Formal ¨you¨

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Formal ¨you¨

Postby oneshy » Wed Dec 07, 2016 2:31 pm

Greetings, all. I just joined about 10 minutes ago. In February, I will make my fifth annual birthday visit to Rome. I am in love with The Eternal City for a number of reasons, and eventually would like to make an extended visit there of several months. Here is my question (and I am not certain that this is the correct forum.) After my first visit, I became interested in learning Italian, and worked very diligently at it (or so I thought.) About the third visit, I screwed up enough courage to try a little of what I had learned. Checking in to our hotel, I thought it would be appropriate to thank the man behind the desk, so I came out with ¨Grazie, sei troppo gentile!¨ This was not the correct thing to say, and I received a not-so-polite dressing down in front of the other guests checking in for using the familiar ¨sei¨ instead of ¨Lei e´¨ Actually, at the time, I was not very familiar with the distinction. I guess I am wondering if this was, in fact, as grievous a faux pas as the man seemed to think and, should one always use the formal form when meeting somebody new? I am in my sixties, so it wasn´t as if I was trying to be a disrespectful child.

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Re: Formal ¨you¨

Postby Geoff » Thu Dec 08, 2016 12:01 am

Yes, it is a pretty grievous mistake unfortunately. It is appropriate to address children in the familiar but not adults unless you deliberately want to be rude to them. It probably makes it worse that he was providing a service as you were talking down to him by using sei - treating him like a servant. It is advisable to use the formal until you are invited to do otherwise.

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Re: Formal ¨you¨

Postby Peter » Thu Dec 08, 2016 10:18 pm

I agree with Geoff. It is something that you need to fully understand, particularly since what can be seen as friendliness to us can be interpreted in the way that the hotel employee clearly did. Always use the formal form (Lei è..) in hotels, bars, restaurants, shops etc and when speaking to adults whom you do not know. If and when someone uses the informal sei form when addressing you, then you can respond in like fashion. A lesson learned the hard way, it would seem! :oops:
A presto

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