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God -- Ты or Вы?

I believe I have seen this in two Russian translations of the Bible so far. I always expect to see the more formal Вы when the speaker is addressing God, but I always see the informal, though often capitalized, Ты. Does anyone know why this is?

November 4, 2015



It's the same in many languages. I've also seen "tu" to address God in French and Italian.

I also noticed that the Russian national anthem addresses Mother Russia with ты. I suppose it's the same concept of wanting to illustrate a close personal relationship.


Surprisingly, in English one also often addresses God informally. Or at least used to:

O Lord, thou art our God: we will exalt thee; we will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things: thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.

(Pulled from a random book found on Google.)


Indeed; in Middle English, one would have addressed one's social superiors as ye, yet one's close friends and inferiors (and God) as thou. I think the rationale is that the Christian conception of a personal God must surely make Him closer to one than even one's closest friends, whereas using the formal 'ye' would only put distance between the speaker and God.


English did a really weird thing. The informal "you" became formal and eventually useless in conversation whereas the formal "you" which is just "you" became the informal one.

English is just weird.


"Вы" is plural, "ты" is singular. Until the 18th century, any single person in Russia was addressed as "ты". Wikipedia says that under the French language and culture influence "вы" gradually become used to address a respected person. The translations of Bible are old or based on the old tradition. Moreover, God is a very personal thing to call Him "вы".
"Вы" is used to keep distance between people. Usually, you call your friend or your close relative "ты". Even children call their parents or grandparents "ты", even while they are obliged to say "вы" to any other adults.


Thank you both very much for your answers. I had forgotten that English used to make this distinction. Knowing that helped me to research the question further. On the note of вы keeping distance between people--I had not thought of it that way. As an English speaker, I thought it was always a safe bet to refer to practically anyone in the formal. So thank you also for helping me come to a better understanding of the вы form. Please, take some Lingots for your trouble!


You know God, so you speak to him informally ;) That's the reasoning behind it I presume.


God is our Father. And normally one uses "ты" when speaks with his father.

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