Vouvoyer vs. Tutoyer

back to WEEK ONE, thoughts from: 6 juillet- 13 juillet

A two-hour train ride took me from Paris to Lisieux, where I was picked up by my employer, who I’ve been calling Mme C, except that she told me recently not to call her Mme anymore, as it makes her feel old. So, just C. Yet, I still talk to her with ‘vous’ (vouvoyer, the formal) because I’m not sure if it’s ok to tutoyer (the familiar) people who are that much older than you (she’s 64), even if you’ve become friends, unless they’re part of the family. Eh, we’ll see. I was also corrected about four times within my first three days here by younger people (mid-20’s) because I used the wrong form of address. “Tu peux me tutoyer,” they’d say, a little surprised and amused at how formal I was being, while they immediately saw me as a peer. It was a little hard to change the habit at first, not because I am actually that polite, but because I don’t know my ‘tu’ conjugations as well as my ‘vous’ conjugations, having spoken French mostly only to my professors, who must be vouvoyer’ed. I’m getting much more used to it now, though the downfall of that is that I often make the opposite mistake of accidentally starting my sentences with “Tu” when I’m talking to older or more important people. Oops. >.<

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One thought on “Vouvoyer vs. Tutoyer

  1. This is interesting – I often had the problem the other way around and would seem quite rude, because in the French classes I had we mostly practiced with each other in discussion groups (as opposed to speak to the professor), and the professor/teacher would address us with “tu” as well, so I used and heard the “vous” form very rarely. It’s one of the reasons I lost my confidence with speaking french — i’d always unintentionally tutoyer people.

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