A Post Perfectly Captured The Lovable Struggle Of Speaking French As An Anglo In Montreal

To tutoyer or vouvoyer? That is the question.
Senior Editor
A Post Perfectly Captured The Lovable Struggle Of Speaking French As An Anglo In Montreal

Any native anglo living in Montreal knows that, as much as one might try, it's not always easy to understand the nuances of the French language. One of the most common dilemmas: how do you address people in French?

In our extremely welcoming, friendly francophone city, the lines between the familiar ("tu") and formal ("vous") can often seem blurred, especially for a newcomer.

User u/gillyshipper took the question to Reddit, asking just what Montrealers consider the proper way to talk to a stranger.

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I get anxious about whether I should be formal or not with people I don't know, especially in shops.


"The burden often falls on me to decide whether to tutoyer or vouvoyer," u/gillyshipper wrote.

"They're usually the one to ask 'Ça va?' first without using a pronoun, and then I scramble to respond 'Oui et vous?' or 'Oui et toi?'"

"If I'm interacting with someone who isn't serving me or working in a store," they asked, "should I always start with vous [...] ?"

In the dozens of comments beneath the post, the consensus seems to be that you should use the formal address with strangers unless corrected; better to be asked to use the informal address than to accidentally offend someone.

But u/gillyshipper, who moved to Montreal from Toronto and learned French in school, told MTL Blog that it doesn't always feel so simple.

Some users also pointed to other complicating factors, like the stranger's age.

from montreal

"In Europe and while learning in school it felt very clear-cut," u/gillyshipper said.

"In Montreal, it's way more nuanced and personal."

Though they make an effort to communicate in French in the outside world and consume French media to get more comfortable, they say proper addresses aren't so easy to intuit.

"I think if I were a Quebecer it would come naturally to me and I would be more comfortable using the familiar with people."

As for the Reddit comments, u/gillyshipper says they didn't get much clarity.

"As an anglophone, I'll most likely stick to "vous" unless they tutoie me during the conversation."

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