It wouldn't be fore another year, when I finally moved to France that I would realize my mistake. Bri's grandmother was over for dinner and we were snacking on some dinner when I notived Joce motioning to Madame Corrieri and saying, voulez-vous un autre tranche du boeuf? I stared for a moment and it sunk in. Aghast I leaned over to Bri and said, omg. Am I supposed to be using VOUS with your parents?? Like since the beginning?? He looked at me and nodded, like, DUH. I was aghast. I didn't know how to discuss this with his parents and be like, so can we go back to the vous or is it too late?
Luckily, I have understanding French parents, and when I finally had enough French to be able to make conversation on my own I posed the question. C'est ok si j'avais toujours appelé toi un TU, pourrais-je changer? She laughed and said, c'est pas nécessaire. I nodded.
Thus I embarked on the horrible journey of deciding when to use the Tu and when to use the Vous. I've sort of broken down some social rules:
When to use the TU
- With other students that are in your class.
- With close friends or people that are your age.
- Anyone who is younger than you.
- When someone has requested it, a true French social thing: Tu peux m'appelle TU.
When to use the VOUS
- Professors or bosses
- Collegues at work
- Anyone who is older than you, like at least by a generation
- Anyone you meet in a store, ANYONE
- Parents/grandparents of your French boyfriend
- Addressing a group of people
It can be incredibly annoying, as all those verb forms change and if you make the social mistake of calling someone a VOUS when they are clearly a TU (you risk looking too formal) and vice versa. Just don't call your boyfriend's parents tu. That is bad and it's an irreversable mistake.