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Formal "you" in Italian

Am I wrong that the 3rd person singular in Italian is also the formal "you?" My past training keeps tripping me up when I translate verbs without subjects as you instead of he or she.

February 23, 2013


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The formal you in Italian is expressed by "voi" (2nd person plural) and "lei" (female 3rd person singular); the first is a derivation from majestic plural and that's the way English went historically (the informal singular thou being largely extinct), the latter derives from the practice of referring to the office (e.g. Her majesty, His eminence) and is what's more common nowadays in Italian.

Generally speaking, translating lei as you or she is often alright, you understand which based on context, which Duolingo lacks; there are a instances where the distinction is marked by adjectives, e.g. "lei è fortunata" (she is lucky / you [woman] are lucky) but "lei è fortunato" (you are lucky).

I read on a moderator's post that they tend to favor capitalization in Duolingo though, so you should probably go for she unless it's capitalized as Lei.


Ah now I see how the Lei vs lei works. I still sometimes stumble and translate "lei" as "you." It's a habit that is hard to lose.


Moved to the Italian section.

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