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I have a question about talking to an older person.

In my home language, I can use a special word for 'you' for a person older then me. There are other ways also. Aunty and uncle or lady and sir. Instead of saying "How are you?" I would say "How is Mom?" or instead of saying "What are you doing?" I would say "What is Aunty doing?"

I don't know the right way in English. Is 'you' for everyone? It makes me feel very rude to use 'you' to an older person. Are there other ways? Can I say Aunty? I don't know the right way of being polite to older people.

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    Welcome to ELL! I'm having a bit of trouble picturing the sort of sentence you're thinking of; maybe you could add an example where you're uncomfortable using "you"? – Nathan Tuggy Mar 13 '16 at 16:51
  • Anything, like 'how are you' or 'what are you doing'? I would say 'how is mom' or 'what is aunty doing' usually. – Anna Mar 13 '16 at 16:52
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Yes. There are (generally) no formal pronouns in modern English usage.

Whether you are speaking to a superior (boss), elder, coworker, family, friend, child, when you want to say "you", you use the word "you".

If it makes you feel better, the formal second person pronoun in older versions of English... was "you"... so, imagine that you're using the formal version for everyone.

More info can be found in a useful question our sister site here.

From your comment, an example like "How is auntie doing today?" would actually sound somewhat odd in English, if not outright rude, because we don't generally refer to a person we are directly addressing using the third person. I encourage you to avoid this usage in English.

  • Thanks for telling me. I will try remember to use 'you'! – Anna Mar 13 '16 at 17:02
  • As @Catija says, the formal second person pronoun is you: the intimate second person pronoun is "thou" as a subject and "thee" as an object. It is still used in Northern England and, I understand, by the Amish people in America. Servants used to use "sir" and "madam" in place of "you" until the 1930s but I don't think that happens any more. – JavaLatte Mar 13 '16 at 17:45
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    "How is auntie doing today?" sounds like baby talk to me. Using baby talk to an adult implies that you don't think they have an adult intellect, which is obviously very rude. Save that kind of phrasing for talking to babies and dogs. – ssav Mar 14 '16 at 10:00

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