I have just read with interest this question and its answers which covers when it is appropriate to use "du" or "sie".

My question is, is there something that is often said in German which translates roughly as "it's okay, you can address me with 'du'", or do you just generally follow your conversational partner's lead?

Conversely, is there something that is said when someone feels they should be addressed with "Sie" and the person is using "Du"?

  • 3
    It is difficult enough for a pair of native speakers to get across this point and depends on quite some non-direct addressing or other subtile signals that are commonly exchanged between the parties before this step is reached. It is good to have the tool at hand, but I would generally recommend for a non-native speaker to use "Sie" and wait until being offered the "Du" from the other party. In most cases (especially when changing back and forth between English and German) it sounds simply ridiculous and you will be offered the "Du" more sooner than later.
    – tofro
    Jun 14, 2016 at 16:35

3 Answers 3


First of all, I don't think there is any typical phrase, but I will mention some examples which are very likely. At least, whatever someone will say it will be very similar.

I think there are three ways how to determine to say "du":

  • You meet a person and you assume it's OK to say "du" and you just do it (e.g. children or younger person).

  • You meet a person and you're unsure if it is OK and you ask him:

    Darf ich 'du' sagen? (Usually said at an early stage of a conversation)

    Ich hoffe, es ist OK, wenn ich 'du' sage!? (Often said after you utter "du" assuming but unaware of consent)

  • You think it is appropriate NOT to say "du" and you use "sie" (e.g. an older woman). The other person decides to "duzen" you. If now - and that's I think what you ask in your second paragraph - the woman feels uncomfortable that you say "sie", she could say:

    Wenn ich dich duze, kannst du zu mir auch 'du' sagen.

    Ich dachte, wir hätten uns auf ein 'du' geeinigt.

    Sag doch bitte 'du', ich fühle mich sonst so alt. (humorous)

Regarding the other way round, e.g. you think it is OK to say "du" but the other person don't want it, I assume that most times the reason is that the person either doesn't like you or the person thinks they are more important or more intelligent than you. Then I assume furthermore, that the complaint will sound a bit impolite:

Ich habe Ihnen kein 'du' angeboten.

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    @Em1 You already hinted at the fact that it is usually the right/privilege of the older or more powerful (in business surroundings) to decide if "Sie" or "Du" is used.
    – dgw
    May 4, 2012 at 13:53
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    There are people by whom I don't want to be called "du", but I think it's not because I feel "more important or more intelligent". Maybe I'm just old-fashioned? May 4, 2012 at 15:33
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    If you ever hear "Wann haben wir denn zusammen Schweine gehütet?", it's a (maybe humerous, maybe rude) version of "Ich habe Ihnen kein 'du' angeboten"...
    – Landei
    May 4, 2012 at 22:19
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    It is considered polite to insert an "zu ihnen" at asking "darf ich du sagen?" => "darf ich du zu ihnen sagen?". Because "zu ihnen" implies a respectfull distance, while the question usually does not.
    – sschrass
    May 9, 2012 at 14:50

In addition to the previous answer:

If it's a setting where most people say 'Du' but a newcomer says 'Sie' out of respect, which can happen in a company or a club, for example, it's also ok to say "Also wir sind hier alle per Du" or "Eigentlich sind wir hier per Du".

To deny the informal way, I use "Wir sind nicht per Du" or, in an ironic way, "Seit wann sind wir per Du?"

Maybe the "per Du" phrase occurs more often in Vienna or Austria than in Germany; I'm not sure.

  • 1
    I'm from northern Germany, and I'm quite familiar with "per Du". Da gab's auch den alten Kohlwitz: You can say you to me (zu Thatcher), voulez-vous être perdu (zu Mitterrand) :-) May 4, 2012 at 15:49

Sie können mich duzen!

ist die angemessene Übersetzung, um jemandem das Du anzubieten. Im Endeffekt ist es genauso aufdringlich wie ein

Darf ich 'du' sagen?

weil es den anderen in die unangenehme Situation versetzt, eine gewisse Vertraulichkeit im Umgang zu bestreiten. Es ist immer schwieriger Distanz wieder herzustellen, als sie zu wahren. Meist geht das Angebot zum Duzen mit anderen Zumutungen sich in die Angelegenheiten des anderen einzumischen einher.

Am schlimmsten ist es an der Universität und in Betrieben, die glauben es sei hip; wo die Vertraulichkeit benutzt wird Hierarchien, die natürlich weiter bestehen bleiben, zu verschleiern. "Komm, Bernd, Du bleibst doch heute etwas länger! Wir bestellen uns 'ne Pizza, und dann arbeiten wir die Nacht u. das Wochenende durch".

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    Ich stimme zu: Von einem angebotenen "Du" kommt man schwer wieder zurück. Und ein angebotenes "Du" ablehnen ist auch etwas, was man nicht tut weil es unhöflich ist. Was Hierarchien angeht: In meiner begrenzten Erfahrung in der Arbeitswelt sind sich alle Beteiligten sehr klar, wer was zu sagen hat, auch wenn man sich duzt. Vielleicht weil der eine ein Einzelbüro hat :3 Darum: Ich finde die beiden Sätze nicht aufdringlich. Wie soll man es sonst sagen?
    – 0x6d64
    May 5, 2012 at 7:50

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