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Tu vs Vous

I feel like this needs to be addressed. Starting with the first lesson, Duolingo teaches us to use "tu" for "you". In French, this is only accepted among family and close friend, for everybody else you're supposed to use the more formal "vous". I didn't make too much a fuss about it because they do accept vous as an answer. However, I found it extremely weird that when I reached the lesson on friends, the preferred answers used vous. This encourages bad form in new french speakers who don't know the difference. Since all the questions already accept tu and vous as answers, I think it would be a simple matter to reverse their usage in the questions.

This being said, I do know that those in charge of doing things like this are not reading the forums. Is there a way to get this suggestion in front of them?

April 14, 2020



In French, this is only accepted among family and close friend, for everybody else you're supposed to use the more formal "vous".

This is way to simplistic. I'd suggest you wait a little bit and progress in your french learning process before being too affirmative about the use of vous and tu. It is much more complex than you seem to think, and we (french native speakers) are sometimes confused about which one to use too.


as it as explained to me by a french native speaker, Tu is used only with family and close friends (those who tell you that you can use tu) and vous is used with strangers, groups of people, and anybody who is significantly older than you. If this is wrong I would very much like to know, because it seems as though this is not something duolingo will teach.

EDIT: I've also been told that this has loosened a bit with millenials and Gen Z, likely as a result of the internet.


I'm not a millenial or a gen Z (I don't know what that is), but although what you say is true, it is, again, overly simplistic. And it's not about rules being loosened with internet. Because the choice of tu or vous is basically the choice of the kind of relationship you are having and how close you think you are too someone. And the problem is often to know if you should decide yourself or let the other one decide. And what if that person uses tu when you expected to say vous. And when do you stop to say vous and switch to tu? I can say tu to people I had never met before, and it's not a question of generation, it's about sending a message. And I can say vous to kids too (although it would be rare).
I understand that it is very reassuring to have very simple rules, but in the case of your post you can't use that simplistic rule to point out what you think are failures in Duolingo's exercises.


I suppose that makes sense. Thanks for the clarification.

(Gen Z are the most recent generation, mostly teenagers and early 20's, who grew up with technology)


OK for Gen Z. But how are we going to call the next one ? Back to Gen A. ? ☺


Jojo is absolutely right and this area is very tricky for all but especially non-natives. This is one of the best explanations I have ever seen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noYZ78HGmZ0

I am often asked about the tu/vous situation as my mother was French and father English. Mother was very old school (born in pre-war St Jean de Luz [Pays Basque] in the 30s and considered L'Académie Francaise to be trendy liberals) and though we used tu in family life she used to expect me to address her in the vous form in any public arena such as a restaurant or hotel. I stress that this is a particularly extreme example and she was spectacularly old-fashioned!

My advice to anyone English or American is always to use vous unless invited to do otherwise


I almost wrote this post off and then I read through it and laughed

[deactivated user]

    But why would someone be talking to god if they don't believe it (you say in your flow chart to use Tu for god, believe it or not)? ;-)

    You still earned a lingot or three! I liked it! And I was there in the sixties.....


    Funny, but unlikely that someone who was at Woodstock or protested in 1968 would be talking to someone that much older, no?

    Well done. Have a (nother) Lingot!

    Timor mortis conturbat me.


    I'm going to play this one with a surprisingly straight bat...

    It's 52 years since Mai 68, so somebody 18yo then would now be 70. If we go with 25-30 years as a generation, then half a generation older would be mid-80s or so. I dunno about you, but I know a good few people of that age (not relatives, near-neighbours). Almost 1% of the UK population is 90 or more years old.

    And the oldest living person currently is 117 - so 47 years (not far shy of two generations) older...


    If that helps you, you use the word ''tu'' when you're talking to one person, and ''vous'' when you're talking to more than one. The fact that duolingo accepts mostly ''vous'' as an answer is a problem. When you're a native english speaker and you answer in english you have only the word ''you'' , so it's propably unclear.


    For plural of you, I say ye

    [deactivated user]

      Vous is also used formally for an individual, not just several people. Read Jojo's comment - she is French and always gives great answers! However, Adrian is exactly right!


      I thought that was weird as well, but since they accept both answers I kinda just brushed it off.


      im not sure but i think it depends on the occasion. We have similar words in greek , but whe use them for different purposes. The word that we use as ''tu'' is used when we talk to our family and people that we are familiar with, and the word that is used as ''vous'' is when we refer to a lot of people and when we are being polite to the person (or people) that we are talking to.


      Vous means plural or formal (new people you meet basically) as in "You guys are so cool" Tu means singular as in "You are so cool"

      [deactivated user]

        No one would regard "You guys are so cool" as formal!

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