Manners in Spanish and the way we talk and refer to each other are not always related. It is very important to learn how to address someone because, depending on how you treat them while talking, you may, or not, sound polite.
For now, don’t worry, because as long as you are reading this little but intensive piece of advice, you will not make any Spanish-speaking person feel weird or anything with how you speak.
First of all, you will need to know what a personal pronoun is. You do not? We got you! These are the most basic words that refer to a person, as simple as that! If understanding this has been a piece of cake for you, let’s move on!
When speaking English, we do not care as much about pronouns as we do in Spanish. Especially when it comes to you. Do you see what I did there? Anyways, let’s take a look.
The word “you” in English needs a little bit of context to get its full meaning. It may be used to talk with someone in front of you or even an entire audience. The Spanish language does distinguish between a single person and a group of them, it has “tú” for the singular version of “you” and “vosotros/vosotras” for the plural version. But do you know some other words to say this? Indeed, in Spanish, two more variants have to do with politeness, “usted” and “ustedes”.
This will be the key lesson: the difference between “tú” and “usted” in Spanish is how polite they are. Depending on which one you use, you will have to modify the verb to construct a correct sentence, but before moving on to that, you will need to understand how politeness works in Spanish. It mainly has to do with context. A very simple yet effective example is a social relationship. A friend of yours and your boss at work or a college professor is most likely very different people in your life. It is quite common to show some manners and respect with the last two rather than with a friend in almost any situation.
There can be some exceptions, of course, since this rule is related to the context of a social hierarchy or situation, but native Spanish speakers will most likely use the polite form to talk to someone they do not know or if they are talking to an elder person or a policeman. A useful piece of advice for this lesson may be: feel free to be informal and relaxed with anyone your age or colleagues in general, for the rest of the cases, a polite discourse will make you look and sound fine. Knowing this already, would you say Spanish is a formal language when it comes to having conversations or establishing relationships?
You can always take a full course with us if you feel your Spanish could sound better or if you need to engage in any kind of professional and formal situation.
Author: Alejandro Fayos Benito