What is the difference between Du and Sie? For example, you are drinking/ you drink translates to

Du trinkst
Sie trinken

other than the difference in conjugation, I do not understand why I would use one or the other.


2 Answers 2


Du is used with people that you know very well:

Du trinkst eine Tasse Kaffee.

Du gehst jeden Tag in die Schule.

Sieis the formal form you and it is used with people you don't know very well. It is also used in formal writing and such:

Kommen Sie bitte hierher!

Always remember that its always written in a capital letter and not to be confused with sie which is they.

  • So that is similar to Spanish where du it like tu, you (informal), and sie is like usted, you (formal). Jan 27, 2014 at 4:56
  • Yes, but if you wanna address a bunch of people you know it's Ihr which is vosotros/as in Spanish, but if a bunch of people you're not familiar with you use Sie Jan 27, 2014 at 5:28
  • 1
    @user1876508, yes, it is similar, but the social norms governing its use are probably different. Check out the answers to german.stackexchange.com/questions/77/… for some guidance.
    – Carsten S
    Jan 27, 2014 at 13:36
  • @DerPolyglott33 if i'm not mistaken ihr also means you in plural form.
    – pouya
    Nov 4, 2018 at 6:49
  • @DerPolyglott33 Also, please provide English translation of your examples as well for newbies like me.
    – pouya
    Nov 4, 2018 at 6:57

Du versus Sie (and ihr)

Du (informal singular): you use this form with family, close friends, children, pets, deities, and if you're younger, your peers

Gehst du heute in die Schule?

Sie (formal singular and plural): Pretty much in every other situations, you use Sie.Sie is especially used with adult strangers, and generally among white-collar colleagues (office, bank, etc vs a blue-collar job) or other professional environment. Technically, Sie is also the plural and thus if you would siezen the individuals in the group you'd siezen them as a whole.

Haben Sie den Bericht geschrieben?

ihr (plural): this form is technically the plural of du (you all), but is sometimes used collectively towards people you'd use Sie with individually.

Ihr müsst das Projekt bald fertig machen.

As you may have seen, Sie and all its forms are always capitalized

Sie haben die Ampel überfahren

Ich habe das für Sie mitgebracht

Das passt Ihnen gut

Ist das Ihr Hemd?

Du and ihr and their respective forms can be capitalized, but it's not required like it is with Sie

Another more prominent difference in conjugation

Du bist

Du warst

Du gehst

Du machtest

Sie sind

Sie waren

Sie gehen

Sie machten

You may have also noticed that Sie (you) and sie (them) match up in spelling, pronunciation and conjugation. The only way to tell the difference is context; it's usually reasonably clear. In 2 and half years of learning German, I can't remember one time when I the two words being the same tripped me up.

It's hard to draw a line between the two words, because German is a living language so who you can duzen and who you should siezen is constantly changing and different people have different views and ideas about the two. Doing a search on this StackExchange shows how hard it can be and how there can be many different cases.

Du vs Sie should not be compared with tu versus vous or versus Ud. in French and Spanish respectively, because these languages all define the distinction differently.

Other Resources

The 'du/Sie' dilemma in German

When to use du and Sie

Du and Sie

The du und du waltz

  • some things i'm hanging up on: "Bericht" is male, thus: "Haben sie ---die--- den Bericht geschrieben?", also you state "Sie and all it's Forms are capitalized." It's not really clear that you mean the singular Sie only...
    – Vogel612
    Jan 27, 2014 at 7:20

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