In sociolinguistics, a
T–V distinction (from the
Latin pronouns tu
and vos) is a contrast, within one language, between various forms of
addressing one's conversation partner or partners that are specialized
for varying levels of politeness, social distance, courtesy,
familiarity, age or insult toward the addressee. Many languages lack
this type of distinction, instead relying on more explicit wording to
convey these meanings. The morphosyntactic T–V distinction, though,
is found in a variety of languages around the world.
Modern English technically has the T–V distinction, manifested in
the pronouns thou and you, though the familiar thou is no longer used
in most contemporary dialects. Additionally British commoners have
historically spoken to nobility and royalty using the third person
rather than the second person, a practice that has fallen out of
favor. English speakers today often employ semantic analogues to
convey the mentioned attitudes towards the addressee, such as whether
to address someone by given or surname, or whether to use sir/ma'am.
Under a broader classification, T and V forms are examples of
T–V distinction is expressed in a variety of forms. Two
particularly common means are
Addressing a single individual using the second-person plural forms in
the language, instead of the singular (e.g. in French).
Addressing individuals in the third person, rather than the second
(e.g. in Spanish).
1 History and usage
1.2 Early history: the power semantic
1.3 Modification: the solidarity semantic
1.4 Modern history
1.5 Changes in progress
1.6 History of use in individual languages
1.7 Use of names
1.8 Translation issues
2 Singular, plural and other ways of distinction
3 In specific languages
3.1.4 Frisian (West)
220.127.116.11 Sie and du
18.104.22.168 Historical predecessors: Ihr and Er/Sie
3.1.6 Scandinavian languages
3.2 Romance languages
22.214.171.124 North American French
126.96.36.199 African French
188.8.131.52 European Portuguese
184.108.40.206 Brazilian Portuguese
3.3.1 Ancient and Hellenistic or Koine Greek
3.3.2 Modern Greek
3.4.1 Scottish Gaelic
3.4.3 Welsh, Cornish and Breton
3.5.1 Russian and Ukrainian (mainly Eastern)
Hindi and Urdu
3.9 Northwest Caucasian
3.15 Tai–Kadai languages
3.17 Other languages
3.18 Constructed languages
3.18.3 Tolkien's High Elvish
4 Related verbs, nouns and pronouns
5 See also
7 Works cited
8 External links
History and usage
The terms T and V, based on the
Latin pronouns tu and vos, were first
used in a paper by the social psychologist Roger Brown and the
Shakespearian scholar Albert Gilman. This was a historical and
contemporary survey of the uses of pronouns of address, seen as
semantic markers of social relationships between individuals. The
study considered mainly French, Italian, Spanish and German. The paper
was highly influential and with few exceptions, the terms T and V
have been used in subsequent studies.
In Latin, tu was originally the singular, and vos the plural, with no
distinction for honorific or familiar. According to Brown and Gilman,
usage of the plural to the
Roman emperor began in the fourth century
AD. They mention the possibility that this was because there were two
emperors at that time (in
Constantinople and Rome), but also mention
that "plurality is a very old and ubiquitous metaphor for power". This
usage was extended to other powerful figures, such as Pope Gregory I
(590–604). However, Brown and Gilman note that it was only between
the twelfth and fourteenth centuries that the norms for the use of T-
and V-forms crystallized. Less commonly, the use of the plural may be
extended to other persons, such as the "royal we" (majestic plural) in
Brown and Gilman argued that the choice of form is governed by either
relationships of 'power' and/or 'solidarity', depending on the culture
of the speakers, showing that 'power' had been the dominant predictor
of form in Europe until the twentieth century. Thus, it was quite
normal for a powerful person to use a T-form but expect a V-form in
return. However, in the twentieth century the dynamic shifted in
favour of solidarity, so that people would use T-forms with those they
knew, and V-forms in service encounters, with reciprocal usage being
the norm in both cases.
Early history: the power semantic
Early Middle Ages
Early Middle Ages (the 5th century to the 10th century), the
pronoun vos was used to address the most exalted figures, emperors and
popes, who would use the pronoun tu to address a subject. This use was
progressively extended to other states and societies, and down the
social hierarchy as a mark of respect to individuals of higher rank,
religious authority, greater wealth, or seniority within a family. The
development was slow and erratic, but a consistent pattern of use is
estimated to have been reached in different European societies by the
period 1100 to 1500. Use of V spread to upper-class individuals of
equal rank, but not to lower class individuals. This may be
represented in Brown and Gilman's notation:
Modification: the solidarity semantic
Speakers developed greater flexibility of pronoun use by redefining
relationships between individuals. Instead of defining the father-son
relationship as one of power, it could be seen as a shared family
relationship. Brown and Gilman term this the semantics of solidarity.
Thus a speaker might have a choice of pronoun, depending on how they
perceived the relationship with the person addressed. Thus a speaker
with superior power might choose V to express fellow feeling with a
subordinate. For example, a restaurant customer might use V to their
favourite waiter. Similarly a subordinate with a friendly relationship
of long standing might use T. For example, a child might use T to
express affection for his or her parent.
This may be represented as:
Superior has choice
Subordinate has choice
These choices were available not only to reflect permanent
relationships, but to express momentary changes of attitude. This
allowed playwrights such as Racine, Molière, Ben Johnson, Marlowe and
Shakespeare to express a character's inner changes of mood through
outward changes of pronoun.
For centuries, it was the more powerful individual who chose to
address a subordinate either with T or with V, or to allow the
subordinate to choose. For this reason, the pronouns were
traditionally defined as the pronoun of either condescension or
intimacy (T) and the pronoun of reverence or formality (V). Brown and
Gilman argue that modern usage no longer supports these
Developments from the nineteenth century have seen the solidarity
semantic more consistently applied. It has become less acceptable for
a more powerful individual to exercise the choice of pronoun. Officers
in most armies are not permitted to address a soldier as T. Most
European parents cannot oblige their children to use V. The
relationships illustrated above have changed in the direction of the
Superior choice removed
Subordinate choice removed
The tendency to promote the solidarity semantic may lead to the
abolition of any choice of address pronoun. During the French
Revolution attempts were made to abolish V. In seventeenth century
Society of Friends
Society of Friends obliged its members to use only T to
everyone, and some continue to use T (thee) to one another. In most
Modern English dialects the choice of T no longer exists outside of
Changes in progress
It was reported in 2012 that use of the French vous and the Spanish
usted are in decline in social media. An explanation offered was
that such online communications favour the philosophy of equality,
regardless of usual formal distinctions. Similar tendencies were
observed in German, Persian and Chinese as well as in Italian.
History of use in individual languages
Old English and Early
Middle English second person pronouns thou
and ye (with variants) were used for singular and plural reference
respectively with no T–V distinction. The earliest entry in the
Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary for ye as a V pronoun in place of the
singular thou exists in a
Middle English text of 1225 composed in
1200. The usage may have started among the
Norman French nobility
in imitation of French. It made noticeable advances during the second
half of the thirteenth century. During the sixteenth century, the
distinction between the subject form ye and the object form you was
largely lost, leaving you as the usual V pronoun (and plural pronoun).
After 1600, the use of ye in standard English was confined to literary
and religious contexts or as a consciously archaic usage.
David Crystal summarises
Early Modern English
Early Modern English usage thus:
V would normally be used
by people of lower social status to those above them
by the upper classes when talking to each other, even if they were
as a sign of a change (contrasting with thou) in the emotional
temperature of an interaction
T would normally be used
by people of higher social status to those below them
by the lower classes when talking to each other
in addressing God
in talking to ghosts, witches, and other supernatural beings
in an imaginary address to someone who was absent
as a sign of a change (contrasting with you) in the emotional
temperature of an interaction
T–V distinction was still well preserved when
writing at the end of the sixteenth century. However, other
playwrights of the time made less use of T–V contrasts than
Shakespeare. The infrequent use of T in popular writing earlier in the
century such as the
Paston Letters suggest that the distinction was
already disappearing from gentry speech. In the first half of the
seventeenth century, thou disappeared from Standard English, although
T–V distinction was preserved in many regional dialects. When
Quakers began using thou again in the middle of the century, many
people were still aware of the old
T–V distinction and responded
with derision and physical violence.
In the nineteenth century, one aspect of the
T–V distinction was
restored to some English dialects in the form of a pronoun that
expressed friendly solidarity, written as y'all. Unlike earlier thou,
it was used primarily for plural address, and in some dialects for
singular address as well. The pronoun was first observed in the
southern states of the US among
African-American speakers, although
its precise origin is obscure. The pronoun spread rapidly to White
speakers in those southern states, and (to a lesser extent) other
regions of the US and beyond. This pronoun is not universally
accepted, and may be regarded as either nonstandard or a
Yous(e) (pron. /juːz/, /jəz/) as a plural is found mainly in
(Northern) England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South
Nova Scotia and parts of
Ontario in Canada and parts
of the northeastern United States (especially areas where there was
historically Irish or Italian immigration), including in Boston,
Philadelphia, New York, and scattered throughout working class
Italian-American communities in the American Rust Belt. It also occurs
Scouse (the regional dialect of the
Old French texts, the pronouns tu and vous are often used
interchangeably to address an individual, sometimes in the same
sentence. However, some emerging pattern of use has been detected by
recent scholars. Between characters equal in age or rank, vous was
more common than tu as a singular address. However, tu was sometimes
used to put a young man in his place, or to express temporary anger.
There may also have been variation between Parisian use and that of
Middle French period a relatively stable T–V distinction
emerged. Vous was the V form used by upper-class speakers to address
one another, while tu was the T form used among lower class speakers.
Upper-class speakers could choose to use either T or V when addressing
an inferior. Inferiors would normally use V to a superior. However,
there was much variation; in 1596
Étienne Pasquier in his
comprehensive survey Recherches de la France observed that the French
sometimes used vous to inferiors as well as to superiors "selon la
facilité de nos naturels" ("according to our natural tendencies"). In
poetry, tu was often used to address kings or to speak to God.
Use of names
The boundaries between formal and informal language differ from
language to language, as well as within social groups of the speakers
of a given language. In some circumstances, it is not unusual to call
other people by first name and the respectful form, or last name and
familiar form. For example, German teachers use the former construct
with upper-secondary students, while Italian teachers typically use
the latter (switching to a full V-form with university students). This
can lead to constructions denoting an intermediate level of formality
in T–V-distinct languages that sound awkward to English-speakers. In
Italian, "(Signor) Vincenzo Rossi" can be addressed with the tu
(familiar) form or the Lei (formal) one, but complete addresses range
from Tu, Vincenzo (peer to peer or family) and Tu, Rossi (teacher or
fellow student to high-school student, as stated above) to Lei, signor
Vincenzo (live-in servant to master or master's son) and Lei, Rossi
(senior staff member to junior) and Lei, signor Rossi (among
The use of these forms may be an issue for compensating translation of
dialogue into English if the translator does not wish to use the
"thou" pronoun to translate. For example, a character in a French film
or novel saying "Tutoie-moi!" ("Use [the informal pronoun] tu when
addressing me!") might be translated "Do not be so formal!" or "Call
me by my first name!"
Conversely, when translating from English to a T–V language, the
translator must decide again and again throughout the work which
second-person form the reader would deem the more appropriate in a
given situation. In the current German DVD release of Gone with the
Wind, the translators of the dubbed soundtrack and of the subtitles
sometimes make opposite decisions; the actors dubbed voices speak with
the familiar form, while the subtitles for the same scene are more
Singular, plural and other ways of distinction
In many languages, the respectful singular pronoun derives from a
plural form. Some Romance languages have familiar forms derived from
Latin singular tu and respectful forms derived from
vos, sometimes via a circuitous route. Sometimes, singular V-form
derives from a third person pronoun; in German and some Nordic
languages, it is the third person plural. Some languages have separate
T and V forms for both singular and plural; others have the same form;
others have a
T–V distinction only in the singular.
Different languages distinguish pronoun uses in different ways. Even
within languages, there are differences between groups (older people
and people of higher status tending both to use and to expect more
respectful language) and between various aspects of one language. For
example, in Dutch, V form u is slowly falling into disuse in the
plural, thus one could sometimes address a group as T form jullie
(which clearly expresses the plural) when one would address each
member individually as u (which has the disadvantage of being
Latin American Spanish, the opposite change has
occurred – having lost the T form vosotros,
Latin Americans address
all groups as ustedes, even if the group is composed of friends whom
they would call tú or vos (both T forms). In
Peninsular Spanish however, vosotros (literally, "you
others") is still regularly employed in familiar conversation. In some
cases V-forms are likely to be capitalized when written.
The following is a table of the nominative case of the singular and
plural second person in many languages, including their respectful
variants (if any):
second-person singular familiar
second-person singular respectful
second-person plural familiar
second-person plural respectful
አንተ (antä, M)
አንቺ (anči, F)
أنتَ (anta, M)
أنتِ (anti, F)
դու (du, EAST)
դուն (tun, WEST)
դուք (duk, EAST)
դուք (tuk, WEST)
դուք (duk, EAST)
դուք (tuk, WEST)
դուք (duk, EAST)
դուք (tuk, WEST)
berori (very respectful)
তুই (tui; very informal)
তোরা (tora; very informal)
Mandarin Chinese (Modern)
s 你们 nǐmen
De (increasingly uncommon)
De (increasingly uncommon)
Early Modern English
ci (less common)
il/elle (show deference)
ils/elles (show deference)
ti (tu, eastern dialect)
vós (vosoutros, northeastern dialect)
Ihr (ARCH or DIAL)
Er/Sie/Es (ARCH or DIAL)
Ihr (ARCH or DIAL)
તમે લોકો (tame loko)
તમે લોકો (tame loko)
तू (tū, very informal)
तुम लोग (tum log)
आप लोग (āp log)
maga (rural and a bit old-fashioned)
ön (formal and official)
maguk (rural and a bit old-fashioned)
önök (formal and official)
þér (very uncommon)
þér (very uncommon)
kamu (more familiar)
Anda sekalian (less common)
Lei or lei
voi (dated or DIAL)
– (directly addressing a person);
dangsin 당신 (addressing anonymous readers)
– (yeoreobun 여러분)
kamu (standard), awak (regional Malay; common spoken short form is
engkau informal), hang (northern dialect, but understood and accepted
across Peninsular Malaysia), kau (is impolite in all contexts except
in very close relationships, e.g. friends [but not acquaintances])
anda (polite/friendly formal; found in formal documents and in all
formal contexts, e.g. advertisements. Anda is almost never encountered
in spoken Malay; instead, most Malaysians would address a respected
person by his title and/or name), kamu (unfriendly formal; also found
in formal documents and in all formal contexts, where the intention is
to convey a forceful tone in writing – often seen in lawsuits and
kamu semua(polite/friendly formal),kau orang (when pronounced as
ko'rang [used in very close relationships, equivalent to "you all" in
parts of the U.S.] is slang and more informal), hangpa (northern
dialect), kalian (archaic)
anda, kalian (archaic)
तुम्ही tumhī (formal),
आपण āpaṇ (official)
तुम्ही tumhī (formal),
आपण āpaṇ (official)
та нар (ta nar)
та нар (ta nar)
तँ, तिमी (tã, timi)
pani (to a woman)
pan (to a man)
(verbs following any of the above addresses are in the 3rd person
In the early period of the communist rule, a practice of using the
second-person plural form wy (lit. you) as a formal way of addressing
a single person was introduced (a calque from Russian) but it did not
panie (to women)
panowie (to men)
(verbs following any of the above addresses are in the 3rd person
plural form, although in many cases for państwo (general) the 2nd
person plural form is also possible).
Portuguese in Europe, Africa, and Asia-Pacific
tu (te; ti)
você; o senhor/a senhora, dona; vossa excelência (o / a; lhe; si;
(Vós / O Senhor / A Senhora when addressing a deity, Jesus or the
vós (dialects of northern Portugal)
os senhores/as senhoras; vossas excelências
Portuguese in Northern, Southeastern and Center-Western Brazil.
você (and te, oblique form of tu, combined with você for a more
familiar tone), sometimes tu
você (equalizing, less polite)
o senhor/a senhora; seu (from sr)/dona; vossa excelência (oblique o /
a; lhe; se; si, clitic lo/la)
(Vós / O Senhor / A Senhora when addressing a deity, …)
os senhores/as senhoras; vossas excelências
Portuguese in Southern and Northeastern Brazil, some sociolects of
coastal São Paulo (mainly Greater Santos), colloquial carioca
sociolect (mainly among the youths of Greater Rio de Janeiro) and in
tu (however almost always conjugated in the third person singular like
você), sometimes você
você (equalizing, less polite)
o senhor, a senhora (to a superior, more polite)
os senhores/as senhoras
Quenya (Tolkien's High Elvish)
dumneata (less formal)
matale, mata (regional)
dumneavoastră / domniile voastre (archaic)
ты (ty) narrowly reserved intimates (or for insults)
вы (vy) the unmarked norm
Note: the capitalised spelling Вы is used in formal correspondence
Note: not capitalised
Note: not capitalised
(त्वा tva (accusative) and ते te (dative and genitive)
also used in poetry/verse)
भवान् (bhavān, addressing a man, root भवत्)
भवती (bhavatī, addressing a woman)
युवाम् (dual, yuvām)
यूयम् (plural, yūyam)
(वाम् vam (dual) and वः vaḥ (plural) for accusative,
dative and genitive also used in poetry)
भवन्तौ (dual, bhavantau, addressing men)
भवत्यौ (dual, bhavatyau, addressing women)
भवन्तः (plural, bhavantaḥ, addressing men)
भवत्यः (plural, bhavatyaḥ, addressing women)
thoo, mostly replaced by ye
[ðuː], Southern [ðʌu], Shetland [duː]
vidve or vedve (dual – when addressing two women);
ve (plural – when addressing only women)
vi (dual and plural)
wej (dual), wy (plural)
wój (dual), wy (plural)
Spanish in Peninsular Spain, Equatorial Guinea, Philippines
usted (formerly or literary vos, usía and vuecencia/vuecelencia among
vosotros (masc.) vosotras (fem.)
Spanish in some parts of
Andalusia and in the Canary Islands
Andalusia sometimes an altered system is heard: e.g.:
ustedes estáis; the vosotros/as pronouns are increasingly popular and
replacing this one)
Spanish of most of the Americas
Note: in Cuba, tú is generally used instead, even for someone one has
ustedes (literary vosotros, vosotras, in poetry, anthems...)
Spanish in parts of the Americas, mainly in the Southern Cone and
ustedes (literary vosotros, vosotras, in poetry, anthems...)
Costa Rica and in parts of Colombia
usted ('el otro usted': for informal, horizontal communication)
ustedes (literary vosotros, vosotras, in poetry, anthems...)
Ni/Er (rarely used since the du-reformen)
Ni/Er (rarely used)
ka (postpositive only)
шумо (shumo) or шумоён (shumoyon; the latter is used in
Spoken Tajik only)
ви (vy) / Ви (Vy) (addressing officials in letters etc.)
تو tū (very informal)
تم لوگ tum log
آپ لوگ āp log
سىز siz or سىلى sili
ti or chdi
chi or chwi
chi or chwi
chi or chwi
עץ (ets) (regional)
In specific languages
Afrikaans rarely makes the distinction between the informal jy
and jou ("you" subject and "your" / "you" object) and the more formal
u (or U when addressing God), although sometimes it is upheld in a
formal setting, such as in politics, business or in a polite
conversation. The trend is moving towards using the informal pronoun
Old Dutch did not appear to have a T–V distinction. Thu was used as
the second-person singular, and gi as the second-person plural. In
early Middle Dutch, influenced by
Old French usage, the original
plural pronoun gi (or ji in the north) came to be used as a respectful
singular pronoun, creating a T–V distinction. However, the formal gi
started to be used in more and more situations. By the 17th century,
du had largely fallen out of use, although it lingered on in some of
the more peripheral areas. At this point, the original T–V
distinction had been lost, and the original V-pronoun gij/jij was used
universally for both singular and plural regardless of the type of
address. This resembled the state of English today, which has also
(outside of dialectal, literary or religious use) lost its original
Around this time, a new formal pronoun u started to come into use.
This was also the object form of the subject pronoun gij/jij, and how
it came to be used as a subject pronoun is not exactly clear. It is
usually related to a form of address in writing of the time: letters
were often addressed formally to U.E., standing for Uwe Edelheid
("Your Highness"), which is thought to have been shortened to u
eventually. It can be compared to the Spanish usted, which is a
similar contraction of a phrase of indirect address. As in Spanish,
the Dutch u was originally conjugated as the third person in verbs,
although most verbs had identical second- and third-person singular
forms, so that this difference was not apparent for the most part. It
remains today in the use of u heeft ("you (formal) have", like hij
heeft "he has"), compared to jij hebt ("you (informal) have").
However, u hebt is now also common.
Around the same time, it became more common to clarify when multiple
people were being spoken to, by adding luyden, lieden ("people"), or a
shortened variety, to the end of the pronoun. Thus, when speaking to
multiple people, one would use jij luyden or je lieden. This
combination was contracted and fused over time, eventually resulting
in jullie, the informal plural pronoun that is used today. It can be
compared, in its origin, to the English y'all or Spanish vosotros.
Modern northern Dutch, and usually standard Dutch as well, has two
forms of second person pronouns, namely jij and u. U is the formal
pronoun, whereas jij is used as the informal personal pronoun to
address a single person. In the plural, u is also used, alongside the
informal jullie. In the south, only one pronoun, gij, is generally
used in all three roles: both singular and plural, formal and
informal. U is sometimes also used in formal situations, but the
southern gij does not have a distinct informal connotation like the
northern/standard jij, and can be used to address anyone without
offence. Religious Dutch speakers in all areas address
either Gij or U; jij is never used. For speakers of the north, this is
usually the only place where gij is encountered, giving it a formal
and archaic tone, even though it is neutral in the southern areas
where it is still used.
The pronoun je (unstressed variant of jij) can also be used
impersonally, corresponding to the English generic you. The more
formal Dutch term corresponding to English generic you or one is men.
In Dutch the formal personal pronoun is used for older people or for
people with a higher or equal status, unless the addressed makes it
clear they want to be spoken to with the informal pronoun. Unlike for
example in German, there is no defined line (in the case of German,
roughly when someone passes the age of 16) in which everyone, apart
from family, is addressed with the formal pronoun. Addressing parents
by u has become very rare; jij is often even used to address
grandparents. There is also a tendency towards more use of the
informal pronoun. Some companies such as
IKEA consciously address
their customers with the informal jij. However, u can still be
considered more or less obligatory in situations where, for example, a
pupil addresses his teacher, people testify in court or communication
between a doctor and his patient.
Thou and You
Contemporary English generally uses only the form "you", regardless of
level of familiarity.
Old English used þū in the second-person singular for both
formal and informal contexts. Following the Norman Conquest, the
Middle English that emerged continued to use þou at first, but by
the 13th century,
Norman French influence had led to the use of the
second-person plural ȝe or ye in formal contexts.
Early Modern English
Early Modern English superiors and strangers were therefore
respectfully addressed as ye in the nominative and you in the
objective; thou and thee were used for familiars and subordinates. The
more widespread and observed this division became, the more pejorative
it became to strangers to be called by the familiar form of address.
By the 17th century, such a use among the nobility was strongly and
deliberately contemptuous, as in the declamation of the prosecutor at
Sir Walter Raleigh's 1603 trial "I thou thee, thou traitor!"
Accordingly, the use of thou began to decline and it was effectively
extinct in the everyday speech of most English dialects by the early
18th century, supplanted by the polite you, even when addressing
children and animals, something also seen in Dutch and
Brazil and parts of Spanish America). Meanwhile, as part of
English's continuing development away from its synthetic origins since
the influx of French vocabulary following the Norman invasion, you had
been replacing ye since the 15th century.
Standard English was left
with a single second-person pronoun for all cases, numbers and
contexts and largely incapable of maintaining a T–V distinction.
Notwithstanding all of this, the translators of the King James version
Bible chose to employ the older forms in their work
(1604–1611) in order to convey the grammatical distinctions made by
their Hebrew, Greek and
Latin sources. Its subsequent popularity and
the religious rationale of many who continued to employ thou has
preserved its use in English, but made it seem pious and ironically
more formal and respectful than the everyday you.
In the United States, some Protestant sects, such as the Quakers
(Society of Friends) and
Mormons insisted on addressing everyone as
thou, because they considered every person to be a friend and an
equal. This persisted until the 19th or early 20th century.
In West Frisian, the formal singular nominative jo (pronounced yo) is
very close to the English you and the Middle and Early Modern English
ye. There is no such distinction in the plural; the plural second
person pronoun is always jimme. Stadsfries, a Dutch dialect with
strong Frisian influence, parallels this distinction (dou, jou,
West Frisian jo is used slightly more often than Dutch u. Native
speakers of Dutch are sometimes warned against addressing newly
acquainted people with do too soon.
Sie and du
See also: Du (personal pronoun)
In German, the formal address Sie is the same as the third person
plural pronoun sie. Verbs used with this form of address are also
identical to third person plural forms. The polite form and its
inflected forms are always capitalized in writing, to avoid any
The corresponding informal German address is du. The verbs duzen and
siezen mean respectively "to address using du" and "to address using
Sie" and the phrases per du or auf du und du mean, "to be on du
terms". The use of Sie often coincides with the use of the title plus
surname, usage of which is more widespread in German-speaking
areas than Anglophone areas. In general terms, du is used to
children, animals and God, and between adults (or between adults and
children) who are good friends of or closely related to each other.
Sie is used in other situations, such as in a business situation or
where there is no existing relationship. In Internet chats and
forums, Germans rarely use Sie, although there are exceptions. Except
in the case of adults addressing children, where it is common for the
child to address the adult as Sie, but be addressed as du in return,
it is not common in German for one party to address the other as Sie,
but be addressed as du in return. In almost all cases it can be
considered as impolite to use the "wrong" pronoun, i. e. a pronoun
that is not expected by the other party.
High school students in Germany are often called Sie plus given name
("Hamburger Sie") by their teachers when they enter the Oberstufe –
the last 2 or 3 years of high school – around the age of 16.
Children and teenagers are expected to use Sie when addressing all
adults except for family members and family friends whom they have
known since early childhood. Street and similar social workers, sports
clubs trainers will sometimes tell children and teens to address them
with du. In shops, bars, and other establishments, if they target a
younger audience, it is becoming increasingly common for customers and
staff to address each other as du, to the degree that it is sometimes
considered awkward if a waitress and a customer who are both in their
twenties call each other Sie.
The use of du or Sie between two strangers may also be determined by
the setting in which they meet (casual/formal), as well as clothing
(casual/formal), gender (same/opposite), and personal preference. For
example, it is customary to use du in traditional small pubs and
taverns in certain regions (including the Rhineland). This applies
also to older people, whom one would otherwise address as Sie. Two
people who addressed each other as du in a pub may go back to Sie when
they meet in the street if their acquaintance was only very
superficial. During the famous Rhenish carnival, it is customary for
most revelers to address each other as du. Only if the age difference
is more than one generation, the younger person might still use Sie.
Another setting in which du is often used between adults is sporting
Being per du has also become increasingly common in workplace
environments (depending on the line of business and corporate culture
to varying degrees), mostly regardless of age. In such environments,
the du basis may also be observed as a (sometimes necessary) mark of
good social integration within a working group. As a rule of thumb,
one might expect to see team colleagues on the workplace level in many
industries on a customary du basis with each other, though not always
with the group manager and more rarely with higher-ranking managers.
As entrants to a team are more closely integrated, this is often
marked by making an informal affirmation to that basis or by formally
offering it, as a matter of style and habituality. Both the tempo and
extent of using the du basis depends much on the culture (and
sometimes the climate) of the business, and in some places even more
so on that of the particular workgroup itself. Business cultures that
pride themselves on a "flat hierarchy" are more likely to adopt or
accent a general professional parlance of du and given name while
inside corporations tending to emphasize professional formality, a Sie
may be expected to be used always except between very close colleagues
or inside closed groups (sometimes including managers meeting on the
same level with the exclusion of any subordinates), and strictly
always in the presence of a superior. The superior, on the other hand,
has the right to address the other perform informally or formally,
which is a personal preference.
Customarily, the switch from Sie to du is initially proposed by the
elder of the two people, the person with socially higher standing or
by the lady to the gentleman. Alternatively, one person may use Sie
while they ask the other person if it is acceptable to be addressed
informally, and then act accordingly. One way to propose the use of du
rather than Sie is by stating one's first name (as in: Ich heiße...).
One accepts the proposal by introducing one's own first name. Should a
person later forget that they have adopted du, it is polite to remind
them by saying, Wir waren doch per du (We moved on to 'du' terms).
Sometimes switching back to Sie is used as a method of distancing
oneself from the addressee; the connotation is slightly ironic
The inappropriate and uninvited use of du towards someone who would
otherwise reasonably expect to be addressed as Sie is considered to be
condescending and disrespectful, although insistence on Sie in an
environment where du is largely accepted (flat hierarchies) can be
interpreted as being equally disrespectful. The degree of offense that
might be taken will depend on how obvious the etiquette violation was
(an example of an obvious violation would be a teenager in the street
addressing an elderly stranger on the street with du, addressing a
senior manager with du as a result of a misjudged professional
relationship would probably be taken with less offense), and will also
depend on the upbringing of the person in question – progressive vs.
conservative outlooks and age are examples of factors which can play a
role in how individuals prefer to be addressed and choose to address
It has become the policy of some businesses for their employees to
address customers with du, often to set a progressive, "modern" tone,
occasionally for other cultural reasons. IKEA, for instance, does this
to reflect the widespread use of the du form in
In Germany, an old custom (called Bruderschaft trinken, drinking
brotherhood) involves two friends formally sharing a bottle of wine or
drinking a glass of beer together to celebrate their agreement to call
one another du rather than Sie. This custom has also been adopted
among the Swiss-French of the Jura, in Poland and Russia (called by
its German name, spelled bruderszaft and брудершафт
respectively), though the custom in Poland is now slowly disappearing.
It was formerly found also in Sweden.
Although the use of Sie generally coincides with the use of title plus
surname, especially in northern and eastern Germany, there is an
intermediate address combining Sie with the first name ("Hamburger
Sie"), whereas in the Berlin region, sometimes Du is combined with the
surname ("Berliner Du"). The former usage also occurs when addressing
teenagers, household staff, or guests of TV or radio programs, while
the latter style is usually considered inferior and mainly occurs in
working class environments. It may be associated with professional
contexts, when colleagues have known one another for a long time, but,
e. g. due to differences of status, do not want to switch to the usual
Du style; or in situations where strangers (e.g. customers) are
present for whom it would not be appropriate to learn the first name
of the addressee.
When speaking to more than one person in formal situations, Sie is
used in standard German, although ihr can often be heard instead,
especially in the South of Germany and in
Swiss German dialects. Usage
varies when addressing a group containing both du and Sie persons from
the speaker's point of view. Some speakers use the informal plural
ihr, others prefer the formal Sie and many, concerned that both
pronouns might cause offence, prefer to use circumlocutions that avoid
either pronoun, for example by expressing an imperative in infinitive
form (bitte das machen), by applying the passive voice (es wird
gemacht), or using the indefinite pronoun man (man macht das).
Historical predecessors: Ihr and Er/Sie
Formerly, the 2nd person plural Ihr ("ye") was used to address social
superiors, unless more informal relations had been established. The
use of Ihr as the polite form, as this is the case with vous in the
French language, has still survived in
Bernese German and other
alemannic dialects. Ihr in this case has to be capitalized. However,
Ihr itself shows a degree of informality, and would for example be
used in addressing one's father. For the formal address, the third
person would be used; and this in the singular with Er, Sie
(capitalized) to a social inferior, as a farmer addressing a
stableboy, or in the plural to a social superior. It is from the
latter occurrences that modern Sie takes its origin; Sie is the 3rd
person plural pronoun. However, Sie itself is relatively young, and it
was rather the formal addresses, often itself singular forms, that
took the plural. Even as late as in Dürrenmatt's "The Visit" (written
in 1956), an address Das wissen Herr Bürgermeister schon ("
know that, Mr. Mayor", modern German would just say Das wissen Sie
schon) can be found; Herr Bürgermeister is the formal address and
itself a singular term, but wissen is plural. However, if the formal
address itself contains a personal pronoun as in Seine Majestät (His
Majesty) etc., this one would be put to the 2nd person plural: Was
geruhen Euer (not: Seine) Majestät zu befehlen? ("What does [but
plural] Your Majesty condescend to order?")
Thus, all these go by a similar grammar rule pertaining to the verb
used with these addresses as modern Sie. The dated capitalized address
Ihr demands the same verb form as the modern second person plural
pronoun ihr, the dated Er/Sie demands the same verb form as the modern
third person singular er and sie, and the dated 3rd person plural
address without Sie demands, just as Sie itself, the same verb form as
the 3rd person plural pronoun sie (they).
The forms are still found today in some dialects as a respectful way
of addressing elders, and is still very often found in works of art
and literature (such as books and movies) depicting events at least
several centuries in the past, or in a "past-like" fantasy setting,
even if modern German is otherwise used in these works; indeed, using
the modern Sie in such a setting would be considered an out-of-place
anachronism. Ihr and the 3rd person plural without Sie is somewhat
analogous to the English majestic plural.
The Er, Sie form is not widely known or understood by the average
person any more. While Ihrzen is often still used in dubbed films,
especially in medieval/fantasy contexts such as
Lord of the Rings
Lord of the Rings e.g.
"Ihr habt das Reich der Herrin des Waldes betreten, Ihr könnt nicht
umkehren" ("you have entered the Realm of the Lady of the Wood, you
can not turn back"). In this context, a historical level is used where
the second person plural indicates some nobility of or respect for the
addressee, such that from Ihr being used to address a single person,
the viewer could mostly, without looking, conclude that the person was
of elevated rank such as a king or nobleman, or at least being treated
with expressed regard. Ihr would not normally be used to address a
peasant (unless he is a prince in disguise or a future prince and the
person addressing him has gathered some knowledge or presumption of
In Danish, the informal second-person singular is du and the formal
form of address uses the third-person plural De, capitalized to
distinguish it from its other use. The second-person plural I and the
third-person singular han ("he") or hun ("she") were sometimes used
until the early 19th century in standard Danish and awhile longer
in the countryside. The German-inspired form De entered Danish in the
18th century, too late to enter liturgical use. In church, as in rural
or dialect-speaking areas, du has always been the universal form,
especially in Jutland.
As in other Scandinavian languages, even among the prestige dialects,
the formal pronoun is waning in use – in the case of Danish, since
the Ungdomsoprøret ("
Youth Revolts") during and after the protests of
1968. As a general rule, the informal du is accepted everywhere today,
except when addressing royalty or during military service. In
other contexts, it has come to seem excessively formal and
old-fashioned to most Danes. Even at job interviews and among
parliamentarians, du has become standard.
In written Danish, De remains current in legal, legislative, and
formal business documents, as well as in some translations from other
languages. This is sometimes audience-dependent, as in the Danish
government's general use of du except in healthcare information
directed towards the elderly, where De is still used. Other times,
it is maintained as an affectation, as by the staff of some formal
Weekendavisen newspaper, TV 2 announcers, and the
Maersk corporation. Attempts by other
corporations to avoid sounding either stuffy or too informal by
employing circumlocutions – using passive phrasing or using the
pronoun man ("one") – have generally proved awkward and been
ill-received, and (with the notable exception of the national
railway DSB) most have opted for the more personable du form.
Modern Icelandic is the Scandinavian dialect closest to Old Norse,
which made a distinction between the plural þér and the dual þið.
This distinction continued in written Icelandic the early 1920 when
the plural þér was also used on formal occasions. The formal usage
of þér seems to have pushed the dual þið to take over the plural
so modern Icelandic normally uses þið as a plural. However, in
formal documents such as by the president þér is still used as
plural, and the usage of þér as plural and þið as dual is still
retained in the Icelandic translation of the Christian scriptures.
There are still a number of fixed expressions – particularly
religious adages such as "seek and ye shall find" (leitið og þér
munuð finna) – and the formal pronoun is sometimes used in
translations from a language that adheres to a T–V distinction, but
otherwise it appears only when one wants to be excessively formal
either from the gravity of the occasion (as in court proceedings and
legal correspondence) or out of contempt (in order to ridicule another
person's self-importance), and þú is used in all other cases.
In Norwegian, the polite form De/Dem (Bokmål) and De/Dykk (Nynorsk)
has more or less disappeared in both spoken and written language.
Norwegians now exclusively use du, and the polite form does not have a
strong cultural pedigree in the country. Until recently, De would
sometimes be found in written works, business letters, plays and
translations where an impression of formality must be retained. The
popular belief that De is reserved for the king is incorrect, since
according to royal etiquette, the King (and other members of the royal
family) will be addressed as Deres majestet (bokmål)/Dykkar majestet
(nynorsk) (Your majesty) or in third person singular as Hans majestet
(His majesty), Hennes majestet/Hennar majestet (Her majesty), Kongen
(the King), Dronningen (the Queen) and similar.
Norwegians generally refer to one another by first name only, unless
the person is better known by full or last name only. This also
contributes to the weakening of these pronouns and a general pattern
of declining use of polite speech. For example, a student might
address his professor by his first name, but would refer to a leading
politician by his last name. Norwegian politicians and celebrities are
sometimes referred to by their first names, especially in newspaper
headlines, while the text of the article most likely would use the
person's last name. Nicknames are not very common.
The distinction between
Nynorsk exists primarily for
written Norwegian (most Norwegians speak dialects that differ from the
standard written forms), and the T–V rules are the same for both
Bokmål uses the third person plural to indicate
politeness (as in German), while
Nynorsk uses the second person plural
(as in French). In both forms, when these pronouns are used to
indicate politeness, they are always capitalised (to show deference,
and separate them from when they indicate, respectively, the third and
second person plural).
Main article: Du-reformen
In Swedish, there has in the last two centuries been a marked
difference between usage in
Finland Swedish and in Sweden.
In the Swedish of Sweden, the polite Ni was known from earlier epochs,
but had come to be considered somewhat careless, bullying or rude;
instead, an intricate system had evolved in order to prudently step
around pronouns almost altogether. Parts of this system began to erode
Second World War
Second World War or so, but the essentials held up into the
As the twentieth century progressed, this circumlocutive system of
addressing, with its innumerable ambiguities and opportunities for
unintentional offence, was increasingly felt as a nuisance. In the
sixties, the so-called du-reformen ('thou-reform') was carried out.
First, authorities and influential circles tried rehabilitating the Ni
in a so-called "ni reform"—but most people could not bring
themselves to feel civil using that. Then, almost overnight and dubbed
the "du reform", the system broke down, and du (noted as informal
above) became the accepted way of addressing any one person except
Addressing royalty went somewhat more slowly from a universal Ers
majestät ('Your Majesty'), etc., to that address only on formal
occasions, otherwise replaced by third person (singular if the
addressee is single) with title (K(on)ungen 'the King', etc.).
These rules still apply, with marginal exceptions. The vast majority
of Swedes, including younger people in most or all situations, stick
to the du. In order to "alleviate the intrusion" in writing, e.g. in
letters or in advertisement, the Du can be capitalized. That usage was
most widespread in the early days of universal du address; it has
become slightly more common again simultaneously with the partial Ni
Finland Swedish has undergone a similar development to mainland
Swedish since the 1960s, but slower and slightly less. There, one may
have to reckon with influence from the Finnish language, still
slightly more conservative. In Finland Swedish, the second person
plural form Ni (noted as formal above) was indeed the traditional
respectful address to a single person up to the 1970s or so.
Swedish, also, has verbs for the addresses: dua 'to say du ', and nia
'to say ni '.
Modern Scots the second person singular nominative thoo ([ðuː],
Southern Scots [ðʌu],
Shetlandic [duː]) survived in colloquial
speech until the mid 19th century in most of lowland
Scotland. It has since been replaced by ye/you in
most areas except in
Insular Scots where thee ([ðiː], Shetlandic
[diː]) is also used, in
North Northern Scots and in some Southern
Scots varieties. Thoo is used as the familiar form by parents speaking
to children, elders to youngsters, or between friends or equals. The
second person formal singular ye or you is used when speaking to a
superior or when a youngster addresses an elder. The older second
person singular possessive thy ([ðai]), and thee ([ði], Shetlandic
[diː] along with thine(s) [dəin(z)]) still survive to some extent
where thoo remains in use.
Yiddish makes use of the second person plural form as the polite form
for both singular and plural. In the second person plural form איר
(ir), there is therefore no distinction between formal and informal
forms. There is a dialectal pronoun עץ (ets) strictly for informal
second-person plural form, but this pronoun is rarely used today and
is only found in some dialects of Poland and neighboring regions.
Given that old
German dialects were the main influence on the
development of the
Yiddish language, this form may be recognized with
older polite forms of the German language.
In most French-speaking regions (Canada is an exception; see "North
American French" below), a rigid
T–V distinction is upheld. With
regard to the second person singular, tu is used informally, whereas
vous is used to convey formality. (The second person plural is always
vous.) The formal vous is expected when encountering any unknown adult
under normal circumstances. In general, the switch from vous to tu is
"negotiated" on a case-by-case basis; it can happen nearly
unconsciously, or can be explicitly negotiated. For instance, some
couples have been known to call each other vous for some time while
dating, and gradually switch to calling each other tu. The verb
tutoyer means "address someone with tu-forms, speak informally"; by
contrast vouvoyer means "address someone with vous forms". Rigidly
sticking to vous can become equally awkward in a long-standing
In certain circumstances, however, tu is used more broadly. For
example, new acquaintances who are conscious of having something
socially significant in common (e.g., student status, or the same
"rank" in some hierarchy) often use tu more or less immediately. In
some cases, there may be an explicitly defined practice in a
particular company, political party, as to the use of tu and vous.
Also, using the vous in conjunction with someone's given name is
rather current in France as a less formal way of addressing someone,
e.g. at work, among members of an association etc. Children and
adolescents generally use tu to speak with someone of their own age,
whether known or not. Tu can also be used to show disrespect to a
stranger, such as when surprising a thief or cursing other drivers on
Vous may be used to distance oneself from a person with whom one does
not want to interact. Additionally, two people who use tu in their
private interactions may consciously switch back to vous in public in
order to act appropriately in a formal or professional environment, to
play the part in an artificially constructed situation (e.g., co-hosts
of a television show), or simply to conceal the nature of their
relationship from others.
In families, vous was traditionally used to address older family
members. Children were taught to use vous to address their parents,
and vous was used until about 1950 between spouses of the higher
classes. Former president Jacques Chirac and his wife Bernadette are a
prominent example of the continuation of this usage.
When praying, tu is nowadays often used in addressing the deity,
though vous was used in Catholic prayers until the Second Vatican
Council, and is still used to address the Blessed Virgin Mary. In
Louisiana, however, vous is always used to convey a sense of respect
and reverence when praying.
In Walloon, the use of which tends, in any case, to be restricted
mostly to "familiar" contexts, vos (=vous) is the general usage and is
considered informal and friendly. Ti (=tu), on the other hand, is
considered vulgar, and its use can be taken as an expression of an
aggressive attitude towards the person addressed. This influence from
Walloon affects the usage of tu and vous in the French spoken in
Belgium, though more so among people accustomed to using Walloon as
their everyday language (a tiny minority, mostly in the countryside).
The influence of Standard French, particularly as exercised through
the mass media, is eroding this particularity among younger
In the ancien régime, the use of honorific styles or their
abbreviation Elle (lit.: she, irrespective of the gender of the
addressee, as the honorifics were feminine nouns) together with the
3rd person singular was also common. See below for Italian which has
kept this style.
North American French
North American dialects of French, including
Quebec French and Acadian
French as well as Louisiana French, permit and expect a far broader
usage of the familiar tu than in Standard French. There are still
circumstances in which it is necessary to say vous: in a formal
interview (notably for a job) or when addressing people of very high
rank (such as judges or prime ministers), senior citizens, between
professors and students in universities, towards customers or new
acquaintances in a formal setting. As acquaintances become familiar
with one another, they may find vous to be unnecessarily formal and
may agree to return to the tu with which they are generally more
For a number of Francophones in Canada, vous sounds stilted or
snobbish, and archaic. Tu is by no means restricted to intimates or
social inferiors. There is however an important minority of people,
often those who call for a use of standard French in Quebec, who
prefer to be addressed as vous. At
Radio-Canada (the public
broadcaster, often considered as establishing the normative objectives
of standard French in Canada), the use of vous is widespread even
among colleagues.
In Côte d'Ivoire, local languages (such as Baoulé, Dioula, etc.) do
not make a distinction between informal or formal pronouns, which
reflects on the local usage of French. It is thus uncommon to call an
individual "vous". A waiter, shop-keeper or taxi driver can very well
call a customer "vous", just like an employee towards a superior. For
example, an accountant could call "tu" her direct branch manager, but
will still use "vous" to address the company's CEO.
Relationships between male-female are typically less formal than
between people of the same gender (a female supermarket worker will
more easily say "tu" towards a male customer than her male colleague).
Even in formal situations (business, politics), the superiors can
often be called in a familiar way by subordinates who will use
affectionate terms of address such as "vieux père", "papa", "tonton",
"patron", "boss" for males, "la vieille mère", "maman", "tata",
"patronne" for females, instead of the standard "monsieur" and
"madame". Superiors reciprocate with terms of address such as "mon
fils", "mon petit", "ma chérie", "ma fille". All those terms of
address typically exclude the use of "vous".
The use is also conditioned to the "level" of French being spoken:
Standard French code and/or accent (what is call "chocoter" in
Ivorian French) will prompt addresses of "vous", whereas switching to
Ivorian French will typically invite a concomittant switch to "tu".
Informed local people will still, most of the time, make a conscious
effort to use "vous" and "monsieur"/"madame" when addressing
Westerners in formal situations (unless, again, that Westerner talks
Ivorian French rather than Standard French). Other groups of
foreigners such as other Africans, Asians or Middle-Eastern people are
less likely to enjoy that "privilege".
The use of "vous", just like the use of "monsieur" and "madame", is
thus restricted to very formal situations where
Standard French is
being used, mostly for the higher class between themselves: managers
at a meeting with the CEO, representatives of different political
parties, upper class people who don't know each other at a social
gathering. A switching to "tu" can still happen as soon as the formal
event is over (such as managers getting out of the meeting room) or
just after having been introduced to each other – usually
simultaneous to a switch from
Standard French to Ivorian French.
Catalan uses the singular pronouns tu (informal) and vostè (formal),
while vosaltres (informal) and vostès (formal) are used for two or
more addressees. The form vós, used instead of tu to address someone
respectfully, follows the same concordance rules as the French vous
(verbs in second person plural, adjectives in singular), and vostè
follows the same concordance rules as the Spanish usted (verbs in 3rd
person). Vostè originated from vostra mercè as a calque from
Spanish, and replaced the original Catalan form vós.
In some dialects of Catalan, vós is no longer used. Other dialects
have a three-way distinction tu/vós/vostè, where vós is used as a
respectful form for elders and respected friends, and vostè for
foreigners and people whom one does not know well. Vostè is more
distant than vós.
Administration uses vós for address to people.
Spanish dialects and voseo
In Peninsular, Mexican, and Peruvian Spanish, as in Italian, an
original tú and vos usage similar to French disappeared in the Early
Modern period. Today, tú is used for informal and familiar address
while the respectful form is the third-person usted, which can be used
respectfully to anyone. Scholars argue that usted evolved as a
contraction of the Old Spanish Vuestra Merced ("your mercy"), with
vusted as a transitional form. In some cases, the title Don is also
employed when speaking to a respected older man, while Doña is used
for older women.
Among Spanish dialects, the situation is complicated by the fact that
Spanish Empire was created during the middle of this linguistic
shift, leading to differing linguistic norms being established across
its territory. The region surrounding the Colombian capital of Bogotá
(although not the city itself) preserves an alternate respectful form
sumercé simplified from a different contraction of vuestra merced. In
Rioplatense, vos was preserved – but as a replacement for tú and
not as a respectful form of address; in Chile, in Western Venezuela,
Colombia and in Central America, vos is used in spoken
address and tú is used in print and to express moderate formality,
that is, it has essentially switched its function to vos's former
Costa Rica and part of Colombia, the use of usted is so
widespread that it is not uncommon to hear parents use usted to
address to their child.
In the second-person plural, modern Spanish speakers in most of Spain
employ vosotros informally and (as the third-person plural) ustedes to
express respect. In western Andalucia, ustedes is used in both
contexts, but its verbs are conjugated in the second-person plural.
Throughout the Americas and the Canaries, ustedes is used in all
contexts and in the third person.
See also: Portuguese personal pronouns
European Portuguese (as well as in Africa,
Timor-Leste and Macau),
tu (singular "you") is commonly used as the familiar addressing
pronoun, while você is a general form of address; vocês (plural both
of tu and você) is used for both familiar and general. The forms o
senhor and a senhora (plurals os senhores and as senhoras) are used
for more formal situations (roughly equivalent to "Mr/Sir" and
"Mrs/Madam".) Similarly to some Romance languages (e.g. Italian), tu
can be omitted because the verb ending provides the necessary
information. Not so much so with você or o senhor / a senhora because
the verb ending is the same as for the third person (historically,
você derives from vossa mercê ("your mercy" or "your grace") via the
intermediate forms vossemecê and vosmecê). The second person plural
pronoun vós, from
Latin vos, is archaic in most of the
Portuguese-speaking world, but can be heard in liturgy and has a
limited regional use.
In Brazilian Portuguese, você and vocês (singular and plural "you",
respectively) are used informally, while o senhor and a senhora
("Mr"/"Sir" and "Mrs"/"Madam", plurals os senhores and as senhoras)
are used in formal speech. Although now seen as archaic, a senhorita
is used when speaking ironically, very formally or when one is
demonstrating respect to a superior and it is sometimes replaced by
moça ("Lady"). Informal terms of respect to superiors, elders or
strangers are Seu (abbreviation of senhor) and Dona (feminine of Dom
i.e. Don). Moço/rapaz and moça ("Lad"/"Young man" and "Lady") are
used by seniors when addressing non-intimate youths and also as an
equalizing form among strange youths. Jovem ("youngster") is used in
the same manner by elders when addressing strange youths of both
On premises where the atmosphere requires extreme formality like the
Senate or different courts, the protocolar forms to address
dignitaries Vossa Excelência ("Your Excellence") and Vossa Senhoria
("Your Lordship/Ladyship") can still be heard. In a direct address to
a judge or the president, Vossa Excelência must follow the vocatives
Meritíssimo/a ("Your Honour", literally "full of merit") and Sr/Sra
Presidente ("Mr/Mrs" President). When addressing an ecclesiastical
dignitary the form Vossa Reverência ("Your Reverence") is used.
Although Vossa Senhoria is regarded as protocolar, it is an equalizing
In many parts of the geographic extension of the language e.g. most of
Southern and Northeastern Brazil, some sociolects of coastal São
Paulo, mainly in Greater Santos, colloquial carioca sociolect, mainly
among the less educated and some all-class youths of Greater Rio de
Janeiro, and in Uruguay, tu (singular "you" or simply "thou") is used
informally, but the plural form is always vocês. For the
overwhelmingly majority of people, the pronoun tu is commonly used
with the verb conjugated as você (third-person singular) rather than
in the traditional conjugation (second-person singular). Tu is
somewhat familiar, even intimate, and should never be addressed to
superiors, or strange elders, while você is much more neutral,
The dialect that includes Florianópolis, capital city of Santa
Catarina, as well as its shore and inner regions in the proximity like
Blumenau, is an exception, as the use of tu is widespread, even
addressing formally to an authority or to a superior. It is one of the
few dialects in
Brazil in which second-person singular agreement is
used (along with the relatively conservative dialect of the state of
Standard Italian the informal second-person singular pronoun is tu
and the formal second-person singular pronoun is Lei (inf. "she",
lit. "her"), always used with the third-person singular
conjugation of the verb. The pronouns may be freely omitted.
Despite lei's original meaning, modern Italian typically concords with
the gender of the addressee when lei is the sentence subject; using
feminine adjectives for a male addressee is not especially insulting
but sounds confusing, literary or even archaic. When lei is an object,
using feminine adjectives is normal (l'ho vista, i.e. "I saw you
(m.)"), whereas gender concord is considered non-standard (l'ho visto,
i.e. "I saw you (m.)).
Lei is normally used in formal settings or with strangers, although it
implies a sense of distance (even coldness) similar to the French use
of vous. Presently Italian adults prefer to employ tu towards
strangers until around 30 years old. It is used reciprocally between
adults; the usage may not be reciprocal when young people address
older strangers or otherwise respected people. Students are addressed
with tu by their teachers until the end of high school with few
exceptions and usually with Lei in universities. Students might use tu
with their teachers in elementary school, but switch to Lei from
middle school. Tu is the common form of address on the Internet
and within some professions – such as journalism and law – as a
recognition of comradeship. In the law however the tu is only used in
informal settings; in the courtroom it is used only to small children,
if ever any happens to appear there. The second-person plural pronoun
is voi. Its polite counterpart was formerly Loro ("They"), but it is
now little used outside of self-consciously formal situations such as
Voi is the traditional polite form of address in Tuscan dialects:
Dante employs it in his 14th-century
Divine Comedy when showing
particular respect. Lei began to replace it during the Renaissance
and then, under Spanish influence, it became common to contract
obsequious honorifics such as "Your Lordship", "Eminence", and
"Majesty", all of which are feminine third-person singular nouns in
Italian (Vostra Signoria, Eminenza, Maestà). Over the next four
centuries, all three pronouns – tu, Voi, Lei – were employed
together to express degrees of formality and status, as displayed in
Manzoni's 19th-century The Betrothed. Voi continues to be used by some
speakers, particularly of Southern dialects, as an alternative to Lei
in polite address, but its use is increasingly uncommon. The use
of Voi was imposed by the Fascists from 1938 to 1944. Voi still
appears in comics, and in instruction books and advertisements where
Lei would sound too distant, but in the latter case most of the time
it is used directly as a plural and not as a polite singular. (An
example of all three forms of address in action is the Italian Lord of
the Rings translation: a character such as Aragorn is usually
addressed as lei, but neither lei nor tu seemed appropriate for how
Samwise addresses his higher-class friend and employer Frodo; Sam
calls Frodo voi, in consequence.)
Although seldom encountered, the third person la Signoria Vostra or la
S.V. ("Your Lord-" or "Ladyship") is sometimes seen in formal
correspondence and invitations, as a stronger form of its descendant
Romanian dumneavoastră when used for the second-person singular
formal takes plural verbs but singular adjectives, similar to French
vous. It is used roughly in the same manner as in Continental French
and shows no signs of disappearing. It is also used as a more formal
voi. It originates from domnia voastră – your lordship. In the past
it was used extreme rarely to nobles especially, but its sense
extended to other people in the 20th century but not so common and
when the communists arrived it took the actual form.[clarification
needed] As happens with all subject pronouns,
dumneavoastră is often omitted from sentences, its use being implied
by verbs in the second person plural form.
The form dumneata (originating from domnia ta – thy lordship) is
less distant than dumneavoastră and somewhat midway between tu and
dumneavoastră. The verb is conjugated, as for tu, in the second
person singular form. Older people towards younger people and peers
favor dumneata. Its use is gradually declining.
A more colloquial form of dumneata is mata or even matale or tălică.
It is more familiar than tu and is used only in some regions of
Romania. It is used only with immediate family members, and is spelled
and pronounced the same in all cases, similar to dumneavoastră. It is
used with verbs in the second person singular, as is tu.
The plural form is a recent borrowing. Old Romanian and Arumanian,
like Classical Latin, do not have the plural form.
Most dialects of Sicilian Language have utilised vussìa, vossìa, or
vassa to express formality. However, due to encroachment by Italian
language Lei has become increasingly common particularly among younger
Ancient and Hellenistic or Koine Greek
In Ancient Greek, sý (σύ) was the singular, and hymeis
(ὑμεῖς) the plural, with no distinction for honorific or
familiar. Paul addresses King
Agrippa II as sý (Acts 26:2).
Later, hymeís and hēmeís (ἡμεῖς) ("we") became too close in
pronunciation, and a new plural seís or eseís (σεις/εσείς)
was invented, the initial e (ε) being a euphonic prefix that was also
extended to the singular (sý/esý).
In Modern Greek, εσείς (eseís, second person plural) with second
person plural verb conjugation is used as the formal counterpart of
εσύ (esý, second person singular) when talking to strangers and
elders, although in everyday life it is common to speak to strangers
of your age or younger using the singular pronoun. In addition, the
informal second person singular is used even with older people you are
acquainted with, depending on the level of mutual familiarity.
Since the formal εσείς (eseís) has become less common outside
schools and workplaces, many people often do not know which form to
use (because using a formal version might sound too snobbish even to
an elder and using the informal version might sound inappropriate to
some strangers) and thus prefer to replace verbs with nouns (avoiding
the dilemma) until enough information on the counterpart's intentions
is gathered in order to choose between formal or informal second
person pronoun and verb conjugation. A good rule of thumb is that
singular accompanies first names and plural accompanies surnames with
title (Mr, Mrs, etc.). Exceptions are rare, for example younger
schoolchildren may address their teacher in the plural, title and
first name, or an officer may address a soldier in the singular and
surname. The sequence singular-title-surname is a faux pas that can
often indicate lack of education, of good manners, or of both.
The modern social custom when using the
Greek language in Greece is to
ask the other person "may we speak in the singular?" in which the
other person is expected to answer "yes" and afterwards the discussion
continues using the informal εσύ (esý); it is unthinkable for the
other person to answer "no" or show preference for plural forms, and
for this reason one should not even ask this question to a person of
high status, such as a professional. Therefore, asking this question
can itself be considered a form of disrespect in some social
situations. Likewise, not asking this question and simply using the
singular without prior explicit or implicit agreement would also be
considered disrespectful in various social contingencies. In other
cases, even using the formal plural (without a question) could also be
considered offensive. A person being inappropriately addressed in the
singular will often indicate their displeasure by insisting on
responding in the plural, in a display of irony that may or may not be
evident to the other party. A similar social custom exists with the
words κύριε (Mr/Sir) and κυρία (Mrs/Madam), which can show
both respect and a form of "mock respect" essentially communicating
disapproval, often depending on the voice intonation and the social
situation. Overall, the distinction between formal and informal forms
of address and when to use each can be quite subtle and not easily
discernible by a non-native speaker.
Cypriot Greek traditionally had no T–V distinction, with even
persons of very high social status addressed in the singular, usually
together with an honorific or title such as δάσκαλε ("teacher",
mainly for priests) or μάστρε (literally "master", loosely
"sir"). Even today, the singular form is used much more frequently in
Cyprus compared to Greece, although this is changing under the
influence of Standard Modern Greek. The plural form is now expected in
a formal setting.
In Scottish Gaelic, the informal form of the second-person singular is
thu/tu (emphatic: thusa/tusa), used when addressing a person the
speaker knows well, or when addressing a person younger or relatively
the same age as the speaker. When addressing a superior, an elder, or
a stranger, or in conducting business, the form sibh (emphatic:
sibhse) is used. (Sibh is also the second person plural). This
distinction carries over into prepositional pronouns: for instance,
agad and agaibh (at you), riut and ribh (against you), romhad and
romhaibh (before you), etc., and into possessive pronouns do and ur
In Irish, the use of sibh as an address to one person has died out,
and tú is preferred. Formerly,
Roman Catholic priests were addressed
with the plural form sibh, especially in Ulster, due to the
possibility that the priest may be carrying the
Eucharist on his
person—belief in the real presence of Christ in the
require the use of the plural.
Welsh, Cornish and Breton
Modern Welsh, Cornish and Breton all retain a
T–V distinction to
In spoken Welsh, the plural pronoun chi is used when speaking to
strangers, elders or superiors, while ti (or chdi in some parts of the
North) is used with friends, close family, animals and children. Ti is
also the form used when addressing God. Nonetheless, the use of chi
and ti varies between families and regions, but those guidelines are
Chwi is an alternative to chi found in very formal literary language.
Alongside the usages explained above, those born before 1945 would, in
their youth, use chi with a girl of about the same age. Similarly
to Italian, the third person singular is used by some speakers in the
Dyfed region of west Wales; it appears, however, that the
pronoun used – between either e or fe (masculine) and hi (feminine)
– depends on the gender of the listener.
A similar distinction exists between Cornish singular ty / chy and
plural hwi / whi. The singular form is used when talking to friends,
family, animals and children, and the plural form is used to talk to a
group of people, or when being especially polite to one person.
In Breton the second person plural c'hwi is used as a polite form when
addressing a single person and the singular te is reserved for
informal situations. However, in a large area of central Brittany the
singular form has been entirely replaced by c'hwi, as in English.
Russian and Ukrainian (mainly Eastern)
Modern Russian distinguishes between the familiar ty (ты) and the
respectful vy (вы), the latter also being the plural of both forms.
(Respectful Vy (Вы) may be capitalised in written correspondence,
while plural vy is not.) The distinction appeared relatively recently
and began to gain currency among the educated classes in the 18th
century through French influence.
Generally, ty is used among friends and relatives, but the usage
depends not only on the closeness of the relationship but also on age
and the formality of the situation (e.g., work meeting vs. a party).
Children always use ty to address each other and are addressed in this
way by adults but are taught to address adults with vy. Younger adults
typically also address older adults outside the family as vy
regardless of intimacy, and may be addressed as ty in return. When
talking to each other young people often start with the formal vy but
may transition to ty very quickly in an informal situation. Among
older people, ty is often reserved for closer acquaintances. Unless
there is a substantial difference in age, the choice of the form is
symmetric: if A uses ty to address B, then B also uses ty to address
A. While people may transition quickly from vy to ty, such transition
presumes mutual agreement. Use of ty without consent of the other
person is likely to be viewed as poor conduct or even as an insult
(or, in the case of opposite-sexed people, overly flirtatious),
particularly if the other party maintains using vy.
Historically, the rules used to be more class-specific: as late as at
the end of the 19th century, it was accepted in some circles (in
aristocracy and especially gentry) that vy was to be used also between
friends, between husband and wife, and when addressing one's parents
(but not one's children), all of which situations today would strongly
call for using ty. Meanwhile, up to this day, common people,
especially those living in rural areas, hardly ever use the polite
vy. Russian speakers online uphold the distinction and mainly use
vy for strangers, although in the earlier days of internet it was more
common and expected to use ty to address everyone.
The choice between ty and vy is closely related to, yet sometimes
different from, the choice of the addressing format – that is, the
selection from the first name, patronymics, last name, and the title
to be used when addressing the person. Normally, ty is associated with
the informal addressing by first name only (or, even more informally,
by the patronymic only), whereas vy is associated with the more formal
addressing format of using the first name together with patronymics
(roughly analogous to "title followed by last name" in English) or the
last name together with a title (the last name is almost never used
together with either of the other two names to address someone,
although such combinations are routinely used to introduce or mention
someone). However, nowadays, vy can also be employed while addressing
by first name only.
In Ukrainian, the present practice is essentially the same as in
Russian, historically this was primarily in the Eastern, Russian-ruled
part of Ukraine. Until about 1945, due to Polish influence, the
practices in the former Galicia and Volyn' regions, tended to more
closely resemble the Polish practices, as described below. But since
those areas became annexed to the Soviet Union, the East Ukrainian and
Russian practices have become prevalent all over Ukraine, with the
panstvo, proshu pana, proshu pani, etc. forms only being preserved in
the emigre diaspora.
In all standard forms of Serbo-Croatian, i.e. Serbian, Croatian,
Montenegrin and Bosnian, the use of ti is limited to friends and
family, and used among children. In any formal use, vi, the
second-person plural, is used only; ti can be used among peers in
a workplace but is rare in official documents. It is a common
misconception, even among native speakers, that vi is always
capitalized when used in formal tone; Vi is capitalized only in direct
personal correspondence between two persons.
With the polite vi, masculine plural (in participles and adjectives)
is used regardless of the sex of the person addressed.
Bulgarian distinguishes between familiar ti (ти) and respectful Vie
(Вие). Ti is always singular and implies familiarity. Vie, the
plural of ti, also functions as the formal singular.
In addressing more than one person, the plural vie is always used. For
example, "Вие двамата напуснете, моля!" means
You two leave, please!"). Here, although ti and vie both means you,
ti can not be used.
When addressing a single person, if the people talking are acquainted
then singular ti is used, otherwise plural Vie should be used.
Sometimes people start a new acquaintance straightforwardly with
singular ti, but generally this is considered offensive, rude, or
simply impolite. Children are taught to always use ti between
themselves, but Vie for addressing more than one child or an unknown
The grammatically correct spelling of the singular word Vie is always
with a capital letter, whether being the first word in a sentence or
not. For example, the sentence "But you are wrong!", if spelled (in
Bulgarian) "Но Вие грешите!" (the word Вие with capital
В), it would convey that the speaker is addressing an individual
person with a plural, because he/she wants to express a polite,
official manner; if spelt "Но вие грешите!" (the second
possible Bulgarian translation of "But you are wrong!"), it would then
mean that someone is talking to several persons.
Generally, ti is used among friends and relatives. When talking to
each other, young people often start with the formal vie but quickly
transition to ti in an informal situation. Unless there is a
substantial difference in social situation (e.g. a teacher and a
student), the choice of the form is symmetric: if A. uses ti to
address B., then B. also uses ti to address A. While people may
transition quickly from vie to ti, such transition presumes mutual
agreement. There is a recent trend not to use the formal Vie at all,
but this can lead to awkward situations.
Macedonian distinguishes between familiar ti (ти) and respectful vie
(вие) – which is also the plural of both forms, used to address a
pair or group. (Respectful Vie may be capitalized, while plural vie is
not.) Generally, ti is used among friends and relatives, but the usage
depends not only on the closeness of the relationship but also on age
and the formality of the situation (e.g., work meeting vs. a party).
Children always use ti to address each other and are addressed in this
way by adults, but are taught to address adults with vie. Younger
adults typically also address older adults outside the family as vie
regardless of intimacy, and may be addressed as ti in return. When
talking to each other young people often start with the formal vie,
but may transit to ti very quickly in an informal situation. Among
older people, ti is often reserved for closer acquaintances. Unless
there is a substantial difference in age, the choice of the form is
symmetric: if A uses ti to address B, then B also uses ti to address
A. While people may transit quickly from vie to ti, such transition
presumes mutual agreement. Use of ti without consent of the other
person is likely to be viewed as poor conduct or even as an insult,
particularly if the other party maintains using vie.
Main articles: Polish name § Formal and informal use, and Polish
Polish uses as formal forms the words pan (meaning "mister" or
"gentleman") and pani ("lady"), and in the plural panowie
("gentlemen") and panie ("ladies") respectively, państwo being used
for mixed groups (originally a neutral noun, meaning roughly
"lordship", but also, and until today, "state"). Państwo is used with
the plural, like panowie and panie. Because of their character as
nouns (and not pronouns) these words are used with the third person:
For example, the familiar Chcesz pić ("
You want to drink") becomes
Pan chce pić (literally "The gentleman wants to drink").
Further, pan and pani can be combined with the first name, the last
name and with titles like "President", "Professor", "Doctor", "Editor"
and others (Pan Prezydent, pani profesor etc.; using these titles is
considered necessary); using both (Pan Prezydent Kowalski, pani
profesor Nowak) is considered more polite or, in some context, even
submissive. Addressing a present person with the last name is only
usual in court or in other affairs, where government authority is
involved, and generally considered impolite or condescending. When
addressing someone, all these forms always require the vocative case,
which is otherwise optional (for example panie Kowalski ("Mr
Kowalski!"), pani Joanno ("
Mrs Joanna!"), panie profesorze
("professor!")). For pan, pani etc. alone, proszę + genitive is used
instead of vocative: proszę pana, proszę pani, proszę panów,
proszę pań and proszę państwa.
Western Ukrainian, as spoken in Galicia and Volyn' until about 1945,
tended to copy the Polish forms such as proshu pana, proshu pani,
shanovne panstvo, etc., but this was primarily used by Ukrainians to
address social superiors. Among social equals, the vy form was mainly
used by Ukrainians, but close friends and family were addressed as ty,
comparable to the practice in Russia and Poland.
A unique practice among both Poles and Western Ukrainians is
addressing a lawyer as pan Mecenas, meaning "Mr. Philanthropist",
derived from the name of an ancient Greek king known for his
generosity. As Ukrainians had a married priesthood, a priest's wife
was addressed as pani Dobrodijka (Mrs. good-deed-doer), while a priest
was addressed as pan Otec' (Mr. Father), the Polish-derived word
ksjondz' was considered somewhat slangish and disrespectful when
speaking to a Ukrainian priest.
The V-forms are capitalized only in actual letters (or e-mails), where
the T-forms ty and wy are also capitalized.
Plural wy is also used as V-form in dialects, for example Matko, co wy
jecie? ("Mother, what are you eating?"). It is also associated
with stereotypical communists and officials, especially of communist
era in Poland. Among Ukrainians, vy is the common form used to address
social equals who are not close friends or family.
Besides, other forms can be sometimes used like pan in third person
when talking to older family members (Niech mama powie, "Say,
mother"), to clergy (Tak, dobrze ksiądz trafił, "Yes, you,
priest, are in right place") or to other people in less formal or
semi-formal situations, e.g. polite quarrel or dispute (Zatem –
proszę kolegi – niech kolega się trochę douczy, a potem poucza
innych, "Also, dear friend, learn more and then instruct others").
Tombstone of Jožef Nahtigal in Dobrova with archaic Slovene onikanje
in indirect reference. Literal translation "Here lie [počivajo] the
honorable Jožef Nahtigal … they were born [rojeni] … they died
God grant them [jim] eternal peace and rest."
In Slovenian, although informal address using the 2nd person singular
ti form (known as tikanje) is officially limited to friends and
family, talk among children, and addressing animals, it is
increasingly used instead of its polite or formal counterpart using
the 2nd person plural vi form (known as vikanje).
There is an additional nonstandard but widespread use of a singular
participle combined with a plural auxiliary verb (known as polvikanje)
that also reveals the gender of the person and is used in somewhat
less formal situations:
Vi ga niste videli. ('
You did not see him': both the auxiliary verb
niste and the participle videli are plural masculine.)
Vi ga niste videl/videla. ('
You did not see him': the auxiliary verb
niste is plural but the participle videl/videla is singular
The use of the 3rd person plural oni form (known as onikanje in both
direct address and indirect reference) as an ultra-polite form is now
archaic or dialectal; it is associated with servant-master
relationships in older literature, the child-parent relationship in
certain conservative rural communities, and in general with
relationships with people of highest respect (parents, clergy,
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See also: Czech verb
In Czech, there are three levels of formality. The most formal is
using the second person plural verb forms (V form) with the surname or
title of the addressed person, usual between strangers or people in a
professional relationship. The second common form is made by using the
second person singular verb forms (T form) together with the given
name of the other person, used between friends and in certain social
groups (students etc.). The third form, which is rather less common,
is using the V form in combination with the given name. It may be used
by a teacher when addressing a student (especially at the secondary
school level), by a boss addressing his secretary, or in other
relationships where a certain degree of familiarity has developed, but
has not superseded some level of mutually acknowledged respect or
distance. This form of address is usually asymmetrical (the perceived
social superior uses V form in combination with the first name, the
perceived social inferior using V form and the surname or honorific),
less often symmetrical. Using the singular verb forms together with
the surname or title is considered very rude. Where a stranger
introduces himself with title (like inženýr Novák, doktor Svoboda),
it is considered more polite to address him using the V form in
combination with his title (always preceded by the honorific
paní/pane, i.e. Mr/Madam), rather than his surname. However, it is
considered poor manners to address somebody with his title in
combination with the T form.
Traditionally, use of the informal form was limited for relatives,
very close friends, and for children. During the second half of the
20th century, use of the informal form grew significantly among
coworkers, youth and members of organisations and groups. The formal
form is always used in official documents and when dealing with a
stranger (especially an older one) as a sign of respect. 2nd-person
pronouns (Ty, Tvůj, Vy, Váš) are often capitalized in letters,
advertisement, etc. The capitalization is optional and is slowly
becoming obsolete. A variant of the formal form modeled after German
Sie (Oni/oni, Jejich/jejich, verb onikat) was frequently used during
the 19th century but has since disappeared. This form is also
associated with Czech Jewish community before Second World War, and
still appears very often in
Jewish humour as sign of local colour.
Sometimes it is used as irony.
In the Internet age, where people communicate under nicknames or
pseudonymes and almost solely in informal way, capitalizing (ty/Ty
mirroring English you/You) is used to emphasise respect, or simply
presence of respect. (Ty = friends, honored acquaintance, strangers ty
= basic form, vy/Vy = most formal, used to create distance or express
contempt, very rude if not sufficiently advocated, often used as
insult itself).
In grammar, plural forms are used in personal and possessive pronouns
(vy – you, váš – your) and in verbs, but not in participles and
adjectives, they are used in singular forms (when addressing a single
person). This differs from some other
Slavic languages (Slovak,
you are kind
byl jsi přijat
byl jste přijat
byli jste přijati
you were accepted
Greetings are also connected with T–V distinction. Formal dobrý den
(good day) and na shledanou (good-bye) are used with formal vy, while
ahoj, nazdar, čau (meaning both hello, hi, and bye) are informal and
used with ty.
In Lithuanian, historically, aside from familiar tu and respectful
jūs or Jūs, also used to express plural, there was a special form
tamsta, mostly referred to in third person singular (although
referring in second person singular is also not uncommon). This form
was used to communicate with a stranger who has not earned particular
respect (a beggar, for example). Modern Lithuanian Dictionary
describes tamsta as a polite form of second singular person tu,
making its meaning somewhere in the middle between informal tu and
formal jūs. Through the Soviet occupation period, however, this form
was mostly replaced by standard neutral form drauge (the vocative case
for draugas, "comrade", the latter being the standard formal form of
addressing in all languages of the
Soviet Union used in all
situations, from "comrade Stalin" to "comrade student"), and by now
tamsta is used sparsely. A common way of addressing people whom one
doesn't know well is also Ponas (m) and Ponia (f), from Polish forms
of address pan and pani, respectively.
Hindi and Urdu
In the standard forms of both
Urdu there are three levels of
आप آپ āp [aːp]: Formal and respectable form for you. Used in
all formal settings and speaking to persons who are senior in job or
age. No difference between the singular and the plural; plural
reference can, however, be indicated by the use of "you people"
(आप लोग آپ لوگ āp log) or "you all" (आप सब
آپ سب āp sab).
तुम تُم tum [tʊm]: Informal form of you. Used in all
informal settings and speaking to persons who are junior in job or
age. No difference between the singular and the plural; plural
reference can, however, be indicated by the use of "you people"
(तुम लोग تُم لوگ tum log) or "you all" (तुम
सब تُم سب tum sab).
तू تُو tū [tuː]: Extremely informal form of you. Strictly
singular, its plural form would be तुम تُم tum. Inappropriate
use of this form – i.e. other than in addressing children, very
close friends, or in poetic language (either with
God or with lovers)
– risks being perceived as offensive in Pakistan or India.
Bengali has three levels of formality in its pronouns; the most
neutral forms of address among closer members of a family are
তুমি tumi and তোমরা tomra (plural). These two
pronouns are also typically used when speaking to children, or to
younger members of the extended family. তুমি tumi is also used
when addressing God. When speaking with adults outside the family, or
with senior members of the extended family, the pronouns আপনি
apni and আপনারা apnara (plural) are used. This is also
true in advertisements and public announcements. A third set of
pronouns, তুই tui and তোরা tora (plural), is reserved
for use between very close friends, and by extension, between
relatives who share a bond not unlike a close friendship. It is also
used when addressing people presumed to be of "inferior" social
status; this latter use is occasionally used when speaking to
housemaids, rickshaw-pullers, and other service workers, although this
use is considered offensive.
The situations in which these different pronouns can be used vary
considerably depending on many social factors. In some families,
children may address their parents with আপনি apni and
আপনারা apnara, although this is becoming increasingly
rare. Some adults alternate between all three pronoun levels when
speaking to children, normally choosing তুমি tumi and
তোমরা tomra, but also often choosing তুই tui and
তোরা tora to indicate closeness, or আপনি apni or
আপনারা apnara in a joking manner. Additionally, Bengalis
vary in which pronoun they use when addressing servants in the home;
some may use আপনি apni and আপনারা apnara to
indicate respect for an adult outside the family, while others may use
তুমি tumi and তোমরা tomra to indicate either
inclusion into the family or to indicate somewhat less honorable
status. Others may even use তুই tui and তোরা tora to
indicate inferior status.
In Finnish, today the use of the informal singular form of address
(sinä) is widespread in all social circles, even among strangers and
in business situations. The use of formal address has not disappeared
however, and persists in situations involving customer service
(especially if the customer is clearly older than the person serving
them) and in general in addressing the elderly or in situations where
strict adherence to form is expected, such as in the military. An
increase in the use of formal address has been reported in recent
years, whereby some people are choosing to use the formal form more
often.. As the use of the form conveys formal
recognition of the addressee's status and, more correctly, of polite
social distance, the formal form might also occasionally be used
jeeringly or to protest the addressee's snobbery. A native speaker may
also switch to formal form when speaking in anger, as an attempt to
remain civil. Advertisements, instructions and other formal messages
are mostly in informal singular form (sinä and its conjugations), but
the use of formal forms has increased in recent years. For example, as
the tax authorities tend to become more informal, in contrast the
social security system is reverting to using the formal form.
The same forms, such as the pronoun te, are used for formal singular
and for both formal and informal plural.
In Finnish the number is expressed in pronouns (sinä for second
person singular, or te for second person plural), verb inflections,
and possessive suffixes. Almost all of these elements follow the
grammar of the second person plural also in the formal singular form.
For example, polite Voisitteko (te) siirtää autonne vs. informal
Voisitko (sinä) siirtää autosi, "Could you move your car,
(please)?". Each of the person markers are modified: -t- to -tte-
(verb person), sinä to te (pronoun), -si to -nne (possessive suffix).
As a few examples of this could be mentioned the way imperatives are
expressed: Menkää! "Go!" (plural), vs. Mene! "Go!" (singular), and
the usage of the plural suffix -nne "your" instead of the singular -si
There is number agreement in Finnish, thus you say sinä olet "you
are" (singular), but te olette "you are" (plural). However, this does
not extend to words describing the addressee, which are in the
singular, e.g. oletteko te lääkäri? "are you doctor?" (plural,
A common error, nowadays often made even by native speakers unused to
the formal forms, is to use the plural form of the main verb in the
perfect and pluperfect constructions. The main verb should be in the
singular when addressing one person in the formal plural: Oletteko
kuullut? instead of *Oletteko kuulleet? "Have you heard?"
Sometimes the third person is used as a polite form of address, after
the Swedish model: Mitä rouvalle saisi olla? "What would madam like
to have?" This is far less common in the Eastern parts of Finland,
influenced less by the
Swedish language and all in all a declining
habit. The passive voice may be used to circumvent the choice of the
correct form of address. In another meaning, the passive voice is also
the equivalent of the English patronizing we as in Kuinkas tänään
voidaan? "How are we feeling today?"
Finnish language includes the verbs for calling one with informal
singular or formal plural: sinutella, teititellä, respectively.
Bible and in the Kalevala, only the "informal" singular is used
in all cases.
Estonian is a language with T–V distinction, second person plural
(teie) is used instead of second person singular (sina) as a means of
expressing politeness or formal speech. Sina is the familiar form of
address used with family, friends, and minors. The distinction is
still much more widely used and more rigid than in closely related
Similar to the
French language vouvoyer, the verb teietama is used,
and teie is used when addressing a (new) customer or a patient, or
when talking to a person in his/her function. In hierarchical
organizations, like large businesses or armies, sina is used between
members of a same rank/level while teie is used between members of
different ranks. Sina (the verb sinatama is also used) is used with
relatives, friends, when addressing children and with close
colleagues. Borderline situations, such as distant relatives, young
adults, customers in rental shops or new colleagues, sometimes still
Hungarian provides numerous, often subtle means of T–V distinction:
The use of the second-person conjugation with the pronoun te (plural
ti) is the most informal mode. As in many other European languages, it
is used within families, among children, lovers, close friends,
(nowadays often) among coworkers, and in some communities, suggesting
an idea of brotherhood. Adults unilaterally address children this way,
and it is the form used in addressing
God and other Christian figures
Jesus Christ or the Blessed Virgin), animals, and objects or
ideas. Sociologically, the use of this form is widening. Whereas
traditionally the switch to te is often a symbolic milestone between
people, sometimes sealed by drinking a glass of wine together (pertu),
today people under the age of about thirty will often mutually adopt
te automatically in informal situations. A notable example is the
Internet: strangers meeting online use the informal forms of address
virtually exclusively, regardless of age or status differences.
Nevertheless, formal forms of address are alive and well in Hungarian:
The third-person verb conjugation is the primary basis of formal
address. The choice of which pronoun to use, however, is fraught with
difficulty (and indeed a common solution when in doubt is to simply
avoid using any pronoun at all, using the addressee's name or title
The pronoun maga (plural maguk), for instance, is considered the basic
formal equivalent of "you", but may not be used indiscriminately, as
it tends to imply an existing or desired personal acquaintance. (It
would not, for instance, ordinarily be used in a conversation where
the relative social roles are predominantly important – say, between
professor and student.) Typical situations where maga might be used
are, e.g., distant relatives, neighbours, fellow travellers on the
train, or at the hairdresser's. If one already knows these people,
they may even take offence if one were to address them more formally.
On the other hand, some urbanites tend to avoid maga, finding it too
rural, old-fashioned, offensive or even intimate. – Note that maga
coincides with the reflexive pronoun (cf. him/herself), so e.g. the
sentence Megütötte magát? can have three meanings: "Did he hit
himself?", "Did he hit you?" or "Did you hit yourself?".
Ön (plural önök) is the formal, official and impersonal "you". It
is the form used when people take part in a situation merely as
representatives of social roles, where personal acquaintance is not a
factor. It is thus used in institutions, business, bureaucracy,
advertisements, by broadcasters, by shopkeepers to their customers,
and whenever one wishes to maintain one's distance. It is less typical
of rural areas or small towns, more typical of cities. It's often
capitalized in letters.
Other pronouns are nowadays rare, restricted to rural, jocular,
dialect, or old-fashioned speech. Such are, for instance, kend and
There is a wide spectrum of third-person address that avoids the above
pronouns entirely; preferring to substitute various combinations of
the addressee's names and/or titles. Thus, for instance, a university
student might ask mit gondol X. tanár úr? ("What does Professor X.
think?", meant for the addressee) rather than using the insufficiently
formal maga or the overly impersonal ön. If the difference in rank is
not to be emphasized, it is perfectly acceptable to use the addressed
person's first name instead of a second-person pronoun, e.g.
Megkérném arra Pétert, hogy… ("I'd like to ask [you,] Peter
to…"). (Note that these are possible because the formal
second-person conjugation of verbs is the same as the third-person
Finally, the auxiliary verb tetszik (lit. "it pleases [you]") is an
indirect alternative (or, perhaps, supplement) to direct address with
the third or even second person. In terms of grammar, it can only be
applied if the addressed person is mentioned in the nominative,
otherwise it is replaced by forms with the name or maga. It is very
polite (sometimes seen as over-polite) and not as formal as the Ön
form. Children usually address adults outside their family this way.
Adults may address more distant relatives, housekeepers and older
persons using this form, and some men habitually address older or
younger women this way (this is slightly old-fashioned).
It is important to keep in mind that formal conjugation doesn't
automatically imply politeness or vice versa; these factors are
independent of each other. For example, Mit parancsolsz? "What would
you like to have?" (literally, "What do you command?") is in the
informal conjugation, while it can be extremely polite, making it
possible to express one's honour towards people one has previously
established a friendly relationship with. On the other hand, Mit akar?
"What do you want?" is expressed with the formal conjugation,
nevertheless it may sound rude and aggressive; the formal conjugation
does not soften this tone in any way.
Example: "you" in the nominative
"Will you be leaving tomorrow?"
Example: "you" in the accusative
"I saw you yesterday on the television."
(Te) holnap utazol el?
Láttalak tegnap a tévében.
holnap utazik el?
tegnap a tévében.
<title or first name>
(A) tanár úr*
(a) tanár urat*
Holnap tetszik elutazni?
<The name or maga is used instead>
Láttam tegnap Mari nénit** a tévében.
OR Láttam tegnap magát a tévében.
* tanár úr is a form of addressing for professors (cf. "Sir");
tanár urat is the accusative. Other forms of addressing are also
possible, to avoid specifying the maga and ön pronouns.
** Mari nénit is an example name in the accusative (cf. "Aunt Mary").
In modern Turkish, the
T–V distinction is strong. Family members and
friends speak to one another using the second-person singular sen, and
adults use sen to address minors. In formal situations (business,
customer-clerk, and colleague relationships, or meeting people for the
first time) the plural second-person siz is used almost exclusively.
In very formal situations, the double plural second-person sizler may
be used to address a much-respected person. Rarely, the third-person
plural form of the verb (but not the pronoun) may be used to emphasize
utmost respect. In the imperative, there are three forms: second
person singular for informal, second person plural for formal, and
second person double plural for very formal situations: gel (second
person singular, informal), gelin (second person plural, formal), and
geliniz (double second person plural, very formal). The very formal
forms are not frequently used in spoken Turkish, but is pretty common
in written directives, such as manuals and warning signs.
Uyghur is notable for using four different forms, to distinguish both
singular and plural in both formal and informal registers. The
informal plural silär originated as a contraction of sizlär, which
uses a regular plural ending. In Old Turkic, as still in modern
Turkish, siz was the original second-person plural. However, in modern
Uyghur siz has become restricted to the formal singular, requiring the
plural suffix -lär for the plurals.
Siz as the formal singular pronoun is characteristic of the Ürümchi
dialect, which is the Uyghur literary standard. In Turfan they say
sili and in Kashgar dialect, özlär. Sili is also used in other areas
sometimes, while in literary Uyghur özlär as a singular pronoun is
considered a "hyperdeferential" level of respect; the deferential
plural form is härqaysiliri.
In the extinct Ubykh language, the
T–V distinction was most notable
between a man and his mother-in-law, where the plural form sʸæghʷa
supplanted the singular wæghʷa very frequently, possibly under the
influence of Turkish. The distinction was upheld less frequently in
other relationships, but did still occur.
Modern Standard Arabic
Modern Standard Arabic uses the majestic plural form of the second
person (أنتم antum) in respectful address. It is
restricted to highly formal contexts, generally relating to politics
and government. However, several varieties of Arabic have a clearer
T–V distinction. The most developed is in Egyptian Arabic, which
uses حضرتك ḥaḍritak (literally, "Your Grace"), سعادتك
sa`adtak and سيادتك siyadtak (literally, "Your Lordship") as the
"V" terms, depending on context, while أنت inta is the "T" term.
Ḥaḍritak is the most usual "V" term, with sa`adtak and siyadtak
being reserved for situations where the addressee is of very high
social standing (e.g. a high-ranking government official or a powerful
businessman). Finally, the "V" term is used only with social superiors
(including elders); unfamiliar people perceived to be of similar or
lower social standing to the speaker are addressed with the T term
In modern Hebrew, there is a
T–V distinction used in a set of very
formal occasions, for example, a lawyer addressing a judge, or when
speaking to rabbis. The second person singular אַתָּה (ʔaˈta,
masculine) or אַתְּ (ʔat, feminine) are the usual form of
address in all other situations, e.g. when addressing ministers or
members of the Knesset.
The formal form of address when speaking to a person of higher
authority is the third person singular using the person's title
without the use of the pronoun. Thus, a rabbi could be asked:
?כְּבוֹד הָרַב יִרְצֶה לֶאֱכֹל (kəˈvod
haˈʁav yiʁˈtse leʔeˈχol, "would the honorable rabbi like to
eat?") or a judge told: כְּבוֹדוֹ דָּן
בְּבַקָּשָׁתִי (kəvoˈdo dan bəvakaʃaˈti, "his
honour is considering my request").
Other persons of authority are normally addressed by their title only,
rather than by name, using the second person singular. For example,
officers and commanders in the army are addressed as
הַמְּפַקֵּד (haməfaˈked, "the commander") by troops.
In non-Hebrew-speaking Jewish culture, the second-person form of
address is similarly avoided in cases of higher authority (e.g., a
student in a yeshiva would be far more likely to say in a classroom
discussion "yesterday the Rav told us..." than "yesterday you told
us..."). However, this usage is limited to more conservative (i.e.
In Tamil, the second-person singular pronoun நீ [niː] and its
derived forms are used to address children, (younger or very close)
members of the family and to people who are younger than the speaker.
The second person plural pronoun நீங்கள் [niːŋgʌɭ]
is used to address elders (also within the extended family), teachers,
people who are older than the speaker and anyone whom the speaker does
not personally know, especially in formal situations.
Chinese honorifics and Chinese naming taboo
Chinese culture has taken naming and forms of address very seriously,
strictly regulating which people were permitted to use which terms in
conversation or in writing. The extreme example is the 1777 execution
Wang Xihou and his entire family and the confiscation of their
entire estate as his penalty for writing the Qianlong Emperor's
personal name as part of a criticism of the Kangxi Dictionary. Many
honorifics and niceties of address fell by the wayside during the
Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s amid Mao Zedong's campaign
against the "Four Olds". This included an attempt to eradicate
expressions of deference to teachers and to others seen as preserving
"counter-revolutionary" modes of thought. The defeat of the Maoist
Gang of Four
Gang of Four in the late 1970s and continuing reforms since the 1980s
has, however, permitted a return of such traditional and regional
T–V distinction was observed among the Chinese by
avoiding any use of common pronouns in addressing a respected
audience. Instead, third-person honorifics and respectful titles were
employed. One aspect of such respectful address was avoiding the use
of the first-person pronoun as well, instead choosing a (typically
humble) epithet in its place. The extreme of this practice occurred
Shi Huangdi abrogated the then-current first-person pronoun 朕
(zhèn); the present first-person pronoun 我 (wǒ) subsequently
developed out of the habit of referring to "this [worthless] body",
the character's original meaning. An important difference between
T–V distinction in Chinese compared with modern European
languages is that
Chinese culture considers the relative age of the
speakers an important aspect of their social distance. This is
especially strong within families: while the speakers of European
languages may generally prefer forms of address such as "father" or
"grandpa", Chinese speakers consider using the personal names of
elders such a taboo that they may not even know the given names of
grandparents who live in the same apartment. While strictures against
writing the personal name of any ancestor of the last seven
generations are no longer observed, it remains very uncommon to name
children for any living relative: younger people using the name freely
would disrespect the original bearer.
In the present day, the informal second-person pronoun is 你
(Mandarin: nǐ; Minnan: lí) and the honorific pronoun is 您
(Mandarin: nín; Minnan: lín). Much like European languages, the
honorific form developed out of an earlier second-person plural:
during the Jin and Yuan dynasties, the Mandarin dialects mutated
你每 (nǐměi) into 你們 (nǐmen) and then into 您. (A
similar form – 怹, tān – developed for the third-person singular
but is now generally unused.) It is worth noting that the T–V
distinction in Mandarin does not connote a distance or lack of
intimacy between the speakers (as implied, e.g., in the French vous).
On the contrary, it is often noted that the respectful form contains
the radical for "heart" (心, xīn); although this is actually for
phonetic reasons, the implication is that the addressee is loved and
cherished by the speaker.
Most southern dialects, however, do not make this distinction in
speech at all. Cantonese and Shanghainese speakers learn to write both
forms in school but pronounce them identically: the Cantonese as nei5
and the Shanghainese as nóng. Formality is still respected, but their
languages – like Japanese and Vietnamese – retain the earlier
Chinese tradition of employing epithets or honorifics instead of using
any pronouns at all when showing formal respect.
Main article: Japanese pronouns
Japanese honorifics and
Honorific speech in Japanese
Under heavy Chinese influence, traditional
Japanese culture eschewed
the use of common pronouns in formal speech; similarly, the Chinese
first-person singular 朕 (ちん, chin) was arrogated to the personal
use of the emperor. The formality of
Japanese culture was such that
its original pronouns have largely ceased to be used at all. Some
linguists therefore argue that Japanese lacks any pronouns whatsoever,
but – although it is a larger and more complex group of words than
most languages employ –
Japanese pronouns do exist, having developed
out of the most common epithets used to express different
relationships and relative degrees of social status. As in Korean,
polite language encompasses not only these specific pronouns but also
suffixes and vocabulary as well.
Most commonly, 君 (きみ, kimi, orig. "prince", "lord") is used
informally as the second-person singular and 貴方 (あなた, anata,
lit. "dear one") is the most common polite equivalent, but is also
commonly used by women towards an intimate as a term of
endearment. The pronoun 貴様 (きさま, kisama) is
illustrative of the complexity that can be involved, though, in that
its literal meaning is quite flattering – lit. "dear and honorable
sir" – but its ironic use has made it a strong insult in modern
Japanese. Similarly, 御前 (おまえ, omae) – lit. "(one who is)
before (me)" – was traditionally a respectful pronoun used toward
aristocrats and religious figureheads, but today is considered very
informal and impolite, yet also commonly used by husbands towards
their wives in an endearing manner.
Main article: Vietnamese pronouns
Under heavy Chinese influence,
Vietnamese culture has eschewed the use
of common pronouns in formal speech; similarly, the Chinese
first-person singular 朕 (Vietnamese: trẫm) was arrogated to
the personal use of the emperor.
In modern Vietnamese, only the first-person singular tôi is in common
use as a respectful pronoun; any other pronoun should be replaced with
the subject's name or with an appropriate epithet, title, or
relationship in polite formal speech. Similar to modern Chinese (but
to a much greater extent), modern Vietnamese also frequently replaces
informal pronouns with kinship terms in many situations. The somewhat
insulting second-person singular mày is also frequently used in
informal situations among young Vietnamese.
In Thai, first, second, and third person pronouns vary in formality
according to the social standing of the speaker and the referent and
the relationship between them. For a non-exhaustive list of Thai
second person pronouns, see
In Indonesian, the
T–V distinction is extremely important;
addressing a stranger with the pronoun kau or kamu (you) is considered
rude and impolite (unless the stranger is, for example, a child). When
addressing a stranger or someone older, typically Bu ('ma'am') or Pak
('sir') is used. People also use mas (Javanese for 'older brother') or
mbak (Javanese for 'older sister') when addressing someone that is not
old enough to be called Bu or Pak. There are variations in different
areas. If the situation is more formal, such as in meetings or news
broadcasting, Anda is always used, even if those addressed would
otherwise be addressed by kau or kamu in informal situations. A more
informal pronoun, written lu, lo, or sometimes as loe (originated from
Hokkien language) is considered very impolite. This is normally used
by teenagers (particularly in urban centers) to their peers. Adults
can sometimes be heard using this pronoun with their close friends or
when they are angry.
Lu siap? ('Are you ready?'): This form is used between friends in very
informal situations without the presence of someone who has higher
Kamu siap? ('Are you ready?'): This form is used between friends in
either informal or formal situations without the presence of someone
who has higher status.
Anda siap? ('Are you ready?'): This form is used between friends in
formal situations, between business partners, or with someone who has
Apakah Anda siap? (Are you ready?): This form is used between friends
in very formal situations, among strangers, or toward someone who has
higher status. Note that Apakah is an optional question word that is
used in close-ended questions (similar to the use of 'to be' and other
auxiliary verbs to form close-ended questions in English). This is a
form of Bahasa Baku.
Similarly, kalian dan Anda/Anda sekalian are used.
In Tagalog, the familiar second person is ikáw/ka (in the nominative
case). This is replaced by kayó (which is actually the second person
plural) when the situation calls for a more polite tone. The pronoun
kayó is accompanied by the particle pô. This form is generally used
to show respect to close, older relatives. This is also the form
expected when talking with friends of parents or grandparents.
However, when formality is required, the third person plural (silá)
is used instead. This form is used when talking with complete
strangers or people with high ranks, such as government officials.
Sino ka? (Who are you?) [Used to ask for the identity of a person of
equal rank, such as a student to a fellow student. However, this
question sounds impolite.]
Sino pô kayó? (Who are you?) [This form implies that the speaker
believes the person addressed is related to them or a relative, and
just wants to confirm the relationship.]
Sino pô silá? (Who are you, Sir/Ma'am?) [Though 'pô' does not
really translate as 'Sir' or 'Ma'am', the question gives us an idea
that the person addressed is a complete stranger and the speaker has
no idea who they are.]
Younger generations usually mix these forms of address, thus asking
someone Sino ka pô ba? in an attempt to sound polite towards a total
stranger. This and other nonstandard variants are very widespread
especially in Metro Manila and surrounding suburbs.
See also: Basque grammar: Personal pronouns
Basque has two levels of formality in every dialect, which are hi and
zu; Nevertheless, in some areas of Gipuzkoa and Biscay, the respectful
form berori is still used by some speakers, just as the familiar xu in
some areas of the Eastern Low Navarrese dialect, when addressing
children and close friends. Most speakers only use the zu form (zuka
level) and that is the usual one used in methods, slogans... although
the hi form (hika) is very common in villages.
The neutral or formal one is zu, which originally used to be the
plural form of the second person. The informal one is hi, whose use is
limited to some specific situations: among close friends, to children
(children never use it when addressing their parents, neither the
spouses among them), when talking to a younger person, to animals
(cattle, pets...), in monologues, and when speaking angrily to
somebody. Their common plural form is zuek, whenever the speaker is
talking to a group of listeners who would all be individually
addressed with the form zu, or the form hi, or both (a conversation
where some listeners are addressed as zu —i.e., somebody's parents,
for instance— and others as hi —the speaker's siblings—).
Unlike zu, hi often makes a distinction whether the addressed one is a
male or a female. For example: duk (thou, male, hast) and dun (thou,
female, hast). The use of the hika level requires the allocutive
agreement (hitano or zeharkako hika, i.e., indirect hika) in
non-subordinate sentences to mark this distinction for the first and
third person verbs. Those allocutive forms are found in the Indicative
and Conditional moods, but never in the Subjunctive and Imperative
moods, with the one exception of goazemak (let's go, said to a male)
and goazeman (said to a female) in Western dialects, opposed to
goazen, the neutral form. For example:
du (neutral, s/he has, neutral form), dik (s/he has, male thou) and
din (s/he has, female thou), as in aitak ikasi du (polite: Dad has
learned it), aitak ikasi dik (informal, said to a male), and aitak
ikasi din (informal, said to a female).
dio (neutral, s/he has it for him / her), ziok (familiar, s/he has it
for him / her, said to a male), and zion (familiar, s/he has it for
him / her, said to a female), as in aitak erosi dio (polite: Dad has
bought it for him / her), aitak erosi ziok (informal, said to a male),
and aitak erosi zion (informal, said to a female).
nintzen (neutral, I was), ninduan (familiar, said to a male), and
nindunan (familiar, said to a female), as in hona etorri nintzen
(polite: I came here), hona etorri ninduan (informal, said to a male),
and hona etorri nindunan (informal, said to a female).
Nevertheless, if any of the allocutive sentences becomes subordinate,
the formal one is used: aitak ikasi duelako (because Dad has learned
it), aitak erosi diolako (because Dad bought it for him / her), and
hona etorri nintzenean (when I came here).
On the other hand, in past tense verbal forms, no distinction is made
when is the addressee is the subject or the direct object in the
sentence. For example:
hintzen, in etxera joan hintzen (thou wentst home),
huen, in filma ikusi huen (thou sawst the film),
hindugun, in ikusi hindugun (we saw thee).
But if the familiar second-person appears in the verb, or if the verb
is an allocutive form in a non-dependent clause, the masculine and
feminine forms differ. For example:
genian / geninan (we had something for thee, male / female): hiri eman
genian, Piarres (we gave it to thee, Peter), and hiri eman geninan,
Maddi (we gave it to thee, Mary).
geniean / genienan (male allocutive / female allocutive, we had
something for them): haiei eman geniean, Piarres (we gave it to them,
Peter), and haiei eman genienan, Maddi (we gave it to them, Mary).
Their corresponding neutral form is haiei eman genien.
banekian erantzuna (I knew the answer, said to a male), and banekinan
erantzuna (I knew the answer, said to a female). Their corresponding
neutral form is banekien erantzuna.
The friendly xu form or xuketa resembles the zuka forms of the verbs,
and includes another kind of allocutive, as hika: cf. egia erran dut
(formal: I told the truth), egia erran diat (informal, said to a
male), egia erran dinat (informal, said to a female), egia erran
dautzut (in formal Eastern Low Navarrese, I told you the truth) and
egia erran dixut (xuketa). It is mainly used among relatives and close
The berori form or berorika is very formal, and hardly used nowadays,
mainly in some areas of Biscay and Gipuzkoa, to address priests, the
elderly, judges and the nobility. Verbs are inflected in their
singular third form, like in Italian ((Lei) è molto gentile, opposed
to (tu) sei molto gentile, you are very nice / thou art very nice) or
the Spanish (usted) es muy amable, opposed to (tú) eres muy amable):
neutral: zuk badakizu hori (you know it, formal), and zu, eser zaitez
hemen (you, sit here),
familiar: hik badakik hori (thou knowest that, said to a male), hik
badakin hori (to a female), and hi, eser hadi hemen (sit here, for
very formal: berorrek badaki hori (you know that: cf. hark badaki
hori, s/he knows that, neutral), and berori, eser bedi hemen (you, sit
down here: cf hura, eser bedi hemen, let him sit down here).
Unlike the hika level, berorika has no allocutive forms.
The extinct dialect of Erronkari or Roncal, spoken in the easternmost
area of Navarre, presented a four-levelled system:
neutral or zuketza, the local equivalent of zuka: etxeara xuan zra
(you went home, you have gone home), etxeara xuan naz (I went home, I
have gone home),
informal or yiketza, which corresponds to hika: etxeara xuan yaz,
(thou wentst home, thou hast gone home), etxeara xuan nuk / etxeara
xuan nun (I went home, I have been home, said to a male / to a
familiar or tzuketza, like the Eastern Navarrese xuka: etxeara xuan
nuzu (I went home, I have been home),
and orika, duka or duketza, the local form of berorika: ori etxeara
xin da (you went home, you have been home).
Esperanto is a T–V-distinguishing language, but usually vi is used
for both singular and plural, just like you in modern English. An
informal second person singular pronoun, ci, indeed exists, but it is
rarely used in practice. It is mainly intended to make the
familiar/respectful distinction when translating (literature, for
example) from languages that do have the T–V distinction.
Some have imagined ci as an archaic term that was used before and then
fell out of common usage; however, this is not true. It has appeared
only sometimes in experimental language. In standard Esperanto, vi has
always been used since the beginning. For example, ci appears in
neither the Fundamenta Gramatiko nor the Unua Libro. But,
especially in some circles, people have begun to use ci in practical
language, mainly as the familiar and intimate singular, reserving vi
for the plural and formal singular. Others use ci as singular and vi
as plural regardless of formality.
In Ido, in theory tu is limited to friends and family, whereas vu is
used anywhere else. However, many users actually adapt the practice in
their own mother tongue and use tu and vu accordingly. In the plural,
though, the only form in use is vi, which does not distinguish between
formal and informal address.
In all cases, an -n is added to the original pronoun to indicate a
direct object that precedes its own verb: Me amoras tu (I love you)
becomes Tun me amoras if the direct object takes the first place, for
example for emphatic purposes.
Tolkien's High Elvish
In High Elvish, self-named Quenya, there is a distinction between
singular informal tyë and singular formal lyë. The plural of both
forms is lë. The formal form is expected between all but family
members and close friends. The appendices to
Lord of the Rings
Lord of the Rings state
Westron followed a similar pattern, although the dialect of Shire
had largely lost the formal form.
Related verbs, nouns and pronouns
Some languages have a verb to describe the fact of using either a T or
a V form. Some also have a related noun or pronoun. The English words
are used to refer only to English usage in the past, not to usage in
other languages. The analogous distinction may be expressed as "to use
first names" or "to be on familiar terms (with someone)".
hika (aritu / hitz egin) (very close)
zuka (aritu / hitz egin) (neuter / formal)
berorika (aritu / hitz egin) (very formal)
teal / mont dre te / komz dre te
c'hwial / mont dre c'hwi / komz dre c'hwi
(говоря / съм) на "ти" (govorya / sam) na "ti"
(говоря / съм) на "Вие" (govorya / sam) na "Vie"
на "ти" na "ti" (more like adverb)
на "Вие" na "Vie" (more like adverb)
tutejar / tractar de tu / vós
tractar de vostè
稱呼你 (chēnghū nǐ)
稱呼您 (chēnghū nín)
at være dus
at være Des
tutoyeren; jijen, jouen, jijjouwen (used very rarely)
to thou (referring to historical usage)
to you (referring to historical usage)
at túa, at siga tú
at siga tygum
vouvoyer; very rarely vousoyer / voussoyer
vouvoiement; very rarely vousoiement / voussoiement
dare del tu
dare del Lei / dare del Voi
mengamukan (transitive); berkamu (intransitive); menggunakan kamu
mengandakan (transitive); beranda (intransitive); menggunakan Anda
pengamuan; penggunaan kamu
pengandaan; penggunaan Anda
말을 놓다 (mareul notta); 반말하다 (banmalhada)
말을 높이다 (mareul nophida); 존댓말하다 (jondaemmalhada);
높임말 (nopphim mal); 존댓말 (jondaemmal)
å være dus
å være Des
mówić per ty
mówić per pan / pani
mówienie per ty
mówienie per pan / pani
tratar por tu, você; chamar de tu, você
tratar por senhor / senhora / senhorita; chamar de senhor / senhora /
o senhor / a senhora
plural de politeţe
обращаться на "ты"
быть на "ты"
тыкать (tykat') (colloquial)
обращаться на "вы"
быть на "вы"
выкать (vykat') (colloquial)
не персирати (ne persirati),
бити на ти (biti na ti),
бити на ви (biti na vi),
ty prajić, tykać
wy rěkać / prajić, wykać
ty groniś, tykaś (se) lit.
wy groniś, wykaś lit.
ty gronjenje, tykanje
wy gronjenje, wykanje
ustedear; tratar de usted
senli benli olmak / konuşmak
sizli bizli olmak / konuşmak
senli benli olmak / konuşmak
sizli bizli olma / konuşmak
звертатися на "ти" (zvertatysia na "ty")
звертатися на "ви" (zvertatysia na "vy")
звертання на ти (zvertannia na ty)
звертання на ви (zvertannia na vy)
זײַן אױף דו (zayn af du)
זײַן פּער דו (zayn per du)
זײַן אױף איר (zayn af ir)
אַריבערגיין אױף דו (aribergeyn af du)
Pluractionality, another plural device used for politeness
Style (manner of address)
^ The Pronouns of Power and Solidarity published in T.A Seboek (ed)
(1960). Republished in Giglioli (1972). The pages numbers cited below
are from Giglioli.
^ Giglioli p. 217
^ Brown & Gilman pp. 254–255
^ Brown & Gilman pp. 257–258
^ Brown & Gilman pp. 278–280
^ Crystal, David & Ben (2002) pp. 450–451. Reproduced at David
Crystal's Explore Shakespeare's Works site
^ Brown & Gilman p. 258
^ Brown & Gilman pp. 269–261
^ Brown & Gilman pp. 266–268
^ a b c Lawn, Rebecca (7 September 2012). "Tu and Twitter: Is it the
end for 'vous' in French?". BBC News Magazine. Retrieved 7 September
Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary Online entry for "ye, pron. and n."
^ "Interlude 12 : Choosing thou or you"
David Crystal (2004) pp.
^ Crystal (2004) p. 308
^ Schneider, Edgar W. "The English dialect heritage of the southern
United States", from Legacies of Colonial English, Raymond Hickey, ed.
^ "Interlude 17, Tracking a change: the case of y'all" Crystal (2004)
^ Summarised in Fagyal et al (2006) pp. 267–268
^ Fagyal et al p. 268
^ a b c As with many instances in English, the pronoun is capitalized
when talking to God, as in prayer.
^ In some spoken varieties of Arabic such as Egyptian, terms such as
حضرتك (ḥaḍretak) ("your grace") or سيادتك (siyadtak)
("your lordship") are used
^ In some spoken varieties of Arabic such as Egyptian, terms such as
ḥaḍretkum ("your graces") or siyadetkum ("your lordships") are
^ Technically a "double plural", sometimes employed for a small group
^ Only commonly employed in northern dialects like Pekingese.
^ Including 大家 (dàjiā) and 各位 (gèwèi). In the past, 您们
(nínmen) is considered incorrect, but is now used more frequently,
especially in Taiwan.
^ From obsolete jelui = jij + lui = "you people"
^ a b c d As grammatical case largely disappeared during the
transition from Middle to Early Modern English, ye was often replaced
with you from the 15th century on.
^ Only common in official documents.
^ Necessitates compound verb forms with participle in singular.
^ a b Even as a 2nd-person pronoun, Sie employs 3rd-person (plural)
^ employs 3rd-person singular verb conjugations. Derisive.
^ a b Capitalized in correspondence.
^ Þū was the nominative case of the word; the accusative form was
originally þeċ but over time the dative þē replaced it.
^ Þou's accusative was at first spelled þe or the but later became
^ There is a minor amount of
T–V distinction among dialects of
English that (a) employ informal first-person singulars (such as South
Yorkshire's continuing use of tha) or (b) have adopted a new
second-person plural (such as the American South's y'all). The
non-prestige nature of these dialects means that they maintain a
separate language register (including you) to be used among people
outside their community whose judgment they are afraid of offending.
For other variants, see the articles collected at
Category:Second-person plural pronouns in English.
^ Oaks, Dallin H. "The Language of Prayer". Ensign, May 1983.
^ Including the Quakers' "Plain Speech" and Latter-day Saint'
^ Pieter Duijff, Taal in stad en land – Fries en Stadsfries. Sdu
Uitgevers, The Hague, 2002: pp. 51–2
^ a b c d About.com Sie & Du.
^ As in Ludvig Holberg's dramas.
^ DR 2. Prince Joachim interview.
^ Daily Motion.com. Arrogant Prince Joachim.
^ Some members of the royal family insist upon it. During a 2010
interview with a TV 2 journalist on board the training ship Danmark,
Prince Joachim pointedly refused to answer a question posed in the du
form until the reporter rephrased it as De. The public debate then
centered around whether the prince had demonstrated snobbishness, the
journalist ignorance, or both.
^ a b Etik.dk. Hver fjerde dansker vil afskaffe 'De' ["One in four
Danes want to abolish 'De'"]. 6 July 2012. (in Danish)
^ A 2012 survey found that only 6% of Danes would use De towards
anyone they met and 16% would self-consciously never use it. However,
64% accepted its use towards members of the Danish royal family.
^ During debates at the Folketing, members are required to address one
another in the third person by title or with the prefix of hr. (Mr.)
or fru (Mrs.), frøken (Miss) having recently been given up. In
debates away from the rostrum, however, they invariably default to du.
^ The same 2012 survey said 46% of Danes use De when speaking towards
the elderly, out of respect. At the same time, the elderly were much
more supportive of abolishing the word entirely.
^ Hansen, Erik. Skulle vi ikke være Des. Mål og Mæle, #1. 1998. (in
^ Mastering the Unmasterable: A French Puzzle. Mary Blume,
International Herald Tribune, 19 February 2000.
^ As especially polite alternatives, one may capitalize the pronoun to
Lei or use Ella (lit. "She"); both sound quite archaic. If the
pronoun is capitalized, the majuscule is applied to all its forms
including the enclitics: ...vorrei incontrarLa per parlarGliene ("I
would like to talk to you about it").
^ As when meeting his former teacher: Siete Voi qui, ser Brunetto?
("Are you here, sir Brunetto?").
^ Serianni, Luca. La Crusca per voi, no. 20. April 2000. (in Italian)
^ Cipolla, Gaetano. Introduction to Sicilian Grammar. Legas.
p. 42. ISBN 1881901254.
^ "Subject: Re: sibh & thu". GAELIC-L Archives. 29 October 1991.
Retrieved 7 November 2014.
^ a b c Ceri Jones, Dweud Eich Dweud: A Guide to Colloquial and
Idiomatic Welsh, 2013 (Llandysul, Ceredigion: Gwasg Gomer, 2001), p.
204, which also cites Dic Jones, Os Hoffech Wybod, 1st ed.
(Caernarfon, Gwynedd: Gwasg Gwynedd, 1989)
^ a b On the origin of Russian Vy
^ Kordić, Snježana (2001). Wörter im Grenzbereich von Lexikon und
Grammatik im Serbokroatischen [
Serbo-Croatian Words on the Border
Between Lexicon and Grammar]. Studies in Slavic Linguistics ; 18
(in German). Munich: Lincom Europa. pp. 37–48.
ISBN 3-89586-954-6. LCCN 2005530313. OCLC 47905097.
OL 2863539W. Summary.
^ "Szanowny Panie Kowalski!". Poradnia językowa PWN. Retrieved 1 May
^ S. Dubisz; H. Karaś; N. Kolis (1995). "Pluralis maiestaticus".
Dialekty i gwary polskie. Warszawa: Wiedza Powszechna. p. 96.
^ "Jak to w rodzinie…". Poradnia językowa PWN. Retrieved 1 May
^ "Agata podniosła się ze swojego fotela…". Retrieved 1 May
^ "ask.fm/Kuebonafide ---- :* !". Archived from the original
on 29 April 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
^ lki. "Dabartinės lietuvių kalbos žodynas". lki.lt.
^ אורי אורבך, סבא שלי היה רב, 2002
^ Zdic.net. 《漢典》 [Chinese Dictionary]. "我". Accessed 21
August 2013. (in Chinese)
^ Although modern Chinese now distinguishes between 你们 ("you"
[plural]) and 您 ("you" [cherished, respectful]), the legacy of 您's
origin is still retained in the rarity of observing the form 您们 in
Mandarin Chinese. Native speakers employ indirect phrasing like
"everybody" (大家, dàjiā, lit. "big family") or "ladies and
gentlemen" (各位, gèwèi, lit. "every seat") and 您们 only
infrequently appears in
Taiwanese Mandarin and among foreign students
of the language.
^ "Dua persono". Bertilo. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
^ see Spanish, ustedeo
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Balbo, Sophie (23 June 2005). "Dites-moi tu". L'Hebdo (in
Blume, Mary (19 February 2000). "Mastering the Unmasterable: A French
Puzzle". International Herald Tribune.
Brown, Roger; Gilman, Albert (1960). "The pronouns of power and
solidarity". In T. A. Sebeok. Style in Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT
Press. pp. 253–276.
Crystal, David (2004). The Stories of English. Overlook Press.
Crystal, David; Crystal, Ben (2002). Shakespeare's Words: A Glossary
and Language Companion. Penguin Books.
Fagyal, Zsuzsanna; Kibbee, Douglas; Jenkins, Frederic (28 September
2006). French: A Linguistic Introduction. Cambridge University Press.
Giglioli, Per Paolo (1972). Language and Social Context: Selected
Readings. Penguin Books.
Helmbrecht, Johannes (2005). "Politeness distinctions in pronouns". In
Martin Haspelmath; et al. The World Atlas of Language Structures.
Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 186–190.
Taavitsainen, Irma; Jucker, Andreas H. (2003). Diachronic Perspectives
on Address Term Systems. John Benjamins.
Kleinman, Scott (2009). "About
Middle English Grammar" (PDF).
Retrieved 16 June 2014.
The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. New York: Oxford
University Press. 1971.
Media related to
T–V distinction at Wikimedia Commons
Lexical categories and their features
Abstract / Concrete
Animate / Inanimate
Common / Proper
Countable / Mass / Collective
Strong / Weak
Verbal / Deverbal
Finite / Non-finite
Participle (adjectival · adverbial)
Yes and no