I can sometimes see what guests to my blog have searched for, and I was surprised that I didn’t have this topic covered yet.
There are five language registers, or styles, for all languages. Each level has an appropriate use that is determined by differing situations. It would be inappropriate to use language and vocabulary informally when speaking in a formal setting. Thus the appropriate language register depends upon the audience, who, the topic, what, purpose, why, and location, where.
Literary/Refined – Littéraire/Soutenu
Literary French is extremely formal and is nearly always written. When spoken, it tends to be for effect and can come off as sounding snobbish or old fashioned.
Formal – Formel
Formal French is polite, both in written and in spoken language. It is used to show respect, or used when the speaker isn’t familiar with a person. This register can sometimes be used to demonstrate coldness towards another person. For example, using vous instead of tu to a close friend.
Normal – Normal
This register is the most common of every day language. The normal French register has no particular distinction of formal or informal, and is the language used between everyone.
Informal – Familier
Informal register expresses closeness and is used between friends and family.
Familiar – Populaire
Familiar French is used between friends, and can range from normal register to slang.
Slang – Argot
Slang is vulgar, offensive, and usually insulting language. It may be used between friends or enemies. This register is considered to be non-standard French.
Have a wonderful week, everyone!
A la prochaine…