All (adult) strangers should be addressed as Monsieur, Madame, Mademoiselle. This rule applies to both adults and children.
- Pardon, Madame, vous pourriez m’indiquer la gare ?
- Excuse me, ma’am, could you show me the way to the station?
People in particular professional positions – priest, mayor, M.P. – should be addressed as:
- Monsieur le curé
- Madame le maire
- Monsieur le deputé
When addressing someone you have already met, you may have to choose between surname and first name. While the younger generation tend to use first names as freely a the English/Americans, with older people, be cautious about dropping courtesy titles unless you are invited to do so. Because of the complexity of the choice between tu and vous, some older people may be reluctant to rush onto first-name terms.
To make a polite reference in the third person to someone, use the following:
- le monsieur | the gentleman/the man
- la dame | the lady
- la jeune femme | the lady/young lady (approximately 18-40 years old)
- la jeune fille | the young lady (approximately 12-20 years old)
Note: la fille is not a polite way to refer to a girl (roughly translated as “chick”). But groups of young people may be described as les gars (the guys) and les filles (the girls).
For more on this topic, check out my previous post Tu or Vous.
Enjoy your week!
A la prochaine…