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French Grammar Lesson 3

When to use “tu” or “vous” in French?


In English, the word “you” refers to anyone you address. It doesn’t matter whether you’re addressing a child or the Queen of England. The person being addressed is still called “you.”

French is not like that at all. There are two different ways you could say “you.” When you talk to some people, you’ll use “vous” for “you.” When you talk to others, you’ll use “tu.”

Tu” is an informal way to address people we know best like family, best friends, young people, and children . There is no real equivalent in English.

Let’s look at “tu” in action:

Bonjour, Pierre, comment vas-tu ?

“Hello, Peter, how are you?”

Vous” is used for people you do not know or do not see very often, for your superiors at work, with any civil servant, or with any person not close to you.

Now let’s see “vous” in action:

Bonjour, Monsieur Smith, comment allez-vous ?

“Hello, Mr. Smith, how are you?”

Using “tu” with people you do not know or do not know well is considered gross, impolite, out of place and unacceptable (In France or any French-speaking country!)

You can use “tu” with kids and teenagers.

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