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Thread: Usage of вы or ты?

  1. #1
    Hanna
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    Usage of вы or ты?

    I am not sure how to know how and when to switch from вы to ты.
    In a non-work related situation, should I address strangers my own age 30s as вы or not?
    How and when do you switch over?
    Which aeems worse, saying "вы" to someone you are friends with, or saying "ты" too early?

    I am currently on holiday, currently in Belarus.
    I have been so focussed on understanding what people are saying, that I've forgotten to pay attention to what form of address they are using. I'd hate to cause offense by using the wrong form!

    My gut feeling as a Swedish person is to drop the "вы" as soon as it is at all possible because it sounds too formal and stiff. However, this might be rude in Russian. I am just not sure.

  2. #2
    Увлечённый спикер
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    "In a non-work related situation, should I address strangers my own age 30s as вы or not?""
    If you don't know a person well (it's a stranger) it doesn't matter what age the stranger is. Better to say "Вы".
    For example, you are in your 30ies and I am younger (in my 20ies) but we don't know each other well and therefore you and I would say "Вы" to each other. When you get to know the person better it's ok to offer and ask "может, перейдём на ты?" Usually there is a positive answer
    To people who are older - for example, you are 30 and you are talking to men or women who are 50 years old (even if you know them well) we always say "Вы" (to show that you respect them)

  3. #3
    Hanna
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    Oh no!!! I have already been really rude according to Lena's explanation.
    I felt silly to keep saying вы and simply dropped it with several people. In particular, some ladies much older than myself. How stupid!!

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hanna View Post
    Oh no!!! I have already been really rude according to Lena's explanation.
    I felt silly to keep saying вы and simply dropped it with several people. In particular, some ladies much older than myself. How stupid!!
    I am sure they knew that Russian wasn't your native language and I am sure they weren't offended too much.

  5. #5
    Властелин
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    I felt silly to keep saying вы and simply dropped it with several people.
    How did they address you?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
    How did they address you?
    Even if an old lady says "ты" to you, you cannot say "ты" to her anyway.

  7. #7
    Подающий надежды оратор
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    Пустое вы сердечным ты
    Она, обмолвясь, заменила,
    И все счастливые мечты
    В душе влюблённой возбудила.


    А.С. Пушкин
    В основном безвреден.

  8. #8
    Hanna
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    Thanks Lena. Well, there is nothing to be done, I have already made the mistake.

    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
    How did they address you?
    The thing was, I was not sure --- I personally don't care which one people use, in any language. So I absolutely was not paying attention to it, instead I was focussed on trying to understand what they were saying.

    I was very polite in every other respect though, so hopefully they understand that I respect them and that I was just not familiar with the etiquette. But with such things, people tend to forget cultural differences and just take offense.

    Basically the people in question where people I met at this "sanatorium" in Belarus.
    It was a woman a few years older than me (not a problem with her, I am sure), a couple also older than me but not very old - late forties, I'd say. Super nice Russians from Murmansk. It's possible that the husband thought it was rude. Plus some women in their 50s and 60s. I think I was sensible enough to stick with "вы" with them, but I was really unsure about it.

    I went to some dances, went walking and generally hung out with these people. For me, the polite form is something to use at work, or with some really important or very old person. To use it with people you socialise with is pretentious and rather silly in Swedish. I thought - oh Russians are cool and relaxed, they probably are not as stiff with stuff like this as Germans etc.... Seems I was mistaken.

    "может, перейдём на ты?"
    Ok I will use that from now. It sounds really old fashioned to me.... But if that is the practice I will definitely do it.

  9. #9
    Завсегдатай Basil77's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hanna View Post
    "может, перейдём на ты?"
    Ok I will use that from now. It sounds really old fashioned to me.... But if that is the practice I will definitely do it.
    Haha, this phrase sounds not too polite for me either. I usually say something like "Не против, если на "ты"?" or so.
    Please, correct my mistakes, except for the cases I misspell something on purpose!

  10. #10
    Почтенный гражданин
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    Once again I'm learning in Hanna's wake. I'm glad you asked this.

    If it's any consellation (probably not), I've been rude with this in the past, without really realizing it.. First I always said "вы ", but after a couple of times of being told to stop being so formal, i got used to ты and fell into a bad habit of using it all the time. With strangers, online and such.. probably offended whole hosts of people.. and why? Same old mindset - I came with my pre-conceived notions of what is proper.. =) Thanks for the lesson friends..
    luck/life/kidkboom
    Грязные башмаки располагают к осмотрительности в выборе дороги. /*/ Muddy boots choose their roads with wisdom. ;

  11. #11
    Moderator Lampada's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vadim M. View Post
    Пустое вы сердечным ты
    Она, обмолвясь, заменила,
    И все счастливые мечты
    В душе влюблённой возбудила.


    А.С. Пушкин
    YouTube - ‪Tu i Vu- Alexandr Pushkin‬‏
    "...Важно, чтобы форум оставался местом, объединяющим людей, для которых интересны русский язык и культура. ..." - MasterАdmin (из переписки)



  12. #12
    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    The difference between ты and вы can be difficult to translate into English, because (A) our ancient equivalent to ты, namely thou, was already becoming устаревший (obsolete) in the lifetime of Shakespeare; and (B) even today, traditional Christian prayers and church hymns often refer to God or Jesus using the old "на ты forms" ("And sings my soul, my savior God, to thee -- how great thou art!"). Because God is called "thou," many modern English speakers mistakenly think that thou was a very formal term used for speaking to royalty -- when, of course, the opposite was true.

    Even so, I have attempted to translate the Pushkin poem into English. First, the whole eight-line original, with literal line-by-line translation:

    Пустое «вы» сердечным «ты» (Empty "you" with warmhearted "thou")
    Она, обмолвясь, заменила (She, making a slip-of-the-tongue, replaced)
    И все счастливые мечты (And all the happy daydreams)
    В душе влюблённой возбудила! (In a soul that had fallen in love, she awoke )

    Пред ней задумчиво стою (Before her, lost in thought / thinking deeply, I stand)
    Свести очей с неё нет силы; (To pull my eyes away from her there is no strength)
    И говорю ей: как «вы» милы! (And I say to her: "How nice YOU are")
    И мыслю: как «тебя» люблю! (And I think: "How I love THEE")

    And here's my own poetic translation, with some liberties taken to preserve the rhyme-scheme (ABAB CDDC) and meter (iambic) of the original:

    The dryish "you" with flirty "thee"
    She (just by slip-of-tongue?!?) replaces.
    And filled anew with dreamy glee,
    A lovestruck fellow's heartbeat races.


    My eyes transfixed, I lose my breath.
    I stand before her -- helpless, mute.
    I finally gulp, "YOU'RE kinda cute."
    But think, "I'll love THEE unto death!"


    And just for completeness, here's a "gender bender" version of the Russian, with "she" turned into "he" by making the necessary changes to the past-tense verbs and pronouns:

    Пустое «вы» сердечным «ты»
    Он_, обмолвясь, заменил_
    И все счастливые мечты
    В душе влюблённой возбудил_!

    Пред ним задумчиво стою
    Свести очей с него нет силы;
    Ему шептаю: как «вы» милы! (I whisper to him)
    И мыслю: как «тебя» люблю!

    But notice that no changes are necessary for the person speaking, because all the verbs are first-person and present-tense, such as стою, and therefore don't show gender.
    Говорит Бегемот: "Dear citizens of MR -- please correct my Russian mistakes!"

  13. #13
    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    First I always said "вы ", but after a couple of times of being told to stop being so formal, i got used to ты and fell into a bad habit of using it all the time.
    For foreigners, I think the best practice is to use вы all the time and not even think of asking Можно на ты? until your new Russian friend invites you to use it: "Давай на ты, kidkboom!" (The exception to this would be if you're a foreign adult speaking to young children, in which case you should speak to them на ты from the very beginning.)
    Говорит Бегемот: "Dear citizens of MR -- please correct my Russian mistakes!"

  14. #14
    Hanna
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    Yes, I think Throbert is right. As a foreigner it's always better to be overly polite and err on the side of caution.
    It's just that I thought I was being silly and overly stiff.
    Well, next time I'll know.

  15. #15
    Старший оракул CoffeeCup's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Throbert McGee View Post
    ... the best practice is to use вы all the time and not even think of asking Можно на ты? until your new Russian friend invites you to use it (The exception to this would be if you're a foreign adult speaking to young children, in which case you should speak to them на ты from the very beginning.)
    This is a very suitable way to be polite in a Russian speaking place.
    So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

  16. #16
    Властелин
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    When I was 7 years old, my grandfather and I went to the market. And a seller, woman from the South, not Russian, adressed my grandfather "ты", and he did not mind that. I asked why she did like that, and he answered that in her language "ты" is used to adress everyone.

  17. #17
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    Сколько ответов за полдня! А на мой вопрос в разделе другие языки откликнулся пока что один человек.

  18. #18
    Почтенный гражданин
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    Quote Originally Posted by Throbert McGee View Post

    The dryish "you" with flirty "thee"
    She (just by slip-of-tongue?!?) replaces.
    And filled anew with dreamy glee,
    A lovestruck fellow's heartbeat races.


    My eyes transfixed, I lose my breath.
    I stand before her -- helpless, mute.
    I finally gulp, "YOU'RE kinda cute."
    But think, "I'll love THEE unto death!"

    Thank you so much for the very helpful answer.

    And dude - you're a genius! The poem translation is awesome. .. Now where's that little sheriff-badge button? =)
    luck/life/kidkboom
    Грязные башмаки располагают к осмотрительности в выборе дороги. /*/ Muddy boots choose their roads with wisdom. ;

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