T–V distinction

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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. Languages such as modern English that, outside of certain dialects, have no morphosyntactic T–V distinction may have 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" or "ma'am". Under a broader classification, T and V forms are examples of honorifics.


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.[1] 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[2] 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 English.

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

In the 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.[3] This may be represented in Brown and Gilman's notation:

Unequal power Equal power
Emperor Father High-class friend Low-class friend
T↓  ↑V T↓  ↑V ↓↑V T↓↑
Subject Son High-class friend Low-class friend

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 his 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.[4]

This may be represented as:

Superior has choice Subordinate has choice
Customer Officer Employer Parent Master Elder sibling
T↓V  ↑V T↓V  ↑V T↓V  ↑V T↓  T↑V T↓  T↑V T↓  T↑V
Waiter Soldier Employee Child Faithful servant Younger sibling

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.[5][6]

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 definitions.[7]

Modern history

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 following norms:[8]

Superior choice removed Subordinate choice removed
Customer Officer Employer Parent Master Elder sibling
↑↓V ↑↓V ↑↓V T↑↓ T↑↓ T↑↓
Waiter Soldier Employee Child Faithful servant Younger sibling

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 England the Society of Friends obliged its members to use only T to everyone, and some continue to use T (thee) to one another.[9] In most Modern English dialects the choice of T no longer exists outside of poetry.

Changes in progress

It was reported in 2012 that use of the French form vous is in decline in social media[citation needed]. 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[10] as well as in Italian.[citation needed]

History of use in individual languages


The Old English and Early Middle English second person pronouns thu 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 for ye as a V pronoun in place of the singular thou exists in a Middle English text of 1225 composed in 1200.[11] The usage may have started among the 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 .[12]

David Crystal summarises 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 closely related
  • 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[13]

The T-V distinction was still well preserved when Shakespeare began 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 popular speech. In the first half of the seventeenth century, thou disappeared from Standard English, although the T-V distinction was preserved in many regional dialects. When the 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 for both singular and plural address. 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 regionalism.[14]


In 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.[15] 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 other regions.

In the 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.[16]

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. For example, the catchphrase of "Be careful, Michael" from Knight Rider was usually dubbed "Seien Sie vorsichtig, Michael" in German, implying both formality (use of Sie) and familiarity (use of first name). 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" (peers' address).[citation needed]

Translation issues

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 formal.

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 the Latin singular tu and respectful forms derived from Latin plural 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 ambiguous). In Latin American Spanish, the opposite change has occurred – having lost the V form vosotros, Latin Americans address all groups as ustedes, even if the group is composed of friends whom they would call or vos (both T forms).[citation needed] In Standard 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
Afrikaans jy
u[17] julle u[17]
Albanian ti ju ju ju
Amharic አንተ (antä, M)
አንቺ (anči, F)
እስዎ (ɨsswo)
እርስዎ (ɨrswo)
እናንተ (ɨnnantä) እስዎ (ɨsswo)
እርስዎ (ɨrswo)
Arabic أنتَ (anta, M)
أنتِ (anti, F)
antum (M)
antunna (F)
antum (M)
antunna (F)
Aragonese tu vusté
vos (Ansó dialect)
vusaltros (regional)
vusotros (regional)
vos (Ansó dialect)
Armenian դու (du, EAST)
դուն (tun, WEST)
դուք (duk, EAST)
դուք (tuk, WEST)
դուք (duk, EAST)
դուք (tuk, WEST)
դուք (duk, EAST)
դուք (tuk, WEST)
Azerbaijani (Azeri) sən siz siz siz
Basque hi (intimate)
zu (standard)
zu (standard)
berori (very respectful)
zuek zuek
Belarusian ты (ty) (Vy) вы (vy) вы (vy)
Bengali তুই (tui; very informal)
তুমি (tumi)
আপনি (apni) তোরা (tora; very informal)
তোমরা (tomra)
আপনারা (apnara)
Breton te c'hwi c'hwi c'hwi
Bulgarian ти (ti) Вие (Vie) вие (vie) вие (vie)
Catalan tu vostè (formal)
vós (respectful)
vosaltres vostès (formal)
Mandarin Chinese (Modern) () (nín[21]) s 你们 nǐmen
t 你們
Croatian ti Vi vi vi
Czech ty vy vy vy
Danish du De (increasingly uncommon) I De (increasingly uncommon)
Dutch jij (Netherlands)
gij (Flanders)
u jullie
Early Modern English thou (NOM)
thee (OBJ)
ye[24] (NOM)
you (OBJ)
ye[24] (NOM)
you (OBJ)
ye[24] (NOM)
you (OBJ)
Modern English you you you you
Esperanto vi
ci (less common)
vi vi vi
Estonian sina
Faroese tygum[25] tit tit
Filipino ka kayo kayo sila
Finnish sinä Te[26] te Te
French tu vous
il/elle (show deference)
vous vous
ils/elles (show deference)
Frisian (West) jo[17] jimme jimme
Scottish Gaelic thu sibh sibh sibh
Galician tu
vostede vós vostedes
Georgian შენ (shen) თქვენ (tkven) თქვენ (tkven) თქვენ (tkven)
German du Sie[27]
Ihr (ARCH or DIAL)
ihr Sie[27]
Ihr (ARCH or DIAL)
Modern Greek εσύ (esí) εσείς (esís) εσείς (esís) εσείς (esís)
Gujarati તું (tu) તમે (tame) તમે લોકો (tame loko) તમે લોકો (tame loko)
Hindi तू (, very informal)
तुम (tum)
आप (āp) तुम लोग (tum log) आप लोग (āp log)
Hungarian te maga (rural and a bit old-fashioned)
ön (formal and official)
ti maguk (rural and a bit old-fashioned)
önök (formal and official)
Icelandic þú þér (very uncommon) þið þér (very uncommon)
Ido tu vu vi vi
Indonesian kamu (more familiar)
Anda kalian Anda
Anda sekalian (less common)
Interlingua tu vos vos vos
Italian tu Lei or lei
voi (dated or DIAL)
Ella (ARCH)
Loro or loro (increasingly rare)
Japanese various various various various
Javanese kowe
kowe kabeh panjenengan sedanten
Kannada ನೀನು (niinnu) ನೀವು (niivu) ನೀವು (niivu) ನೀವು (niivu)
Kazakh сен (sen) сіз (siz) сендер (sender) сіздер (sizder)
Korean neo (directly addressing a person);
dangsin 당신 (addressing anonymous readers)
neohui 너희 — (yeoreobun 여러분)
Kung-ekoka a i!a i!a i!a
(N. Kurdish)
تو (tu) هون (hûn)
هنگۆ (hingo)
تو (tu)
هون (hûn)
هنگۆ (hingo)
هون (hûn)
هنگۆ (hingo)
(S. Kurdish)
تۆ (to) ێوه (êwe)
تۆ (to)
ێوه (êwe) ێوه (êwe)
Kyrgyz сен (sen) сиз (siz) силер (siler) сиздер (sizder)
Ladino vos vozótros vozótros
Latvian tu[28] jūs[28] jūs jūs
Lithuanian tu Ponas
jūs Jūs
Lombard ti
lüü (M)
lée (F)
viòltar viòltar

Malay kamu (standard), awak (regional Malay; common spoken short form is engkau informal), hang (northern dialect, but understood and accepted across Peninsula 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 summonses). 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)
Malayalam nee thaankal ningal ningal
Macedonian ти (ti) Вие (Vie) вие (vie) вие (vie)
Maltese int, inti int, inti intom intom
Marathi तू तुम्ही tumhī (formal),
आपण āpaṇ (official)
तुम्ही tumhī तुम्ही tumhī (formal),
आपण āpaṇ (official)
Mongolian чи (chi) та (ta) та нар (ta nar) та нар (ta nar)
Nepali तँ, तिमी (tã, timi) तपाईं (tapāī̃) तिमी(-हरू) (timi[-harū]) तपाईं(-हरू) (tapāī̃[-harū])
Norwegian (bokmål) du/deg De/Dem (archaic) dere/dere De/Dem (archaic)
Norwegian (nynorsk) du/deg De/Dykk (archaic) de/dykk De/Dykk (archaic)
Odia tu/tume aapano tumemane aapanomane
Persian تو to شما shomâ شما shomâ شما shomâ
Polish ty pani (to a woman)
pan (to a man)
(verbs following any of the above addresses are in the 3rd person singular form)
In the early period of the communist rule, a practice of using the second-person plural form wy as a formal way of referring to a single person was introduced (a calque from Russian) but it did not catch on.
wy państwo (general)
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, in Africa, in Asia-Pacific and in North and Middle Americas. tu ("te; ti") você; o senhor/a senhora, dona; vossa excelência ("o / a; lhe; si; se; lo/la")
(Vós / O Senhor / A Senhora when addressing a deity, Jesus or the Virgin Mary)
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, a madame; vossa excelência (oblique "o / a; lhe; se; si", clitic "lo/la")
(Vós / O Senhor / A Senhora when addressing a deity, …)

vocês 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 Uruguay. 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)
vocês os senhores/as senhoras
Punjabi (Punjab) ਤੂੰ‌
In Tolkien's High-Elvish of Elvenhome (for equal people) or (to inferior people) (to superior people) or (to equal or inferior people)
Romanian tu dumneata (less formal)
matale, mata (regional)
dumneavoastră (formal)
voi dumneavoastră / domniile voastre (archaic)
Russian ты (ty) narrowly reserved intimates (or for insults) вы (vy) the unmarked norm

Note: the capitalised spelling Вы is used in formal correspondence

вы (vy)

Note: not capitalised

вы (vy)

Note: not capitalised

Rusyn ты () () вы () вы ()
Sanskrit त्वम् (tvam)
(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)
Scots thoo, mostly replaced by ye
[ðuː], Southern [ðʌu], Shetland [duː]
ye, you ye, you ye, you
Serbian ти (ti) Ви (Vi) ви (vi) ви (vi)
Slovak ty Vy vy vy
Slovene ti vi
Vi (protocolar)
vidva (dual)
vidve or vedve (dual – when addressing two women);
vi (plural)
ve (plural – when addressing only women)
vi (dual and plural)
Sorbian (Lower) ty Wy wej (dual), wy (plural) wy
Sorbian (Upper) ty Wy wój (dual), wy (plural) wy
Somali adi adiga idinka idinka
Spanish in Peninsular Spain, Equatorial Guinea usted (formerly or literary vos, usía and vuecencia/vuecelencia among others) vosotros (masc.) vosotras (fem.) ustedes
Spanish in some parts of Andalusia and in the Canary Islands usted ustedes (in Andalusia sometimes it is heard an altered system: e.g.: ustedes estáis; the vosotros/as pronouns are increasingly popular and replacing this one) ustedes
Spanish of most of the Americas usted
Note: in Cuba, is generally used instead, even for someone one has just met.
ustedes ustedes (literary vosotros, vosotras, in poetry, anthems...)
Spanish in parts of the Americas, mainly in the Southern Cone and Central America vos usted ustedes ustedes (literary vosotros, vosotras, in poetry, anthems...)
Spanish in Costa Rica and in parts of Colombia usted ('el otro usted': for informal, horizontal communication) usted ustedes ustedes (literary vosotros, vosotras, in poetry, anthems...)
Swedish du/dig Ni/Er (rarely used since the du-reformen) ni/er Ni/Er (rarely used)
Tagalog ikáw
ka (postpositive only)
kayó kayó kayó
Tajik ту (tu) Шумо (Shumo) шумо (shumo) шумо (shumo) or шумоён (shumoyon; the latter is used in Spoken Tajik only)
Tamil நீ (née) நீங்கள் (neengal) நீங்கள் (neengal) நீங்கள் (neengal)
Telugu నువ్వు (nuvvu) మీరు (meeru) మీరు (meeru) మీరు (meeru)
Turkish sen siz siz siz, sizler
Ubykh wæghʷa sʸæghʷaalha sʸæghʷaalha sʸæghʷaalha
Ukrainian ти (ty) ви (vy) / Ви (Vy) (addressing officials in letters etc.) ви (vy) ви (vy)
Urdu تو (very informal)
تم tum
آپ āp تم لوگ tum log آپ لوگ āp log
Uyghur سەن sen سىز siz or سىلى sili سىلەر siler سىزلەر sizler
Uzbek sen siz senlar sizlar
Welsh ti or chdi chi or chwi chi or chwi chi or chwi
Yiddish דו (du) איר (ir) איר (ir)
עץ (ets) (regional)
איר (ir)

In specific languages



Modern 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 most often.


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 T-pronoun thou.

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, 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 God using 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.


Old English used þū[29] in the second-person singular for both formal and informal contexts. Following the Norman Conquest, the Middle English that emerged continued to use þou[30] 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.

In 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 Latin America (most of 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. English was left with a single second-person pronoun for all cases, numbers and contexts and largely incapable of maintaining a T–V distinction.[31] Notwithstanding all of this, the translators of the King James version of the 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[33] 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 Frisian, the formal singular nominative jo (pronounced yo) is very close to the English you and the Middle and Early Modern English ye.


Sie and du

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 ambiguity.

The corresponding informal German address is du. The verbs duzen and siezen mean respectively "to thou" and "to address using you" 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,[34] usage of which is more widespread in German-speaking areas than Anglophone areas.[34] 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 no existing relationship exists.[34] 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.[34] 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 address all adults who are not family members or family friends whom the child has known since they were very young, as Sie. 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 events. As a learned social trait, one person would normally use "Sie", while he or she asks the other person if it is acceptable to be addressed informally, and then act accordingly.

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. 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 courtesy. 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. 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.

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. "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" ("You do 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 e.g. " Ihr habt das Reich der Herrin des Waldes betreten, Ihr könnt nicht umkehren." In English: "you have entered the Realm of 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 that).

Scandinavian languages


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[35] 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 egalitarian Jutland.

As with 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[38] or during military service. In other contexts, it has come to seem excessively formal and old-fashioned to most Danes.[40] Even at job interviews and among parliamentarians,[41] 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,[42] where De is still used. Other times, it is maintained as an affectation, as by the staff of some formal restaurants, the Weekendavisen newspaper, TV 2 announcers, and the avowedly conservative 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,[43] 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 referred to as "Deres majestet" (bokmål)/"Dykkar majestet" (nynorsk) (Your majesty) or in third person singular as "Hans majestet" (His majesty), "Hennes 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 Bokmål and 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 forms—except that 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).


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 around the Second World War or so, but the essentials held up into the 1960s.

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 royalty.

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 revival.

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 '.


In 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Romance languages


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 relationship.

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 the road.

Vous may be used to distance oneself from a person one does not want to interact with. 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.[44]

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 French-speakers.

North American French

North American dialects of French, including Quebec French and Acadian French as well as Louisiana Cajun and Creole 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 comfortable.

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.[citation needed]


Catalan uses the singular pronouns tu (informal) and vostè (formal), while vosaltres (informal) and vostès (formal) are used to refer to 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 vostè is used as a respectful form for elders and respected friends, and vós for foreigners and people whom one does not know well. Vostè is more distant than vós.

Administration uses vós for address to people.


In Peninsular, Mexican, and Peruvian Spanish, as in Italian, an original and vos usage similar to French disappeared in the Early Modern period. Today, is used for informal and familiar address while the respectful form is the third-person usted, which can be used to reference anyone in a respectful manner. Scholars argue that usted evolved as a contraction of the Old Spanish Vuestra Merced, which translates as your mercy. 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 muddied by the kingdom's former empire having been created during the middle of this linguistic shift. The area around Colombia's capital Bogotá (although not the city itself) preserve an alternate respectful form sumercé simplified from a different contraction of vuestra merced. In Rioplatense, vos was preserved – but as a replacement for and not as a respectful form of address; in Chile and Central America, vos is used in spoken address and is used in print and to express moderate formality, that is, it has essentially switched its function to vos's former role.

In the second-person plural, modern Spanish speakers in most of Iberia 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.


European Portuguese

In European Portuguese (as well as in Africa, PALOP, and Asia, 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.

Brazilian Portuguese

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), sua (feminine of seu), Dona (feminine of Dom i.e. Don) and madame ("Ma'am"). 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 genders.

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 form.

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 expected 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, although equalizing.

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 Maranhão).


In 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.[45] Despite lei's original meaning, modern Italian typically concords with the gender of the addressee; using feminine adjectives for a male addressee is not especially insulting but sounds confusing, literary or even archaic.

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[10] 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 expensive restaurants. Voi is the traditional polite form of address in Tuscan dialects: Dante employs it in his 14th-century Divine Comedy when showing particular respect.[46] 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.[47] The use of Voi was imposed by the Fascists from 1938 to 1944. Voi still appears in instruction books and advertisements where Lei would sound too distant, but most of the time it is used directly as a plural and not as a polite singular.

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 lei.


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. 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.


Ancient and Hellenistic or Koine Greek

In Ancient Greek, (σύ) was the singular, and hymeis (ὑμεῖς) the plural, with no distinction for honorific or familiar. Paul addresses King Agrippa II as (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).

Modern Greek

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.


Scottish Gaelic

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 ruibh (with you), umad and umaibh (about you), etc., and into possessive pronouns do and ur (your).


In Irish, the use of sibh as an address to one person has died out, and 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 Eucharist would require the use of the plural.[48]

Welsh, Cornish and Breton

Modern Welsh, Cornish and Breton all retain a T–V distinction to varying degrees.

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 generally observed.[49]

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.[50] Similarly to Italian, the third person singular is used by some speakers in the former Dyfed region of west Wales; it appears, however, that the pronoun used - between either ef or e (masculine) and hi (feminine) - depends on the gender of the listener.[51]

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.



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.[52]

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.[52] Russian speakers online uphold the distinction and use vy for strangers.[10]

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 all standard forms of Serbian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Bosnian, 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;[53] 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.


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.

When referring to 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 adult.

The grammatically correct spelling of the singular word Vie is always with capital "V", 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.


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). 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.[54] 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.

The V-forms are capitalized only in actual letters (or e-mails), where the T-forms ty and wy are also capitalized.[citation needed]

Plural wy is also used as V-form in dialects, for example Matko, co wy jecie? ("Mother, what are you eating?").[55] It is also associated with stereotypical communists and officials.

Besides, other forms can be sometimes used like pan in third person when talking to older family members (Niech mama powie, "Say, mother"),[56] to clergy (Tak, dobrze ksiądz trafił,[57] "Yes, you, priest, are in right place") or to other people in less formal situations, for example in internet forums (Zatem – proszę kolegi – niech kolega się trochę douczy, a potem poucza innych,[58] "Also, 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 [umerli] … 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 masculine/feminine.)

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, royalty).


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).[citation needed]

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, Russian, etc.)

One person
One person
More people
(both formal
and informal)
ty děláš vy děláte vy děláte you do
dělal jsi dělal jste dělali jste you did
jsi hodný jste hodný jste hodní 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,[59] 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 Hindi and Urdu there are three levels of honorifics:

  • 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 [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.

In a similar way Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and other Dravidian tongues have honorifics and T–V distinctions, in all the persons.


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 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.



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. A counter-trend has been reported in recent years, whereby some people are choosing to use the formal form more often.[citation needed] It mostly occurs in addressing the elderly or in situations where strict adherence to form is expected, such as in the military. 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 or 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 "your".

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,plural,singular)

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.

In the 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 Finnish language.

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 present difficulties.


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 (such as 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 instead).
    • 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 kegyed.
    • 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 conjugation.)
  • 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 (Te) holnap utazol el? Láttalak tegnap a tévében.
Maga (Maga) holnap utazik el? Láttam magát tegnap a tévében.
Ön (Ön) önt
<title or first name> (A) tanár úr*
(a) tanár urat*
Tetszik 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 contemporary 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 refer to 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.

Northwest Caucasian


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 uses the majestic plural form of the second person (أنتم antum) to respectfully refer to the addressee. 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 inta.


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 "אתה" (ata, masculine) or "את" (at, feminine) are the usual form of address in all other situations, i.e. 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: "?כבוד הרב ירצה לאכול" (kevod ha-rav yirtze le-ekhol, "would the honorable rabbi like to eat?") or a judge told: "כבודו דן בבקשתי" (kevodo dan be-bakashati, "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 "המפקד" (hamfaked, "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 rabbi told us..." than "yesterday you told us..."). However, this usage is limited to more conservative (i.e. Orthodox) circles.[60]



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 of Wang Xihou and his entire family and the confiscation of their entire estate for his penalty of 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 in the late 1970s and continuing reforms since the 1980s has, however, permitted a return of such traditional and regional expressions.

Historically, the T–V distinction was observed among the Chinese by avoiding any use of common pronouns in reference to 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 when Shi Huangdi abrogated the then-current first-person pronoun (zhèn); the present first-person pronoun () subsequently developed out of the habit of referring to "this [worthless] body", the character's original meaning.[61] An important difference between the 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 "grampa", 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 (Mandarin: ; Minnan: ) and the honorific pronoun is (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 .[62] (A similar form – , 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" (, 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.



Under heavy Chinese influence, traditional Japanese culture eschewed the use of common pronouns in formal speech; similarly, the Chinese first-person singular (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, (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.[citation needed] 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.



Under heavy Chinese influence, Vietnamese culture has eschewed the use of common pronouns in formal speech; similarly, the Chinese first-person singular (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.

Tai-Kadai languages


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 http://www.into-asia.com/thai_language/grammar/you.php.



In Indonesian, the T–V distinction is extremely important; addressing a stranger with the pronouns kau or kamu is considered rude and impolite (unless the stranger is, for example, a teenager). When addressing one's friends of parents or grandparents, typically Bu ('ma'am') or Pak ('sir') are used. If the situation is more formal, such as with meetings or news broadcasts, 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 is considered very impolite. This is normally used by teenagers (particularly in urban centers) to their peers. Adults almost never use this pronoun.

  1. Lu siap? ('Are you ready?'): This form is used between friends in very informal situations without the presence of someone who has higher status.
  2. Kau 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.
  3. Anda siap? ('Are you ready?'): This form is used between friends in formal situations, between business partners, or with someone who has higher status.
  4. Apa 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 Apa is an optional question word that means "what." 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 . 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.

  1. 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.]
  2. 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.]
  3. 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 who are basically ignorant of proper Tagalog grammar usually confuse these forms of address, thus may ask someone Sino ka pô ba? in an attempt to sound polite towards a total stranger. This and other ungrammatical variants are very widespread especially in Metro Manila and surrounding suburbs.

Other languages


The Korean language, like Japanese, employs distinct linguistic registers to express relative status and degrees of formality. Verbs can be exceptionally difficult, with conjugations including various honorific suffixes: -p- () or -sup- ( or ) is employed when expressing respect towards one's audience; when expressing respect towards the verb's grammatical subject, -yo- () is used concerning peers and subordinates and -eusi- (으시) or -si- () towards social superiors. Some verbs have completely different honorific forms. Plain forms (예사말, yesanmal) are used when speaking to family and a still-plainer form (반말, banmal, lit. "half speech") may be used among close friends or towards social inferiors. These simple forms, however, become a provocative insult when used towards those who have reason to expect respectful address. As a rule, Koreans are taught to use polite forms (존댓말, jondaenmal) until it is determined who is socially inferior or to ask for permission to converse in basic forms (말을 놓다, mareul nota, lit. "release language") in order to avoid offense.

The nouns also have a special register of honorific vocabulary. When such a word (e.g., the respectful abeonim (아버님) form of "father") is used as the subject of a sentence, it triggers the polite verb forms regardless of the speakers' relative status, an occasion known as nopimmal (높임말).

Under heavy Chinese influence, Korean generally avoids using pronouns in respectful situations. Unlike Japanese and Vietnamese, Korean does possess a respectful form of the second person: dangshin (당신). Its use is strongly curtailed, though, and it is typically only used in conversations between romantically-committed partners or when praying to God. The "regular" second person pronoun neo () is likewise quite limited in its application, being appropriate only between close friends born during the same year or from an older speaker towards a younger close friend. In other situations, like the other East Asian languages, Koreans employ third-person nouns: common epithets include job titles among coworkers; "student" (학생, haksaeng) for teens; "uncle" (아저씨, ajeosshi) and "aunt" (아줌마, ajumma) for older individuals, typically service workers; and "guest" (손님, sonnim) for customers.


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 friends.

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 both genres),
  • 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 female),
  • 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).

Constructed languages


Esperanto is not a T–V-distinguishing language. Vi is the generic second person for both singular and plural, just like you in modern English. An informal second person singular pronoun, ci, does exist, but it is almost never 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.[63]


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, the T-V-Distinction is present and very usual. Most commonly, in second-person, (or verbal desinences -t and -tye-) is used to singular and (or desinences -l and -lye- is used to plural). However, there are three variations of use: the common, that we described above; the familiar; and the formal.

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)".

T verb V verb T noun V noun
Basque hika (aritu / hitz egin) (very close) zuka (aritu / hitz egin) (neuter / formal)
berorika (aritu / hitz egin) (very formal)
Breton teal / mont dre te / komz dre te c'hwial / mont dre c'hwi / komz dre c'hwi    
Bulgarian (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)
Catalan tutejar / tractar de tu / vós tractar de vostè
Chinese 稱呼你 (chēnghū nǐ) 稱呼您 (chēnghū nín)
Czech tykat vykat tykání vykání
Danish at være dus at være Des
Dutch tutoyeren, jijen, jouen en jijjouwen (used very rarely) vouvoyeren tutoyeren, vouvoyeren
English to thou (referring to historical usage) to you (referring to historical usage) thouing youing
Esperanto cidiri vidiri cidiro vidiro
Estonian sinatama teietama sinatamine teietamine
Faroese at túa, at siga tú at siga tygum
Finnish sinutella teititellä sinuttelu teitittely
French tutoyer vouvoyer; very rarely vousoyer / voussoyer tutoiement vouvoiement; very rarely vousoiement / voussoiement
Frisian (West) dookje jookje dookjen jookjen
German duzen siezen Duzen Siezen
Hungarian tegez magáz tegezés magázás
Icelandic þúa þéra þúun þérun
Interlingua tutear vosear tuteamento voseamento
Italian dare del tu dare del Lei
Indonesian mengamukan (transitive); berkamu (intransitive); menggunakan kamu mengandakan (transitive); beranda (intransitive); menggunakan Anda pengamuan; penggunaan kamu pengandaan; penggunaan Anda
Korean 말을 놓다 (mareul nota); 반말하다 (banmalhada) 말을 높이다 (mareul nophida); 높인 말 (nopphin mal)
Lithuanian tujinti tujinimas
Norwegian å være dus å være Des
Polish mówić per ty
tykać (humorous)
mówić per pan / pani mówienie per ty mówienie per pan / pani
Portuguese tratar por tu, você; chamar de tu, você tratar por senhor / senhora / senhorita; chamar de senhor / senhora / senhorita o senhor / a senhora
Romanian a tutui a domni tutuire plural de politeţe
Russian обращаться на «ты»
быть на «ты»
тыкать (tykat’) (colloquial)
обращаться на «вы»
быть на «вы»
выкать (vykat’) (colloquial)
тыканье (tykan’ye) выканье (vykan’ye)
Serbian не персирати (ne persirati),
бити на ти (biti na ti),
тикати (tikati)
персирати (persirati),
бити на ви (biti na vi),
викати (vikati)
неперсирање (nepersiranje),
тикање (tikanje)
персирање (persiranje),
викање (vikanje)
Slovak tykať vykať tykanie vykanie
Slovene tikati vikati tikanje vikanje
Upper Sorbian ty prajić, tykać wy rěkać / prajić, wykać tykanje wykanje
Lower Sorbian ty groniś, tykaś (se) {lit.} wy groniś, wykaś {lit} ty gronjenje, tykanje wy gronjenje, wykanje
Spanish tutear, vosear ustedear; tratar de usted tuteo, voseo ustedeo[64]
Swedish dua nia duande niande
Turkish senli benli olmak / konuşmak sizli bizli olmak / konuşmak senli benli olmak / konuşmak sizli bizli olma / konuşmak
Ukrainian тикати (tykaty),
казати "ти" (kazaty "ty")
викати (vykaty),
казати "ви" (kazaty "vy")
тикання (tykannia),
звертання на ти (zvertannia na ty)
викання (vykannia),
звертання на ви (zvertannia na vy)
Welsh tydïo tydïo
Yiddish דוצן (dutsn)
זײַן אױף דו (zayn af du)
זײַן פּער דו (zayn per du)
אירצן (irtsn)
זײַן אױף איר (zayn af ir)
דוצן (dutsn)
אַריבערגיין אױף דו (aribergeyn af du)
אירצן (irtsn)

See also


  1. 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.
  2. Giglioli p. 217
  3. Brown & Gilman pp. 254–255
  4. Brown & Gilman pp. 257–258
  5. Brown & Gilman pp. 278–280
  6. Crystal, David & Ben (2002) pp. 450–451. Reproduced at David Crystal's Explore Shakespeare's Works site
  7. Brown & Gilman p. 258
  8. Brown & Gilman pp. 269–261
  9. Brown & Gilman pp. 266–268
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Lawn, Rebecca (7 September 2012). "Tu and Twitter: Is it the end for 'vous' in French?". BBC News Magazine. Retrieved 7 September 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. The Oxford English Dictionary Online entry for "ye, pron. and n."
  12. "Interlude 12 : Choosing thou or you" David Crystal (2004) pp. 307–310
  13. Crystal (2004) p. 308
  14. "Interlude 17, Tracking a change: the case of y'all" Crystal (2004) pp. 449–452
  15. Summarised in Faygal et al (2006) pp. 267–268
  16. Faygal et al p. 268
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 As with many instances in English, the pronoun is capitalized when talking to God, as in prayer.
  18. In some spoken varieties of Arabic such as Egyptian, terms such as حضرتك (ḥaḍretak) ("your grace") or سيادتك (siyadtak) ("your lordship") are used
  19. In some spoken varieties of Arabic such as Egyptian, terms such as ḥaḍretkum ("your graces") or siyadetkum ("your lordships") are used
  20. Technically a "double plural", sometimes employed for a small group of people.
  21. Only commonly employed in northern dialects like Pekingese.
  22. 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.
  23. From obsolete jelui = jij + lui = "you people"
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 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.
  25. Only common in official documents.
  26. Necessitates compound verb forms with participle in singular.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Even as a 2nd-person pronoun, Sie employs 3rd-person verb conjugations.
  28. 28.0 28.1 Capitalized in correspondence.
  29. Þū was the nominative case of the word; the accusative form was originally þeċ but over time the dative þē replaced it.
  30. Þou's accusative was at first spelled þe or the but later became thee.
  31. 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.
  32. Oaks, Dallin H. "The Language of Prayer". Ensign, May 1983.
  33. Including the Quakers' "Plain Speech" and Latter-day Saint' prayers[32]
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 About.com Sie & Du.
  35. As in Ludvig Holberg's dramas.
  36. DR 2. "Prince Joachim interview".
  37. Daily Motion.com. "Arrogant Prince Joachim".
  38. 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.[36][37]
  39. 39.0 39.1 Etik.dk. "Hver fjerde dansker vil afskaffe 'De'" ["One in four Danes want to abolish 'De'"]. 6 July 2012. (Danish)
  40. 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.[39]
  41. 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.
  42. 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.[39]
  43. Hansen, Erik. "Skulle vi ikke være Des". Mål og Mæle, #1. 1998. (Danish)
  44. "Mastering the Unmasterable: A French Puzzle" Mary Blume, International Herald Tribune, 19 February 2000.
  45. 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", that is, "I would like to talk to you about..."
  46. As when meeting his former teacher: "Siete Voi qui, ser Brunetto?" ("Are you here, sir Brunetto?").
  47. Serianni, Luca. La Crusca per voi, no. 20. April 2000. (Italian)
  48. "Subject: Re: sibh & thu". GAELIC-L Archives. 29 October 1991. Retrieved 7 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  49. Ceri Jones, Dweud Eich Dweud: A Guide to Colloquial and Idiomatic Welsh, 2013 (Llandysul, Ceredigion: Gwasg Gomer, 2001), p. 204
  50. Ibid., p. 204
  51. Ibid., p. 204, citing Dic Jones, Os Hoffech Wybod, 1st ed. (Caernarfon, Gwynedd: Gwasg Gwynedd, 1989)
  52. 52.0 52.1 On the origin of Russian Vy
  53. Kordić, Snježana (2001). Wörter im Grenzbereich von Lexikon und Grammatik im Serbokroatischen. Studies in Slavic Linguistics ; 18 (in German). Munich: Lincom Europa. pp. 37–48. ISBN 3-89586-954-6. LCCN 2005530313. OCLC 47905097. OL 2863539W. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Summary.
  54. "Szanowny Panie Kowalski!". Poradnia językowa PWN. Retrieved 1 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  55. S. Dubisz, H. Karaś, N. Kolis (1995). "Pluralis maiestaticus". Dialekty i gwary polskie. Warszawa: Wiedza Powszechna. p. 96. ISBN 83-214-0989-X.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  56. "Jak to w rodzinie..." Poradnia językowa PWN. Retrieved 1 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  57. "Agata podniosła się ze swojego fotela..." Retrieved 1 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  58. "http://ask.fm/Kuebonafide ---- :* ! | ask.fm/justlikethat3". Retrieved 1 May 2014. External link in |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  59. lki. "Dabartinės lietuvių kalbos žodynas". lki.lt.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  60. אורי אורבך, סבא שלי היה רב, 2002
  61. Zdic.net. 《漢典》 [Chinese Dictionary]. "". Accessed 21 August 2013. (Chinese)
  62. Although modern Chinese now distinguishes between 你们 ("you" [plural]) and ("you" [cherished, respectful]), the legacy of '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.[citation needed]
  63. "Dua persono". Bertilo. Retrieved 7 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  64. see Spanish Wikipedia, ustedeo

Works cited

Balbo, Sophie (23 June 2005). "Dites-moi tu". L'Hebdo (in French).CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Blume, Mary (19 February 2000). "Mastering the Unmasterable: A French Puzzle". International Herald Tribune.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Brown, Roger; Gilman, Albert (1960). "The pronouns of power and solidarity". In T. A. Seboek (ed.). Style in Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. pp. 253–276.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Crystal, David (2004). The Stories of English. Overlook Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Crystal, David; Crystal, Ben (2002). Shakespeare's Words: A Glossary and Language Companion. Penguin Books.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Fagyal, Zsuzsanna; Kibbee, Douglas; Jenkins, Frederic (28 September 2006). French: A Linguistic Introduction. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-139-45956-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Giglioli, Per Paolo (1972). Language and Social Context: Selected Readings. Penguin Books.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Helmbrecht, Johannes (2005). "Politeness distinctions in pronouns". In Martin Haspelmath; et al. (eds.). The World Atlas of Language Structures. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 186–190.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Taavitsainen, Irma; Jucker, Andreas H. (2003). Diachronic Perspectives on Address Term Systems. John Benjamins. ISBN 1-58811-310-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Kleinman, Scott (2009). "About Middle English Grammar" (PDF). Retrieved 16 June 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press. 1971.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

  • Media related to Script error: No such module "Commons link". at Wikimedia Commons