Voi/vostro usage?

USAKris

Member
USA, English
Ciao!
I have been trying to understand an Italian movie and I am almost sure that people keep addressing the main character as "voi" and using "vostro" toward that person as well. I thought that "voi" was strictly used to mean you/familiar/PLURAL. So my question is, do Italians ever use "voi" in addressing just one person? Non capisco! If it makes a difference, the movie is based in Sicily. Grazie mille!
-Kris
 
  • Laurinou

    Member
    France, French, English, Italian
    Ciao !

    I would say that's the polite way to speak to someone either that you don't know or that you show some respect, which is probably the main difference with the English language. Usually, Italian are using "Lei" to address to someone they don't know but it happens also to them to say "Voi". Vostro is the article refering to an object/a name... Ex: Vostro cane = Your dog
    Hope it will help a bit !
    Laure.
     

    USAKris

    Member
    USA, English
    Laurinou said:
    Ciao !

    I would say that's the polite way to speak to someone either that you don't know or that you show some respect, which is probably the main difference with the English language. Usually, Italian are using "Lei" to address to someone they don't know but it happens also to them to say "Voi". Vostro is the article refering to an object/a name... Ex: Vostro cane = Your dog
    Hope it will help a bit !
    Laure.
    OK, that makes MUCH more sense! Thank you, I was beginning to think I just didn't understand things at all!
    -Kris
     

    Tede

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    It's kind of strange, when I was learning Italian from a textbook it was always "Lei" this and that, but when I was in Calabria no one ever used that. Actually where I was no one used the polite form at all, but it's probably more common in like a city or anything "impersoanl", like if you talk to a bank tellar. I guess a native would have to comment on that. Anyway, whenever I encountered the polite form in real Italian books, it's always the you plural form, which threw me off at first. Let's have some native's chime in! How do you learn the polite form in school? Is it falling out of common usage? Insight would be great.
     

    Policleto

    New Member
    Verona - Italy
    Students in middle grades (scuola media) have to use the "Lei" form addressing the teacher. It's a way to make kids more familiar with this unnatural form.
     

    Silvia

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Policleto said:
    It's a way to make kids more familiar with this unnatural form.
    How did you get that impression? Italians use Lei to address older people in general (apart from family and relatives) and any unknown person.
     

    Policleto

    New Member
    Verona - Italy
    Well I remember being in school and being very uncomfortable with the "lei" form at the beginning. Before middle grades childrens usually do not use that form, even with older people.
     

    mirandolina

    Senior Member
    Scotland - English
    By the time kids are 9 or 10 they have gradually absorbed the fact that the Lei form exists. It's not as though one day the teacher came into class and said, "Right, today I'm going to teach you how to use Lei". They'll continue to use the familiar form with the primary school teacher and with other people they've known since they were small. But by the time they get to middle school (at age 10) they'll automatically address the new teachers with Lei.
    As for the use of Voi among adults: it is used a lot in the south as a form of respect.
    But it may also be used elsewhere in cases where there is a certain degree of familiarity but not enough to justify Tu.
    For example, I just can't address my mother-in-law with the Tu form. I either indulge in complicated circumlocutions to avoid it altogether or resort to Voi. That's not just because I'm not a native Italian speaker, because I see that my Roman sister-in-law does it too! (but then she's from Rome which is farther south ....)
     

    lucia

    Member
    Italy - Italian, French
    I agree with Silvia. In Italian "Lei" is always used when addressing someone older or someone we do not know very well. It is definitely a form of respect.
    "Voi" was used in the past throughout the country. Today it is surviving in the southern part of Italy, particularly in Campania, Calabria and Sicilia.
     

    Silvia

    Senior Member
    Italian
    mirandolina, if you decided to address your in-laws with voi, then fine, since it's a plural :D But if you address your mother-in-law with Voi, then that's your personal choice... here in the North of Italy it is not used anymore, as lucia said, and I guess you'd get the weird look ;) But again, you're not a native Italian speaker, so almost everything's allowed.

    On a side note, in most cases you address your in-laws with Lei singularly, and in some cases just as mamma and papà and with the tu form.
     

    mirandolina

    Senior Member
    Scotland - English
    That's why I try to avoid it! Voi usually works OK because I work it so that I'm tallking about or to both "suoceri". If I have to address just one of them I go for a more impersonal form, with lots of mental and linguistic gymnasitics to avoid the direct approach.:)

    silviap said:
    mirandolina, if you decided to address your in-laws with voi, then fine, since it's a plural :D But if you address your mother-in-law with Voi, then that's your personal choice... here in the North of Italy it is not used anymore, as lucia said, and I guess you'd get the weird look ;) But again, you're not a native Italian speaker, so almost everything's allowed.

    On a side note, in most cases you address your in-laws with Lei singularly, and in some cases just as mamma and papà and with the tu form.
     
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