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When I type in "do you want to go?" into Google Translate it gives me in French:

voulez-vous aller?

and in German it gives me

willst du gehen?

Is there a way to change the settings so that it always gives both the personal and polite form version for all languages which have this characteristic?

1
  • 1
    It appears to take the tone in English as a directive as to how you ask the question. Try "Would you like to go?", which translated to "Möchten Sie gehen?". Jul 8, 2010 at 6:17

13 Answers 13

7

Using "thou" sometimes helps, and so does "you all", but there is no foolproof way to get the correct form.

Google translate is based on statistical inference (not structural parsing / substitution), so the vous/tu usage is inconsistent.

you are very pretty -> tu es très jolie

you are very nice -> vous êtes très belle

I can only speculate "pretty" is more intimate than "nice" and more often encountered with "tu" forms in parallel translations Google's algorithms were trained on.

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  • 2
    Strangely thour (used for the polite form of your) works too from english to Dutch.
    – JinSnow
    Feb 6, 2021 at 7:09
8

You can get the tu form by left clicking on the vous in your translation. Then choose tu. Left click on any of the translated words and you will get a choice of alternatives.

1
  • How does that work on mobile though? This is one of the main reason why I haven't used Google Translator that much because I always end up with these formal French sentences that you'd only use with a stranger (and only with an older person) not with the people you actually want to talk with.
    – Kristof
    Feb 12, 2021 at 12:05
4

For the German 'du' familiar form simply type 'du' instead of 'you'.

Example: "What do du want?" will translate as "was willst du werden?"

Just be sure to type 'du' the first time. If you accidentally type 'you' it keeps it in the proper 'Sie' formulation.

Hope that helps.

4

Here is my trick. Add words "Sir" or "Lady" to force formal.

eg. "You" --> "You lady" or "You Sir"

Informal

  • "You are the coolest guy."
  • "Du bist der coolste Typ." in German
  • "Eres el chico más genial." in Spanish
  • "Tu es le gars le plus cool." in French

Formal

  • "You Sir are the coolest guy."
  • "Sie Sir sind der coolste Typ." in German
  • "Usted señor es el tipo más genial." in Spanish
  • "Vous êtes monsieur le gars le plus cool." in French

Then take out the "Sir" in the German language or "señor" in Spanish. Not sure if it works in other languages.

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  • Can confirm this is working in French (DeepL and GoogleTranslate)
    – pjmg
    Nov 12, 2019 at 9:27
  • @pjmg, thanks. I added the french version.
    – FedeKrum
    Feb 25, 2020 at 15:50
2

This worked for me: I used thou and thy, the old English familiar words for you, and it translated to tu in French, and if there were multiple you's in the sentence, I only did it with the first you, and it made all of the you's in that sentence informal.

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  • Works! Tho you have to correct the auto-corrector (Showing translation for "they", translate "thy" instead?)
    – Chema
    May 11, 2020 at 18:39
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You have to use :

dost thou want to go?

Which gets (almost) correctly translated to

tu veux aller?

I don't think there's a way to get both, as "you" is the polite form in english, and google will translate it to the polite form in other languages

4
  • tu is not the polite form in French. English does not have a separate polite and non-polite form.
    – R-D
    Jul 8, 2010 at 7:35
  • no, indeed, "tu" is not the polite form in french, neither is "thou" in english. Thats' the whole point of my reply... English used to have a personal form, which has fallen into disuse, but aparently google is still capable of translating it correctly.
    – jfoucher
    Jul 8, 2010 at 8:41
  • the best would be if Google Translate would always give you all possible forms, I wonder if there is a setting to make it give all forms, would be nice Jul 8, 2010 at 12:03
  • English still has a personal form, it's just fallen out of use in some dialects. But not all dialects, as you will quickly discover if you visit Yorkshire.
    – Mike Scott
    Jul 23, 2014 at 14:27
1

Instead of using "you" in the English sentence, use either "tu" or "vous" as a substitute for YOU, and it uses that same pronoun in the French sentence!

1

I've struggled with this annoying problem for years.
German defaults to formal, so, yes, to obtain informal forms, you must trick the translator via context.
@Nicki Blake Chafetz suggests a very good solution.
Following that tip, I've found that for German, besides terms of endearment, using vulgar, insulting terms works most of the time. (Of course one must be very careful to replace them after translation!)

Examples:

  • My dear love, please take this gift into your hand.
  • Honored sir, please take this gift into your hand.
  • Stupid, please step up to the podium and give your speech.
  • Stupid, look over here so we can take your portrait.
  • You, idiot, we'd like to honor your stupid accomplishments.
  • My dear fool, we'd love to come visit you.

Deutsch:

  • Meine Liebe, bitte nimm dieses Geschenk in deine Hand.
  • Sehr geehrter Herr, bitte nehmen Sie dieses Geschenk in die Hand.
  • Dumm, bitte steig auf das Podium und halte deine Rede.
  • Dumm, schau hier rüber, damit wir dein Porträt machen können.
  • Du Idiot, wir möchten deine dummen Leistungen ehren.
  • Mein lieber Narr, wir würden dich gerne besuchen kommen.

I scarcely know French, but it appears to work there, too:

  • Mon cher amour, prends ce cadeau entre tes mains.
  • Honoré monsieur, veuillez prendre ce cadeau en main.
  • Stupide, monte sur le podium et donne ton discours.
  • Stupide, regarde ici pour que nous puissions prendre ton portrait.
  • Vous, idiot, nous aimerions honorer vos accomplissements stupides.
  • Mon cher fou, nous serions ravis de venir vous rendre visite.
0

For short phrases you can prefix the phrase with a formal or familiar context.

E.g. Mr Jones, You walk .... will give you a formal translation for You walk
E.g. My friend, You walk .... will give you an informal translation

0

I have just started having this problem. I Googled around and found some of the earlier solutions. I was able to gerry-rig the system in the following way.

If you stick in, alternatively, the terms: “lover” and “teacher” as the subjects of the sentence, then it will force the translator to conjugate in the formal and informal.

For instance, today, I was trying to tell my…Parisian lover that he could cook the steaks and I would cook everything else. Lol. (I am not good at cooking steaks.) But I am new at French. When I stuck in “[Y]ou can cook the steak,” it conjugated in the formal. But when I typed, “[L]over, [amoreux] you can cook the steak,” it came back with the “tu” form of pouvoir. Because…presumably if the two of you are knocking nasties, you are on familiar terms.

Reading elsewhere that the system could be gerry-rigged by the divine pronouns thou, thee, etc., but no longer was; I tried “pastor” as a subject that might force formality. I was surprised that this didn’t work. I am a pastor’s daughter, and so MY relationship with my own pastor was informal (haha), I assumed OTHER PEOPLE would consider their relationship with THEIR pastors on a more formal basis. Nope. “Tu.”

But when I used the noun-subject “teacher,” it forced the formal verb conjugations.

But…obviously this is bullshit and could be programmed so that we could toggle for it. If Google gave a shit.

-1

The Translator.eu website tends to translate the neutral English "you" into second person plural in most languages including German, unlike the Google Translate which tends to translate it into the singular form.

So if you can't get the plural/polite form on Google it's worth trying Translator.eu.

-1

For English to French ... if I type in "you" ... (eg. "you must pay") then it will give me the familiar form (tu dois payer). But if I enter "yous" (eg."yous must pay") - however bad that looks in English - it will give me the formal form (vous devez payer).

-3

The official way: Hover over the translation (result) and select the other forms in a dropdown list.

I've sent a feedback suggesting them to display the formal cases in a more explicit way. Let's see.

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