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Sie or du?


This article is at the intersection of grammar and etiquette. Today we will talk about “you” and “you” in German.

As in Russian, there is a clear line between these two references. Let’s start with the obvious. If you talk to a stranger or an unfamiliar adult, you should use “you”, “Sie” to tell the boss at work, a supermarket employee, a bank employee, etc. Accordingly, “du” should be said to everyone else (children, friends).

There is a very important social rule: only the older one (by age, rank, etc.) can offer to go to the “you”, but not vice versa. “Der Ältere bietetet das “Du” an” – “The older one suggests switching to “you”. If we have a younger person to offer, it will be… unusual in German.

There are always cases where there are doubts about whether you or you should be referred to. In this case, it is better to use a formal appeal. It is better to be considered too polite than the other way around.

There are even the verbs “siezen” – “you” and “duzen” – “you”. If you don’t fully understand how to speak to a person, you can ask, “siezen wir oder duzen? – Are we on “you” or “you”?

Generally speaking, there is “sie” in German – “she”, “sie” – “they”, “Sie” – “you”. A polite treatment is spelled ONLY with a capital letter so as not to confuse it with “sie” – “they”, and “sie” – “she” is different in that the verbs with this pronoun get the ending “-t” rather than “-en”, as in the case of the other two. It is very important to understand that “ihr” is “you” (the second person in the plural) – this is an address to a group of people we call “du”. If you have a lot of people in front of you, each of whom you call a formal “you”, then you should also address them in the plural in “Sie”.

Thank you for your attention. Good luck to you and personally to you.

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