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vous vs. tu

Hello. I don't understand when you would use vous and tu. Are there certain times to use each of them? Is one more formal than the other?

March 31, 2020



"Tu" is only used for "you" when talking to a person you know well and are close to. For strangers, bosses, or groups of people use "vous".


Both "tu" and "vous" mean "you".

If you are talking to one person, you have these options:

---- Tu as un canard. (informal)

---- Vous avez un canard. (formal)


That, and "vous" will always be used, I believe, if you're talking to one or more people. It's with one person that it depends on the "formality" of the conversation!


In addition to previous comments, if you have any doubts always use "vous". You will not be wrong and no one will be upset. When staying with a french family whilst helping to supervise a school french exchange (I was a teacher but not of french), I was invited to "tutoyer" (use tu) after a few days of getting to know each other. We remained friends.


Just found this in the tips and notes.
I wrote a rather comprehensive answer on how and when to use vous and tu on this forum a few months ago, but can't find it anymore.


This is a highly complex and nuanced subject, way beyond the capacity of Duolingo, and one of the best explanations I have ever seen is this from a well known French teacher - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noYZ78HGmZ0.

Unless you are very experienced (or French!) I suggest you stick to Jim Horner's recommendation to use «vous » unless invited to use «tu ». (As an illustration of how complex it can be my late mother, born in pre-war St Jean de Luz, was happy for us to use «tu » to her at home but at any public gathering such as a hotel or restaurant she insisted we used «vous » - but she was spectacularly old-fashioned and formal, way beyond normal modern usage!)

[deactivated user]

    "Tu" - used for one person(singular)/ used informally (e.g. friend) "Vous" - used for a group of people ("you guys")/used informally (e.g. teacher) Hope this helps!

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