Anyway. Here, this explanation is done after an occurance which kinda pushed me to this, so expect personal views and context rather than 100% french grammar. And frankly, this is more a matter being polite in France rather than a grammar lesson to begin with. Just a heads up!
‘Tu’ and ‘Vous’ both mean ‘You’. ‘Tu’ is always singular but ‘Vous’ can be both plural and singular depending on context.
It’s a common misconception I hear from people who are learning french that ‘Tu’ is informal and ‘Vous’ is formal. This isn’t entirely false but that’s just the quick way of putting it, which leads to misunderstanding. It’s less a matter of ‘formality vs informality’ and more ‘people you are closeand casual to’ vs ‘everybody else whom you respect as you should anybody given you’re polite’.
What happened that spurred me to write this was a small, kind of irrelevant thing. I ordered a pizza and the delivery guy called me ‘tu’ every time he referred to me. This was a problem to me for two reasons. Slightly because I’m a client, but mostly because I don’t know him and he doesn’t know me on a personal basis (and I could also add that he was generally off-puttingly casual but that’s another can of worms). Me being a client was just a smaller problem stacked on top of the obvious ‘we’re not close’ one, but allow me to explain why that’s still relevant.
‘Tu’ is used for family members, friends, classmates (when you’re younger) and children. It’s casual, often in a setting where there aren’t many social rules to follow. ‘Vous’ is for literally anybody else. It’s polite to call everybody ‘vous’. It isn’t ‘I respect you as a higher-up’ so much as it’s ‘You are a fellow human being I am treating decently’.
On the subject of pizza guy, I wasn’t expecting him to call me ‘vous’ because I was a client and therefore supposedly higher than he is but because not only was I a client but we weren’t supposed to be casual in this setting. I call him ‘vous’ as I call everybody who isn’t a close friend/family ‘vous’. Lemme give a few examples.
Waitress? ‘Vous’ Teacher? ‘Vous’ Homeless person? ‘Vous’ Bus driver? ‘Vous’ Random person on the street you’re asking for directions? ‘Vous’ The President of France? ‘Vous’ Nurse? ‘Vous’ That one guy who crashed into your car? ‘Vous’ (you can still be angry and insult them without using ‘tu’, which will be more efficient, trust me) Your psychiatrist? ‘Vous’ A client? ‘Vous’ Emperor Napoléon Bonaparte, master strategist and military leader, France’s darling child, first man to have almost managed to conquer Russia though failed miserably? ‘Vous’.
Literally anybody who isn’t someone you know personally is ‘vous’.
I must add that refusing to abide fo this rule gives others a bad image of yourself more than it insults them. People who call everybody ‘Tu’ are considered rude and generally unpleasant, which is looked down upon. If you see someone calling a waiter or retail worker ‘tu’ can generally be labeled an asshole and you’ll likely be right about it, for example. Young children are exempt from this rule because they aren’t expected to know the rule well. The best example I can think of this is in Le Petit Prince where the Prince asks the narrator to draw him a sheep.
“S’il vous plaît, dessine-moi un mouton.”
He’s using ‘vous’ in ‘s’il vous plaît’(please) but the ‘tu’ imperative form of the verb ‘dessiner’ (to draw) in the same sentence. If this sentence was in correct french it would be
“S’il te plaît, dessine-moi un mouton.” or “S’il vous plaît, dessinez-moi un mouton.”
Non-native speakers will often be excused if they mess up, though! Don’t worry about that, even we know it’s hard because it’s sometimes awkward to know whether to use ‘Tu’ or ‘Vous’ if it’s somebody you see every day but aren’t really close to (a co-worker, for example!). So yeah, if you’re generally polite and they understand you’re doing your best, it’s all good! In the case explained earlier, with pizza guy, is that he wasn’t a non-native speaker and he wasn’t making a mistake. He was just being overly casual, perhaps on the basis that I order at that pizza place often and he delivered it two or three times already and pressured for a tip (rather than asked, in which case I would have given it willingly instead of awkwardly). It’s a mild annoyance but still enough to piss me (and others) off.
Ehhh I could go on but that’s all I got for now, if anybody wants to add to this or ask a question or whatever, feel free! I hope this cleared stuff up and gave you some incentive! I hear there are similar things in other languages such Spanish, Italian and German, among many others! I’d love to hear how it works in other languages!
That’s all for now! Happy french learning, friends!
A linguistic thing I always thought was a fun fact is how “thou” is actually the informal version of “you” but nowadays people use it the other way because the archaic sense of “thou” makes it ‘feel’ more formal
('Thou’ shows up in stuff like the Lords Prayer bc when there was a distinction between informal/formal pronouns in English you used informal ones when directing a statement to God bc there’s supposed to be intimacy in a prayer. German does the same thing)
usagifelton said: I commented in your post but figured I’d ask officially. You mentioned the informal way Kook talks to Jimin, but as a non-Korean speaker can you clarify for me, is there a difference in how he talks to Jimin vs how he talks (formal/informal) to Taehyung? Or the other members?
Anon: hi!! just a question about korean speech, is speaking completely informal to someone more intimate (closer?) than semipolite? or does JK speaking to JM in semipolite still show they are very close? and also i thought V allowed JK to speak to him like that too but the xmas vlive threw me off (when JK said gomawo). in a vlive they did in JPN when JK sang tori kelly and V said he doesn’t have the lyrics, wasnt JK speaking informally?why would v allow informal speech only sometimes(esp vlive 4 both)
gayyaoibl said: Hey~ first of all I wanted to say That I love love your blog , definitely my favorite Jikook blog! What I’m here to ask you is , well I heard before that in korea and betweens couples/people involved in a roma, it’s considered something very attractive when the younger one speaks informally / banmal to the older one , I want to know if that’s really true ? Since I’ve noticed that jungkook sometimes talks to jimin in banmal and if that’s indeed true then that must the reason why he’s doing it.
Anon: Hello sajeon :)) this not abt our kook/min but im rly curious, does the speak formal to the older person even when we close apply for girls too? Or more strictly in boyxboy friendship? Cause i think i saw many girl idols dont add “-yo” when they speak to the unnies she’s close to. But im not sure. Thankyouu ^^
If you need a refresher on what banmal means, click here. Also check out some my previous answers to similar asks here, here, and here.
Hi! I've recently realised that some people call their dad 아빠 while others call them 아버지. Is there a reason for this difference(like one being more formal) or do they just mean the same thing? Thanks in advance 💜💜
아빠 is informal,아버지 is formal and then 아버님 is the most formal.
My name is Meghan, I’m 28 years old and a mother to a wild four year old boy, Harrison, and a four month old little girl, Hazel!
My kids are my world, and I can’t imagine life without them. However, this is MY blog, so I want to tell you a bit about me.
I was married young, at 21 years old, to a man I thought was the love of my life. We were married for three years, and everything was just fine, until he decided to start picking fights with me. We began arguing all the time, and I found out why later. He was cheating on me for a good year prior to me finding out.
I was able to gain sole custody of the kids after a long, hard battle with the court. He’s off with his new wife, and I moved far far away with Harrison and my unborn baby girl.
I moved in with Bennette (@ittybittybugs) my best friend in the entire world until I could find a home that I loved that suited both me and the kids. We found a gorgeous house that I’ve slowly been renovating and I’m beginning to like where it’s going so far!
I’m also a nurse at the local hospital, so I spend quite a bit of time there. Luckily Bennette works from home, so she takes the kids during my 8 hour shifts every day!
I’m happy and content with my little life here so far, and I’m hoping great things are in store for me and my kiddos.
Hopefully I’ll remember I have this thing and I’ll actually continue to update this thing. We’ll see. Cheers!
are there any rules or patterns you can use to change the formality of sentences? like if you wanted to make a casual sentence informal polite, is that possible? or are they too different to change from one to the other consistently? (sorry if that doesn't make sense, it's hard to put into words ^^")
We’re not quite sure we understand what you mean, but perhaps you could check out these links:
Protip: when doing formal English writing, such as writing a research report, be aware that ‘that’ and ‘which’ are not interchangeable and do, in fact, serve different purposes in a sentence.
Basically, if you can delete the entire clause and not change the fundamental meaning of the sentence, use ‘… , which’ (the comma is important), however, if you can’t get rid of the clause without changing the meaning, use ‘…that’ (no comma).
Here’s an example from my thesis proposal (which is going to copy in as a picture because word continues to be the worst):
In the first sentence, “that assemble into contractile rings” modifies “cytoskeletal proteins” in a way that restricts its meaning. If we get rid of the clause, we could be talking about any cytoskeletal proteins, not just ones that assemble into contractile rings. Hence, we use ‘that.’
In the second sentence ‘…,which form filaments…” modifies “FtsZ” but in a way that doesn’t restrict the meaning of FtsZ. We could get rid of the entire phrase, and the sentence would mean the same thing, albeit without an additional level of detail. I am adding detail without additionally defining the subject of the clause.
Miss Hepburn, Aunt Kat, Katie, Kate. She is all of those plus importantly Katharine with an “A”. Loyal, demanding, pure and purely demanding, open, reserved, formally informal, proud. Intimidating. Exasperating. Funny. Touching. She is a doer, a worker, a riser above everything. Passionate in her likes and dislikes. Says what she thinks but keeps herself to herself. Loving. Sentimental. A lover of beauty, nature. There for all who need her, really need her, and are in need. She is wonderfully, uniquely one of a kind. She is here. For all she is, has been, has given, will be, she has enhanced and enhances this life. I love her. - Lauren Bacall
Her energy was phenomenal. I’d get to the studio at seven and she’d been there since six, riding the grounds on her bicycle. She has a wonderful wild and lunatic passion for everything she does. It is a tremendously infectious sort of thing and she creates a state of excitement. - Anthony Harvey
As an actress she’s a joy to work with she’s in there every minute. There isn’t anything passive about her she ‘gives’ and as a person she’s real. - Cary Grant
muchbetterjulia said: Hello! I sent you an ask a couple of days ago thanking you
for answering me when I sent you the comments regarding JM and JK’s body
language! I wanted to ask you some things, but I was on mobile and my
internet connection was really bad, so I couldn’t. But I still would
like to ask you something? If I can? I don’t wanna bother you! I just
really love your blog and your thoughts on stuff, and since you’re
Korean yourself, it changes a lot! And I don’t mind if you take some
time to answer.
I’ve been reading a lot of things on your blog, and it’s just amazing.
I’m new to the BTS fandom, and especially to the Ji/kook fandom, so I
feel quite lost on a lot of things.. I apologize for my lack of
knowledge, really. I just want to understand, like. Is the
formal/informal language really huge for your culture?
Just because I’m unloading my anarchist baggage tonight: I am for organization.
(Informal organization is preferable to formal organization a lot of the time, but not always.)
I just think that most organizationalists (particularly platformists) put the cart before the horse and create organizations where there’s no need for one.