T-V distinction

T-V distinction

In sociolinguistics, a T-V distinction describes the situation wherein a language has second-person pronouns that distinguish varying levels of politeness, social distance, courtesy, familiarity, or insult toward the addressee.

History and usage

The expressions T-form and V-form were introduced by Brown and Gilman (1960), with reference to the initial letters of these pronouns in Latin, "tu" and "vos". In Latin, "tu" was originally the singular, and "vos" the plural, with no distinction for honorific or familiar. According to Brown and Gilman, usage of the plural to the Roman emperor began in the fourth century AD. They mention the possibility that this was because there were two emperors at that time (in Constantinople and Rome), but also mention that "plurality is a very old and ubiquitous metaphor for power". This usage was extended to other powerful figures, such as Pope Gregory I (590-604). However, Brown and Gilman note that it was only between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries that the norms for the use of T- and V-forms crystallized. Less commonly, the use of the plural may be extended to other persons, such as the "royal we" (majestic plural) in English.

Brown and Gilman argued that the choice of form is governed by either relationships of 'power' and/or 'solidarity', depending on the culture of the speakers, showing that 'power' had been the dominant predictor of form in Europe until the twentieth century. Thus, it was quite normal for a powerful person to use a T-form but expect a V-form in return. However in the twentieth century the dynamic shifted in favour of solidarity, so that people would use T-forms with those they knew, and V-forms in service encounters, with usage being the norm in both cases.

Modern English has no T-V distinction. It can often be confusing for an English speaker learning a language with a T-V distinction to assimilate the rules surrounding when to call someone with the formal or the informal pronoun. Students are often advised to err on the side of caution by using the formal pronouns. However, this risks sounding snobbish or ridiculous.

Though English has no syntactic T-V distinction, there are semantic analogies, such as whether to address someone by first name or last name (or using "sir" and "ma'am"). However the boundaries between formal and informal language differ from language to language, and most languages use formal speech more frequently, and/or in different circumstances than English. In some circumstances, it is not unusual to call other people by first name and the respectful form, or last name and familiar form. For example, German teachers use the former construct with upper-secondary students, while Italian teachers typically use the latter. This can lead to constructions denoting an intermediate level of formality in T-V-distinct languages that sound awkward to English-speakers. For example, the catchphrase of "Be careful, Michael" from "Knight Rider" was usually dubbed "Seien Sie vorsichtig, Michael" in German, implying both formality (use of "Sie") and familiarity (use of first name).

The use of these forms calls for compensating translation of dialogue into English. For example, a character in a French film or novel saying "Tutoie-moi!" ("Use [the informal pronoun] "tu" when addressing me!") might be translated "Do not be so formal!"

Examples of T-V distinctions

In many languages, the formal singular pronoun derives from a plural form. Many Romance languages have familiar forms derived from the Latin singular "tu" and formal forms derived from Latin plural "vos", sometimes via a circuitous route. Sometimes, singular V-form derives from a third person pronoun. Some languages have separate T and V forms for both singular and plural; others have the same form; others have a T-V distinction only in the singular.

Different languages distinguish pronoun uses in different ways. Even within languages, there are differences between groups (older people and people of higher status tending both to use and to expect more formal language) and between various aspects of one language. For example, in Dutch, "u" is slowly falling into disuse in the plural, and thus one could sometimes address a group as "jullie" when one would address each member individually as "u". In Latin American Spanish, the opposite change has occurred – having lost "vosotros", Latin Americans address all groups as "ustedes", even if the group is composed of friends whom they would call "tú" or "vos" (mostly in Argentina and Uruguay). In Standard Peninsular Spanish, however, "vosotros" is still regularly employed in familiar conversation. In some cases, V-forms are likely to be capitalized when written.

Following is a table of singular and plural versions of the second person plural and singular in many languages. Many of these do not demonstrate T-V distinction in the above sense of the "you" plural being used for "you" singular informal.

:* "Tanár úr" is a form of addressing for professors (cf. "Sir"); "tanár urat" is the accusative. Other forms of addressing are also possible, to avoid specifying the "maga" and "ön" pronouns.:** "Mari nénit" is an example name in the accusative (cf. "Aunt Mary").


In modern Icelandic the formal second person pronoun ("þér" or "Þér" for both singular and plural) is archaic. Today, it is used only on rare occasions when one intends to be extremely formal or when one wants to treat another person with contempt, or create/maintain distance between the parties. The formal pronoun is sometimes used in translations from a language that adheres to them, in formalized official correspondence and court proceedings. Some phrases such as "excuse me" ("afsakið mig") and "good appetite" ("gjöri þér svo vel") are still commonly used with the formal second person pronoun and traditional sayings such as "seek and you shall find" ("leitið og þér munið finna").


In theory "tu" is limited to friends and family, whereas "vu" is used anywhere else. However, many users actually adapt the practice in their own mother tongue and use "tu" and "vu" accordingly. In the plural, though, the only form in use is "vi", which does not distinguish between formal and informal address.

In all cases, an -n is added to the original pronoun to indicate a direct object that precedes its own verb: "Me amoras tu" (I love you) becomes "Tun me amoras" if the direct object takes the first place, for example for emphatic purposes.


In Italian the formal second person singular pronoun is "lei", which means "she", with the third person singular of the verb. The "lei" is sometimes capitalized as a sign of respect, particularly in administrative or business correspondence; if the pronoun is capitalized, so are all its forms, including the enclitics: "...vorrei incontrarLa per parlarGliene" "...I should like to meet you to talk to you about this".
It is also possible to use "Ella" as a very polite alternative, but this is very rarely used and is perceived as archaic or snobbish, since in Italian "egli" ("he"), "essi" ("they") and especially "ella" ("she") have fallen out of common use, being replaced by "lui" ("him"), "loro" ("them") and "lei" ("her").
For the background to the use of "her" as a polite pronoun, see the section "History" below.

"Lei" is nowadays generally concorded with the gender of the addressee; it might actually not be present in sentences as Italian is not subject-compulsory, and is then understood by the verb being conjugated in the third person.
* "Have you ever been in Rome?"
** " [Lei] è mai stato a Roma?" ("-o": to a male)
** " [Lei] è mai stata a Roma?" ("-a": to a female. But this can also be addressed to a male, in a very formal style).

The polite plural form "Loro" ("them"), followed by a verb in the third plural person, is rarely used nowadays; "voi" is normally used both in informal and formal contexts when addressing more than one person. The main situation where "Loro" might still be heard is in restaurants, because many waiters still use this form to address customers.
* "What do you wish to eat?"
** "Che cosa desiderate mangiare?" ("voi" is understood)
** "Che cosa desiderano mangiare?" ("loro" is understood)

"Voi" ("you", plural) might be used by some speakers instead of "lei", especially in Southern Italy, but it sounds old-fashioned. When it is addressed respectfully to one person, the pronoun "voi" is used with singular adjectives and participles, concorded with the gender of the addressee, although the verbs are still in the second person plural form.

"Lei" is normally used in formal settings, or with strangers, and it is used reciprocally between adults: the usage may not be reciprocal when young people address older strangers or otherwise respected people.
Students are addressed with "tu" by their teachers until the end of high school, and with "lei" in universities. Students might say "tu" to their teachers in elementary school, but switch to "lei" in middle and high school. Currently, people tend to address strangers of their own age using the informal "tu" until about thirty years of age. "Tu" is also the pronoun of first choice to address strangers on the Internet.
In prayers, "tu" is nowadays used; in the past, "voi" was a possible alternative.
There's a wide range of possible forms on instruction booklets: "tu", "lei" and "voi" (the last intended as a plural pronoun) are all acceptable; instructions may also be given in an impersonal way using verbs in the infinitive form, thus avoiding the problem of choosing a personal pronoun. In advertisements, companies usually address their customers using "tu": "lei" sounds too distant, "tu" suggests a closer relationship between the company and its customers.
In administrative correspondence and on very formal invitations, "la S.V." may be written instead of the pronoun "lei": "La S.V. è invitata...". The abbreviation stands for "la Signoria Vostra" "Your Lordship/Ladyship", which is the historical basis for the use of the third person feminine pronoun (see also below).


At the beginning of its history, in the Middle Ages, the Italian language had a "tu/voi" distinction of formality, as with other Romance languages; in his "Divine Comedy" (begun in 1307), Dante normally uses "tu" when talking to the people he meets, but addresses them with "voi" when he means to show particular respect, for example to his former teacher ("Siete voi qui, ser Brunetto?").

During the Renaissance the use of "lei" as a polite pronoun began, with some subsequent influence from Spanish; the origin of "lei" is due to expressions as "Your Lordship/Eminence/Majesty/Holiness/...", where all of these nouns were feminine in gender ("Vostra Signoria/Eminenza/Maestà/Santità/...") and referred to in the third person singular.

For a few centuries (possibly from the 16th century to the beginning of the 20th century) there was a three-pronoun system in use, with "tu/voi/lei" employed with a growing degree of formality; this was very well exemplified in Manzoni's novel "The Betrothed" (written in 1840-42 and set in 1628-30), where the characters talk using all three pronouns: the usage was often not reciprocal, with several combinations based on age and social status.

In 1938, under Fascist rule, the use of "lei" was banned on nationalistic grounds, since the use of "voi" was thought of as "more Italian"; the ban lasted only for a few years, until the end of World War II, and left little trace. However, in some parts of Italy, particularly in Southern Italy, "voi" had always been preferred as the polite form and continued to be used regionally, while "lei" definitely prevailed as the standard V-form.

*Luca Serianni in " [http://www.accademiadellacrusca.it/faq/faq_risp.php?id=5497&ctg_id=93 La Crusca per voi] " (no. 20, April 2000)


In Japanese, as in Vietnamese, kinship terms, titles, or names are commonly used instead of first-, second- or third-person pronouns. As in Korean, there are several levels of politeness regarding to social hierarchy, and polite language encompasses not only pronouns, but verb endings and vocabulary as well. (See the articles Japanese pronouns and Honorific speech in Japanese for more information.)


Much like Japanese, the Korean language has complex gradations. It uses honorifics and no less than seven speech levels, each with a singular/plural distinction, making for fourteen basic verb stems. Nevertheless, most levels have all but disappeared from everyday language, so one can simplify this into the basic distinction between "plain" and "polite" conjugations of verbs and adjectives. In general, the plain form is used when speaking to family, close friends, and social inferiors, and the polite form otherwise. When two Korean-speaking strangers meet where none is the obvious social superior, both use the polite form; when it is determined that one or both can switch to the plain form, one often asks for permission for this switch. The phrase used to describe this is "mareul nota" (literally “to release language”). In Korean, the polite form is called "jondaenmal" and the plain form is called "yesanmal" or "banmal". In contrast to the neutral term "yesanmal", "banmal" (literally “half speech”) often has a rather negative connotation, referring for instance to the plain form that one may deliberately use to provoke someone who should be addressed in the polite form.

There is a similar phenomenon called "nopimmal", which is honorific speech triggered not by the addressee but by the content of an expression. It is used independently of the speech levels. For example, in "-hasimnida" “do(es) …”, the speaker uses the infix "-si-" to honour the subject of the sentence and the ending "-mnida" to express courtesy or politeness (or simply his distance) towards the addressee. As the subject of the sentence and the addressee do not have to be the same person both forms can be mixed. The speaker can honour a higher person he is talking about with the infix "-si-" while talking to a friend who is addressed in the informal "banmal".


Historically, aside from familiar "tu" and respectful "jūs" or "Jūs", also used to express plural, there was a special form "tamsta", mostly referred to in third person singular (although referring in second person singular is also not uncommon). This form was used to communicate with a stranger who has not earned particular respect (a beggar, for example). Through the Soviet occupation period, however, this form was mostly replaced by standard neutral form "drauge" ('comrade' in vocative form), and by now "tamsta" is used sparsely.


As there are many additions to the vocabulary of the Malay language, Standard Malay today is a result of many years of various refinements (the Malay language was never, and is still not, taught in a strictly prescriptive manner).


In Norwegian, the polite form "De" is rarely heard in spoken language. Norwegians almost exclusively use "du" in their daily life. "De" is still used in formal situations or when talking to elderly people. "De" can also be found in written works, business letters, theatrical plays and translations where an impression of formality must be retained. A popular saying is that "De" is reserved for the king.

However, it should be mentioned that Norwegians also generally refer to one another by first name only unless the person is better known by their full or last name only, putting this weakening of the courteous pronoun into a general pattern of declining use of polite speech (for town dwellers), or of a return to traditions of the near past (for country-dwellers). For example, a student might address his professor John Doe, not as "Mr./Dr. Doe", but as "John", but would refer to the president of the US as "Bush", not "George". However, Norwegian politicians and celebrities are sometimes referred to by their first names, especially in newspaper headlines. Nicknames are not very common.

As the distinction between Bokmål and Nynorsk exists only for written Norwegian (Nynorsk writers speaking more or less their respective dialects), the T-V rules are the same for both forms.



In Brazilian Portuguese, "você" and "vocês" (singular and plural "you", respectively) are used as informal addressing, while "o senhor" and "a senhora" ("mister" and "mistress", plurals "os senhores" and "as senhoras") stand for formal speech.

In European Portuguese (as well as in Africa and Asia), "tu" (singular "you") is commonly used as the informal addressing pronoun, while "você" is used in formal or semi-formal situations; "vocês" (plural) is used for both formal and informal speech. The forms "o senhor" and "a senhora" (plurals "os senhores" and "as senhoras") are used for the most formal situations (roughly equivalent to "sir" and "madam").

However, there is considerable regional variation in the use of these terms, and more specific forms of address are sometimes employed.

Historically, "você" derives from "vossa mercê" ("your mercy" or "your grace") via the intermediate forms "vossemecê" and "vosmecê"; compare with the derivation of Spanish "usted" from "vuestra merced". For that reason, "você" and "vocês" require verbs conjugated in the third person, rather than the second person.

The second person plural pronoun "vós" ("thou"), from Latin "vos", has fallen into disuse in all but a few regional dialects of Northern Portugal, where it expresses an intermediate degree of formality between "tu" and "você(s)". Its use is kept as an archaism in literature (historical setting), prayer (when addressing a deity) or exaggerated (mocking) ceremonial.


Romanian "dumneavoastră" when used for the second-person singular formal takes plural verbs but singular adjectives, similar to French "vous". It is used roughly in the same manner as in Continental French and shows no signs of disappearing. It is also used as a more formal "voi". It originates from "domnia voastră" - your lordship. As it happens with all subjective pronouns "dumneavoastră" is many times omitted from sentences, its use being implied by verbs in the second person plural form.

The form "dumneata" (originating from "domnia ta" - thy lordship) is less distant than "dumneavoastră" and somewhat midway between "tu" and "dumneavoastră". The verb is conjugated, as for "tu", in the second person singular form. Older people towards younger people and peers favor "Dumneata". Its use is gradually declining. An even more colloquial form of "dumneata" is "mata".

Furthermore, there is an even more familiar term than "tu" used in some regions of Romania – matale. It is used only with immediate family members, and is spelled and pronounced the same in all cases, similar to "dumneavoastră." It is conjugated in the second-person singular, like "tu."


Russian distinguishes between familiar "ty" ("ты") and respectful "vy" ("вы"), which is used familiar address for several people. (Respectful "Vy" may be capitalized, while plural "vy" is not.) Generally, "ty" is used among friends and relatives, but the usage depends not only on the closeness of the relationship but also on age and the formality of the situation (e.g., work meeting vs. a party). Children always use "ty" to address each other and are addressed in this way by adults but are taught to address adults with "vy". Younger adults typically also address older adults outside the family as "vy" regardless of intimacy, and may be addressed as "ty" in return. When talking to each other young people often start with the formal "vy" when talking to each other but may transition to "ty" very quickly in an informal situation. Among older people, "ty" is often reserved for closer acquaintances. Unless there is a substantial difference in age, the choice of the form is symmetric: if A uses "ty" to address B, then B also uses "ty" to address A. While people may transition quickly from "vy" to "ty", such transition presumes mutual agreement. Use of "ty" without consent of the other person is likely to be viewed as poor conduct or even as an insult, particularly if the other party maintains using "vy".

Historically, the rules have been in favor of more formal usage; as late as the 19th century, it was accepted in many circles (generally among the more educated) that "vy" is to be used between close friends, between husband and wife, and when addressing one's parents (but not one's children), all of which situations today would strongly call for using "ty".

The choice between "ty" and "vy" is closely related, yet sometimes different, from the choice of the addressing format - that is, the selection from the first name, patronymics, last name, and the title to be used when addressing the person. Normally, "ty" is associated with the informal addressing by first name only (or, even more informally, by the patronymics only), whereas "vy" is associated with the more formal addressing format of using the first name together with patronymics (roughly analogous to "title followed by last name" in English) or the last name alone or with a title (the last name is almost never used together with either of the other two names to "address" someone, although such combinations are routinely used to "introduce" or "mention" someone).

cottish Gaelic

The informal form of the second-person singular in Scottish Gaelic is "thu" (emphatic: "thusa"), used when addressing a person the speaker knows well, or when addressing a person younger or relatively the same age as the speaker. When addressing a superior, an elder, or a stranger, or in conducting business, the form "sibh" (emphatic: "sibhse") is used. ("Sibh" is also the second person plural). This distinction carries over into prepositional pronouns: for instance, "agad" and "agaibh" (at you), "riut" and "ruibh" (with you), "umad" and "umaibh" (about you), etc.


Use of "ti" is limited to friends and family, and used among children. In any formal use, "vi" is used only; "ti" can be used among peers in a workplace, but rarely in official documents. It is a common misconception even among native speakers to always capitalize "Vi" when used in formal tone but "Vi" is capitalized only in direct personal correspondence between two persons.


In Spanish, the respectful form requires verbs to be conjugated in the third person singular; this is because the form "usted" evolved from the title "vuestra merced" (your grace) which naturally took the third person like the Portuguese "você". In some cases, if a younger person speaks to someone who is relatively older, the younger of the pair will address the elder with "usted", perhaps combining it with "Don". However, an altered form of "vuestra merced", "su merced" (which in colloquial language has been corrupted to "sumercé"), has survived in the rural areas located in the plateau that surrounds Colombia's capital city, Bogotá.

In most dialects, close friends are referred to as "tú", and venerable old women are "usted", but there is a wide grey area in the middle. Even that is not universally true: in the Spanish dialects of some parts of Latin America (for example, in many parts of Colombia and Guatemala, as well as Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico), "tú" is almost never used, not even with close friends or relatives, which are "usted". Similarly in the Rioplatense Spanish variant used in most of Argentina and Uruguay "tú" is generally replaced by "vos" (see voseo). The use of "tú" has its highest prevalence in Spain, as well as Mexico and Peru since these were the administrative centers of the Spanish Empire and so more readily kept up with changes in fashions in Spain (although Mexican and Peruvian Spanish are certainly not identical to the European dialects). Notably the Spanish-speakers in the United States tend to follow Mexican conventions because most are Mexican immigrants or descendants thereof.

The history behind "tú"-"vos"-"usted" is that for a time all three forms existed in Spain including during the colonization of the Americas. In most of Spain the "vos" form died out and is now largely regarded as an archaic expression and this attitude has been adopted in most of Mexico, Peru, and other countries. Some countries, like Argentina, have preserved the "vos" form instead regarding "tú" as being the archaic term.

In the plural, Spanish presents the T-form "vosotros" and the V-form "ustedes", which uses verbs in the second and third person plural, respectively. However, only Northern Spain has retained this distinction, while in the Canaries and Latin America, "ustedes" is the only form used in all contexts. In Andalusia and Extremadura, "ustedes" is used as well, but combined with the verb forms corresponding to "vosotros" in standard European Spanish.


In Swedish, there has in the last two centuries been a marked difference between usage in Finland-Swedish and in Sweden.

In Finland-Swedish, the second person plural form "Ni" (noted as formal above) was indeed the traditional respectful address to a single person up to the 1970s or so.

In mainland Swedish, the polite "Ni" was known from earlier epochs, but had come to be considered somewhat careless, bullying or rude; instead, an intricate system had evolved in order to prudently step around pronouns almost altogether:
*addressing in third person singular adding "title and (second) name" was considered proper and respectful in most cases. But with persons of higher standing, say a doctor, count or managing director, there arose the question when to use that title only and when to precede it with a "herr" ('mister' or, in this connection, 'sir'); not doubling such titles could be very rude unless you were on somewhat informal terms.
A woman, married to a husband with a specific title, was addressed using the "feminine form of her husband's title" as a matter of course. This created its own set of problems as more and more women acquired professional titles of their own.
*If you were somewhat acquainted and not too far apart in rank and age, you could then drop the name and use the "title only"—with the same problem of single or double title as above.
*"surname without title" was considered proper between friends not too close and for a superior to his subordinate or someone of similar rank. That was also customary in male brotherhoods like between students.
*Below that on the social scale, both among peers and from above, was the "third person singular pronoun only" ("han" 'he', less often "hon" 'she'). That was more usual in the countryside; considered rustic by "educated" people, but fitting towards e.g. an old fisher- or woodman.
*Simple folks of venerable age could be properly addressed "far" ('father';less usual) and "mor" ('mother') "plus Christian name", both by their own and by superiors.
The sex difference in the two addresses above was caused mainly by the "hon" ('she') being felt as too direct, maybe a covert insult or sign of doubt as to the addressee's decency. If she was a farmwife or the like, she could be called "mor" etc. even if young; otherwise, one had to make do with the nearest-fitting other way of addressing.
*A master could address his servant, or a farmer his farmhand, by "Christian name for pronoun"; that was more common between females, as the female world was generally more confined, but restricted between the sexes unless the social gap was very wide.
*A subordinate, in each case, answered by using the superior's title or titles or, in private, the informal term for his rank (e.g. "herrn", "patron").
*"Kinship term plus Christian name", still never alternating with pronoun, was proper in private to nearer older relatives.
*The second person singular "du" was used only to and between children, within a married couple, between lovers or to a more or less voluntary mistress of lower standing, and between friends who had "druckit duskål" ('toasted for thou', as it were; infinitive "dricka duskål") with each other—of course initiated by the elder or higher-ranked party. Again, the custom could be somewhat more relaxed among women—at least the toast itself was usually dispensed with. Then, "du" could be used to insult a tramp or the like.

Parts of this system began to erode around the Second World War or so, but the essentials held up into the 1960s.

:In the province of Dalarna (Dalecarlia),however, and in a few other remote places with few upper class people, the "du"/"ni" distinction had remained one of number only; possibly, children addressed their parents with "far" (Father) and "mor" (Mother) also when "du" would otherwise have been more logical.
In some other remote places, the "ni" survived as both second person plural pronoun and polite address—to elders, including one's parents, not classified with "better people"—but in its older form "I". In standard Swedish, that form had become archaic and solemn well before the 20th century. ("I" is always capitalized, not out of respect but to avoid confusion with the preposition "i" ('in').)

As the twentieth century progressed, this circumlocutive system of addressing, with its innumerable ambiguities and opportunities for unintentional offence, was increasingly felt as a nuisance. An early way out was to carry the circumlocutions one-degree further—finding impersonal ways of saying what was needful, avoiding both personal pronoun and title. ("Får det lov att vara en kopp kaffe?", approximately 'Would a cup of coffee be allowed, please?'; "Så det är till att resa?", approximately 'So, it is about travelling?'). However, that soon proved of little avail. For one thing, you still had to address the person you talked with directly from time to time in the conversation, otherwise you would really have sounded impolite—and over time, it became "de rigueur" to do so more and more often, until it was a system with both longish titles used instead of personal pronouns and impersonal circumlocutions; and for another, the impersonal constructions soon acquired their own gradations, to be observant upon—e.g., that in the second example above being perceived as more and more rustic, ending up rude.
Then in the 'sixties, things happened fast. First, authorities and influential circles tried rehabilitating the "Ni" in a so-called "ni" reform"—but most people could not bring themselves to feel civil using that. Then, almost overnight and dubbed the "du" reform", the system broke down and
*"du" (noted as informal above) became the accepted way of addressing any one person except royalty.
*Only slightly less accepted is the use of Christian name also when addressing an unknown person ("Daniel", "Pia", etc.). Some people try to avoid the name altogether when speaking to an unknown (older) person, a representative of authority or the like, but the pronoun is still "du".
*Addressing royalty went somewhat more slowly from a universal "Ers majestät" ('Your Majesty'), etc., to that address only on formal occasions, otherwise replaced by third person (singular if the addressee is single) with title ("K(on)ungen" 'the King', etc.).
These rules still apply, with marginal exceptions.

In a few circles of younger people, mostly in the larger cities, the use of the extinct "Ni" for polite address has gained ground again—notably among some shop assistants and waiters for addressing customers in shops and guests in restaurants.Fact|date=September 2007. It may also occur that a young person cannot bring him- or herself to address a venerable (and perhaps upper-class) old person "du", and then takes recourse to the "ni". In addition, "Ni" has become a fashionable address in some circles of younger businessmenFact|date=September 2007. But whether this is a fashion, coquettery on some parts, a sign of uncertainty in a time of social change, or a beginning of something, is much too early to say. The vast majority of Swedes, including younger people in most or all situations, stick to the "du" as of this writing (2007).

In order to "alleviate the intrusion" in writing, e.g. in letters or in advertisement, the "Du" can be capitalized. That usage was most widespread in the early days of universal "du" address; it has become slightly more common again simultaneously with the partial "Ni" revival.

Finland-Swedish has undergone a similar development to mainland Swedish since the 1960s, but slower and slightly less. There, one may have to reckon with influence from the Finnish language, still slightly more conservative.

Swedish, also, has verbs for the addresses: "dua" 'to say "du" ', and "nia" 'to say "ni" '.


In Thai, first, second, and third person pronouns vary in formality according to the social standing of the speaker and the referent and the relationship between them. For a non-exhaustive list of Thai second person pronouns, see http://www.into-asia.com/thai_language/grammar/you.php.


In contemporary Turkish, T-V distinction is strong. Friends and family members speak to one another using the second singular person "sen" as well as adults use "sen" to address minors. In formal situations (meeting people first time, business, customer-clerk, colleagues) second plural "siz" is used widely. In very formal situations, double plural second person "sizler" may be used to refer to a much-respected person. Rarely, third plural conjugation of the verb (but not the pronoun) may be used to emphasize utmost respect. In imperative, there are three forms: second singular person for informal, second plural person for formal and double plural second person for very formal situations: "gel" (second singular, informal), "gelin" (second plural, formal), "geliniz" (double second plural, very formal). The very formal forms are not frequently used.


In the extinct Ubykh language, the T-V distinction was most notable between a man and his mother-in-law, where the plural form "unicode|sʸæghʷa" supplanted the singular "unicode|wæghʷa" very frequently, possibly under the influence of Turkish. The distinction was upheld less frequently in other relationships, but did still occur.


The Uyghur language is notable for using four different forms, to distinguish both singular and plural in both formal and informal registers. The informal plural "silär" originated as a contraction of "sizlär", which uses a regular plural ending. In Old Turkic, as still in modern Turkish, "siz" was the original second-person plural. However, in modern Uyghur "siz" has become restricted to the formal singular, requiring the plural suffix -"lär" for the plurals.

"Siz" as the formal singular pronoun is characteristic of Ürümchi dialect, which is the Uyghur literary standard. In Turfan they say "sili" and in Kashgar dialect, "özlär". "Sili" is also used in other areas sometimes, while in literary Uyghur "özlär" as a singular pronoun is considered a "hyperdeferential" level of respect; the deferential plural form is "härqaysiliri".


Vietnamese does not have a clear concept of pronouns. Any noun can be used to refer to people, especially kinship terms. Pronouns are sometimes not needed in a normal conversation, as the speaker can always refer to him/herself, the audience, and others directly by name, which might seem strange to English speakers. The nouns used to refer to people can reveal not only the level of formality, but also the social relationship between the speaker and the person being referred to, differences in age, and even the attitude of the speaker toward the person whom is being referred.

There is an informal second-person pronoun: "mày". This term is always condescending and should only be used with someone who is both familiar with and subordinate to the speaker. Young people also utilize it frequently.

Related verbs, nouns and pronouns

Some languages have a verb to describe the fact of using either a "T" or a "V" form. Some also have a related noun or pronoun.


*Brown, R. and A. Gilman (1960) "The Pronouns of Power and Solidarity" in "American Anthropologist" 4 (6): 24-39. Also found in "Language and Social Context: Selected Readings," ed. by P. Giglioli (1972), ISBN 0-140-13303-8, pp. 252-282.
*Fr Chatelain, E. (1880) "Du pluriel de respect en latin". "Revue de Philologie" IV (April 1880): 129–139.
* [http://www.csun.edu/~sk36711/WWW/Common%20Files/megrammar.pdf On-line Middle English grammar] (PDF file)
*"Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, The". New York, Oxford University Press, 1971.


ee also

* Honorific
* Hypocoristic
* Style (manner of address)
* Thou

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