My dad bought me a second-hand book called 'Exploring the Spanish Language'. It's written by a Senior Lecturer in Romance Philosophy at the University of Cambridge.

Ok, so some pages I just look and think 'This is right over my head' - but a lot of it is really interesting, I suppose I can't copy it literally but here's a snippet about Imperatives. (from the chapter entiteld 'Register'.)

Mi papá me compró un libro de segunda mano titulado 'Exploring the Spanish Language', escrito por un profesor adjunto de 'Filosofía de los Idiomas Romances' de la universidad de Cambridge. Bueno, pues hay páginas que solo con verlas me hacen pensar 'esto es demasiado complicado para mí' - sin embargo, tiene muchas cosas que me parecen interesantísimas. Os pongo un fragmento acerca de los imperativos (del capítulo titulado 'Registro idiomático')

Examples, from least to most polite. I have tried to give what I think is the equivalent in British English - in the book there are just the Spanish examples.

Aquí os pongo unos ejemplos, desde los menos hasta los más educados. Traté de traducirlos a los que me parecen 'equivalentes' en inglés británico - en el libro solo vienen ejemplos en español.

  • ¡Abra la ventana! Open the window!

  • ¡Abra (usted) la ventana, por favor! Please open the window.

  • Por favor, ¿me abre la ventana? Please will you open the window?

  • Podría abrir la ventana. Could you open the window, please?

  • ¿Podría abrir la ventana? Would you open the window, please?

  • ¿Le importa abrir la ventana? Do you mind opening the window, please?

  • Haga el favor de abrir la ventana. Do me a favour and open the window, please. (This is an odd one in English - although polite I would say it's quite familiar, I wouldn't say it with a stranger unless I felt they were a very open, casual sort of person, or I might say it to a younger person.)

  • ¿Abrimos la ventana? Shall we open the window? ( *I feel that in English, this is very polite but could be seen as patronising)

  • ¿Tendría la amabilidad de abrir la ventana? Would you be so kind as to open the window, please? (as well as being polite, this is very formal in English, upper-classes only really)

I have heard this one too.... también he oído este..

  • Sería tan amable de abrir la ventana. Would you be so kind as to open the window, please?

What do you think of these?

¿Qué os parecen?

  • Great thread, Sally! :) - cogumela Feb 28, 2011
  • Gracias por las correciones otra vez Cogu. :D - galsally Mar 1, 2011
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9 Answers



Muy buena idea , sobre todo para el chat del sábado, no es para ti, tú eres avanzada, pero espero que lo vea la gentewink

  • Feb 28, 2011
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  • Sí, yo también espero que sea útil, y que nuestros amigos lo vean. :) - galsally Feb 28, 2011


Thank you Sally, a very interesting article with many variations on how to use courtesy in expressing a request. I have to say I prefer these two options

¿Podría (s) abrir la ventana? Would you open the window, please? ( I have added the familiar for usng with children or peopel younger than yourself)


¿Le (te) importa(s) abrir la ventana? Do you mind opening the window, please grin

Note about application:

When I spoke to Cogumela a little while ago in a personal Skype chat and asked her about the use of podría v podrías I distinctly remember her telling me that I should use podría with people over 50 years of age and podrías with younger waiters in a restaurant or they would probably think I was taking the mickey of them by addressing them with podría so I have applied this thinking to the expressions above when addressing younger people.

  • Take the mickey out? - Sabor Feb 28, 2011
  • taking the mickey of them - FELIZ77 Feb 28, 2011
  • Yes, Feliz, I waver between could and would - I tend to see 'would' as being marginally more polite! Just my personal opinion of course. :D - galsally Mar 1, 2011
  • Also I noted that the article lacked the informal conjugations, it just focussed on 'usted' form. - galsally Mar 1, 2011
  • Galssally Yes I would agree there the word seems softer in sound and therefore suggests it is more polite it also seeems more like a respectful request with would and less like a coomand - FELIZ77 Mar 1, 2011


Already posted

Haga el favor de abrir la ventana

I would have said

"Hágame el favor de abrir la ventana"

Also how about

"Me hace el favor de abrir la ventana"

  • Feb 28, 2011
  • | Edited by Eddy Feb 28, 2011
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  • Yes, that is the key ! ¿Me hace/ haría el favor de... ? - cogumela Feb 28, 2011
  • Thank you very much cogu. Estoy loco de contento al recibir comentarios así. It shows I may be winning the battle, hehe. - Eddy Feb 28, 2011
  • Nice, Eddy - my Spanish sentences are copied directly from the book. Isn't it amazing how many ways we can say basically the same thing! - galsally Mar 1, 2011


I think that this post is wonderful.

My mother was a big believer in good manners, and I learned good manners along with English as my native tongue.

In all of my Spanish language training, I believe that the polite way to say something is not adequately taught. In the classes I took in Madrid, much more attention was paid in class to "street Spanish" and the types of conversations that one will hear or will have in the bars of Madrid.

That approach won't help me get a job, or help me to present myself or ideas to leaders. I'm not talking about pretentiousness, but the ability to choose the more gracious way of saying something.

To me, it is more important to learn the "right" way - the polite way - to ask a question. If we learn the rude way and disturb someone's sensibilities, we lose opportunities.

Perhaps I should have been aware of the difference of language training in this regard.

  • Feb 28, 2011
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  • Excellent points Joyce the more courteous way should/must be taught certainly with respect to job opportunities and attending interviews - FELIZ77 Feb 28, 2011
  • I agree Joyce that students need to know how to understand and speak with courtesy to prepare them for the working environment and formal occassions yet at the same time be able to understand and interact with people using street Spanish - FELIZ77 Feb 28, 2011
  • We never know with whom we might come into contact and whose help we might need one day - FELIZ77 Feb 28, 2011
  • I'm glad you appreciate it, Joyce. :) - galsally Mar 1, 2011


Curiously, "haga el favor de abrir la ventana" can sound very demanding too, well... depending on the tone, of course... smile , but I think that , sometimes, it could be translated as a sort of :

Open the window, already!

  • Feb 28, 2011
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  • Cogu , do You mean, it could come across as: ''Do it now!'' ??? Hmmm I thnik I see what you mean Cogu :) - - FELIZ77 Feb 28, 2011
  • I think this is how I feel about this one - in English too one must be very careful with the tone of voice if using this phrase. :) - galsally Mar 1, 2011


A nice spectrum of possibilities, thanks!

On that one, "Haga el favor de abrir la ventana" I would have translated this as "Do me the favor of opening the window." I don't know why you think it's not polite enough to ask of a stranger. Maybe it's just me. I might add Perdone or Por favor, though.

  • Feb 28, 2011
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  • It sounds very demanding to me :) - cogumela Feb 28, 2011


Very interesting Sally!
I am sure that you could add more on this thread (Politeness / La cortesía).
Maybe to make it a reference article. Thanks a lot! grin

  • Feb 28, 2011
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  • Feel free to add anything, Sakis! What aoubt the attitudes of people in Greece, out of interest? :) - galsally Mar 1, 2011


Ooops, I've posted twice, sorry.

Ignore this one.



"Haga el favor de abrir la ventana" I would have translated this as "Do me the favor of opening the window." I don't know why you think it's not polite enough to ask of a stranger. Maybe it's just me. I might add Perdone or Por favor, though.

Hi Pesta,

Maybe I should say (which I probably didn't make clear earlier) that I'm not attempting to give any direct translations of each phrase, rather to give some sort of English equivalent on the politeness scale, which is why I've added 'please' to almost all the options, as here in England 'please' is so popular that to omit is is almost always seen as a bit rude! If asked for a straight translation I agree with yours.

I wouldn't actually say 'Do me the favour of opening the window', so I translated it as something I would occasionally say (could this be another difference between Brit, and U S English?)

This little snippet of a thread hasn't really touched on something I feel is very important - politeness and/or formality.

We all do this, I'm sure - if we wish to deal with a person politely, we make a judgement (ha! only one??) We know that some people expect formality, and are offended by casual speech, however politely worded it might be, however respectful the tone of voice and body language. One can be supremely polite without being formal or deferent.

I'm happy that this is changing. I vastly prefer polite informality myself!


  • Mar 1, 2011
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