You and you

Image_2_-_Les_pronoms_personnels_sujets_(Tu-vous)

As I’ve blogged previously, attempting to speak good French is one of our major concerns here.

I tend to look on every interaction conducted in French as a lesson.

For a sustained and wide-ranging boot up the learning curve, however, nothing seems to beat talking to our neighbours.

Just to the side of us is a house which is the second house/summer home of a couple from Laval about 10 years older than us, but they’re both fit and lively and very friendly, whilst just down the road from us at the end of the hamlet live another couple, Bretons, about the same age as us and they’re very friendly too.

One of the big differences between English and French is that whilst we have one word for the second person singular, the French have two – ‘tu’ and ‘vous’, from which other pronouns are derived, such as possessives,

It would have seemed very strange and over-familiar if we’d started off addressing our neighbours as ‘tu’ when speaking to them. The rule is pretty much that until you know someone and you’ve accepted them as your peer then you stick to ‘vous’.

In fact, the French even have verbs to deal with this two yous’ situation – ‘tutoyer’ meaning to use ‘tu’ and vouvoyers to use ‘vous’.

Sure enough, we started off using ‘vous’ all the time here. However, we’re now on ‘tu’ terms with both couples and use it when speaking to them because we picked up that our neighbours were using it to talk to us.

I find it very gratifying and a sign that we’ve been accepted somehow, in spite of being English and inherently ‘different’ in some respects.