Tu and Lei: the politeness form in Italian

Tu and Lei: the politeness form in Italian

Recently, during my last months in London, I have found myself thinking about how differently English and Italian are used.

By saying this, I’m talking about how different human interactions are in these two languages. Is not anything new, as every language has its own “personality”. Still, sometimes it takes me a while to get adjusted to these two different ways of speaking.

One difference in particular will always represent a struggle:

the degree of formality reserved to strangers.

 

As you might have grasped from the two previous posts, Italian is a particularly formal language. You need to address someone in a proper way in order not to incur in any faux pas.

You saw how to say hello and goodbye, and this is a very good point start with. But what’s next?
You also need two different pronouns:

TU and LEI

 

tu” is the informal pronoun, while “Lei” is the formal pronoun. Both of them mean you, they just need to be used in different contexts and with different people.

Let’s have a look at some examples:

 

TU

– Ciao, come stai? Hi, how are you?
– Bene, grazie. E tu? Fine, thanks. And you?
– Non male Not bad

– Da dove vieni? Where are you from?
– Da New York, e tu? From New York, and you?
– Io sono di Bali I’m from Bali

 

LEI

– Buongiorno, come sta? Good morning, how are you?
– Bene, grazie. E Lei? Fine, thanks. And you?
– Non male Not bad

Lei da dove viene? Where are you from?
– Da New York, e Lei? From New York, and you?
– Io sono di Bali I’m from Bali

 

See? Don’t be surprised if Italians seem to keep a distance between you and them.

It’s all about being polite 🙂

Gloria Spagnoli
Gloria Spagnoli