A Problem with the French Language (for English Speakers)

In French there is a verb “tutoyer” this means to use the familiar form of you. Many languages  have different forms of you, German, I am told, has nine different forms of you but English just has one you (in the past there were thees and thous), today the same you is employed for addressing a child, for addressing a president or for addressing several people. The same word you can be subject or object. I am thus not sure when I can address a French “friend” as “tu” instead of “vous“so I ask:

Me: Est ce qu’on peut se tutoyer?

(Can we use the familiar form of you? i.e. tu/toi)

French “friend”: Oui, si vous voulez.

(Yes, if you wish. But uses the polite form vous to me so I’m still unsure whether I should proceed with addressing him/her as “tu” or “vous“).

Sacré Bleu! :/






  1. I find English to be more easier sometimes than my native language too, in fact I did do a post on that too sometime back 🙂

    1. English verbs are easier than most languages as they only have a maximum of five forms…eg go-went-gone-going-goes
      also English nouns don’t have gender unlike French or German….we don’t need to worry if a table is masculine or feminine…
      But English does have a very extensive vocabulary (having stolen words from so many other languages) and the pronunciation is tricky think of words like dough, cough, through, bough, lough and enough and there strangely different ways of being pronounced

  2. A famous philosopher Bernard Henri Levy and his wife, of many years, the actress Arielle Dombasle adress each other as vous. A member of the world cup winning football team adressed a female interviewer as tu and was quickly reminded that she should be addressed as vous. I play golf with my surgeon and on the course we are tu – in his surgery we are vous. All l can say is that it seems right here in France. I would almost go as far to say part of it’s charm – but very hard work at times quand meme!

    1. I work in a French school in Tbilisi (I teach English), I address my colleagues as “tu” unless we are in front of the children then I use “vous”. But I notice some of them still address me as “vous”. The principal, I address as “vous”. When I worked in McDonalds in Paris, it was company policy to address colleagues as “tu”. The situation I posted, I have encountered a couple of times, and for an Englishman it is confusing.

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