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I am having a discussion with a friend about an advert posting I want to make and whether to tutoyer or vouvoyer. For context:

I am a student advertising a room to let to other students (or people of similar age/status) and the post will be in some public Facebook groups. I have a few lines where I address "you" e.g. "if you are interested, please message me..."

In this context I would generally tutoyer as I want to create a friendly informal tone with anyone who would be my flatmate, although I am addressing strangers. My confusion comes into the extent to which I am addressing a group and whether the plural vouvoyer applies or not. The following conflicting points cause me confusion:

  • The advert is to be read by everyone in the Facebook groups I am posting to. (Plural - vouvoyer?)
  • I am only looking for one flatmate, so there will only be one person for whom the advert is "successful" (singular - tutoyer?) but of course multiple people will likely answer the advert.
  • From the perspective of the people reading the advert, they will be reading and regarding it as if they are a single person. They do not act as a group, each person in the group acts only on behalf of themselves. I hope that makes sense. (Singular - tutoyer?)

I have searched several other sites on tutoyer vs vouvoyer but they mainly talk about the formality usage and then just briefly mention that plural = vouvoyer without giving much more details. Additionally, looking at other adverts in the pages, there is a mix of both. Vouvoyer seems slightly more common but there is a large number of foreigners posting, with the possibility of large variations in degree of French fluency.

I can of course rewrite the advert so I don't use tu/vous at all, but I am now interested in learning what the correct form would be.

It also for French-speaking Switzerland, rather than France. Although I don't expect that to make a difference.

  • Thank you to the answers so far, although I want to clarify that my question isn't about what tone/formality is appropriate for the people I am talking to. It is more about the particulars of to what extent the plural "vous" is applicable. – Andrew Sep 25 '17 at 15:14
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Both are acceptable but I would suggest sticking to vous because you are addressing the message to a group of people. Regardless of whether you use tu or vous at the singular, the plural is always vous.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing:

Je dispose d'une place pour le concert de XYZ. Si vous êtes intéressés, envoyez-moi un message au 06xxxxxxxx.

instead of:

Je dispose d'une place pour le concert de XYZ. Si tu es intéressé(e), envoie-moi un message au 06xxxxxxxx.

The first sentence is addressed to a group of people so the question about tu/vous is irrelevant, there is no vosotros/ustedes distinction in French.

The second sentence is addressed to a single person. Either really a single person, e.g. Pierre, je dispose d'une place pour le concert..., but this doesn't match your situation or you are addressing the message to several people and want each recipient to feel like you are writing to him/her personally.

This is possible but I believe less frequent in this kind of advertisement.

Should you have asked to a single unknown person you vouvoie, the sentence would have been:

Je dispose d'une place pour le concert de XYZ. Si vous êtes intéressé(e), envoyez-moi un message au 06xxxxxxxx.

Finally, you can be sure nobody will be outraged if you use a singular vous which is a mark of respect while there is a small risk for people not to appreciate being tutoyé by someone they do not know personally. The latter is very unlikely to happen between students though.

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As someone from Quebec, I've been told we are more casual about using tutoiement than our cousins across the Atlantic so, keep in mind, my advice may be more applicable for North America.

The other websites focusing on tone and formality are right.

If you are a college-aged student looking for a flatmate, then using vous might make it sound overly formal. You may want to stick to a more familiar range. Using vous could come across as being unpleasant, too strict, etc. Tutoiement is a good way of broadcasting informality and closeness. For a product which wants to appear cool or if you want to be more emotionally engaging, it might be the right choice.

At the other end of the range, you might want to convey professionalism or formality. Then, vous is the obvious choice. It's also the safest bet if you rather err on the side of caution. In conversation, we typically use vous by default unless given permission. We err towards politeness. As the plural form, it's also easily perceived as addressing to the crowd rather than to the person watching - hence my previous comment about closeness.

In your specific case, There's two clears paths:

1. Going for an informal engaging ad showcasing personality:

"Tu te cherches un appartement, situé pas trop loin de l'uni, avec des colocs trop sympas ? Tu peux arrêter de chercher maintenant. Nous sommes les droid... les colocs que tu cherchais ! La traversée du désert est terminée. T'es arrivé à bon port. On cherche un troisième pour notre 5 et demi. Grand, spacieux. Chauffé ET éclairé. Nous sommes assez calme et un peu geeky, mais on a d'la jasette."

2. Going for a more formal ad, showcasing a serious attitude:

"Nous sommes présentement à la recherche d'un colocataire pour notre grand 5 et demi, situé à quelques pas de l'université et d'une épicerie. Chauffé et éclairé, il est à vous pour seulement 400$ par mois. Si ça vous intéresse, nous sommes disponible en soirée pour des visites. Merci."

Both ads are likely to attract a different clientele so choose wisely.

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For a "French-of-France" (i.e. fr_fr) advert, I would stick to tutoiement for two reasons:

1) People looking for sharing a flat are usually young, so they would prefer tutoiement

2) In such an ad, you actually talk independently to each candidate(s). Usually, you will look for one or more single roommates, hence the tutoiement. If you were to search for couples, you would use vouvoiement instead because they are more than one.

  • On ne parle pas de vouvoiement quand il s'agit de s'adresser à plusieurs personne. Le vouvoiement est une formule de politesse. Le tutoiement au pluriel est toujours un tutoiement. – Distic Sep 25 '17 at 15:48
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I'd go for 'tutoyer' as your ad is clearly aimed at an other student. I never heard any students 'vouvoyer' when addressing each other. Relations between students are less formal than those between other people.

In ads for selling products I'd rarely use 'tu' or 'toi'.

  • Tout dépend. Par exemple, certains étudiants plus âgés enseignent à d'autres, et alors le vouvoiement n'est pas rare. Mais il est vrai que dans le cas d'étudiants de la même promotion, je n'ai jamais entendu que le tutoiement. Peut-être dans certaines institutions privées ? – Distic Sep 25 '17 at 8:25
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'Vous'. Not because you're addressing more than one person, but because you must not tutoie people you don't know. Question de politesse. Quelques publicitaires essayent de 'cibler les jeunes' en les tutoyant, mais c'est une ruse grossière.

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