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Lesson Transcript

Intro

Hi, everybody! Stefania here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Greek questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is “When should you talk to someone in formal Greek?”
Explanation
Addressing someone using the wrong level of formality is a very common mistake Greek learners make. Sometimes it's the fear of disrespecting someone that makes a learner address most people in an overly formal way. And sometimes, a learner may be addressing everyone casually in order to project an approachable and easy-going personality. The truth is that it's not that complicated to figure out when to use a formal approach with others and when not. Keep watching if you want to learn more!
First and foremost, let's have a look at how to address someone formally.
In Greek, this is done primarily by using the verb referring to the other person in the second person plural. For example,
Τι κάνετε; (Ti kánete? "How are you?") instead of Τι κάνεις; (Ti kánis?)
An honorific title, such as κύριε (kírie, "sir/gentleman/Mr") or κυρία (kiría, "ma'am/madam/Mrs"), as well as the personal pronoun εσείς (esís, "you") in the plural, is optional. For example,
Τι κάνετε, κύριε Μακρίδη; (Ti kánete, kírie Makrídi?) Or: Εσείς τι κάνετε, κύριε Μακρίδη; (Esís ti kánete, kírie Makrídi?) ("How are you, Mr Macrides?")
To make this sentence casual, we need to change the verb from κάνετε (kánete) to κάνεις (kánis) in the singular, and if we want to use a pronoun and a name, we can change εσείς (esís) to εσύ (esí) in the singular and replace the honorific title and last name with the person's first name.
Εσύ τι κάνεις, Γιώργο; (Esí ti kánis, Yórgo? "How are you, George?")
Or simply...
Τι κάνεις; (Ti kánis? "How are you?")
Here is another example in formal and informal speech.
Συγγνώμη, μήπως έχετε ώρα; (Signómi, mípos éhete óra?)
"Excuse me, do you have the time? (formal)"
Συγγνώμη, μήπως έχεις ώρα; (Signómi, mípos éhis óra?)
"Excuse me, do you have the time? (informal)"
Now that we've seen how to speak formally and casually, let's see when to speak formally.
If you are an adult, you should use formal speech...
• With people you don't know that well, especially if you don't belong in the same peer group
• With a teacher that is old enough to be your mother or father
• With your boss
• With your partner's parents
• With people that are much, much older than you
• With royalty or other people with an important title or a higher status
If you are a child, the general rule is to use formal speech with any adult that is not a member of your family.
Here are some sample sentences of formal speech.
Τι κομψή που φαίνεστε σήμερα, κυρία Αγγέλου! (Ti kompsí pu féneste símera, kiría Angélu!)
"You look so elegant today, Mrs Angelou! (formal)"
Πείτε στον κύριο να περάσει. (Píte ston kírio na perási.)
"Tell the gentleman to come in. (formal)"
In any other case, even when addressing God in a prayer, adults and kids can use casual speech.
For example, if you are an adult you can speak casually.
• With children and teenagers
• With friends and family
• With your partner
• With your teacher if you are of a similar or older age
• With people that are much younger than you
• With people from the same peer group that are not much older than you.
Here are the previous sample sentences in informal speech.
Τι κομψή που φαίνεσαι σήμερα! (Ti kompsí pu fénese símera!)
"You look so elegant today! (informal)"
Πες στον κύριο να περάσει. (Pes ston kírio na perási.)
"Tell the gentleman to come in. (informal)"
As you can see, formal speech is not that complicated. Just place the verb in the second person plural when addressing someone and that's it! No need to change other words, such as adjectives, etc. My tip is that if you know when to address someone with "sir" or "madam" in English, then you know when to speak formally in Greek as well.

Outro

How was the lesson? Pretty interesting, right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!
Γεια χαρά! (Ya hará!)

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