangers older than you: vos until middle thirties, with older people I use usted.

    I feel the need to highlight that this may not apply on every single person in the country, however I don't think it will differ considerably on other persons, at least not on those of my age.
  12. Nanon

    Nanon Senior Member

    Entre Paris et Lisbonne
    français (France)
    French uses
    tu = 2nd person singular / close, friendly or informal - see uses below
    vous = 2nd person plural / formal

    In France, the most common current use is:

    your parents: tu
    your grandparents:
    a friend of yours:
    a friend of your parents: vous, unless he/she asks you to switch to "tu"
    other relatives: tu
    colleagues: tu / vous if the colleague never asked you to say "tu" or if there is a hierarchic difference, but in some companies "tu" is used at all times
    classmates: tu
    spouse: tu
    parents of your spouse: vous, unless they ask you to switch to tu
    teachers at school: vous (small children mistakenly use "tu")
    professors at university: vous
    boss at work: vous, unless he/she asks you to switch to "tu" - some companies have a "tu" culture (see above)
    waiter at a restaurant: vous
    a shopkeeper: vous
    strangers of your own age: vous
    strangers older than you: vous
  13. tilman

    tilman Member

    At the moment Helsinki, Finland
    Finland/Finnish and Germany/German
    Just a little addition to the Finnish behavior:

    It often depends on the person who is talking. Personally, I prefer to use "te" much more often, for instance with all shopkeepers (probably due to my German background), but unfortunately "te" is becoming more and more obsolete nowadays, I have the feeling. My mother (60yo), for instance, tells this story: Taxi drivers used to call her always "te" but nowadays she notices more and more being called "sinä", although she definitely does not look younger than earlier ;) You may very well find people who never say "te" to anybody except maybe to the Finnish President - and even there you might call her "sinä" after some short chats :D

    This tendency in Finland has been worryingly discussed especially by older people... We shall see if good manners return at some point in time to this country :)
  14. jester.

    jester. Senior Member

    Aachen, Germany
    Germany -> German

    your parents:
    your grandparents: tu
    a friend of yours: tu
    a friend of your parents: depends
    other relatives: tu
    colleagues/classmates: tu
    spouse: tu
    parents of your spouse: depends
    teachers at school: vous
    professors at university: vous
    boss at work: depends
    waiter at a restaurant: vous
    a shopkeeper: vous
    strangers of your own age: tu, in most cases
    strangers older than you: vous

    In those cases where I wrote "depends", it is costumary for the older of the two persons to offer the "tu" to the younger one.
  15. nino4ka Senior Member

    What you tell is a fact. Personally I estimate that I use 'Te' more than a big part of young people my age. I have previously used 'Te' more but then I was notified by these people who I called 'Te', that they don't like it. For example, both of my former bosses asked me to call them with 'sinä' as they thought that 'Te' wasn't comfortable. Another situation where I was corrected was when an author of novels visited our school and we could ask her questions concerning her work. I used 'Te' when asking her some questions and she got pretty furious of me not having used 'sinä'!! After numerous situations like this, where I've used Te (by the norm built in my mind: say 'Te' to older people you're not close with), but where my 'Te' has been rejected, I really don't know anymore what is appropriate.

    A 50-year-old woman or man may either like it that I call him/her Te but may as well strongly dislike it! Impossible to forecast.
  16. Hakro

    Hakro Senior Member

    Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish - Finland
    I agree. I'm 63 and I'm kind of delighted if anyone, young or old, calls me 'Te' (it's very rare nowadays), but I accept (and use myself) 'sinä' in most situations.

    But I despise people who use 'Te' with a faulty verb conjugation. It's very common.

    All I can say is that this author must have been simply stupid. Don't read her books.
  17. tilman

    tilman Member

    At the moment Helsinki, Finland
    Finland/Finnish and Germany/German
    I don't think it's so much about being stupid... I just now remember something that happened to me about a year ago: At that time I was about 22 (yes, now 23 ;)), considering myself still almost like a teenager, or shall we say just a couple of years after being a teenager. In other words, I considered myself very young. But then that 14 years old girl comes to me and says "te" to me!! I must say, I was shocked! Do I look so old? I guess I hadn't shaved :D Anyway, I felt really uncomfortable and told her to say "sinä" to me! (Or actually, I started joking "who we?" because "te" also means the plural of "you" in Finnish.) If I would be... shall we say over 35, then I might not anymore feel soo uncomfortable.

    Maybe that author thought that you addressed her as an old woman... Maybe her believes do not include addressing honored people as "te", only old people...

    Hehe, I can tell you another funny story :) My father is now in his 50s. He never used to wear a beard but, during his sabbatical, decided to let it grow once for 4 months. He was really surprised to observe how differently people treated him, as he looked much more like 65! He was in India at that time, so it doesn't fit into the sinä/te discussion, but my point is that he really enjoyed it when people let him through the door first and asked if they could help him when he was lifting up something, or things like that. He was really amused about it and enjoyed the much higher respect, which he usually gets only from his family members ;-)

    We all know that this whole thread is about differences in cultures. But what I have realized only now, is that there are so big differences in the cultures of individual people! Not all members of one culture necessarily expect the same treatment. One might REQUIRE you to say "te" to him/her and another might REQUIRE to say "sinä". But I guess most "normal" people accept both, simply observe the tendency of increased sinä-usage, and secretly hope that somebody might call them "te"...

    What should we learn from this? Learn to read people's minds to know what they expect! :)

    Greetings from Helsinki,

  18. jana.bo99

    jana.bo99 Senior Member

    Cro, Slo

    Slovenian and Croatian are almost the same:

    Your parents - Ti (tu)
    Your grandparents - Ti (tu)
    A friend of yours - Ti (tu)
    A friend of your parents - Vi (Vous)
    Other relatives - Ti (tu)
    Colleagues - Ti or Vi (depends, how old are they)
    Classmates - Ti (tu)
    Spouse - Ti (tu)
    Parents of your spouse - depends
    Teachers at school - Vi (vous)
    Professors at University - Vi (vous)
    Boss at work - depends from him (or her)
    Waiter at a restaurant - Vi (vous)
    A shop keeper - Vi (vous)
    Strangers of your own age - Vi (vous) as a first, later depends
    Strangesrs older than you - Vi (vous); later depends if get close: then - Ti (tu)

    Sometimes is even possible that we can say to the teacher - Ti (tu), if he is more liberal.

  19. libero30 Member

    UK, English & Punjabi
    In Punjabi we also have the formal/informal you an use it towards:

    your parents: formal
    your grandparents: formal
    a friend of yours: informal
    a friend of your parents: formal
    other relatives: formal (if older)
    colleagues/classmates: informal
    spouse: informal
    parents of your spouse: informal
    teachers at school:formal
    professors at university: formal
    boss at work: formal
    waiter at a restaurant: formal (some people will use informal but I treat them as strangers so I use the formal)
    a shopkeeper: formal (unless you know them or if they are younger)
    strangers of your own age: informal (upto about 30 when I would use the formal)
    strangers older than you:formal

    Mostly it is by age: if they are older I would use the formal, regardless of how long I have known them.
  20. Nizo Senior Member

    As a native English speaker, I'm somewhat comforted to find this is as unclear to native speakers of their languages as always has been to me! I never want to be rude either by being too familiar or too formal.

    I think this is a fascinating topic when it comes to how individuals perceive things. An acquaintance of mine from France who was just learning English found it very strange that we only have you and therefore address dogs with the same respect we use when addressing an elderly person, for example.

    When I lived in Spain, I learned to use the familiar very quickly with people (much more quickly, I have found, than with Latin American speakers of Spanish). However, after four years working in France, there were some professional contacts that continued to use the formal. In France I kept a directory of my contacts and put a special symbol by those I should address with tu, just so I wouldn't forget!
  21. MarX Banned

    Indonesian, Indonesia
    I've noticed that in Indonesian there is a certain tendency to express things indirectly to avoid using pronouns at all, and often they are just dropped, even though we don't conjugate the verbs according to person and number.
    I reckon the same thing happens in many Asian languages.
    English (and Hebrew and Arabic and the Scandinavian languages) is indeed quite uncomplicated in this matter.

    If only your French acquaintance knew that many Spanish speakers address their dogs with usted, and that many languages have much more complicated ways to address others than just tu vs. vous. :)
  22. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungarian - Hungary
    Hungarian (to put it simply) works very much like Portugese and Italian after your description even if it is not a Latin language.
    However, all in all, there is a natural tendency to change for the informal use in the long run of interpersonal relationships, in spite of differences in age or position and providing the idea of "we have to pull together" is there. (Which means that university professors, bosses, etc. will suggest it to their students and employees sooner or later providing all the "favourable circumstances" are there...)

    We have a lot of problems with addressing other people though (a bit like in the Finnish examples) probably because of a comparatively short tradition of the use of the formal form (18th C) to start with and also because the frequent changes of political systems that never allowed a tendecy to establish itself properly.

    The latest political changes (in '89 - 90) were no exception.

    With the appearance of foreign companies, (unnatural) formal ways seemed to spread producing all sorts of linguistically weird phenomena: e.g. the fashion of using capitals at the beginning of words referring to the other person "You", "Your letter", etc. (Looking as strange in English as in Hungarian.) The non-stop using of the word (you) in itself would have been totally strange but the capitals plus the "forced" formal addressing everyone just made things worse.
    But soon came the opposite tendency, too (still from abroad; did you notice e.g. the number of adverts where the informal addressing is used?) whereby everybody is a "chum". Of course, (especially) young people felt encouraged to use it from morning till night in every situation. (E.g. a fast food assistant of 18 to a customer daddy of 45 who went there only to treat his young son.)
    It is strange to have one extreme and its opposite at the same time.

    To MarX's comment about the French ways: it is true that "respect" is largely connected to a way of addressing someone formally. (Meanwhile sometimes one has the impression that simple politeness is unheard of.:))
  23. bb3ca201 Senior Member

    Toronto sa Chanada
    English/Scottish Gaelic, Canada
    We have that distinction. I won't go into the exhaustive table, but suffice it to say that "thu" (pronounced "oo") is similar in usage to "tu" in French, whereas "sibh" (pronounced "shiv") is similar in usage to "vous".
  24. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    In Tagalog there is formal form for "you" 1. ) You are right! 1.)(Ikaw ay tumpak/tama')(usual form"Ikaw=you) 2.) You are my good teacher( both in singular and plural, you= become (Kayo) instead "ikaw".In Tagalog translation= Kayo ang butihing guro ko. 3.) When asking someone, (Who are you?) the ordinary form is= sino ka? but in formal form =Sino po sila? or Sino po kayo?(even asking one person)
  25. AutumnOwl Senior Member

    I would use du in all these exemples when adressing one person and ni if adressing two or more persons. The only persons I might (but don't have to) adress as ni is the king or queen of Sweden.

    Swedish has both du (second person singular) and ni (second person plural), ni have been used as a polite form of adress for second person singular, but there was a Du-reform. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You-reform in the late 1960s and I've grown up with du and I don't like to be adressed as ni, something that unfortunately has become more common among younger people.
  26. Fericire

    Fericire Senior Member

    South America
    Portuguese (Brazil)
    As already said, in Portuguese there is:
    "tu" (informal, but used as formal in most part of Brazil)
    "você" (intermediate)
    "o(s) senhor(es), a(s) senhora(s)" (formal: masculine ~ feminine, respectively)

    But these days, in south Brazil people would just use "tu" for everything and "o(s) senhor(es) / a(s) senhora(s)" for a few cases. "Você" is not used around here; As people usually avoid to conjugate the verbs correctly, omitting the pronoun is the "intermediate" in the place of "você"

    Your parents - tu
    Your grandparents - tu
    A friend of yours - tu
    A friend of your parents - it depends of the intimacy; if you're on doubt, just use "o senhor", "a senhora"
    Other relatives - same as above
    Colleagues - tu
    Classmates - tu
    Spouse - tu
    Parents of your spouse - again, it depends. if you're on doubt, use "o senhor", "a senhora"
    Teachers at school - if the teacher's liberal, use "tu". else, omit the pronoun. if you use any formal treatment pronoun it will sound as if you're making fun of the teacher
    Professors at University - omit the pronoun
    Boss at work - it depends on the intimacy: tu, omit the pronoun or say "o senhor/a senhora" — informal, intermediate and formal, respectively
    Waiter at a restaurant - there are people which say "tu", but omitting the pronoun is the most common. seniors will probably say "o senhor/a senhora"
    A shop keeper - in this one you can use "tu"
    Strangers of your own age - it depends. anyway, the best way is to omit the pronoun and make it intermediate between informal and formal
    Strangers older than you - o senhor/a senhora

    In short: that list above is just the standard. You can use "tu" if you wanna say something like "hey mate/friend", or you can use "senhor(a/es/as)" if you wanna say like "For you, my respect". Omitting the pronoun is like you're just avoiding to put any formal or informal treatment.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2011
  27. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    In Classical Greek, the informal "you" was «σὺ» (sŭ; Doric, tŭ) from PIE base *tu, thou.
    The formal or plural "you" was «ὑμεῖς» (hū'meis; Aeolic «ὕμμε», hūmmĕ) from PIE base *(y)us-(s)me, you.
    In the modern language, the informal "you" is «συ» (si) or for euphonic reasons, «εσύ» (e'si).
    The formal or plural "you" is simly the plural form of «συ», «σεις» (sis) or for euphonic reasons, «εσείς» (e'sis).
  28. Saluton Banned

    Moscow, Russia
    Now for Russian: ты (French tu) vs. вы/Вы (French vous, capitalized in formal contexts)

    your parents:
    your grandparents:
    a friend of yours:
    a friend of your parents:
    other relatives:
    varies from family to family, usually вы for relatives considerably older than you and ты in the other cases
    ты (again, вы for older colleagues)
    parents of your spouse:
    teachers at school:
    professors at university:
    boss at work:
    usually вы, like Italian
    waiter at a restaurant:
    a shopkeeper:
    strangers of your own age:
    ты until about 25 years old, mostly for people of the same gender (a girl about 20 years old that I don't know wouldn't like it if I addressed her ты), вы in the other cases
    strangers older than you:
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2011
  29. inter1908 Senior Member

    In Polish (basing on Spanish Spanish):
    tú - ty (singular)
    vosotros - wy (plural)
    usted - pan (masculine), pani (femine)
    ustedes - państwo (plural both masculine and femine), panowie (only masculine), panie (only femine)

    your parents: ty
    your grandparents: ty
    a friend of yours: ty
    a friend of your parents: I usually use ty, but it may be not that common
    other relatives: ty
    colleagues/classmates: ty, if there are males only you can hear "panowie" pretty often (Panowie, musimy wygrać ten mecz! - Gentlemen, we have to win this match!).
    spouse: ty
    parents of your spouse: ty
    teachers at school: pan, pani, państwo (may be ty sometimes but only if the teacher wants it), panowie/panie may sound a bit odd, but is not totally unacceptable
    professors at university: pan, pani, państwo, panowie, panie
    boss at work: pan/pani, and as above - may be ty but only if he/she wants it
    waiter at a restaurant: pan, pani
    a shopkeeper: pan, pani
    strangers of your own age: the same as in Russian (above post) [ty until about 25 years old, mostly for people of the same gender (a girl about 20 years old that I don't know wouldn't like it if I addressed her ty), pan/pani/państwo/panowie/panie in other cases]
    strangers older than you: pan/pani/państwo/panowie/panie, if we're both young (let's say <25 years old) I would always adress them ty/wy.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 1, 2011
  30. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Czech & Slovak
    (the problem of tu-vous variation is not as easy as it looks in this thread and I think it's really complicated for a foreigner to master all the subtle details of usage)
    tu > ty (Czech, Slovak)
    vous > Vy (Czech, Slovak)

    your parents: ty
    your grandparents: ty
    a friend of yours: ty
    a friend of your parents: Vy
    other relatives: ty
    colleagues/classmates: vy (work), ty (school), ty (after 6 moths at work)
    spouse: ty
    parents of your spouse: ty, vy
    teachers at school: vy
    professors at university: vy
    boss at work: vy
    waiter at a restaurant: always vy
    a shopkeeper: vy
    strangers of your own age: always vy (I mean age over 20)
    strangers older than you: vyThere's a third, even more formal pronoun (Voi), but it's very rarely used nowadays, unless you are talking with the President of the Republic or something like that.

    Finally, there's a formal plural pronoun, Loro, used when addressing a group of people, but it is falling into disuse too since the informal pronoun is already perceived as respectful enough and can fit well in most situations.[/QUOTE]
  31. arielipi Senior Member

    I'd like to correct something about hebrew; while we do not have special person for these, we have an original* word for each of them.

    *original meaning here that no connection exists between words ( as opposed to english: parent, grandparent).

    EDIT: we do however call judges mr judge/ your honor and likes. same goes for kings, prime minister etc.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2013
  32. Tegs

    Tegs Mód ar líne

    English (Ireland)
    We don't have a you formal in Irish. Everyone is tú.

    In Welsh, we have ti (informal) and chi (formal). Here's how it works in Welsh:

    Your parents - ti
    Your grandparents - ti
    A friend of yours - ti
    A friend of your parents - chi (formal)
    Other relatives - ti
    Colleagues - "ti" if they are the same age as you, "chi" if they are older (unless they specifically tell you to stop calling them "chi", in which case you should then call them "ti")
    Classmates - ti
    Spouse - ti
    Parents of your spouse - it depends on how formal they want to be. Personally, I would consider it a bit cold and unfriendly if I called my spouse's parents "chi" and they did not tell me to call them "ti" instead. It would seem as though they wanted me to keep a distance. Regardless of this, I would never change to "ti" unless they said I could.
    Teachers at school - chi
    Professors at University - chi
    Boss at work - chi (unless they tell you to use "ti")
    Waiter at a restaurant - "ti" if they are younger or the same age, "chi" if they are older (I would also expect them to call me "ti" in return, if we were around the same age. If they were older than me and I was calling them "chi", I would expect them to also call me "chi" since I am a customer and an adult, regardless of the fact that I am younger than them. Teenaged customers would not expect to be called "chi".)
    A shop keeper - same as a waiter
    Strangers of your own age - ti
    Strangers older than you - chi

    It is not always clear-cut though. Sometimes you can't tell if someone is older than you or not, and you don't want to offend them by either 1) assuming they are old or 2) being disrepectful if they actually are older. That can be a minefield :D

    As a general rule, I call everyone up to about 10 years older than me "ti" so as not to make them feel old :) I find it weird to have people who are 20 calling me "chi" - it makes me feel ancient!

    I recently discovered that in Spain, once someone calls you "tu" you should not continue calling them "usted", even if they are older than you and you want to show respect. I found this strange in the beginning, given that this is not the case in Welsh. In France, I was a bit confused about calling my friend's parents tu or vous. I called both of them vous, but then her mother asked me to call her tu, but her father didn't. So, I ended up having to remember to call the father vous while calling the mother tu. It was quite a job getting it right! Could any French people tell me whether I should have just started calling her father "tu" anyway?
  33. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Hello Tegs, how commonly is Welsh used in those situation? Thanks.
  34. Tegs

    Tegs Mód ar líne

    English (Ireland)
    Hi Encolpius! It depends on where you are in Wales. Some areas are very Welsh-speaking, especially the north, so you would very often talk with waiters, shopkeepers and colleagues in Welsh. Where I live, many waiters, shopkeepers and work colleagues speak Welsh, so this sort of situation arises on a daily basis.

    In a big city such as Cardiff, you might not encounter so many Welsh-speaking waiters and shopkeepers, since there are a lot of foreigners as well as non-Welsh-speaking Welsh people. In a big city though, there is a good chance you would speak Welsh with your colleagues if you worked in the public sector or in education. Many jobs in the public sector require you to be bilingual and many schools teach bilingually or in Welsh only.
  35. Roy776

    Roy776 Senior Member

    Kraków, Poland
    German & AmE
    In German (Germany) it looks like this:

    We have 'du' (thou) and 'Sie' (lit. they) as pronouns. 'Sie' always uses the third person plural, no matter what.

    your parents: du
    your grandparents: du
    a friend of yours: du
    a friend of your parents: du
    other relatives: du
    colleagues/classmates: Sie (colleagues) / du (classmates)
    spouse: du
    parents of your spouse: Sie (later also du)
    teachers at school: Sie (although primary school teachers sometimes make an exception and allow 'du')
    professors at university: Sie
    boss at work: Sie
    waiter at a restaurant: Sie
    a shopkeeper: Sie
    strangers of your own age: du
    strangers older than you: Sie

    There are still some other possibilities, though.
    1) When talking to a shopkeeper, it's not uncommon to ask with the second person plural 'Ihr' as in "Habt ihr noch X?". But in this case, you're not talking to the shopkeeper alone but rather include the whole staff, the shop.
    2) 'Ihr' was also once a formal way of addressing people. It has entirely fallen out of use in Germany. If anything, it's used for mockery. You can still hear it, though, in movies set in the Middle Ages. But I do have heard it once from a fella from Switzerland who bought something from us on eBay. I was honestly stunned and perplexed when he suddenly started using 'Ihr' with only my stepfather around. It seems that the pronoun might still be used in some small regions of Switzerland. At least it must be, as he surely didn't use it just for s***s and giggles.
    3) Lastly there are two other pronouns which were once used but no longer. 'Er' and 'sie' (third person singular pronouns 'he' and 'she' respectively). One could use it the same way as 'Sie'. "Möchte er/sie etwas trinken?" (Does he/she want anything to drink?), but I know naught about it so I can't say how it was used back then.
  36. Tegs

    Tegs Mód ar líne

    English (Ireland)
    Interesting :) Are there cases where someone you call Sie would tell you to call them du? Or once a Sie, always a Sie? :D
  37. Roy776

    Roy776 Senior Member

    Kraków, Poland
    German & AmE
    Well it depends on the age of the speaker, if you ask me. Everyday on the bus I see older women talking to each other using 'Sie'. Women, who clearly know each other fairly well. For them, the use of 'du' seems to be restricted to family only. I myself often say "Sag ruhig Du" if somebody starts talking to me by 'Sie'. I don't really like it but still adhere to the rules of its usage, as it would be rude not to do so.
    But you were probably referring to "colleagues", where I wrote only 'Sie'. Well, yes, of course you can be asked to switch. Sometimes, people even tend to use 'Du' from the very beginning, but it might depend on where you work. On my part-time job in a factory, my boss immediately said "Du ist Ok.", but it was pretty weird for me to address my superior that way. I doubt this would happen in an office job, but sure, why not? For some people (or maybe most?), the decision between 'du' and 'Sie' is also a question of age of the speaker and the one being spoken to. So it's all in all pretty complex, but I suppose it's that way in most languages with this distinction. :)

    Well, long story short: No, once a Sie, not always a Sie :D

    Btw: I'd really like someone who knows Japanese to write how it works there. Japanese has many pronouns for 'you' (and also some other ways to address people) but some are vulgar and rude, some are just informal, aso. It's pretty complex and an overview with this list might be interesting. My Japanese, unfortunately, is pretty rusty. :D
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2013
  38. Nanon

    Nanon Senior Member

    Entre Paris et Lisbonne
    français (France)
    I think you did right :), but then, I am an extra cautious person in this case. Don't worry, any native speaker of French would feel as uncomfortable as you did.
  39. Tegs

    Tegs Mód ar líne

    English (Ireland)
    Thanks for the reply Roy, and also Nanon - I'm relieved to hear this would be awkward for French people too :D

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