When translating via Google from German to French, it always translates the familiar "Du" into the more formal "vous".

For example, "Wo bist Du?" is translated to "Où êtes-vous?", instead of "Où es-tu?"

Google seems to this for all languages which have a distinction between familiar and respectful form (so-called "T-V-distinction") - I checked it for several other languages.

Is it possible to change this behaviour ?

1 Answer 1


As far as I know, this cannot be done. According to Wikipedia, when you translate language A to language B, Google's procedure generally is:

  1. Translate language A to English. (This is redundant if A is English, but technically still true.)

  2. Translate English to language B. (Same note as above.)

(I cannot find documentation for this on Google itself, but this is also noted in a paper on machine translation by Boitet et al.) This explains why the T/V distinction is often omitted, even when language B also observes it, since there is none in modern English.

There are also some cases where the translation is first to a third language (so language A to language C, which is preset, to English to language B). The third language and the original may be close enough that there is a preservation of T/V distinctions (going from A to C), but one might still expect the omission of the T/V distinction to come up once English or language B is added.

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