#63: Sie and Du

Sie and Du

German is not an easy language to learn, anyone who has tried for longer than 5 minutes will know this. One of the main peculiarities is the Sie and Du. (YOU)

“Sie” is the formal version of “you” in German. You would use it when talking to authority figures, most strangers and people generally older than you. “Du” is the informal and you would use it with friends and family.

As an example – Woher kommst du? means: “Where do you come from?” using the informal “Du,” you would use this when talking to someone at a party or with a mutual friend. Whereas if you were asking a stranger, you would need to use Woher Kommen Sie? It means the exact same thing, which is mildly infuriating because you have to remember the different verb endings for EVERYTHING.

It is also still used a lot in German business. My wife had to address her old boss by the formal version “Sie.” Everyone else in the office she could use “Du” with, but her boss felt it necessary to stay “formal.”

In general, there comes a time in most relationships where the boss or the person you have been talking to will allow you to “Duzen” This is, they give you express permission to use “Du” with them and no longer the formal “Sie” – but you can only do it once you have been invited to use it, using it before the invite will see you corrected back to the “Sie” version – honestly!

I got approached by some kids in the street last night asking me about a football score, they used Sie to communicate with me, which firstly, made me feel a million years old and secondly meant I messed up my reply because I am so used to using Du, that I couldn;t remember the Sie responses.

Sometimes I want to give up! ARGH!

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