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From the contexts in which I have heard it used, and also according to jisho.org, the word 連中{れんちゅう} appears to be a fairly informal word, on par with the use of the word "lot" in British English as a collective noun ("you lot"). However, it is unclear to me exactly what situations it would be okay to use in, and exactly how impolite it is. Furthermore, it doesn't seem like there is any one word that can be used to replace it in situations where it is too impolite.

The circumstance I am thinking about is one in which a close group of friends is talking to one of their member's older brother, in casual but polite setting; the older brother refers to them collectively, remarking jocularly on how difficult it is to hold a conversation with them because of their inclination to 突っ込む.

  • 「君たちはとんでもない連中に違いないです」= "You guys really are a formidable/difficult bunch"

In this context, would 連中 be too strong/impolite a word, or is it appropriate for such a situation? If the former, is there a better way of saying this?

I know that the translation is not 100%, but I am translating from my own words, so the intent is more important than literal accuracy.

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    Are you sure they are in a relationship where です/ます is required? How old are they? – naruto Jul 27 '17 at 23:21
  • Not really a case of "required" so much; they are all pretty オタク的, but I am not sure exactly what kind of difference that would make. Age-wise, the friends are all about 15, and the brother is twenty-something. – archaephyrryx Jul 29 '17 at 14:18
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a close group of friends is talking to one of their member's older brother, in casual but polite setting; the older brother refers to them collectively, remarking jocularly on how difficult it is to hold a conversation with them because of their inclination to 突っ込む.

「君たちはとんでもない連中に違いないです」= "You guys really are a formidable/difficult bunch"

In your context, the use of 連中 is correct for not being used for superiors; however, we probably don't use it to refer to the second person plural, 君たち, but it's to refer to the third person plural; あの連中, この連中, その連中. You could say こいつら、とんでもない連中にちがいない face-to-face as if pretending to talk to someone else, with possibly a warm tone.

連中 is standard enough, though not to be used for your superiors.

れんちゅう【連中】(……)親しみ、あるいは軽蔑 (けいべつ) を込めていう。「クラスの連中を誘ってみる」「こういう連中は度し難い」(出典:デジタル大辞泉

To refer to a group of our superiors or people who we should pay respect, あの方々{かたがた} or あの方{かた}たち is the standard. Casually あの人{ひと}たち.


連中 is a word that doesn't need to be used in formal writing, but is used in literature or spoken language of, might be rather, grown-ups.

"どうにでもなるような映画{えいが}会社{がいしゃ}の連中の言葉{ことば}だけの空虚{くうきょ}な自我{じが}や、"
(Wikipedia|白痴{はくち}(坂口{さかぐち}安吾{あんご})|あらすじ)

/

"弱虫{よわむし}で、子供の時から同年輩{どうねんぱい}のこの連中にいじめられ"
(坂口安吾「明治開化{めいじかいか} 安吾{あんご}捕物帖{とりものちょう} 上{じょう}」1950)

/

"だが若{わか}い連中は、自分{じぶん}と同年輩の者{もの}とつきあいたがる"
(遠藤周作{えんどうしゅうさく}訳{やく}「愛{あい}の砂漠{さばく}/モーリアック」c.1965?)

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"しかし、その船{ふね}へ乗組{のりく}んでゐ(い)る連中は、中々{なかなか}勇{いさ}ましがつてゐる所{ところ}の騒ぎ{さわぎ}ではない。"
芥川龍之介{あくたがわりゅうのすけ}「虱{しらみ}」 1916)

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"連中" is a word addressing people of a certain group collectively where the talker doesn't belong or doesn't want to belong with a somewhat contemptuous feeling, although not necessarily.
I think you can understand the nuance of the word with 連中 further if I tell you how we feel when we are addressed by the word.

  • The first thing I feel is that those who use/say this word don't have an agreeable or acceptable impression of us.

  • I admit their understanding of us, not being agreeable for them, but I don't agree with the way they handle us collectively by ignoring each personality of us; At least I have a point I could proud of by myself, so don't handle/call me as one of the set of people.

Examples:

  • あんな連中 such bastards 
  • こういう連中 these fellows
  • そうそうたる連中 a fine set of men
  • 金持{かねも}ち連中 rich guys
  • 愉快{ゆかい}な連中 a merry/jolly group
  • 仲良{なかよ}し連中 a party/bunch of good friends
  • 悪{わる}い連中と交{まじ}わる to keep contact with a bad lot
  • 陽気{ようき}な連中と交{まじ}わる to keep contact with a merry bunch
  • あんな連中とつきあうな. Don't mix with such a set.
  • 一体{いったい}あのいやな連中は何{なに}をやっているのか What is that nasty bunch up to?
  • あんな連中には我慢{がまん}がならない。I cannot abide such people.
  • あんな連中を見{み}るのは我慢{がまん}できない。I can't abide to see such fellows.
  • インテルの連中は君{きみ}を得{え}てラッキーだよ。The Intel people are lucky to have you!
  • どうせ日本{にほん}文化{ぶんか}の粋{すい}などは連中には絶対{ぜったい}わかるまい。The essence of Japanese culture could never be appreciated by them.
  • トムは他{ほか}の連中よりはるかにすぐれてトップだ。Tom is head and shoulders above others.

On second thoughts, looking at these example phrases, I think that when people are classified into two groups with a certain standard, 連中 is a word used in the conversation with the people who seem to share the same values with you to address the group of people where the talker does not belong, apart from the good or bad of the attribute of the group.

Last but least, I clearly understand with what kind of nuances the word with 連中 is used in a context. But perhaps I've never used this word, because, I think, it sounds indecent. So, I could say that it is the word you need not to use by yourself.

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