2

The question is related to this answer to a question asked on the Academia Stack Exchange, where the OP wishes to know the best way to address his PhD adviser in written communication. According to the answer:

As there exists a formal and informal way to say "you" in French, if your advisor uses "tu" (informal you in french), you could also say him/her "tu" because otherwise, it can be considered as you would like to put a distance.

Is this generally true? It is perfectly appropriate, for instance, for my manager to address me with "tu", but would it be considered "putting a distance" if I address him with "vous", taking into consideration the fact that he is much older than me with a decade's more experience?

4

It depends the context.
I would say there are 2 kinds of situations where you would use "vous":

  1. When you don't personnaly know the person
  2. When the person in front of you has an higher rank than you (at work, school, army, spiritually...).

In the first case, it is ambiguous because the proximity from which you can use "tu" is subjective. So some people will use "tu" even to people they only know briefly, and some people will wait until they are considered as "friend" before using "tu". The difficult part is the time you switch from "vous" to "tu" (because you often see this person, and there is a moment you'll consider you "know" him/her).

In the second case, the "master" may use "tu" or "vous" while the "pupil" will use "vous". For instance, it is common to use "vous" when talking to your girlfriend's parents, while they will use "tu" to talk to you.

These rules are not applied if one asks "on peut se tutoyer ?".

Concerning your exemple, you may use "vous" if you're talking to your more expercienced manager, and if he doesn't want that, he will say "tu peux me tutoyer".
If you use "tu" without asking, it may be considered as a lack of respect.
Where I work, the person who hired me said "Maintenant que tu es dans la boîte, on peut se tutoyer. Tout le monde se tutoie ici. Bienvenue", which removes any ambiguity :)

  • Merci beaucoup. I agree with you that the use of "tu" without asking could be considered as a lack of respect. What is your opinion about what the person who answered the linked question wrote, namely that "you could also say him/her "tu" because otherwise, it can be considered as you would like to put a distance"? It doesn't seem to imply that one wait for the senior to say, "Tu peux me tutoyer". Thanks again for your time! – Anupama G Apr 14 '16 at 11:49
  • 2
    It depends the context. If you are in the first case, it makes a distance, because the person use "tu", saying "we are close", and you continue using "vous" saying "I'm not close to you". If you are in the second case, being close has the opposite meaning, because if you are close to your manager, you're saying you have the same responsabilities. Whereas saying you're not close means "Ok, you are way better than me, you have my full respect" – Random Apr 14 '16 at 11:53
  • That makes sense. Thank you, again! – Anupama G Apr 14 '16 at 11:55
  • "it is common to use "vous" when talking to your girlfriend's parents, while they will use "tu" to talk to you" Perfect example ! – TCHdvlp Apr 19 '16 at 14:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.