On the other hand, there is one thing that I just can’t seem to wrap my head around. I am constantly using the informal “tu” in cases when I should be using “vous”. For me this formal vs. non-formal thing is absolute torture and should be outlawed. I mean is “Allez vous faire foutre” more polite than “va te faire foutre”?
(Quick and dirty summary for you non French speakers: “tu” is the informal form for “you” and you use it only with people you know. “Vous” means exactly the same damn thing, but is the formal and the plural form that is used with people you don’t know. If you use the wrong form, people throw rocks at you.)
I have on occasion been known to accidentally use the “tu” form with the wrong people. I “tu”ed the doctor who did surgery on me a few years ago. I “tu”ed the notary who finalized our mortgage, and just yesterday I “tu”ed a salesguy at IKEA. (In my own defense I reserve the right to “tu” the Dr. I think you can “tutoyer” anyone who has seen you naked.) Luckily I have enough of an accent that people realize that it’s just a mistake of a non-native speaker, and they never take it as a sign of disrespect.
Part of my problem is that I don’t know how to conjugate many verbs in the “vous” form and I’m too damn lazy to study, but the other part is, I have a hard time deciding when to make the transition to “tu” with a person I originally used “vous” with. For example, a few months ago we were at a party with people we really didn’t know. That night I was extra careful to use “vous” with absolutely everyone even after several glasses of wine, but then my FrenchBoy through off my whole game by using “tu” with absolutely everyone. In fact I think I was the only person at the party using “vous”, which yet again makes me the odd man out. I just can’t win!
If anyone has any ideas of how I can get past this little hiccup of mine, please do share in comments. And for those of you who are laughing at my little language faux-pas, you can go “vous” yourselves.