https://www.duolingo.com/profile/davidvdb

Jij or u?

I've seen some questions about the difference between jij/je and u.

July 18, 2014

22 Comments

Sorted by top post

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AlexisLinguist

Thanks for the informative (and amusing) post. :)

July 18, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PopTartTastic

Is it similar to the "vous/tu" "você/tu" "usted/tú" situation?

July 18, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JudithL1

Probably, although it seems to me that in different countries the strictness varies a bit

August 6, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Lenkvist

I recognise this picture from some time ago. It was originally used to explain the difference between "tu" and "vous" in French. I don't think it perfectly translates to Dutch. Some people address senior family members like grandparents with "u". It is also strange to see "jij" with "Someone you don't formally know" as you would use "u" with strangers (and probably also with God).

For teachers, it's probably "jij" in elementary school, "u" in middle school, and "jij" or "u" in higher education.

July 18, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/saschambaer

Now here we have some cultural differences. In Switzerland, it would be quite a big offence to use "du" (jij) with a teacher on any level. Like, after Kindergarten, that's a no-go.

July 18, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Susande

You're right saschambaer, cultural differences make quite a difference. Dutch are a lot less strict than Germans and Belgians for instance (and Swiss what I get from your post).

For instance in most companies it's standard to address your boss with jij (indeed this is a no-go in a lot of countries!). At school up to primary school (4-12 years old) it's all jij, in secondary school (12-16/18 years old) it depend on the teacher u is the norm, but quite a lot of teachers prefer to be addressed with their first name and with jij. In university, same thing, except that especially for bigger courses/earlier years, teachers and students are actually strangers, so it's all u.

There may be some people that still call their grandparents u in the Netherlands, but for all family members jij is the norm. (Even the brothers/sisters of my grandparents, which I see once/twice a year max, are jij, but this is about as far as jij gets, and probably is not standard everywhere.)

People working in stores will most likely say jij to people of the same age or younger up to, let's say 25. If customers are above that age they'll get into safe-mode (stranger mode) and start with u. And in a bit more personal shops like a barber shop, it probably leans even more to jij.

Then there are some funny things, I remember once addressing an elderly man with u, but it turned out he was a farmer, so he was offended that I did so, because he was still country-side old-school: only the mayor, notary and doctor are called u, all the rest is jij. :)

Even though we are an informal bunch, when in doubt, best to use u. Changing to jij when told is no problem, but when you start out with jij there is a chance you offend people.

I think there's one thing not completely correct in the graphic above and that is, meeting strangers. When you're 30/35 or younger it's ok to say jij to strangers the same age or younger (unless it's in a formal setting, if they have a formal look like a suit, or they simply look old-fashioned/strict).

And a fun detail: child princes will be called u by adults and jij by kids, which actually will be quite accurate. :)

July 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JudithL1

Little things from my own country Austria.

In upper Austria (Oberösterreich) everybody uses du/jij.

If I am dancing with a stranger in the countryside, I'll use Sie/U to ask them and du afterwards.

I once read a sign saying: "If you are at least 1000m above sea level, use du" obviously this is irrelevant to Dutch.

August 6, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/samulili

Thank you so much for all that. I have noticed that at my local AH or Jumbo I am given the change with alsjeblieft and not alstublieft (I'm 35) so definitely more relaxed than France or Germany.

July 21, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Lavmarx

Where I'm from teachers aren't bothered if you call the "tu" (Spanish) when you're more familiarized with them. Some even tell you to call them by their first name.

July 18, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/saschambaer

Yeah, this would be impossible here. Kindergarten sometimes (I was on a first name basis with my “teacher” back then), but after that? Before asking a question we would always have to say “Sie, Herr/Frau surname” (You (formal), mr/ms surname)

July 18, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JudithL1

We used du in elementary school (Austria)

August 6, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sojinjung

For the speaking to God with "Jij," I think it's actually pretty common in at least the European/Christian tradition to speak to God with the less formal pronoun.

July 18, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Pleurocystites

For Catholic parts of Europe the formal address was used until Vatican II (and still lingers), for the Protestant parts the informal address has been used for a long time, that's why the King James Bible used 'Thou' and 'thee' which, while now archaic sounding, was the familiar form of address.

July 18, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PaulMoffett

Actually, "thou" and "thee" were the informal. Back when English made a distinction, "you" and "ye" were plural or formal.

July 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Pleurocystites

That's what I am saying, informal=familiar.

July 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PopTartTastic

Personally, as a Christian, I believe that in say church, we would refer to him formally, as church is meant to be formal, but we believe that God is our friend and helper, so in private we would talk to him informally.

July 18, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JudithL1

Every prayer uses informal. The whole mass uses informal towards God.

August 6, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DonnaLauv

I am confused. So jij is more informal than u? If this was Spanish, which one would be usted and which one would be tu or vos?

July 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/davidvdb

Tu would be jij and usted would be u.

July 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/buunny

Thanks. Lol. Didn't even think a formal u would be used in this language. This is a savior in terms of clarification.

July 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Susande

Indeed it's not the most logical thing looking at the directness of the Dutch and the way we tend to disregard power and think of everyone as equals ("I am just as important as the mayor or a police officer"). But as you can see from my other post, we use the formal form a lot less than our neighbouring countries.

July 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/HANA8896

Wow. That is a nice tip! Thanks

October 23, 2018
Learn Dutch in just 5 minutes a day. For free.