Tu, voce, o senhor, or something else?

I’ll be vacationing in Portugal next week (finally, yay!) and will have several private tour guides during the month. What’s the best way to ask someone what they would like to be called? (Meaning, is it ok if I use “tu” with you?) What’s the best way to ask this correctly? Or should I start with the most formal (o senhor…) and wait for them to tell me to you “tu”?

The best way is to start with respect and address the guide or anyone else as o senhor or a senhora. I live in portugal and I do this even when addressing younger people, at first. Once I am comfortable with the person we go from there. I know that Addressing younger people you would use tu But as I am a foreigner living in Portugal I prefer to start out with the respectful address. Ironically enough as I am an old man I could Address everyone with tu.
Just my thoughts.

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@bmbernero I would start formal, but not necessarily with “o senhor/a senhora”, which is sometimes too formal. I would probably just skip the subject and go straight for the verb in each sentence, as covered in this Learning Note.

For example, instead of:

  • O senhor/a senhora/você sabe o que é aquilo? (Do you know what that is?)
    I would just say:
  • Sabe o que é aquilo? (Do you know what that is?)

If your tour guides/other people really want you to address them as “tu”, they will let you know. I wouldn’t recommend asking people directly when you’re not already sure that they don’t mind, because you’re kind of trapping them - most people will feel compelled to say yes just to avoid appearing rude, regardless of their actual wishes. In any case, “tu” is generally fine to use whenever you’re dealing with young adults (e.g. under 30) and you’re about the same age or older.

Posso tratá-lo/tratá-la/tratar-te por tu? is how we usually ask if we can use “tu”. Note how the last variation, tratar-te, is already informal itself.

Have fun!

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