Tu or Vous?*
Figuring out when to use tu or vous can be a bit tricky. English speakers are used to the all-purpose “you”, so this is both an intriguing and baffling concept to grasp. Even for the French, the choice between calling someone tu, and calling someone vous can be delicate. There really aren’t always hard and fast rules; this practice varies according to generation, social context, individual background, and personality. While someone may address you by their title and surname will almost always be vous, it does not follow automatically that the use of first names implies tu.
So when should you always use tu, or always use vous?
- Tu is always used to speak to young children (pre-adolescent) or animals.
- In the vast majority of families, relatives call each other tu. However, this depends on each household; sometimes children may be expected to address parents or older relatives with vous.
- Schoolchildren and students will always call their peers tu, even if they have never met them before.
- Adult strangers should always be addressed as vous initially. If friendship develops, tu may be used.
- Vous is of course, always used when addressing two or more people.
*This is a requested lesson. All requested lessons are given priority no matter where I am in the teaching process.