What's "usted" and "ustedes"? The polite form in Spanish.

What's "usted" and "ustedes"? The polite form in Spanish.

In the Spanish language we have the option to talk to someone in a polite way. This is used at restaurants and other similar situations. Usted is the formal version of (you, 1 person), and ustedes is te formal version of vosotros (you guys).

Some decades ago, it was much more common, used in a lot of different situations, including when approaching an older person. Some people still use it to talk to a doctor, a priest or a lawyer.

In Latin America they use the form ustedes all the time to refer to "you guys", in formal or informal settings, and the singular form usted is more common than in Spain, too.

So, if you want to travel to Latin America or just prefer to be polite in a foreign country this is incredibly important for you.

Rule to speak politely:

  • To make it polite talking to 1 person ( ) use the form for he/she/it. (él / ella )

  • To make it polite talking to more than 1 person (vosotros - you guys) use the form for they (ellos/ ellas )

Ex: We'll use the verb querer - to want.

Quieres (you want) ---- ¿Quieres ir al cine? - do you want to go to the cinema?

Quiere (he/she wants) ---- *¿Quiere ir al cine? - do you want to go to the cinema? FORMAL

Queréis (you guys want) ---- ¿Queréis ir al cine? - do you guys want to go to the cinema?

Quieren (they want) ----- Quieren ir al cine? - Do you guys want to go to the cinema? FORMAL

You can add usted and ustedes just like you would add and vosotros, however we don't tend to include them in the sentence. The verb already tells me who does the action.

Ex: (Ustedes) van de vacaciones - You guys (polite) go on holidays.

Opinion phrases:

If you use an opinion phrase with this structure : me gusta, me encanta, me interesta...
you need to look at the pronoun (yes, that tiny little word) at the beginning.

You usually use te for (you 1 person informal) and os for vosotros (you guys informal).
If you want to make it polite you need to use le (for he and she) and les (for they) and the verb (gusta encanta interesa...) won't change.

For example:
You like: Te gusta - you (1 person) informal / Le gusta - you (1 person) polite
You guys like: Os gusta - you guys informal / Les gusta - you guys polite

You can check my post on how to have a conversation in a restaurant, where you can see the formal form in real context here.

¡Muy bien! Let's see if you can now spot the formal sentences.

Remember the clue is in the ending of the verb. Usually it goes like this: -s for you (1 person informal), - vowel for he or she, -áis, -éis or -ís for you guys informal, -n for they.

Spot the formal sentences:

1- (you 1 person) - Tienes una casa muy bonita - you have a very beautiful house.
2- (you guys) - Hacen mucho ejercicio, ¿verdad? - You do a lot of exercise, right?
3- (you 1 person) - Nunca haces la cama - You never make your bed.
4- (you 1 person) - ¿Le gusta el vino? - do you like the wine?
5- (you guys) - Veo que os interesa el arte - I see you guys are interested in art.
6- (you 1 person) - ¡Te encantó mi regalo! - You loved my present.
7- (you guys) - ¿Les gustó la película? - Did you guys liked the movie?

Solutions: I / F / I / F/ I / I / F /