Conundrum of Tu (you), Tum (you) & Aap (you)

If you have ever faced confusion on usage of Tu / Tum / Aap (English equivalent being ‘you’) while communicating with fellow people in Hindi, this blogpost will interest you. Wish it was as simple as ‘you’ in English which doesn’t factor the age / relation. Being well-versed with three regional languages (Tamil, Gujarati & Malayalam) and our national language (Hindi), I can safely claim regional languages are extremely comprehensive and create cognizance amongst communicators on usage of pronouns. One would realize this easily while using pronouns to address people. For the sake of wider comprehensibility, I would base this blogpost on Hindi vs English and share my real life encounter. Here is what I witnessed live with a close friend of mine being the protagonist in all three below mentioned situations.

Situation 1: He often uses ‘tu’ to address his friends. None of them take it as disrespect and are pretty fine with him.

Situation 2: He once uses ‘tu’ to address his colleague at office in front his colleague’s manager and quickly he is pointed out about this inappropriate usage.

Situation 3: He addressed the tea vendor by ‘tu’ where he ‘frequented daily’ and yet the vendor got offended which resulted in an argument.

As I witnessed all three situations, this strange animal ‘tu’ went deep into my mind and various questions started erupting. Personally, I do understand the difference of using tu/tum/aap and their equivalent in Tamil (Nee/Neenga) and Gujarati (tu/tame). But, researcher in me went ahead to understand the linguistics. Luckily, I came across this beautiful blogpost that differentiates all three in a very comprehensive manner. I started thinking, is it all about linguistics? Few of my past experiences forced me to deny this hypothesis. I later pondered if the usage of words or to be precise the pronouns depends on factors like – education, culture, societal surroundings of upbringing, etc. Though my friend is a well-educated one, I wondered why he used this pronoun across all three situations, which also landed him in trouble. Wasn’t he aware of it? Or Was he assuming everyone to be ‘close enough’ as mentioned in the blogpost referred by me? Or Was it just a carelessness? Many questions bothered me.

I am not criticizing or supporting any religion / culture here. However, I have often observed that Muslims, Rajasthanis, Sindhis make sure they use ‘aap’ even while addressing an one year old kid. Let’s talk about cultural differences. Same applies to people from Uttar Pradesh. I have noticed they are very particular in usage of ‘aap’. I have stayed for five years in Gurgaon and have rarely have seen the local people (Haryanwis) use ‘aap’. When I shifted from Ahmedabad to Gurgaon, it was a shocking surprise for me when even shopkeepers addressed their customers as ‘tu’. So, does culture play a role in how you address people?

Finally, does societal surrounding really affect the way you communicate? If it was true, then people who relocated from other parts of the country to Haryana, should start addressing people as ‘tu’. However, its not true either. I haven’t been ‘influenced’ by it and likewise haven’t seen any of my other colleagues who migrated to Haryana, getting influenced.

I know if I discuss this further, it would be an endless debate. I would conclude by just saying that respecting fellow human beings should be our priority. Need not bother whether we are meeting them for first time or they are our best pals, its always better to address each one of them with respect. You never know, when trouble might land you at crossroads!

The digital vein in me scratched my soul to check Google what does it translate ‘you’ to. It was indeed a relief to see the result.

Source: Google Translate
Source: Google Translate
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Anandan

I am presently employed as Associate Director (Paid Media) at Performics.Resultrix, a Publicis Groupe company. Prior to this role I was employed with HCL Technologies as Senior Manger (Digital Marketing). My earlier digital marketing assignments were with ZenithOptimediaIndia (Publicis Groupe) and AdGlobal360. You can follow me on Twitter @anandan22 for all conversations on digital marketing.

12 thoughts on “Conundrum of Tu (you), Tum (you) & Aap (you)

  • September 22, 2014 at 10:55
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    Very though provoking Anandan. Your blog does make me ponder over how essential it is (in a social perspective) to address the right people in the right manner. However, i believe that it is the mindset that accepts or rejects how one addresses the other person. Calling (tu) might be respectful for some, just like it was for your friend, but for some it can mean disrespect. It is ultimately the thought system, which is obviously influenced by various cultural and social factors, on which is based the Conundrum of Tu (you), Tum (you) & Aap (you).

    Reply
    • September 28, 2014 at 12:37
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      Yeah Akriti, hence I suggested that its better to be on safe side 😉

      Reply
  • September 27, 2014 at 12:10
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    I was smiling while reading this post…have faced such conundrum multiple times! And have been a culprit to fall on the giving end sometimes 🙂

    I had to agree with the conclusion, that better play conservative and say ‘Aap’..thanks for this unorthodox write up.

    ???? ?????????
    Regards.

    Reply
    • September 28, 2014 at 12:39
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      Hey Anshul,

      Thanks for reading it. I don’t write such things, but these couple of incidents were troubling me a lot and there is no better way than to write and express it.

      Reply
  • September 27, 2014 at 12:10
    Permalink

    I was smiling while reading this post…have faced such conundrum multiple times! And have been a culprit to fall on the giving end sometimes 🙂

    I had to agree with the conclusion, that better play conservative and say ‘Aap’..thanks for this unorthodox write up.

    ???? ?????????
    Regards.

    Reply
  • September 27, 2014 at 12:10
    Permalink

    I was smiling while reading this post…have faced such conundrum multiple times! And have been a culprit to fall on the giving end sometimes 🙂

    I had to agree with the conclusion, that better play conservative and say ‘Aap’..thanks for this unorthodox write up.

    ???? ?????????
    Regards.

    Reply
  • September 27, 2014 at 12:13
    Permalink

    I was smiling while reading this post…have faced such conundrum multiple times! And have been a culprit to fall on the giving end sometimes 🙂

    I had to agree with the conclusion, that better play conservative and say ‘Aap’..thanks for this unorthodox write up.

    ???? ?????????
    Regards.

    Reply
  • September 27, 2014 at 12:40
    Permalink

    I was smiling while reading this post…have faced such conundrum multiple times! And have been a culprit to fall on the giving end sometimes 🙂

    I had to agree with the conclusion, that better play conservative and say ‘Aap’..thanks for this unorthodox write up.

    ???? ?????????
    Regards.

    Reply
  • September 30, 2014 at 17:13
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    Good Read. 🙂 But…what is interesting here are the synonyms. I still believe usage of Tu, tum and aap… ” http://tinypic.com/r/2d7gaqb/8 ” has to do more with region and not with respect.

    “Tu” also defines respect… and “aap” on the other hand can be used sarcastically !

    For me topic is still debatable 🙂

    Reply
  • February 4, 2015 at 21:30
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    What a good point raised by you man… awesome!

    It is undeniable truth that ‘tu’ is considered as unmannered way of talking in many ways… I also feel the same…

    I have noticed, sometimes (mostly in offices) it is used to show dominance/superiority as well… so, if you feel this dominance is unjustified and unimportant then revert back in the same way..

    choose your words (tu tum aap) and sentences wisely and smartly depending on circumstances and person…

    I would suggest to show utmost morality at first go…… BUT if it does not work, instantly turn into “WILD”…

    “Remember that you are responsible for your deeds/karmas in the court of God”

    Reply
    • February 11, 2015 at 22:34
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      Thank you Nishant. I am glad you agree to my viewpoint.

      Reply
  • February 4, 2015 at 21:33
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    And the fun of using english language is…. no such conundrum exist… 🙂

    But in Shuddh Hindi Language also ‘tu’ ‘tum’ does not exist… lekin aajkal shuddh hindi bolta kon hai??

    Reply

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