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The difference between French "tu" and "vous".

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There are two ways to say you in French language when you address French people: "tu" and "vous". There is no problem if you address several people - it’s always "vous". But what should you use if you address a single person?

French "Vous" is a formal, polite form. It demonstrates your respect to the person. Generally, you have to use it with:

  • a person that you don't know very well
  • an elder person, sometimes even if he/she says "tu" to you
  • a superior person like your boss or your teacher
  • a person you would call Monsieur (Mr.), Madame (Mrs., Ms.), or Mademoiselle (Miss)
  • an official (judge, policeman, lawyer)

French "Tu" is familiar and informal.
Generally you may use “tu” if you address:

  • your family member
  • a child (if there is no specific social barrier)
  • a person of the similar age and the same social status with you (if you are up to 30 years old)
  • your close friend
  • a participant in on-line forums, chats for fun etc.
  • your collegue if there is no big difference in hierarchy and the corporate environment (ethics) favors this form of communication
  • God
  • someone you don't know well, but want to abuse or emphasise your disrespect


If you are not sure how to address your interlocutor use the more polite form of French "you" – "vous". If the person you address prefers more informal relationship he can tell you: "Tu peux (or vous pouvez) me tutoyer", that means "You can use "tu" when speaking to me".
If you feel that using "tu" is OK, you may ask: "Est-ce qu'on peut se tutoyer?" (Can we address each other as "tu"?) to be sure that your interlocutor doesn’t mind.

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