How to say you in Russian – ты or вы?


In Russian, we have two forms for saying you – ты and вы. It is a similar concept like in some other languages – we use вы in formal situations and ты in informal. 

The golden rule is: if you are unsure, then use вы.

Grammatical structures

In contrast to other languages, grammatical structures that we use for polite you (вы) are 2nd person plural, and not 3rd person singular.

So, when you conjugate the verb, you use the 2nd person plural. For example:
Что вы читаете? – What are you reading?
Вы хотите чай или кофе? – Do you want tea or coffee?

For adjectives, it is a little bit tricky: you use singular form for long adjectives, and plural for short adjectives.
Вы такая красивая. – You are so pretty. (fem.)
Вы правы. – You are right.

How to choose between ты and вы

The use of вы

In formal situations
When you don’t know the person
When you know a person just a little
When addressing a boss
When addressing a teacher
When addressing a person who is elder than you
When addressing a person who has a higher social status

The use of ты

With family and friends
With children

When talking to your subordinates, you can use ты or вы.
When talking to your colleagues, you usually use ты.

It is important to underline that вы is not used only to show the distance between people, like in some other languages, but also to show your respect towards that person.

How to ask to change the form

It is better to let Russians do it. They say: давайте на ты (davayte na ty) or давай на ты (davay na ty). If they do not say it, then it is better to say вы, especially if you are a new employee, and you don’t know anyone.

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