Tu and Vous?
When do you use the formal you instead of the casual you? To what whom would you have to be speaking to that you would need formal you, is it to elderly, bosses etc?
I just had a conversation about this with JoThelan a week ago, because while in my mother tongue we have the same T/V distinction, compared to French people we use T a lot more - especially when talking to people on the Internet - so I was a bit confused. I hope she doesn't mind if I quote her for you:
"In adult class settings, the teacher will generally clarify how you should address each other. In my class, we use T because we are around each other so much. But I would still use V until the teacher said otherwise. I don't have a lot of experience in work settings, but I think it's probably best to start with V. Probably within the first week, you will notice a shift to T in informal settings, however, I would imagine that V should still be used among co-workers when there are customers or clients present. Again, my experience here is very limited, so take this comment with a grain of salt.
V should always be used when you're talking to someone in authority, ranging anywhere from a government official to the cashier at the grocery store, even if s/he is much younger than you. It should also be used for casual acquaintances. On the forums, I would always recommend using V. However, if you're talking to someone on their activity stream regularly, at some point, I think it would be fine to ask them if they want to use tu instead of vous. But only if you speak to them a lot. Duolingo tend to be a very friendly place, so it can be easy to forget about using vous, but as it is definitely needed in real life, I would recommend using it here as well."
And jolynnedougherty added: "I do do some work in French and notice that the majority of people tend to use vous with peers and direct reports in their written communications. Once in a while I will get someone who uses tu, but that is rare in the work that I see."
ok thanks, what would you say about family members then? for example parents and grandparents is vous used?
Nowadays, always tu, but with older people, some grew up calling their parents vous and prefer to be addressed as such by their children/grand-children. For example, I use vous with my grand mother, but with anyone else in my family, tu.
The easiest trick is to say vous to everyone until they say you can use tu (which will be pretty fast for most people.
In France, you only use "tu" to people you know very well, and are close with. It can be a bit frowned upon if you use "tu" versus people you don't know. But in Belgium tu is used a lot more, and it's not that big of a case for example. But when you want to be formal, talk to someone you don't know, talk with an important person, use "vous".
In France the informal tu is not used unless, to a child (you know well) if you are with longstanding friends and are young or with immediate very close family. The older the person the more formal manners are and never use an older persons first name unless you are at least 110! To a boss in the workplace never. I think that for Americans this whole subject is more difficult because of the "everyone is a friend" culture in the US. My neighbour in company addresses her husband as vous. Best advice is just forget about tu. Use vous incorrectly and nobody will care because you are being very formal and polite. Use tu incorrectly in a small rural village = put your house up for sale...
Too much time is spent on the informal in beginners lessons which just confuse and slow down learning.