formal v informal

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i remember being taught that the usted form was used for both singular and plural- for example, you say "como estás" to a friend but "como estan" to a professor or other authority figure.

now in studying spanish, things seem to have changed- either that or the rules are different from the style of spanish i originally learned. what's going on? now you say "como estás" to a friend but "como está usted" to an authority figure'

2527 views
updated JUL 17, 2008
posted by lauren

6 Answers

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There are four ways to say "you" in Spanish:

tú - singular, informal
vosotros - plural, informal (only used in Spain)
usted - singular, formal
ustedes - plural; technically formal, but used for formal and informal in Latin America (since we don't use "vosotros")

(Some countries, like Argentina and Colombia, also use "vos," but that's probably not taught in many textbooks.)

If you are talking to one professor (or stranger, or authority figure, etc.), you would use the "usted" form of the verb (¿Cómo está').

If you are talking to two or more professors, you would use the "ustedes" (plural) form (¿Cómo están'); however, if you are talking to two or more friends (and you are not in Spain or talking to Spaniards), you would use the "ustedes" form as well, because you need a plural form.

When talking to one friend, you would use the "tú" form of the verb (¿Cómo estás').

I hope this makes sense and answers your question.

smile Criss.

updated JUL 18, 2008
posted by Criss
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edited my original question btw =)

updated JUL 17, 2008
posted by lauren
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yes, i realized i meant estás, not está. but i still think that estás would be the friendly/informal version to address a single person, and están would be the version to address a single person formally. is that right? does that make sense? my bf is learning spanish and we are having a debate over this. =)

updated JUL 17, 2008
posted by lauren
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Stop double posting. It's not allowed.

updated JUL 17, 2008
posted by Eddy
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double click on the verb "estar" and you get the full conjugation.

updated JUL 17, 2008
posted by 00494d19
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Hi lauren, you might remember that wrongly:

¿Cómo está?

can be:

a third person
an old lady
your teacher

It is the "Usted form" or third person

To a friend you would use: ¿cómo estás'

updated JUL 17, 2008
posted by 00494d19