TU vs VOUS – French Subject Pronouns




TU vs VOUS


One of the really big differences that exists between French and English is that in French there are two ways to say YOU.  It’s really important to know which one you need to use because they are definitely not interchangeable.  

When learning French subject pronouns the difference between TU and VOUS isn’t just a matter of speaking correctly.  The real reason you need to know the difference between the two ways of saying YOU comes down to culture and etiquette.  There are many social rules of etiquette in France, and using the correct form of YOU is one of the big ones. 

There are two verbs and two nouns you should become familiar with, and they don’t exist in English.

Tutoyer
On peut se tutoyer?



Le tutoiement (noun)
To use the TU form of YOU with someone
Can we use TU with each other?



Using TU
Vouvoyer

Le vouvoiement (noun)
To use the VOUS form of YOU with someone

Using VOUS
TUVOUS
Informal and singularFormal and singular
OR
Formal or informal and plural
Never use TU with a group of people,
even if they are all your friends or family members.
Always use VOUS with a group of people no matter who they are.
Use VOUS with one person when speaking to someone in a formal situation.
Who to use TU with?Who to use VOUS with?
friendspeople you don’t know
family membersboss
classmatesdoctor
childrenstore clerks
colleagueswaiters
animalsany professional situation
loved onesteacher
teenagersany group of people
friends of friendsany group of animals

More about TU

While using TU with others is considered quite informal, it is also a sign of love, friendship, equality, ease in the relationship.  This is true if you are using TU in any of the relationships mentioned above.
If you use TU with someone you’re actually supposed to be using VOUS with this is a sign of disrespect and should be avoided if you don’t want to stir up trouble. 
Although I generally say to use TU with family members, that doesn’t always apply to the relationship between parents-in-law and their sons or daughters-in-law.  It just depends on the family.
Many of my students want to use VOUS all the time because the conjugations are a little easier.  Please don’t do that.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if you use VOUS with someone who has asked you On peut se tutoyer? they will probably take offense or at least be put off a little.  It will look as if you don’t want to remove the distance in your relationship or you think you’re better than them. 

More about VOUS

While using VOUS with another person is considered quite formal, it is also a sign of respect.  Using VOUS does place a certain distance between you and the person you’re talking to, so be careful not to use VOUS with someone you should use TU with or you could come across as contemptuous. 
There is nothing formal about using VOUS with groups of people, even if you know the people very well. 

Other things to remember when using TU and VOUS

When TU is the subject be sure to use 2nd person singular possessive adjectives in the rest of the sentence.TU bois TON café?
Are YOU drinking YOUR coffee?

TU manges TA pizza?
Are YOU eating YOUR pizza?

TU mets du ketchup sur TES frites?
Do YOU put ketchup on YOUR fries?
When VOUS is the subject be sure to use 2nd person plural possessive adjectives in the rest of the sentence.VOUS buvez VOTRE café?
Are YOU drinking YOUR coffee?

VOUS mangez VOTRE pizza?
Are YOU eating YOUR pizza?

VOUS mettez du ketchup sur VOS frites?
Do YOU put ketchup on YOUR fries?
When TU is the subject you must use TE as the reflexive pronoun.TU TE couches à quelle heure?
What time do YOU go to bed?
When VOUS is the subject you must use VOUS as the reflexive pronoun.VOUS VOUS couchez à quelle heure?What time do YOU go to bed?
When using the TU form of YOU with someone you also use TE as direct or indirect object pronoun.Direct:
Je TE vois.
I see YOU.

Indirect:
Je TE parle.
I’m talking to YOU.
When using the VOUS form of YOU with someone you also use VOUS as direct or indirect object pronoun.Direct:
Je VOUS vois.
I see YOU.

Indirect:
Je VOUS parle.
I’m talking to YOU.
When using the TU form of YOU with someone you also use TOI as a disjunctive pronoun.Je vais au parc avec TOI.
I’m going to the park with YOU.
When using the VOUS form of YOU with someone you also use VOUS as a disjunctive pronoun.Je vais au parc avec VOUS.
I’m going to the park with YOU.
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