Sen or Siz? Tu or Vous?
What do you call your parents? Mother? Father? Mum? Dad? Or do you call them by their first names? These days, many young children call their parents, and their parents’ friends, by their first names.
However, in many countries this kind of familiarity is very impolite, and as a result many of the older people become uncomfortable. In some languages, such as French and Turkish, there are two forms for the word ‘you’.
In Turkish, ‘sen* is the informal form and ‘siz’ the formal. In French, the familiar word is ‘tu’ and the more formal one is ‘vous’. In English, there is only one form, ‘you’, although a few hundred years ago there was also the formal expression ‘thou’.
In Turkey and France, the two forms of the word are part of everyday life. In both countries it is often unacceptable for an older person to be called by the word ‘sen’ or ‘tu’ when he is talking to a younger person, but the young people usually use the informal form when they are talking to each other.
In France, the change from ‘vous’ to ‘tu’ shows a change in the relationship – from a formal one to an informal one. English speaking people – Australians, Americans and the British – never have this difficulty because thev don’t have another choice.