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In some languages, such as Italian, when addressing someone who is senior to you or at a higher level with respect to some social hierarchy, it is customary not to use the second-person singular pronoun but some other form to indicate deference. In Italian for example, the second-person plural feminine is used (e.g. "How are you" becomes "How is she"). The closest phenomenon in English that comes to my mind is the use of "sir" or "madam" but of course this does not work in the same way grammatically.

My question is: what is the technical English term for this grammatical construction?

  • See the linked question. Further reading still can be found on Wikipedia. – RegDwigнt Sep 19 '14 at 23:39
  • @RegDwigнt thanks for the heads up, the linked question is surely related but does not answer my question: how do you call such phenomenon? – Bordaigorl Sep 19 '14 at 23:44
  • @RegDwigнt actually your Wikipedia link is the answer! It is called "T–V distinction" or more broadly speaking "honorifics"...if you write that in an answer I'll be glad to accept it. – Bordaigorl Sep 19 '14 at 23:47