ITALIAN LEI—AVOIDING ISSUES. Italian avoids some of the issues with tu and vous by using the third person singular as the formal version of what would be the English “you.” This wikipedia article says that this usage goes back to the Renaissance. To somebody learning Italian it seems ultra-polite. An example the article gives—“Gino, Lei è un bravo ingegnere.” seems to translate as “Gino, one is a good engineer”, but I’m sure that to an Italian it sounds just as ordinary as “Gino, you are a good engineer.” sounds to English speakers. Things are changing. I was told twenty years ago by a young Italian man that among young people, anything other than the Italian “tu” would sound stilted.

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