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Formal vs Familiar (Sie & du) in German

Hi all, Back in the day I took German in high school and college and was told that except for close family and best friends Germans used the formal form of the second person personal pronoun, namely Sie (singular and plural). However in Duo most of the practice is with the informal/familiar forms du and ihr. I'd love to practice the Sie forms more. Can someone tell me if in Germany du has become so common place? Thanks!

April 11, 2018



usually you can say you need the Sie if: the person is much older than you; if the other person is your superior at work; your childs teacher; your doctor; a police officer or gouverment worker or a person who has some kind of a repectable possision. for us of the younger generation we usualy use du if we meet someone on private terms (at least if the person is the same generation) and Sie if it is not private for either of us. we also tend to use du with colleagues at work who are on the same level with us (not our boss or superior ). if one is not sure Sie is always safe the rule is the older person invites the youger person for the informal speech level (at work the person with the higher position if you are older than your superior and he/ she wants to have a familiar feeling in the company he/she might ask you if you are ok with the du)


We still use du for people we know personally and Sie for people we don't know or to which our relationship is purely professional.

I'm quite young (< 25), so I don't know this for sure, but I get the impression that we use du more often compared to say 50 years ago. For example it seems to be more common to use du at the workplace, in tv shows or in ads. Also it's a popular salesman-trick to say du to people if you want to appear familiar and trustworthy.

And I get the impression that not saying Sie to people you don't know isn't perceived as offensive as it used to be in the past.

Edit: The reason that sentences with the familiar form are dominant in the course could be a result of the focus on translations and English not having an equivalent for Sie.


For the most part, Du is equivalent to using the person's first name, Sie is equivalent to using title + last name


med.rotorrobot, 7hAu0bvY Paralars1, Thanks so much! You've given me a lot of useful insight to the use of the formal and informal "You" in German.


I think this is a Duolinfo error. The lessons should emphasize the Polite forms (SIe) because you will not be "familiar" with people you have just met or where you need to communicate briefly.

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