When to use ты and вы in Russian | Free Russian Video Lesson

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

Free Russian Video Lesson - Learn the difference between ты vs вы in Russian.


Did you know that there are two forms of a pronoun "you" in Russian language? These forms are ты and вы. If you wonder when to use ты and when it's more appropriate to use вы, then you are at the right place.

In this free Russian video lesson, you will learn:

  1. The difference between forms of the pronoun 'you' in Russian (ты and вы).

  2. In which situations it is better to use an informal pronoun ты.

  3. In which situations it is more convenient to use a formal pronoun вы.

  4. How these two pronouns change depending on its case.

  5. How to form possessive pronouns from ты and вы.

  6. When and why a Russian pronoun вы was introduced into Russian language.

  7. How to switch from ты to вы when interacting with people (useful Russian phrases).

  8. Some interesting Russian cultural insights.

I recommend you to first watch this Russian video lesson and then you will find a summary of the main point below the video. The test on this topic "How to address people using ты and вы" is available at the bottom of this page.


Russian Video Lesson "How to address people in Russian. Вы vs ты"


Summary of the video on differences between using ты and вы in Russian:


The difference between forms of the pronoun 'you' in Russian (ты and вы)

When to use ты vs вы - How to address people in Russian
When to use ты vs вы

A pronoun ты can only be used in an informal singular form.

A pronoun вы can be used either as a formal singular or as informal plural.

Formal singular is a polite form that is used to show respect and authority.




So, when to use ты and when to use вы?

It all depends on a situation, your relationship with a person as well as his/her position, status or age. Let's analyze.


When to use 'ТЫ' in Russian

You can use a singular informal pronoun ТЫ in order to address to:

- Friends, family members;

- Acquaintances younger than you / same age;

- Colleagues not older than you (depends);

- Children.


In some contexts (university, courses, club, party) it is more natural to address ТЫ to people of your age or younger.


Please, note that pronouns ты and вы require different forms of possessive pronouns (watch a video to learn more).


When to use 'ВЫ' in Russian

A singular polite form ВЫ was not used in Russia until the 18th century. Instead, an informal ТЫ was addressed to everybody no matter of their status.

A formal polite ВЫ was introduced in Russian language in 1708 by Peter the Great as a good practice from Europe.

When to address people by using ВЫ - Learn Russian
When to address people by using ВЫ

As it was mentioned earlier, a Russian pronoun вы has a dual function. It can be either singular polite or plural neutral.

As a singular polite you can use it to address to strangers, people in authority, service workers, etc. As a plural neutral, it is usually used to address to several people or a group of people.


You might also notice that some people write Вы (+ forms) with a capital letter

- It is usually done in official correspondence;

- Can be addressed only to one person;

- Don't write Вы with a capital letter to address to several people

Ex.: Благодарю Вас за Вашу помощь...


In some contexts (at work,during official meetings) it is critical to address people by their first and middle names as well as to use a form ВЫ to show respect and be more polite.


Avoid addressing strangers and people you don't know well just by their first names as well as using any forms of ТЫ.

Russian courtesy phrases - formal and informal
Russian courtesy phrases - formal and informal

Please, note that is also important to use the correct forms of courtesy phrases depending on which form you use - ты or вы. You cannot address someone by using вы and to say привет (hi) to greet and пока (bye) to say goodbye. It would also sound weird if you say здравствуйте (hello) or до свидания (goodbye) to your friends (when you use ты to interact).



How to switch from ты to вы when interacting with people


Normally, you can switch to ТЫ if another person has done it and he/she is not:

- Your boss;

- Person in authority (professor, President);

- Elderly person.


To avoid any confusion, it is better to ask a permission of another person to switch from ВЫ to ТЫ. Here are the main Russian phrases you can use to suggest a person to switch from вы to ты:

  1. Мы могли бы перейти на ты (my magli by pereiti na ty) - Why wouldn't we switch to "ты"?

  2. Может перейдём на ты? (mózhet pereidyóm na ty?) - Maybe we should switch to "ТЫ"?

  3. Перейдём на ты? (pereidyóm na ty?) - Can we switch to "ТЫ"?

  4. Давай перейдём на ты (Davái pereidyóm na ty) - Let's switch to "ТЫ".

  5. Давайте перейдём на ты (Daváite pereidyóm na ty) - Let's switch to "ТЫ".

  6. Test "How to address people in Russian by using ты and вы?"



How these Russian pronouns 'ТЫ' and 'ВЫ' change depending on their case


It's also important to take into account that Russian pronouns change their forms depending on its case. So, while in English there is only one form "You", there are several forms for ты and вы in Russian.


Ты: тебя, без тебя (without you), для тебя (for you), у тебя (indicates possession), на тебя (at you), тебе (to you), тобой (by you), с тобой (with you), за тобой (after you), о тебе (about you), на тебе (on you), при тебе (also indicates possession).

Ex.: Я думаю о тебе (I am thinking / think about you).


Вы: вас, без вас (without you), для вас (for you), у вас (indicates possession), на вас (at you), вам (to you), вами (by you), с вами (with you), за вами (after you), о вас (about you), на вас (on you), при вас (also indicates possession).

Ex.: Я вас понимаю (I understand you)


How to use ты and вы - Learn Russian
How to use ты and вы with verbs

Also note that you will use different verb forms (in past, present and future tenses) with ты and вы due to the Russian system of verb conjugations. For example, ты говоришь (you speak) vs вы говорите (you speak). More information in the video lesson.





How to form possessive pronouns from ты and вы


You also need to use corresponding possessive pronounce. Look at the table below to see how to form possessive pronouns from personal pronouns. Note that the form of the possessive pronoun depends on the gender of a noun that goes after: masculine (m.), feminine (f.), neuter (n.). There is also a separate form for plural nouns (pl.).

Personal pronouns

Possessive pronouns

Я (I)

Мой (m.); Моя́ (f.); Моё (n.); Мои́ (pl.)

Ты (You)

Твой (m.); Твоя́ (f.); Твоё (n.); Твои́ (pl.)

Он (He)

Его́

Она (She)

Её

Оно (It)

Его́

Вы (You)

Ваш (m.); Ва́ша (f.); Ва́ше (n.); Ва́ши (pl.)

Мы (We)

Наш (m.); На́ша (f.); На́ше (n.); На́ши (pl.)

Они (They)

Их

There are many ways to attract someone's attention in Russian (strangers on the street, service workers, etc.) which are important to use the right way. If you want to learn different ways of addressing people in Russian, you can watch the next lesson - "How to get someone's attention in Russian?


You can find most common Russian words and phrases in my free guide 'Essential Russian Words and Expressions to Understand Spoken Russian'. This guide also contains audio files so that you can listen to these phrases on the go: while driving, walking, doing sport or brushing your teeth. Make sure that you repeat these phrases yourself and try to imitate my accent.

It's also very important to know how to pronounce Russian words correctly as not every Russian letter is pronounced the same way as it's written. There are certain Russian pronunciation rules that are really easy to learn