Ask Luís! (#6): Modes of address in EP (Tu | Você) / Text revision (3)

Hello, everyone! I hope your Portuguese studies/life is going swell! I’ve been quite busy in the last few days, so I’m only getting up to speed with my messages now (it’s only just the one, so lucky me!). Don’t worry, I’ve written quite a few Words of the week in advance, so you’ll always have those two posts per week guaranteed at least until early July.

Now, here is today’s message from Yuliya:

Olá, Luís!

Tenho uma pergunta que é mais sobre hábitos em vez da gramática: “tu/você” emprego.

Em russo temos as formas formal e informal também. Se eu falo com uma pessoa desconhecida uso a forma formal, o mesmo na Internet ou cara a cara. Claro que há pessoas que usam em russo a forma informal na Internet também, mas não é o hábito geral. Mas em português, encontrei muitas vezes que a forma informal (tu) está utilizada na Internet mesmo falando com os estranhos.

Queria saber se “tu” forma é aceitável completamente para falar com os estranhos nos fóruns ou nas redes sociais? Ainda “você” fica pelas conversas cara a cara?

Muito obrigada pelos todos os materiais de estudo no teu blog. Se não te importares, gostava de te pedir para reveres esta mensagem também. :)


Yuliya, thank you for your kind words (again) and the questions, obviously. I’ll answer them and rewrite your test after the jump.

P.S. If you’d also like your EP skills to be reviewed by me, send me a short message (2 to 3 main paragraphs) to my Q&A form.

Tu vs. Você: Online edition

This is a really pertinent question, especially since the Internet has created a plane of communication that run parallel to actual face-to-face communication and sometimes different languages and culturues may have different strategies on how to deal with this.

If I were to give all-encompassing statement, I’d say that yes, using the informal register (i.e. tu) is the common mode of communication online in places where some informality is assumed. I’m sadly not familiar in the days Russian operates its T-V distinction, but in EP you can use tu when addressing a stranger you feel would prefer/be willing to be treated informally (someone younger or of the same age as you, especially with “young people”; i.e. children, teenagers and early adults). This dynamic only works if you meet this person in a similarly “informal” way (which generally excludes situations where that person is performing a job/is in a position of authority).

In any case, treating strangers informally in a social media/internet forum is the norm because there’s no expected hierarchy among people; if you’re addressing a group of like-minded individuals, using tu (i.e. the 2nd person) is a pointer to the way you’d like to be treated and to the informality you expect from others, with você (i.e. the 3rd person) being a more guarded way of addressing people you’re not entirely sure how to treat.

In a way, the Internet allows you to be more informal right off the bat, since the way you write a comment on a blog, a post on a forum, or a question posted to a website is usually based on the behavior of other people who’ve done it before; seeing this groupthink and group dynamics beforehand allows you to “read the room” more efficiently and just emulate those practices (or ditch them and follow your own). Since você is the starting ground to all communication (because informality is an absense of formality, and not the other way around), it’s normal it will lose its sway over time when more people start breaking the ice and using more informal ways of talking to each other; the places where formal discourse is almost always kept are those when you’re talking to people in positions of authority (like an online complaint – if you want to be taken seriously) or when you’re in a position of authority yourself.

Personally, in my role as a Duolingo commentator/moderator, I was never too keen on using tu, even when I was talking to EP speakers; to me, it just wouldn’t be natural to address people from a position of relative authority without using the formal register (it also helps when you’re dealing with potentially volatile egos), since that allowed me to relay a message from a position of authority but without seeming too familiar about it; which in a way could lead people to think I was talking down to them (that’s usually the effect it has when you’re expecting você, but get tu instead);

I think that was just me applying my usual manners onto the Internet, though, considering most people online use the informal register even when asking questions (you just need check the discussion pages for the English for Portuguese course to get a good EP/BP look at just that); in a way, the speech register you choose will be a conscious choice between “reading the room” for clues and your personal beliefs about how communication should operate in a given setting. At the Duolingo forums, I’d intentionally negate/subvert the informality I gathered from “reading the room” in order to show politeness (for example, would it hurt people to say please and thank you more when asking a question? Whenever I spent time on those long sentence discussions, that was one of the things that irked me the most – people assuming someone would just answer their questions and therefore didn’t need to be polite to get them), some authority and distance from the matter at hand, but again, that’s a very personal choice, and one that may vary with time and situation.

Text revision

I see you’ve made some changes in accordance to my previous tips; I truly hope you’re finding these exercises helpful. I’d just like other people to join in and send me their writings too (:

Here’s how I’d rewrite your message:

Olá, Luís!

Tenho uma pergunta que é mais sobre hábitos do que [sobre] gramática: o emprego de “tu/você”.

Em russo também temos as formas formal e informal. Quando [eu] falo com uma pessoa desconhecida uso a forma formal, seja na Internet ou cara a cara. Claro que também há pessoas que usam a forma informal [em russo/russa] na Internet, mas não é o hábito geral. Mas em português, apercebi-me muitas vezes que a forma informal (tu) é utilizada na Internet mesmo falando com estranhos.

Queria saber se a forma “tu” é completamente aceitável para falar com estranhos [em/nos] fóruns ou nas redes sociais? Devo deixar “você” para as conversas cara a cara?

Muito obrigada por todos os materiais de estudo no teu blog[ue]. Se não te importares, também gostava de te pedir para reveres esta mensagem. :)


  • There’s nothing wrong with “em vez de” as instead of, but that’s usually used when you’re separating things more clearly:
    • Em vez de ir ao supermercado, fui à praia. Instead of going to the supermarket, I went to the beach. or
    • Fui para Espanha em vez de ir para França. I went to Spain instead of going to France.
    • Vou falar sobre hábitos em vez de gramática. I’ll speak about habits instead of [speaking about] grammar
  • If you think about it, mais sobre (more about) tends to ask do que (than), just like in English; this sentence is more comparative than adversative (opposing elements) in structure. That means there’s a grammatical element in there, but it’s really more about something else, the habits themselves.
  • [o] emprego is a perfectly valid word, but it’s not the most common word for use (that would be [o] uso ou [a] utilização); it sounds fancy in a good way (that you’ve polished your vocab enough to know words specialists would use), but it may fly over the heads of other speakers.
  • Quando + present indicative is a better fit to introduce continuous  actions (When I do something, something else happens); Sempre que + present indicative is also possible, especially to stress certainty in the outcome (Whenever I do something, something else happens).
  • When you want to say whether…or, you can use seja…ou or seja…, seja (seja na Internet, seja cara a cara – “cara a cara” doesn’t require em because it’s an adverbial phrase, there’s no location to be introduced per se); mesmo is only used to stress one element you want to stand out in the context of the action, just like you do at the end of that paragraph (“Eu uso a forma formal, mesmo na Internet” would highlight the fact that you keep using that form even on the Internet, whereas others [i.e. other languages/speakers] might not).
  • Don’t forget that Portuguese forms genitives/nested possessives/partitives using de (with the partitive always coming second, like in so may sure to use it to link such words; I know that may be hard for a speaker of a language that has an actual genitive case (Russian) and another that’s all over the place when it comes to genitives and partitives (English). If it helps, think of it as of Y; a cursory online search tells me Russian also places the owned part/non-partitive element first, so you just need to keep that basic structure with de [+ article, if needed] in the middle minus the genitive endings. For example:
    • Дом Ивана: casa [do/de] Ivan
    • Телефон Игоря: telefone [do/de] Igor
    • стакан молока: [o/um] copo de leite
  • I’d use também before the predicate (more also, less too), but reading it like that doesn’t give me a big red flag; in your third try (in the last paragraph), it sounds better somehow. In any case, when it doubt, place it before the verb.
  • The passive voice is formed used ser (to be used for something = ser utilizado/a); estar and ficar are used with only with past participles can that be reworked as adjectives and express states of being: for example, morto [killed/dead]:
    • ser morto: true passive voice, to be killed [by something/someone] (O pássaro foi morto pelo homem. The bird was killed by the man).
    • estar morto: to be dead; figuratively: to be fully exhausted, either mentally or physically)
    • ficar morto: to lay dead; fig. to become fully exhausted
  • Morto is an extreme case since it’s the past participle of two different verbs (matar and morrer), but this idea works for most verbs that follow the adjective rule: for example, ser protegido means “to be protected (by something/someone)”, while estar protegido is simply the action of being protected (If something/someone is protecting me, then I can say I am protected).
  • Again, I understand how tricky definite article use is for you; with fóruns, it’s more of a matter of knowing whether you’re talking about them as defined entity (some specific forums you don’t want to name, or the [Internet] forums as an entity in and of itself) or in abstract terms (Internet forums), so both are correct ([as] redes sociais are usually thought of as a grouping, so the article is used more often than not). With estranhos, however, you’re talking about strangers in abstract terms, so the article shouldn’t be used.
  • You’ve correctly placed todos and the article before materiais, but since por and os are separated in the sentence, they don’t merge to pelos.
  • [o] blogue is the Portuguese spelling for the borrowing, but both are perfectly fine (and more so in an informal context).
  • Great use of the future subjunctive (good to know you picked that up from last time); in general, Se/Quando + this tense is used when you’re projecting your hypothetical scenarios, hopes, desires, and uncertainties into the future as well (English uses the present for that):
    • Se eu tiver de sair para ir à casa de banho, guardas-me o lugar na fila? If I have to leave to go to the bathroom, will you save me my spot in line [in the queue]?
    • E se te acontecer qualquer coisa na viagem? What if something happens to you on the trip?
    • Quando chegar a casa, vou fazer o jantar. When I get home, I’ll cook dinner.
    • Quando vocês chegarem, nós já teremos saído. [When/By the time] you [pl.] arrive, we’ll have already left.

2 thoughts on “Ask Luís! (#6): Modes of address in EP (Tu | Você) / Text revision (3)

  1. Yuliya May 26, 2016 / 5:43 am

    Hi, Luís!

    Thank you so much for this article. It is very useful and informative. I did not think over a T–V distinction online until I started learning Portuguese. Interestingly, both our languages have this distinction, which we use in a similar way in face-to-face communication. But we are so different online. :) Thank you for sharing your thoughts, experience and reasons about this.
    You are right about articles. :) They cause a real problem for me, both in English and Portuguese. Yet, I work on it and your explanations help a lot as well. I think the reviews of the letters, that you do, double the benefit of the article itself.


    Liked by 1 person

    • luisdomingos May 26, 2016 / 1:06 pm

      You’re welcome! Continuação de bons estudos (:


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