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When to use usted

1
vote

When do you use usted? For example "El no sabe que usted esta en el jardin" or El no sabe que esta in el jardin." ?

6525 views
updated NOV 26, 2009
posted by bernardj11

8 Answers

3
votes

I think, to the contrary of what I think I am understanding everyone to be saying in this thread, that one does indeed use usted and ustedes in sentences in which one would not otherwise use a subject personal pronoun.

But perhaps I am misunderstanding the exercise I recently completed in Gramática básica del estudiante de español.

Let us examine it together.

First I´ll quote the support for what all answering parties have stated about the preference in Spanish to omit these pronouns:

from sección 3, 13B, page 72:

B. Presencia y ausencia del pronombre ¿Cómo te llamas? / ¿Tú cómo te llamos?

A diferencia de lo que pasa en otras lenguas, en español no se emplea siempre el pronombre sujeto con el verbo. Su uso es necesario cuando queremos distinguir o contrastar la persona o personas que identifcamos como sujeto frente a otras personas.

But then there is a little eye icon intended to provide special information, or as the legend in the front of the books puts it:

Un [little red eye] destaca cierta información a la que tienes qu prestar especial atención.

And the information pertains to the formal usted and ustedes

Here it is:

Las formas usted / ustedes no siempre tienen valor contrastivo. También se usan para expresar claramente el tratamiento formal:

And then the book gives a few examples (and lots of exercises with a key):

  • Adelante, pase usted, pase. Siéntese usted.
  • ¿Han reservado ustedes mesa?

  • ¿Vendrán ustedes a la inauguración?

  • Debe traer usted el pasaporte.

Do you all think I have understood correctly?

updated NOV 2, 2009
edited by Janice
posted by Janice
2
votes

Here is some information I copied from two Span¡shD!ct Reference Pages. This is what I think is prertinent to your question: First let's look at the personal pronouns because that is what you seem to be asking about. Here they are:

 

.....................Personal Pronouns....................

SingularPlural
1st Pers | Yo | Nosotros , Nosotras
2nd Pers | Tú , Vos, |Vosotros, Vosotras,
3rd Pers | Usted, Él , Ella |Ustedes, Ellos, Ellas

 

If in doubt about whether or not to use them, don't use the personal pronouns! While personal pronouns can be used to replace a person's name, advanced and native speakers of Spanish rarely use them since the verb ending tells you who the subject is.
Because the endings of each verb indicate the subject of the verb, the personal pronoun is not necessary and should be avoided if possible. Native Spanish-speakers rarely use personal pronouns, so it's best to practice not using them for fluency's sake.

• Hablo español. (I speak Spanish.) is better than:
• Yo hablo español. (I speak Spanish.)

  In my view, there is possibly (sometimes) doubt when using the 3rd person singular and plural as to who is the person being spoken about and in those tenses it may be necessary to use the personal pronouns.

I hope this helps,

Moe

updated NOV 26, 2009
edited by Moe
posted by Moe
2
votes

¡Hola!, Janice:

 

Let me start by quoting the last paragraph of my own earlier reply where I wrote:

“In my view, there is possibly (sometimes) doubt when using the 3rd person singular and plural as to who is the person being spoken about and in those tenses it may be necessary to use the personal pronouns.”

Your 1st quote from your lesson material is:

“A diferencia de lo que pasa en otras lenguas, en español no se emplea siempre el pronombre sujeto con el verbo. Su uso es necesario cuando queremos distinguir o contrastar la persona o personas que identifcamos como sujeto frente a otras personas.”

My understanding of this in English is:

Unlike what happens in other languages, Spanish is does not always use the subject pronoun and verb. Its use is necessary when we want to distinguish or contrast (for greater certainty) the person or persons who identify themselves as a subject in front of others.(i.e. in front of other persons).

 

For me, my own statement is not in conflict with your lesson material nor does your material contradict me.

 

The next part of your lesson material which you have cited says:

“Las formas usted/ustedes no siempre tienen valor contrastivo. También se usan para expresar claramente el tratamiento formal:”

I think that it translates as: 

The forms “usted/ustedes” do not always have contrastive value. They are also used to articulate the formal treatment:”

I was not at all clear on what that might mean until I looked at the examples and then the meaning became clearer to me through examples.

 

The 1st two examples from your course material are addressed to “articulating the formal treatment” as that was said in the quote above. I have no dispute with that. They represent the ingratiating formality of a service attendant trying to display and maintain respect for a customer.

 

The 3rd example you have offered would raise some uncertainty in a listener because it is an isolated statement. With no antecedent reference to help to determine if it is addressed to “ustedes”. “ellos” or “ellas” a personal pronouns is needed to add certainty. Here "ustedes" is used for its contrastive value.

 

The 4th example eludes me. It is written in the form of a question but there are no question marks to confirm this intent. If it were not a question, I would understand it as “Usted debe traer el pasaporte” meaning “You must bring the passport.” If it were a passport owned by the person who is to bring it the sentence would say “Usted debe traer su pasaporte.” Written as it is, I’m not able to see it as a correct statement. But, its late and I’m slow.

 

I don't think your materials or the materials I referred to from the Span¡shD!ct Reference Pages are in conflict. I'll leave you to ponder this and see what may come of that.

 

Recuerdos/Regards,

Moe

updated NOV 2, 2009
posted by Moe
2
votes

Well, it sounds like you are also asking when do you include "usted" (or tu) because as you show in your example, it is not needed. The verb conjugation is sufficient for pointing to the pronoun, as is context. When you would include the usted (or any pronoun: el, ella, yo) is often for emphasis or to clarify. Is that what you were wondering?

updated NOV 2, 2009
posted by kittybrougham
1
vote

"Usted is just a very formal way to say "you". "Tu" is informal. So, depending if the sentence is informal or not.

updated NOV 1, 2009
edited by kanani142
posted by kanani142
0
votes

Hi, bernard, let's keep things short:

Él no sabe que está in el jardin." ?

the meaning of this sentence can be:

He does not know you /he/she is in the garden.

As you can see the usted is mandatory here. However, what a native woud NOT use is the subject pronoun, just forget about them if you want to sound Spanish.

updated NOV 2, 2009
posted by 00494d19
Heidita - You have written that even though it is mandatory to use "usted" in bernardj's sentence, a native would not include it in speeking or in writing this sentence. Is that what you meant?? - Moe, NOV 2, 2009
No, Heidita means to get rid of the "El" not the "Usted." - --Mariana--, NOV 2, 2009
0
votes

If it were a passport owned by the person who is to bring it the sentence would say “Usted debe traer su pasaporte.”

No, Moe, This is another way in which Spanish differs from English and probably all Germanic languages (See my "ps" below).

Here again from that wonderful grammar text:

pg. 49, Posesivos: F Casos especiales> Tengo el pelo mojado

En español, los posesivos normalmente no se usan para hablar de las partes del cuerpo ni de la ropa u otros objetos que llevamos; en estos casos usamos los artículos el, la, los, las

And (besides the one from the original post (which was intended to illustrate something else, of course), here are some examples:

  • ¿Vas a salir con el pelo mojado?
  • Llevas una mancha de aceite en la camisa.
  • Mejor, no voy. Me duele la cabeza.
  • ¿Os habéis lavado las manos?
  • Te llamo luego. Estoy lavándome los dientes.

ps (I am reading a humorous book by a Spaniard who teaches his language to Germans. He devotes a funny chapter to this common mistake - it seems to really amuse him and must sound really funny to native speakers when the mistake is made in our Spanish.)

updated NOV 2, 2009
posted by Janice
0
votes

For me, my own statement is not in conflict with your lesson material nor does your material contradict me.

That's right, Moe! I quoted the material in support of what you had written about the personal pronounds in general.

But I wanted to go further to point out that usted and ustedes would appear to me from this grammar book to be used to express their very formality and underline the formality of the relationship, too....even when there is no "contrasting value" or even ambivalence. One would never use the other personal pronouns that way.

By the way, I really am glad I found this book, which had been highly recommended by Lazarus just before he stopped being active in the forum. Indeed, it was one of the last suggestions I was lucky enough to have seen from him. How fortunate I feel to have participated while he was around.

The grammar is available out of Barcelona from . .Difusion, Centro de Investigación y Publicaciones de Idiomas, S.L.
or Difusion, Quienes somo

and one can even order it on Amazon Marianne wrote me right here in the forum.

updated NOV 2, 2009
edited by Janice
posted by Janice
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