Talking German

When To Use Du And Sie in German

For those learning German, choosing between the informal “du” and the formal “Sie” to address someone can be tricky. But even for native German speakers, it’s getting harder to decide.

Even if you are new to the German language or still struggling with the endless grammatical rules, you are probably aware of the precarious business of when to use du or Sie – the informal and formal forms of “you”, when addressing someone in German.

The rules are baffling at the best of times, but as general guide, if you find yourself talking to someone in a position of authority, or co-workers, you should use the Sie form (verb: siezen).”

However, if the person is a friend, a peer, or a child the du form (verb: duzen) is used.

One German restaurant took a novel approach to that age old question : when to use du or Sie?  Cafe and Bar Celona located in Oldenberg, north west Germany,  actually let customers themselves decide how staff should address them.

For a period of 4 weeks a large dice or “Würfel” was placed on each table in the restaurant, which gave customers the option to move a central column that could display either “du” or “Sie”.

Peter Sachnik, who manages the bar said; “Normally, the employees can judge whether a guest wants to be on first name terms. But sometimes you can get caught using the wrong salutation”. For the employees, The You-or-you-cube allowed for some light relief in their daily work and made for many amusing situations between customers and waiting staff. On average, over 80% of customers preferred to be addressed using the informal “du”.


due sie dice


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