Tutoyer or vouvoyer? That is the question.
In French, there are two different pronouns to say "you," whereas in English we only have one: you. In general, you will use "tu" to say "you" to a single person and "vous" to say "you" to a group of people, but this is not always the case. Go through the following activity to learn the finer art of when to use "tu" or "vous" when speaking to somebody in French.
Do we do this in English?
As already stated, in English there is only one pronoun to say "you." In French, the two different pronouns end up boiling down to how much respect you choose to show to the person to whom you are speaking.
- "Tu" is most often used with people you know well, close family, or people who are the same age as you or younger.
- "Vous," when used as a singular "you," is reserved for people you have just met, who are your superior or your elder, or family members that demand such respect (in-laws).
How do the French do it?
In the following video, Geraldine from Commeunefrancaise.com gives her top five tips for when to use "tu" or "vous." As you watch, write down the five different tips to help you to determine when to use "tu" or "vous."
Video created by Commeunefrancaise
Even with the tips from Geraldine, using tu and vous can feel complicated, and it often depends on your own age. Take a look at this flowchart which can further help you to determine when you would use tu or vous in a variety of situations.
Take note: These rules do not apply as strictly in Québec, as their attitudes are less rigid regarding social status. Oftentimes somebody from Québec will either address another with "tu" immediately or they will quickly switch to using "tu" after using "vous" for a brief period. These rules are also becoming less strict in France with the younger generation.