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Overview

English can be a bit confusing when speaking directly to a person. You can say “you” to practically anybody, whether you know them or not, whether it is a single person or a huge group. In Spanish, there are many ways to address a person and they vary depending on the formality of the relationship, how many people you are talking to, and even what country you are in.

Basically there are 5 ways to address people directly in Spanish:

  • tú - singular and informal
  • vos - singular and formal or informal - used in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and parts of Central America
  • usted (Ud.) - singular and formal
  • vosotros - plural and informal - used in Spain
  • ustedes (Uds.) - plural and formal or informal
 

*¡Be aware that while the following examples use the subject pronouns to explain usage, normally they are omitted as the context and verb indicate the subject of the sentence.


Singular Direct Address

- Only use when talking to people you know well that are the same age as you, younger than you, or of the same education level. It can be used to speak directly to children, close relatives, friends, peers, or pets. is also used in many online conversations to keep the tone informal and in many types of Christianity to address God to indicate closeness.

  • ¿Vas tú a la fiesta esta noche? (Are you going to the party tonight?)
  • ¿Cómo te llamas tú, niño? (What is your name, child?)


Vos - Vos is mainly used in what is called the Southern Cone area of South America which encompasses Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and parts of Chile. It is also commonly used in Nicaragua and is recognized in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica. Many people use vos in place of both and Ud.

  • ¿No querés vos más jugo? (You don’t want more juice?)
  • Queremos hablar con vos muy pronto. (We want to speak with you very soon.)


Usted - Use usted (abbreviated Ud.) when directly addressing someone older, a person you do not know, a superior, or someone you would like to show a lot of respect. It is a good idea to address a new acquaintance as usted as a sign of respect until he/she tells you otherwise or request that you “tutear” them.

  • ¿Cómo se llama usted? (What is your name?)
  • Usted tiene una casa muy bonita. (You have a very beautiful home.)


Plural Direct Address

Vosotros  - Vosotros is primarily used in Spain to address a group of people directly with whom you are familiar. It is the plural form of tú.

  • ¿Adónde vais vosotros esta noche? (Where are you (all) going tonight?)
  • Adela y Manuel, ¿queréis vosotros cenar? (Adela and Manuel, do you want to eat dinner?)


Ustedes - Abbreviated Uds., ustedes is used to address a two or more people and can be formal or informal. Since most Central and Latin American countries do not use vosotros, Uds. is used in all forms of plural address and the corresponding verb is conjugated in the 3rd person plural form.

  • Señor Martinez y Doctor Moncada, ¿quieren ustedes decir algo? (Mr. Martinez and Dr. Moncada, do you want to say something?)
  • Hola, chicos. ¿Quieren ustedes ir a la playa? (Hey, friends. Do you want to go the beach?)

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Category: pronouns | Keywords: tutear, informal, formal

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