How to use Tu & Vous in French ? What is the difference between Tu and Vous in French? Both mean you, yet are used in different situations. This article will explain you how to use Tu & Vous in French in order to help you choose according to the situation. For English speakers, choosing between Tu and Vous may be totally baffling
Vous is used in the following situations
1. The other person is a stranger to you (sale-assitants, waiters, passers-by, etc).
2. Colleagues that you don’t know well (depending on your profession: the more conservative the sectors you work in, the more often you’ll use Vous, such as bank or law administrations…) on the other hand, in artistic professions, the medias or marketing, the use of Tu is common.
3.You wish to show respect to someone (boss/superior, teacher, customer, etc.)
4. You are using the plural: when referring to more than a person at a time (audiences, crowds, or more than one person, etc…)
5. The person your addressing is at least 15 years older than you
6. You are hesitant about whether or not you should use vous (if you have a doubt stick to vous and ask if you can switch to tu later)
So when do you really use Vous?
In any formal situation where you encounter a person or a group for the first time and wish to show hiearchic respect. Always keep in mind that many French are still quite conservative and hierarchic status still regulates social interactions. But thankfully, amongst the younger generations or in more « relaxed » sectors such as the medias, new technologies, startups, the arts, vous is becoming more obsolete while tu more current.
Tu is used in the following situations
1.When talking to family members, lovers, friends or other people you know very well
2. (Usually) when talking to younger people, children or teenagers under 15.
3. When partaking in informal situations such as parties, dinners or lunches with friends, etc.
4. During business interactions with colleagues, as long as long as you are not talking to your boss (if the person is of superior hierarchy, wait for them to first use tu before you do)
5. When you are amongst peers such as friends, or when teens talk to kids…
6. If you’re talking to someone who starts using Tu with you and you don’t feel obliged to show him or her a certain respect, such as during business interactions (which wouldn’t be the case if you were conversing with a teacher, or someone at least 10 years older than you)
What kind of scenarios for Tu ?
A lot of student around me feel ill at ease using Vous, as if Tu was more natural, spontaneous and user-friendly. This is both true and false. Remember that the French – from early childhood onwards – may spontanously use Vous with strangers. It’s natural thing for them. Furthermore, in extremelly rare situations such as the with the famous French couple: philosopher Bernard Henry- Levy and his actrice wife Arielle Dombasle, Vous is used in the relationship as a style effect!
When you don’t know how to use Tu & Vous
At a dinner recently, I was sitting next to a young seminarian – a quite unusual situation for me ! I could tell he was about 15 years younger than me. So no doubt about using Tu should have existed. And yet, finding it improper to use Tu with a future priest, I ended up using Vous. Curious about my dinning neighbours’ own attitudes, I asked them later how they had spoken to him. It was interesting to see that one of them had used Tu, the other Vous, whereas the third one being more hesitant, managed to avoided using either Tu or Vous!
I then concluded that as I often do, there’s always a grey area within language usage in which there is no black or white rule. In addition, all sorts of social codes echo with French administration, its laws and very complex network of cultural characteristics. That is why English pragmatism can be quite enviable at times !
If you hesitate between Tu and Vous, if you intuitively feel you can start using Tu in an informal and casual conversation, although you’re uncertain about it, be daring (e) and tactfully ask the person :
« Est-ce que je peux vous tutoyer ? » « May I say tu to you ? » or « On peut peut-être se dire tu ? « Maybe, we could say tu to each other ? » the given response will help you avoid un Faux pas.
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If you have any hesitation about using Tu or Vous in a particular social situation, don’t hesitate to share this with me, and I will try to guide you in a helpful way.
*Litteraly, a Chineese brain-teaser.Read More
25 French idioms to sound like a native
Are you interested in learning French idioms to sound more like a native? Using French expressions and idioms are a great way to sound more natural and to better understand French language and French culture. But they can also be extremely confusing and sometimes funny if you translate them literally. They often carry certain cultural nuances that are relevant for native speakers. For the non-native speaker, French idioms and their meanings simply have to be memorized. Here is a selection of 25 bizarre French idioms used in the common language. Each idiom comes with its word- by-word translation in English and its meaning.
1 – L’habit ne fait pas le moine
Literal translation : the clothe doesn’t make the monk
What it means : don’t judge by the appearance
2 – J’ai un coup de foudre
Literal translation : I have a lightning stroke
What is means : i feel love at the first sight
3 – J’ai le cafard
Literal translation : I have the cockroach
What it means : I have the blues, I am down
4 – Je donne ma langue au chat
Literal translation : I give my tongue to the cat
What it means : I stop guessing
5 – Chapeau!
Literal translation : hat
What it means : congratulations !
6 – Il est dans le cirage
Literal translation : he is in the polish
What it means : he is out for the count
7 – Rien à cirer
Literal translation : nothing to polish
What it means : I don’t give a damn
8 – Tenez-moi au courant
Literal translation : keep me at the current
What it means : keep me informed
9 – Il a filé à l’anglaise
Literal translation : he took English leave
What it means : he took French leave
10 – Tu vas marcher à la baguette !
Literal translation : you will walk at the stick
What it means : you will be ruled with an iron hand !
11 – Elle a un nom à coucher dehors
Literal translation : she has a name to sleep outside
What it means : she has an impossible name
12 – Il est tombé dans les pommes
Literal translation : he felt in the apples
What it means : he fainted
13 – Tu es une poule mouillée !
Literal translation : you are a wet hen !
What it means : you are a coward
14 – J’ai un rhume carabiné
Literal translation : I have a rifled cold
What it means : I have a bad cold
15 – On est serrés comme des sardines
Literal translation : we are as tight as sardines
What it means : we are extremly tight
16 – Vous arrivez comme un cheveu sur la soupe
Literal translation : You arrive like a hair on the soup
What it means : You turn up at the wrong moment
17 – C’est très chouette
Literal translation : It’s very owl
What it means : I’s great ( used for a place / moment / person ) fam
18 – Merci pour votre coup de fil
Literal translation : thank you for your blow of string
What it means : thank you for your call ( fam )
19 – Je me fais un sang d’encre
Literal translation : I am making myself a blood of ink
What it means : I am very worried
20 – J’ai les nerfs à fleur de peau
Literal translation : I have the nerves very close to the skin
What it means : I am edgy
2 – Vous perdez la boule
Literal translation : you are loosing the bowl
What it means : you are going crazy
23 – Arrêtez de raconter des salades
Literal translation : stop telling salads
What it means : stop lying
24 – Ca va mettre du beurre dans les épinards
Literal translation : It’s going to put butter in the spinach
What it means : it going to help us financially
25 – J’ai la puce à l’oreille
Literal translation : I have the flea at the hear
What it means : I suspect something
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10 useful and Easy French Idiomatic Expressions
If you take French lessons you have probably already heard about idiomatic expressions. In French, just as in other languages, there are hundreds of common expressions and proverbs. They are so many that you can easily be lost if you see them listed in alphabetic order. Some are currently commonly used in everyday conversations whilst others are rarely or no longer in use. I have listed 10 useful and easy French idiomatic expressions that you will come across in everyday conversations.
1 Raconter des salades
Literal meaning : to tell salads
What it means : to tell lies
-Paul ment tout le temps, il raconte des salades à ses amis et maintenant plus personne ne le croit
– Paul lies all the time, he keeps lying to his friends and now nobody believes him anymore
2 Fumer comme un pompier
Literal meaning: to smoke like a fireman
What it means : to smoke like a chimney
-Sonia fume 30 cigarettes par jour, elle fume comme un pompier
-Sonia smokes 30 cigarettes a day, she smokes like a chimney
3 Il n’a pas l’air dans son assiette
Literal meaning : he doesn’t seem in his plate
What it means : it seems that he is not feeling well
-Il est très pâle ce matin et il a l’air fatigué ; il n’est pas dans son assiette
-He is very pale this morning and he looks tired. He is not feeling well
4 Etre craquant(e)
Literal meaning : to be crunchy
What it means : used about someone who is very cute
-J’adore ce petit chat noir, il est vraiment craquant
-I love this little black cat. He is very cute
5 Etre mauvaise langue
Literal meaning : to have a bad tongue
What is means : to be a malicious gossip
-Elle critique tout le temps ses amis. Elle est mauvaise langue
-She keeps critisizing her friends. She is a malicious gossip
6 Avoir le cœur sur la main
Literal meaning : to have the heart on the hand
What is means : qualification of someone who is very generous or kind hearted
-Elle est adorable, elle aide toujours ses amis et consacre beaucoup de temps aux autres. Elle a vraiment le cœur sur la main
-She is adorable, she always helps her friends et dedicates a lot of time to people. She is very kind hearted
7 : Etre serré( e ) comme des sardines
Literal meaning : as packed as sardines
What is means : when people are a large number in a small space
-Lorsque les gens vont travailler tout le monde est serré comme des sardines dans le métro
-When people go to work, everybody is tight as sardines
8 : Ce n’est pas tes oignons
Literal meaning : these are not your onions
What is means : this is none of your business
– Alors, c’est vrai ce que j’ai entendu ? Tu sors avec Béatrice maintenant ?
– Is it true what I’ve heard? You’re going out with Beatrice now ?
– Désolée, je ne peux pas te le dire, ce n’est pas tes oignons
– Sorry but I can’t tell you, this is none of your business
9 : C’est bon marché
Literal meaning : it is good market
What is means : it is quite cheap
-Les fraises au marché ne sont pas chères, elles sont même très bon marché
-Strawberrys at the market are not expensive, they are even very cheap
10 : L’habit ne fait pas le moine
Literal meaning : cloth doesn’t make the monk
What is means : do not judge people by their appearance
-C’est incroyable, cet homme a l’air d’un ange et pourtant c’est un dangereux criminel
-C’est possible, l’habit ne fait pas le moine
– It’s incredible, this man looks like an angel, though he is a dangerous criminal
– It is possible, you can’t judge people by their appearance
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Do you have favorite French proverbs or French expressions, that you would like to add here?
Make sure to leave a comment! And if you wish to learn more idiomatic expressions, why don’t you have private French lessons in Paris with French à La Carte ? We offer personalized lessons on a one-to one basis to match your needs, learning abilities, schedule, and location in Paris.