Italian Language/tu or Lei


I am invited to the home of my niece’s in-laws, whom I have never met. They are Italians, and my niece told them that my parents were Italian immigrants too, so they want to speak to me in Italian. I can manage in Italian, except for one thing:  which form of “you”, familiar or polite? We will probably be introduced with first and last names, because of not having met before, but then we will most likely use first names, as usual in America. Does the use of first names automatically accompany the use of “tu”? Or do I wait until somebody says “Diamoci del tu”? I have not had this problem before, because I only speak Italian to relatives.
I would appreciate your help.

I would start using the Lei form, just to be safe.
Even if you use first names, Lei is very ok: "Paolo, mi puo' passare il sale?" is perfectly correct.
Then, of course, you can switch to Tu when everybody feels comfortable with it: it's usually the eldest person or the host who says "diamoci del tu".

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Francesco Marchesani


I`m interested and have deep knowledge in Italian history, traditions and culture. I can answer your questions on my country`s language and literature, as well as Latin language and literature.


I live in Pavia (northern Italy, near Milan) and have strong interests in my country's history.

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