Jij or u?

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

July 18, 2014


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

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

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

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.

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.

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. :)

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.

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.

They could be in an Amsterdam "Koffiehuis" . Then he/she might feel like they are miles above sea level. LOL

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.

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)

We used du in elementary school (Austria)

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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?

Tu would be jij and usted would be u.

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

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.

Wow. That is a nice tip! Thanks

Being an American one would think that all the formality is gone and you = you. However, there are regional differences. In parts of The South, women married or single are always first addressed as Miss (last name) and afterwards as Miss (First Name or Diminutive) Example: "Miss Ravenel, may I offer you some sweet tea; I made it fresh a tee-toncey bit of time ago. " NOTE: Sweet Tea is Iced Tea made by the pitcher full and heavily sweetened. If the guest declines, lemonade may be offered in its place. After some familiarization usually the first spoken sentance may be: "Miss Eloise, did you happen to see young Miss Lilah getten' fancied-up at the beaury parlor?" "Y'all, know it, I think she's hoping that handsome new doctor in town notices her." Women who are very good friends may greet each other on the street, with "Hey, lady! How y'all doin'?" When names are unknown, it's Sir and M'am.

But with the mobility of people, especially in large cities, much of that Southern gentielity is falling away. In The North it is mostly, Madam or Sir when names are unknown.

Then in that American institution known as The Dîner, older waitresses address everyone as "Honey, Hon, Dear, or Dearie.", "Are you ready for me to take away your plate, or are you still workrn' on it?" ( Meaning:Are you still esting? "

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