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Vouvoiement vs tutoiement

I came across an article on BBC yesterday that discusses the use of “tu” on social media and how this is causing a cultural clash in France. But first, let’s pedal back a little for those who read the sentence above and went “what”?

What’s tu?

Or for the Malaysians, apa tu? ;)

We have it easy in English. When you talk to someone, you refer to the person simply as “you”. That’s it. It doesn’t matter if it’s address to one person, or several, or the age and rank of the person. However, in French, not quite so. There’s an entire quagmire to navigate here and a false move can quickly make you a social pariah to said offended person.

At a basic level, “tu” is you in the singular, and “vous” is you in the plural. Add on the layer of politesse, “tu” is now an informal you, used to address a friend, a colleague (but not a superior unless he/she is a friend or has ok’ed), a child or a family member/relative; “vous” is a formal you, used to address anyone you don’t know, someone older than you, someone with authority (bosses fall in this category) and someone you’re showing a level of respect (say, the President).

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