To me, it feels better if the following were conjugated impératif rather than infinitif:

  • Sauvegarder
  • Cliquer ici
  • Enregistrer
  • Organiser

I would prefer that the user be instructed to perform the actions shown on buttons or in links. Like in English:

  • Save
  • Click Here
  • Record
  • Organize

What is the proper method of communication with a user? Tutoyer? Vouvoyer? Since in English, we frequently use the imperative and it can be translated to the second person singular form, to me, it feels like it is more personal.

I have users all over the world. Will choosing one seem too informal over the other?

  • I see infinitive and vous most of the time. But I don't use enough programs in French to say anything definite...
    – Luke Sawczak
    May 9, 2017 at 21:27
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    Interesting. In my language (German), like in French, the infinitive is used on menu items and buttons. However, I never perceived the English texts as anything other than infinitive forms (with the to being dropped). I might interpret them as imperative directed at the computer/the application. Having instructions for the user on menu items or buttons does not seem to make any sense to me. May 10, 2017 at 10:23
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    Maybe it could help you (a little) to overcome the feeling of detachment from your users (which you mentioned in a comment, below) if you compromise and use the "vous form," but view/justify it in your own mind as you using it in the plural form to communicate with all your users simultaneously rather than in the formal one addressed to each individual user (along the lines of "Cliquez ici ="Click here, y'all/youse guysl"
    – Papa Poule
    May 10, 2017 at 22:38
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    I like what you said. @PapaPoule does the "vous" form, in the mind of a French speaker seem to communicate y'all more than a formal you? I am probably just over thinking this, though when I develop my software, I feel deeply involved in it and I want users to have a connection, albeit vicariously, with me. I see my development as a kin to writing a book. Maybe this is way too deep here. What I really want to know is if I tutoie will I offend any of several generations of people? If yes then I will revert to the old archaic "standard" method of addressing users as suggested by most everyone.
    – CaptainBli
    May 10, 2017 at 23:05

2 Answers 2


As pointed out by Luke Sawczak in the comments, most of software in French use the infinitive form for these verbs.

If you're using these verbs in the context of a tutorial or a guide on how to use this software, you could use the "vous" form. If you want to convey a sense of proximity, then use the "tu" form.

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    Not just most software: this is how instructions are written in French. It applies to cooking recipes, to instructions on how to build furniture, ... May 9, 2017 at 22:32
  • Aren't we supposed to progress though. I feel so detached from my users if I have to use the infinitive form or vovoyer. It seems so retro, like 1970. I don't have a mobile phone from France, do they use the infinitive? What about modern websites? Eh ben, j'ai visité quelques sites et j'ai trouvé qu'il utilisent infinitif et vovoient sur la même page.
    – CaptainBli
    May 9, 2017 at 22:49
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    I can well imagine English programs that would be unusually familiar, such as Tumblr. For example, one of their 404 messages ends: "Unless you were looking for this error page, in which case: Congrats! You totally found it." A French program taking such a tone tutoierait-il, I wonder?
    – Luke Sawczak
    May 9, 2017 at 22:52
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    Just switched my Tumblr to French. « Ou peut-être vouliez-vous visiter cette page d'erreur ? Auquel cas : bravo ! Vous avez réussi ! » So a no-go on that one. (Also, this is admittedly outside of the scope of instructions anyway.)
    – Luke Sawczak
    May 9, 2017 at 22:55
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    Blizzard's 404: "Grats. You broke it." En français: "Ah, ben bravo. Vous avez tout cassé." I'm not holding out much hope now.
    – Luke Sawczak
    May 9, 2017 at 23:09

It depends on your audience.

If you have a software for any user, we normally use "vous", since we don't know the user and that your software may be for professionnals (where we mostly use "vous").

If your software is for children (i.e. Adibou), you can use "tu" (e.g. "Clique sur le carré", "Aide-le à retrouver son chien").

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