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Ihnen VS Du/Dir  
von Petite, 2009-01-23, 09:10  like dislike  Spam?  202.155.131....
I am a (very) beginner student of German and I want to learn why you respond with "Sehr gut, danke. Und Ihnen?" to a "Wie geht's" greeting?
I mean, why don't you say "Und du or Und dir?" Why has to choose Ihnen which is formal? If you talk to just friends or people you know so well, you can't do it either?
Thank you!
"Und Ihnen" is coll short for "UND wie geht es IHNEN?"  #397528
von clavichord (DE), Last modified: 2009-01-23, 09:28  like dislike  Spam?  
To be on first names without having established that relation is common only in the internet. In a real life situation, you are risking to be considered pushy and ill-mannered. There are certain age and other groups (the Social Democrat Party for instance), where being on first name terms is ritually established, but you have to be part of that particular group to use it. In doubt, be formal.
The only exception are kids up to approximately puberty age. They may be called by their first names without hesitation.
because it is dative  #397529
anonymous, 2009-01-23, 09:15  like dislike  Spam?  58.107.71...
Wie geht es dir? - Sehr gut, danke, und dir? (informal)
Wie geht es Ihnen? - Sehr gut, danke, und Ihnen? (formal)
Formal vs Informal  #397532
von WillM (US), 2009-01-23, 09:33  like dislike  Spam?  
In my studies, I have learned it is good to use the formal when you are speaking to a stranger or an elder until he or she gives you permission to use the informal. With a friend or a small child you can use the informal.  To my native German friends: Am I correct?
Dir to friends?  #397535
von Petite, 2009-01-23, 09:36  like dislike  Spam?  202.155.131....
So as long it is to my friends or people younger than me, I can just inhesitantly use "dir" ?
Yes, that's right.  #397536
von Lllama (GB/AT), 2009-01-23, 09:37  like dislike  Spam?  
uh uh, "people younger than me" is no license for calling them by their first name.  #397541
von clavichord (DE), Last modified: 2009-01-23, 09:55  like dislike  Spam?  
Anybody beyond puberty age (there is a grey zone around 14-16 years) is addressed by the last name and "Sie". Even in school (that is, when I went to school which is some time ago), teachers would switch to the formal "Sie" when they addressed their pupils after 10th class.
To establish the "Du" amongst friends needs a mutual agreement that usually is initiated by the elder person, and which is followed by a little act of cordiality, be it the tinkling of wine glasses, or a kiss, or a hug. Amongst informal friendly groups like youngsters and musicians, it may just be announced by a flippant "Let's be on first names shall we?" to which all may agree. But caution caution, the other party might not want to break the ice so soon, so the ice could be thin.
uh uh, "people younger than me" is no license for calling them by their first name.  #397542
von Petite, 2009-01-23, 09:50  like dislike  Spam?  202.155.131....
Now i'm confused. :)
Petite  #397543
von Allan, 2009-01-23, 09:58  like dislike  Spam?  91.1.59....
It only works up to a certain age. If you are 35, and the head of the department you have just started working in is 33, it wouldn't be a good idea to use his/her first name and say "Du". Well, not if you want to keep the job, anyway.
Simple Solution  #397545
von WillM (US), 2009-01-23, 10:03  like dislike  Spam?  
Use the formal address until the person you are speaking to says otherwise.
It also depends where you are - Austria is a little more relaxed about these things than Germany  #397548
von Lllama (GB/AT), 2009-01-23, 10:07  like dislike  Spam?  
I find that, as a "foreigner", I get away with saying du, when in fact I really should have said Sie.
I was talking to the (German) mother of one of my son's school friends, who has just moved to Austria after 8 years in Canada. She said, she has to concentrate to make sure she says Sie to the teachers and when I said that they don't mind if I accidentally say du, she replied that she didn't think they'd be so forgiving to a German.
Joanne  #397552
von Petite, 2009-01-23, 10:26  like dislike  Spam?  202.155.131....
Hahaha! I can't help laughing here with your story. OK, thanks a lot. I just have to be careful in using them. :)
Austria is a little more relaxed about these things...  #397553
von Fiddlesticks (DE), 2009-01-23, 10:37  like dislike  Spam?  
I think I'll better pack my bags, then. This whole 'Du'/'Sie' thing is a pretty awful tradition and leads to lots of awkward situations. Also, you cannot just slip gradually from the formal to the informal (as in English, for example) and back. WillM's suggestion is just right for a non-native. Being German, however, I don't like that I have to use the 'Sie' all the time. I do stick to the rules where business is concerned; e.g. one of my friends is also one of my clients and while I use 'Du' when we talk or exchange e-mails I use formal language when sending him an invoice... Outside of business I tend to use 'Du' frequently. After some initial 'shock' most people become more relaxed and are easier to speak to. Good luck!
BTW: I used to teach  #397558
von Fiddlesticks (DE), 2009-01-23, 11:00  like dislike  Spam?  
in a Secondary school in Ireland. While the students were supposed to use formal language and addressed me with 'Sir' I almost forgot that my fellow teachers had surnames... There was a very relaxed atmosphere among the staff. Teaching in language schools and colleges here (Berlin/Brandenburg) frequently makes me laugh, though: All Germans know and address each other by there surnames, all British/Irish/American teachers use first names. Discussions among the staff, often switching back and forth from German to English are somewhat funny: 'Ich gebe Ihnen recht. Frau [...] sollte lieber [...]. What do you think, Margaret?'
... ziemlich kompliziert, das ganze...  #397563
von Thomas (SE), 2009-01-23, 11:19  like dislike  Spam?  
The rules for Du and Sie are highly complex and so are the rules for who may offer whom to transit from Sie to Du. Most Germans would not be able to express formalized rules but they have it in their veins, more or less.
Here in Sweden people always are on Du terms (except a very few exceptions) and they can't understand why Germans do have this distinction. But I, as a German native speaker, feel that only having the Du option makes the communication less variable and less differentiated.
Another funny rule I learned: German natives on abroad tasks, and expats, almost always use Du regardless age or status.
Well, I'd put it that way:  #397582
von Baccalaureus (DE), 2009-01-23, 11:58  like dislike  Spam?  
Offering the "Du" term is a sign of confidence and trust towards the other person. It allows him or her to be a part of your private life (as opposed to public and business life). Meeting a fellow countryman abroad normally happens when you are on vacation: so you meet in a "private" situation, it is most warranted to offer him or her the "Du" terms.
I remember well how proud I was when I was first addressed with "Sie" - it is a sign of acknowledgement: An adult person sees in you a grown-up person of reason, whom he or she treats with all due respect.
BTW: Pupils from tenth grade on can insist on being addressed with "Sie". Most of our teachers, and some of our lecturers at the university, used the so-called "Hamburger Sie" by calling us by our first names, but using the "Sie". In my case, "Jochen, könnten Sie bitte weiterlesen?"
I like the "Sie" very much. You can give someone a hint not to come too close to you by keeping calling him "Sie". Also, when you are on "Sie" terms, you won't let yourself carried away easily. "Sie Arschloch!" is quite a bit harder to come to than "Du Arschloch!"
Baccalaureus - the "Hamurger Sie", thanks for that.  #397588
von Lllama (GB/AT), 2009-01-23, 12:13  like dislike  Spam?  
After reading this thread, I was wondering what happened at school when the pupils were considered old enough to be addressed as Sie.

Is there a "Hamburger du", when someone is addressed as Frau X, but also du, as in Volksschulen?
Aha, I've found a "Münchner du" :-)  #397591
von Lllama (GB/AT), 2009-01-23, 12:20  like dislike  Spam?  
This is something Bastian Sick refers to as the "Münchner Du",  #397592
von Baccalaureus (DE), 2009-01-23, 12:21  like dislike  Spam?  
but when you use it, you leave away the Herr (oder Frau, but I'd consider it as a major insult to use this towards a woman). Fellow agers, especially classmates or young men during their military service call each other by their last names, but use the "Du".
The "Du, Frau Meier" in Grundschule is something children get over quickly, because the teachers are to explain them that the children should call teachers "Sie". I never did that, I had no siblings until I came to school and my parents cared a lot that I address strangers correctly.
Fiddlesticks - awful tradition? awkward? I daresay not, and I like it that way very much.  #397594
von clavichord (DE), Last modified: 2009-01-23, 12:50  like dislike  Spam?  
Yes it is complicated. Yes sometimes you cannot give a fixed rule, but have to rely on live context and play it by ear. That makes it complex, but that is true of any culture's rules and regulations. We do with this convention what others do with attire rules, insider jargon, courtesy behaviour rules, and none of those is easy to grasp either. Why should it, we are talking human interaction after all, and why should that be simple and easy to understand?
I trained all my German colleagues that they would have to call me by my first name when on Anglo territory. Because the Anglos wouldn't understand how colleagues could use last names, so we adapted. And back in the plane we went back to "Sie".
And I had hired this American analyst who during a one-to-one meeting with me looked me in the eyes and started "Michael...", and I said no. Because now she was on MY territory.
A Problem I have is the addressing of waitresses and waiters  #397595
von Baccalaureus (DE), 2009-01-23, 12:34  like dislike  Spam?  
Since I now start going to bars and restaurants that aren't exclusively frequented by students, I mustn't say "Du" to the person waiting on my table any more. I already got some very irritated looks... You see, it's also an "Eiertanz" for Germans, but it's also very funny, on the other hand.

Some rules might be:
If the age gap is more than ten years, and you are the younger one, don't say "Du".
If the person you are introduced to in any way your superior, don't say "Du".
The rules for offering the "Du" terms are: employer to employee, older to younger, women to men in that order.

So if you are a lady of sixty-three years and get a new boss, he has to offer you the "Du" terms, even if he is only 21 and a man. The other way round, it would be regarded as something between simply blatant and really insolent, if a 21 year-old young man offered graciously the "Du" to his 40 years older female boss.
In our local Volksschule, all the children say du to the teachers.  #397596
von Lllama (GB/AT), 2009-01-23, 12:35  like dislike  Spam?  
I've always assumed that's what everyone does - it could of course be an Austrian thing.
I'll have to ask my daughter what they say to their teachers in Gymnasium (still Unterstufe). They definitely say Prof. X, and I'm sure, when we've been to Elternsprechtag, the teachers said du to my daughter, but what the pupils say to the teachers, I'm not sure.
Of course they Du, err, do, in Unterstufe.  #397600
von Baccalaureus (DE), 2009-01-23, 12:42  like dislike  Spam?  
You don't say "Sie" to children. They should switch to the "Hamburger Sie" in or,at the latest, past "Neunte Klasse", when the children aren't children any more but "Jugendliche".
I misunderstood your 12.21 post -  #397603
von Lllama (GB/AT), 2009-01-23, 12:48  like dislike  Spam?  
I thought you meant that in Grundschule/Volksschule children quickly learn to call teachers Sie and so don't say du.
All is now clear (I think) :-)
Chlavichord: I don't really mind the fact that there are no clear rules,  #397606
von Fiddlesticks (DE), 2009-01-23, 13:05  like dislike  Spam?  
after all, I'm not complaining about the use of the definite articles in German either. Personally, I like to show distance/affection etc. in other ways than by just using 'Sie'/'Du' etc. Awkward situations? Maybe something like this: How should I address my former violin teacher (who taught me when I was a child) when I meet him these days? We were always on typical 'Du' (teacher to student) - 'Sie' (student to teacher) terms. I certainly couldn't expect him to address me with 'Sie' now, could I. Likewise, I couldn't just call him 'Du'. So, you have to either leave it as it is/always has been (both feeling a bit uncomfortable) or bring it up and come to an agreement. If you bring it up you'll end up saying 'Du' even if you'd like to keep a bit of distance. If you insist on 'Sie' there will be so much distance that you won't have a proper chat.
That is awkward. You're wasting time worrying how to address somebody. And then: there's (usually) no going back: Once it's 'Du' that's it. And it seems harder to show some distance in German when you are on 'Du' terms than it is in English (but maybe that's just me...).
BTW: I liked the story of about your colleagues in the states. ;-)
Well, there are clear rules for the definite articles, afaik.  #397613
von Baccalaureus (DE), Last modified: 2009-01-23, 14:10  like dislike  Spam?  
If you meet your teacher these days, he will, if he is the least bit bred, address you with your first name and Sie, while you will call him by his last name and Sie [edited, must have had a blackout here], for the beginning. If you meet each other more frequently, he will, either offer you to call him by his first name and Du - then you may by right refer to him as your friend, or he won't, in this case he will always stay a former teacher and a now good acquaintance of yours. What's the matter?
Typo: unhesitatingly  #397621
von Proteus, 2009-01-23, 13:50  like dislike  Spam?  62.47.188....
Typo: and now a good acquaintance of yours  #397623
von Proteus, 2009-01-23, 13:52  like dislike  Spam?  62.47.188....
Fiddlesticks - on you and your violion teacher  #397629
von clavichord (DE), 2009-01-23, 14:04  like dislike  Spam?  
Yes you can expect him to address you with "Sie", if there was an extended period of no contact between the two of you. The "Du" outside the family and close friends has a half-life, after which both parties will feel more comfortable with calling each other by surnames.
Again, this is a play-by-ear thing. If this teacher of yours keeps duzing you without any introductory remark, then you might want to make a joke and tell him that now, as you are grown up, and as musicians tend to duz each other anyhow (true in Germany btw.), you would like to first-name him as well. He won't be able to deny that, and then you are on an equal footing. Keeping the Du-Sie abyss between you would clearly be nonsensical.
und Sie vs und Ihnen in general  #522671
von kjward (GB), 2010-06-04, 19:08  like dislike  Spam?  
aside from the formal/informal differences, i have noticed instances where und Sie is used and others where und Ihnen is used, and i cannot determine the rule.  (e.g., i would like a beer, and you?)

can anyone shed some additional light on the matter?  thanks in advance.

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