Formal Speaking vs Informal

One thing i have enjoyed about teaching English are the differences between Formal English / Informal English. The grammar, tone, structure and vocabulary change depending on the context.

For example…
The store where I bought the shirt … Informal vs The store from which I bought the shirt. / Formal

I find this very interesting when trying to explain this to students and also trying to learn this from other languages like French or German.

I’m sure it is a challenge when teaching and learning as well.

Has anyone had any challenges while learning or teaching this in your language?

Any thoughts on the difference between English compared to other languages?


Well, formal language is a big issue in German :grinning:
It causes a lot of confusion, especially the correct use of “Sie / Ihnen”. But in time every student gets it fixed.


Hi John :slight_smile: That’s an interesting question. I think in Spanish it is really difficult to manage “usted” (you formal) and you (informal). It all depends on the context and how others talk to you, so there is a rule, but not everybody follows it. Besides, we love to use a lot of different words to express something, and we just make it more complicate it for no reason. I think it can be as well our way not to be direct :sweat_smile:. In the end, I think formal Spanish is more useful when one writes to someone in a higher position or an institution :blush:.


Interesting! I plan on learning German eventually so i’m sure it wont be easy. It will be fun lol

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Yeah i also speak Spanish and even i don’t follow the rule very often haha. It’s definitely interesting to question about our own daily language every now and then.


I think this is a very interesting topic of conversation. Firstly, there is the grammar side of things and differing vocabulary (e.g. as previously mentioned, the Germans and French are big on their Sie/du and vous/tu difference and the conjugations that go along with these extra pronouns), but even more interesting, in my opinion, is the fact that 2 German speakers may completely disagree on which form should be used given any context. For instance, age used to play a big role in deciding whether to use “Sie” or “du”, but I personally feel like the older you get and the more “modern” our society is becoming, this is less of an issue now. I feel much more comfortable addressing somebody informally whose first name I know, than I used to feel as a child as this was deemed rude. Similarly, my grandparents address close childhood friends of mine with “Sie” as they are adults now and my grandad cannot get used to calling them “du”. I find that quite funny. For me, personally, it is more important whether I am speaking to somebody of “authority”, but even this relationship can change quickly enough and often your boss will ask you to “dutzen” (to use “du”) now, as they feel strange about your relationship and like it is too distant otherwise. What do the other German speakers think of this? Is age a key factor? Authority? Would you still “automatically” use “Sie” on somebody whose first name you have been told?


True, this issue becomes less and less important. It also depends on where you live. In Berlin “du” is very common, but in other parts of Germany that’s seen as disrespectful.

Maybe in 20 or 30 years, “Sie” may disappear… :thinking: :grinning:


Hi, this is really interesting, I have a BULATS C1 level (almost C2, actually), but I didn’t know about that. For me it was always just one thing. Of course, in German it’s quite different, and at times a real challenge for students, but once they understand the concept and grammar background of it, they are usually doing fine. :slight_smile: