Você and Tu

Hey! Can someone please explain the difference? Is it correct, that você uses the third form singular and tu uses the second? I heard something about você being the polite form.


January 9, 2014


Actually, there's no difference. You can use both to refer to "you" (singular form). The same works to "vós" and "vocês" (=you - plural). In most regions, "você" is a lot more common. "Tu" is probably more common only in the south of Brasil, but even there you can use "você". I don't even know a person who uses "vós", my friends from south use 'tu/vocês', and most of times they mix 'tu' with the third form.

"Você" and "vocês" use the third form :)

January 9, 2014

And I forgot to say that it has nothing to do with being polite! "Tu/vós" may sound more formal here (most Brazilians don't even know how to conjugate verbs in these forms correctly), but it's not necessary to use it even in formal events. ;)

January 9, 2014

I'm interested to hear you say that "tu" sounds more formal to you. My understanding was that in a community accustomed to using "tu" forms, whether correctly conjugated or not, they would be the more informal choices - the forms you would use with friends and family more than with a stranger. Have I got that wrong or am I twisting your words? Perhaps you were thinking more of the archaic "vós" forms, for example, or you simply meant unfamiliar.

January 9, 2014

I believe you are right, Davu. To address someone in a formal way we use "Senhor" or "Senhora" (Mister or Miss), regardless the pronoun ("Tu/Você"). As I am used to using "você", I feel like the use of "tu" is just uncommon, not necessarily formal. But as allsiqueira9 said, classic writers and poets do use the "tu" more often, hence the "formal" feel she described makes sense.

January 9, 2014

Thanks to both of you. What you say agrees with what I guessed, it is the unfamiliarity of "tu" that makes it seem more formal. One of the friends I made here on Duolingo prefers to use European Portuguese and uses "tu" a lot and when she writes, or says, something like "entendeste" my head spins. :-)

January 9, 2014

This really depends on the region, and the culture, regardless of what is formal or not in the Portuguese language. For example, in some African countries, it is sometimes impolite to address an older woman/man by tu ou voce. It may be more acceptable to say "tia,tio, or avo".

So while "voce" might be formal in some environments, it is more like a guide and not really the rule. In some instances one's sub-culture has to be taken into consideration when addressing them, regardless of the language they understand.

January 9, 2014

Regarding your point, Dessamator, I think that is a slightly different thing. Perhaps there are some people who deserve a more respectful form of address.

I get the idea that anywhere that "tu" is used, it is the familiar form, but you must be invited into the "tu"-circle before you can use it. If someone addresses you as "o senhor" or "você" you haven't made the cut yet, and there is a period of negotiation before you can enter; in a sense you have to be formally invited to be informal.

January 9, 2014

(David, I would reply to your last comment but the option is not available, so...)

About the "tu-circle", you're right, but as always, it has its exceptions. For example, I work at the Court and there we have to deal with the general public (people wanting to know about their lawsuits and so on), and we (at least I) always call them "senhor/a", regardless of their age. But them, on the other hand, generally addresses us by "você". This is quite common when there's a kind of a customer relationship involved. When I go to the Post Office or the gas station, it's common for me to be addressed as "a senhora", but I never call the person I'm dealing with "senhor" (sometimes I do, but just because I'm so used to do it at work hahaha).

January 9, 2014

Regarding your last point, Davu, it really depends, victorsabato explained it rather well. Except for one point, in whatever region he/she comes from 'tu' is uncommon, I believe he/she is probably from Brazil, or a country/region where that is the norm.

From what I know, in Mozambique for example, 'tu' is commonly used even to address strangers. I think (I'm not sure) the same applies to Portugal, but I believe that it depends on what region the individual is, some may even use the odd form "vos".

Generally speaking, o senhor or senhora, is indicative of formality, voce ou tu, depends on region, 'tu' can actually be disrespectful if addressed to someone in a certain tone, and depending on culture.

January 10, 2014

You make using "tu" sound so strict and reserved only for people who've undergone rigorous tasks to be accepted into the "circle". :p When I was in Portugal, the friendly people I met used it straight away and welcomed the use. I also used "tu" straightaway to speak to someone who looked around my age, in an informal setting, with no weird or offended looks. I understand it as a sign of friendliness, someone who'd wanna talk and laugh with you, while você or senhora/senhor is used to communicate with people you only have interest in carrying out some kind of business with. Cute guys playing music at a café, "Tu". Lady at the bookstore you only want to buy a book from: 3rd person singular. I think I mentioned this before but I've also been told that it's very weird to use the third person singular conjugations when speaking to a child too, in Portugal that is.

On a side note, I've noted that percebeste is more commonly used in pt-pt. I hope that makes your head spin less. :p

January 10, 2014

I think I'm not using the word "formal" correctly in this case. Thank you, victorsabato. :)

January 9, 2014

Davu, I don't know if I got what you're saying. But let me try to explain :) I said "Tu/vós MAY sound more formal" exactly because it can sound just normal to those who use it informally. As these forms are more used in poetry, formal letters and not informal situations in most of the regions, it MAY sound like someone is putting an effort to say that formally. Maybe you misunderstood because my English is not so good and I can't express myself so well. I'm sorry for that. :/

January 9, 2014

That is an interesting question! Although "você" came from "vossa mercê", which means something like "your grace", it is not a formal form of "Tu" in brazilian portuguese (pt-br) (Check for more info).

However, because "você" came from a treatment pronoun (or title), it uses the 3rd person singular verb conjugation.


"Tu vais ao trabalho hoje?"

"Você vai ao trabalho hoje?"

"Vossa Excelência vai se pronunciar"

"Vossa Senhoria ainda não respondeu a pergunta"

Last but not least, Rio de Janeiro, northeastern and southern brazilian states use "Tu".

January 9, 2014

I didn't know cariocas used "tu"! Shame on me :P

January 9, 2014

I think they use the pronoun "tu" with the 3rd person singular verb conjugation (so, it's even trickier!)

January 9, 2014

i've lived there 6 years and didn't know either! it 's certainly not too common to hear.

January 10, 2014

Thanks to all of you for your quick answers! You have helped me a lot!

January 9, 2014

Rather than try to write an answer which will end up jammed against the right hand margin I'll start again here.

Well my ideas about code switching are just impressions gained from reading about Portuguese. I did spend a lot of time in Rio, but I wasn't alert enough to notice the use of "tu" there, so I don't have any first hand experience. The thing that coloured my thoughts most was a short video on Portuguese television showing two young people meeting up with a friend that only one member of the couple knew well and at one point there is a "please use tu" moment.

I have also read that the Portuguese tend to avoid the using the pronoun "você" while still using 3rd person singular forms and see that as more polite. Anyway, first hand contact is the only way to know for sure so thanks for passing on your experiences CrisBoc, cloudhorizon and Dessamator. BTW, Ihsan, I think percebeste would confuse me more, what about compreendeste?

January 10, 2014

Let me put it in the simplest possible way, it is a personal preference. Much like some older people despise being called OLD timers, or grandpa, or uncle. The same applies to the use of Tu vs voce, in some regions people prefer one or the other, some use both interchangeably, without any regard to politeness, that is why I said, it depends on culture.

To answer your last question, those two are synonyms, you can use them interchangeably, and anyone who claims to know portuguese (regardless of whether it is PT or BR) should probably understand both. If not they need to consult a dictionary.

January 10, 2014

I'm sure what you say about culture is correct. I think there is a difference between informal/familiar and polite though. This can work both ways I thought (at least before hearing from people in this discussion) and using "tu" to establish a rapport that wasn't welcome could be regarded as impolite, and sticking to "você' while clearly a person wants to speak to you in an informal familiar way could also be regarded as impolite. I realise that this may be true in one culture but not in another, it was just the difference in meaning of informal/familiar and polite that I wanted to bring out.

January 10, 2014

Well, here some examples of the carioca dialect:

at 0:36: "Mermão, tu tá ficando louco?" - "Are you crazy, bro?"

Tu 2nd person singular / Tá (Está) 3rd person singular of "Estar"

And right after, the girlfriend says: "Você vai deixar ele te sacanear, meu amor? Você vai deixar?" -> "Are you going to let him mess with you, baby? Are you going to?"


at 0:19: "Então, eu ia te ligar para isso: Tu vai? Como é que é?" - "So, I was going to call you to ask that: Are you going? What´s the deal?"

Tu 2nd person singular / Vai 3rd person singular of "Ir"

They speak quite fast, but I think you can hear it...

January 10, 2014

They speak too fast for me and without your transcription I would be lost, but I did hear "tu" in the places you pointed out. It is much more tricky to notice "tu" being used when it is conjugated in the third person; the word "tu" is so short you hardly notice it and the effect of hearing the "você" form of the verb is much stronger than the effect of the pronoun.

I did hear "desculpa" which is the "tu" form of the imperative but I guess that is common everywhere. Also "te" as an object pronoun, isn't that common even in places that don't use "tu" as a subject pronoun? Given there is so much "gíria" in the clips it is difficult to decide whether "tu" is just regarded as another slang word or is a conscious choice to sound more informal.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to find the clips!

January 10, 2014

We don't know about the imperative rules, if you ask anyone on the streets if there's any difference between "desculpe" and "desculpa", I bet you 99% of people would answer "absolutely not". 1% (including me) would answer: "yes I know there's a difference, but I don't know what it is" (I never got the grips with which version refers to which person - and I really don't care).

"Te" is also used indistinctively (is that even a word??). You hardly ever will hear "eu o vejo" or "eu lhe vejo" here.

January 15, 2014

The use of Tu is easier to a latin language native (Spanish, French, Italian), as it follows pretty much the same rules.

But as I said before, "você" follows the Title or "pronome de tratamento" rule (3rd person singular verb conjugation), so it's not that difficult to learn that too.

January 10, 2014
Learn Portuguese in just 5 minutes a day. For free.