Languages › German How to Address Someone in German Properly The Germans Have Three Ways to Say 'You.' Do You Know When to Use Which One? Share Flipboard Email Print Michael Blann/Getty Images German Pronunciation & Conversation History & Culture Vocabulary Grammar by Ingrid Bauer Ingrid Bauer, who is fluent in German, has been teaching and tutoring the German language since 1996. She has a teaching degree and an M.A. in German studies. Updated January 17, 2019 You is not always you, especially when you're speaking a foreign language. One thing you need to learn quickly is how to correctly use "you" in German. Modern English is the only Indo-European language that has just one form of "you." In German there are three: Du, the Informal Address This form is only for those with whom you're on familiar or intimate terms, such as family, close friends, children, pets, and in prayer. In Germany, the word friend isn't used as liberally as in America, or at least it doesn't carry quite the same meaning. Ein Freund/eine Freundin is used more to denote what we call here "a close friend," whereas the word ein Bekannter/eine Bekannte is the preferred term used for "casual" friends and acquaintances. Ihr, Informal Plural Ihr is the plural form of du. It's the equivalent of y'all in the Southern United States. For example: Wo seid ihr? (Where are you guys?) Sie, the Formal Address This polite form implies a certain formality between people and takes into account social considerations. Sie is used for those people we address as Herr, Frau and with other formal titles. Usually, it's used for older people, professionals and shop clerks. It might also be a good strategy to address co-workers as Sie at first until they offer you the du. It's better to call someone Sie and have them correct you with du than to assume you can use the formal address and offend someone. Duzen and Siezen The verb that describes using Sie to address someone is siezen. To utilize du with someone is duzen. It's best to use the Sie if you are not sure which to use. More About 'You' in German Other important points about Sie, du and ihr are: The formal Sie is always capitalized. There are no exceptions to this rule. The du and ihr are usually written in lower case, but some older Germans capitalize them. That was the rule about 20 years ago, before they had the Rechtschreibreform. Sie remains written as Sie whether you are using it in the plural or singular sense. For example, if you are formally addressing one or two Germans, you won't see a difference in writing:Woher kommen Sie? (Where are you from, sir/madam?)Woher kommen Sie?(Where are you from, sirs/madams?)Sie (you, formal) takes the same verb form as sie (they), which is why in conjugation tables, you will find both words at the bottom together. Chart of 'You' in German In a nutshell: Singular Plural English meaning du trinkst ihr trinkt you or y'all are drinking Sie trinken Sie trinken you (formal) or you (plural) are drinking Common Problem: There Are Four Sies and Four Ihrs Many German-language students have trouble initially with ihr. This could be because there are two ihrs. There are also multiple versions of sie, which can be complicated. Take a look at the following examples: Hey, kommt ihr heute Abend? (Are you guys coming tonight?)Ist das nicht ihr neuer Freund? (Isn't that her new friend?)Entschuldigen Sie. Ist das Ihr Auto vor meiner Ausfahrt? (Excuse me, sir/madam, is that your car in front of my driveway?) Note that the Ihr is capitalized as it is formal.Entschuldigen Sie. Ist das Ihr Auto vor meiner Ausfahrt? (Excuse me, sirs/madams, is that your car in front of my driveway?) Here are three examples for sie/Sie: Woher kommen Sie? ( Where are you from, sir/madam?)Woher kommen Sie? (Where are you from, sirs/madams?)Woher kommt sie? (Where is she from?)Woher kommen sie? (Where are they from?) Du, Ihr, and Sie Declensions Keep in mind that like with all other pronouns, du, ihr and Sie will also have genitive, dative and accusative forms that you must memorize. Continue Reading How to Use German Personal Pronouns From 'Ich' to 'Sie' Learn How to Ask a German Friend About Their Family How to Write a Letter in German The German Word 'ihr' Is an Article and a Pronoun How 'to Be' (Or Not to Be) in German: Learn About the Verb 'Sein' German Verbs: How to Recognize the German Subjunctive I, II Learning the Concept of Give and Take in German What Are the Four Noun Cases of German? How To Greet Someone In German With Ease Learn to Conjugate German Regular Verbs in Present Tense Learn How to Conjugate the Verb "Heissen" (to Call) 9 Reasons for Using the Familiar and Formal Pronouns of ‘You’ in Spanish How to Conjugate "Kommen" (to Come) in German How to Say Sorry in German Master the Most Popular German Verbs What Are Some Mistakes New German Speakers Make?