4 ways to say you in Spanish – formal and informal Spanish examples

In the complexities of Spanish language, understanding the differences between the formal and informal you is not just a matter of grammar, but of real-life conversations and culture.

In Spanish, “” and “usted” are the common singular forms for addressing someone – each of these two important words for you in Spanish carries its weight of social interactions. But, remember that these are not the only options for saying ‘you’ in Spanish. Latin American Spanish and even Spanish slang has its own way (ustedes vs vosotros) you can address someone – whether it’s your close friend or someone new you just met. Spring Spanish (a project I co-founded) has its own take on this linguistic issue:

Knowing when to use which can be the key to effortless conversations and showing respect in various Spanish-speaking contexts.

1. Formal and Informal Use of You in Spanish

Let’s be honest: when it comes to speaking Spanish, the distinction between formal and informal is essential to master. Not just because you have to learn every single detail of a language that you want to master but also because knowing these tiny thing can save you from uncomfortable situations.

Our Conversation Based Chunking method is here to help you. It focuses on chunks – blocks of the language – that native speakers use in real-life conversations instead of remembering boring grammar rules and definitions. It’s a little bit more complex than the way I just described it but if you sign up right here, I’ll explain everything to you!

Informal singular in Spanish – Tú

is the informal pronoun you’ll use in the following situations:

  • With friends and peers
  • Addressing children and pets
  • Among family members (of course, depending on the family’s customs)
  • On social media with people the same age
  • In informal events and casual settings

Consider this sample dialogue between two friends:

  • Pedro: ¡Hola, María! ¿(Hi, Maria! How are you?)
  • María: ¡Hola, Pedro! Estoy bien, gracias. ¿Y ? (Hi, Pedro! I’m good, thanks. And you?)

Keep reading and keep this conversation in mind because we also have a full practice worksheet waiting for you!

Formal singular in Spanish – Usted

On the other hand, usted is reserved for more formal interactions. Use usted in these situations:

  • Speaking to someone older or in a position of authority
  • In formal business meetings and professional settings
  • When addressing strangers in a formal context
  • In formal events (e.g. weddings or conferences)
  • Whenever in doubt and aiming to show respect

A typical conversation between a teacher and a student would look like this:

  • Profesor: Buenos días, ¿cómo está usted hoy? (Good morning, how are You today?)
  • Estudiante: Buenos días, profesor. Estoy bien, gracias. ¿Y usted? (Good morning, professor. I’m well, thank you. And You?)

2. Plural Forms of You in Spanish (Ustedes vs vosotros)

When addressing a group, Spanish has two plural pronouns that you can use — ustedes and vosotros. Here’s a short explanation on how you can use them:

map of spain where you can say you in spanish

Ustedes: typically used in Latin America (both formal and informal)

Ustedes is the formal and informal plural form of ‘you’ in Latin America and some parts of Spain. If you use ustedes, it’s accompanied by third-person plural verb forms in sentences.

Let’s see how you would use this in an informal conversation:

  • Raúl: Hola, ¿ustedes van al concierto de esta noche? (Hey, are you guys going to the concert tonight?)
  • Amigos: Sí, ya tenemos nuestras entradas. ¿Y tú, Raúl? (Yes, we already have our tickets. What about you, Raúl?)
  • Raúl: Aún no he decidido, pero probablemente me uno a ustedes más tarde. (I haven’t decided yet, but I’ll probably join you later.)

And in a formal one:

  • Director: Buenos días. ¿Ustedes son los nuevos internos de la empresa? (Good morning. Are you the new interns at the company?)
  • Internos: Buenas días, sí, somos nosotros. Estamos listos para comenzar. (Good morning, yes, that’s us. We’re ready to begin.)
  • Director: Excelente. Por favor, síganme para iniciar su orientación. (Excellent. Please, follow me to start your orientation.)

Vosotros: used informally in Spain

Vosotros” (and its feminine form “vosotras“) is the informal second person plural subject pronoun in Spanish and is primarily used in Spain. It can be translated as “you all” or “y’all” in English when addressing a group of people in an informal context.

In a friendly conversation:

  • Carlos: ¡Ey, vosotros! ¿Os apetece ir a la playa este fin de semana? (Hey, you guys! Do you feel like going to the beach this weekend?)
  • Amigos: ¡Claro que sí! ¿A qué hora quedamos? (Of course! What time shall we meet?)
  • Carlos: ¿Qué os parece si nos encontramos a las diez de la mañana? (How about we meet at ten in the morning?)
  • Amigos: Perfecto, nos vemos el sábado entonces. (Perfect, see you on Saturday then.)

3. Forms of You in Latin American Spanish

In Latin America, variations of “you” like vos are also widespread. All of them add a layer or some kind of regional identity to conversations. This form comes from historical usage but is available in countries like Argentina, Uruguay, and parts of Central America.

map of south america where you can say you in spanish
Illustration of South America (Generated by DALL-E 3)

Let’s see how we can categorize them based on formality levels:

Vos: Informal, used among friends, family, and peers in specific regions

  • Lucia: ¡Che, vos! ¿(Hey, you! Do you want to go out for a drink tonight?)
  • Martín: Me encantaría. ¿Dónde nos encontramos? (I’d love to. Where should we meet?)
  • Lucia: En la esquina del bar de siempre, a las nueve. ¿Te parece? (At the corner by our usual bar, at nine. How does that sound?)
  • Martín: Dale, ¡nos vemos allá! (Great, see you there!)

Usted: Formal, used for elders, in professional contexts, or to show respect

  • Empleado: Buenos días, ¿cómo puedo ayudarlo, señor? (Good morning, how can I assist you, sir?)
  • Cliente: Buenos días, estaba buscando una corbata azul. ¿Tiene alguna? (Good morning, I was looking for a blue tie. Do you have one?)
  • Empleado: Por supuesto, tenemos varios modelos. Si me acompaña, se los muestro. (Of course, we have several models. If you accompany me, I’ll show them to you.)
  • Cliente: Gracias, lo sigo. (Thank you, I’ll follow you.)

4. What Differences Do These Two Important Words Make in Spanish?

So, to recap everything:

  1. is the informal you, used with friends, family, children, and younger people in general.
  2. Usted is the formal you, used with older people, authorities, or when speaking to someone you’re not familiar with in a formal setting.
  3. Vos is an informal you in Spanish used mainly in certain regions of Latin America, like Argentina, Uruguay, and parts of Central America. It can also reflect a close relationship or informal communication.
  4. Vosotros is the informal you used with a group of people in Spain. Although it’s rarely used in Latin America, it’s crucial to understand if you’re speaking with someone from Spain. The formal equivalent, used when speaking to a group in a formal context or when you want to show respect, is ustedes.

These cultural differences can be different from region to region, so it’s really important to take into account the local context when deciding which form of you to use – basically, look around and see where you are! 🙂

5. Practice Worksheet – Formal and Informal in Spanish Conversations

I. Fill in the blank with the correct pronoun (tú, usted, vosotros, ustedes):

This is just one of our many exercises here on Effortless Conversations. If you want to learn and practice more Spanish, click the button below and gain access to our Full Practice Worksheet Library.

6. Learn More About You in Spanish with Conversation Based Chunking

Whether you decide on using ““, “usted“, “vos” or “vosotros” — each pronoun sets the stage for social dynamics. We offer a method called Conversation Based Chunking, learners can assimilate these forms naturally through real-life conversations.

Certain expressions or forms of address might be appropriate in some Spanish-speaking cultures but considered impolite in others. Thus, a comprehensive understanding of these factors can enable learners to use pronouns correctly, and foster connections within the Spanish-speaking world.

Unlocking this understanding could potentially lead to more authentic and respectful communication and interactions within the Spanish-speaking world.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *