Ways of saying you

Tú and usted

There are two ways of saying you in the singular in Spanish: the formal usted and the informal

The use of has become increasingly widespread and it is now more widely used than the French equivalent tu. However, it is impossible to lay down hard and fast rules about when to use and when to use usted since the way they are used is flexible and depends on the attitude of both the speaker and the listener. The following are very general guidelines:


  •  a  The pronoun and the form of the verb (second person singular) are used between friends and family, between people on first–name terms, among young people even if they do not know each other, and when addressing children and animals
  •  b  The pronoun usted and the usted form of the verb (third person singular) are used when addressing an older person, someone in authority, or, in general, where there is a certain distance between the speakers
  •  c  However, it is important to note that in some Latin American countries, particularly Colombia, the usted form is often used as the familiar form, even between children
  •  d  Adults sometimes use the usted form when addressing children to show anger or disapproval but it can also express sympathy or affection, for example when comforting a child after a fall or when talking to a baby


Ustedes and vosotros

In Latin America, the Canary Islands and parts of Andalusia, ustedes is the plural of both usted and :


  •  • no se peleen, niños
  •  • paren de discutir


In the rest of Spain, the informal plural is vosotros, which takes the second person plural form of the verb:


  •  • no os peleéis, niños
  •  • parad de discutir


The infinitive form is also used:


  •  • lavaros
  •  • parar, chicos


For translations of you as direct and indirect object, and when used with prepositions, see the entry you


In some Latin American countries, the form vos is used instead of . This usage is called voseo, and is common in the River Plate and parts of Central America, where vos is the standard form of the second person singular. (In some countries, however, this usage is considered substandard and characteristic of uneducated speech.)

Vos has its corresponding verb forms in the present tense and the imperative. These vary slightly from area to area. The following are the standard forms in Central America and the River Plate area:

Present indicative

vos hablás
vos metés
vos partís



There are also special forms for the present subjunctive and the negative imperative, although these are less widely used (many speakers use the forms corresponding to in these cases, given in brackets here):

Present subjunctive

que vos hablés (que vos hables)
que vos metás (que vos metas)
que vos partás (que vos partas)

Negative imperative

no hablés (no hables)
no metás (no metas)
no partás (no partas)

Note that in Uruguay the verb forms corresponding to vos are often used with the pronoun :


  •  • tú sabés que…
  •  • tú no te imaginás cómo…


The object form of vos is te, but after a preposition the form vos remains:


  •  it’s for you = es para vos


For more examples and particular usages see the entry you

You as an impersonal pronoun

When you is used to mean one in English, it can be translated in Spanish by:

▪ the second person singular

The second person singular of the verb is used to translate you (as subject) + verb:


  •  you can’t do that here = no puedes hacer eso aquí


When you is the direct or indirect object of the verb, the object pronoun te is used:


  •  they always try to cheat you = siempre intentan engañarte
  •  they can cause you a lot of trouble = te pueden crear muchos problemas


This use is much more common in Spain than in Latin America

▪ the impersonal se with the third person singular

This is used only where you is the subject of the verb:


  •  you never know = nunca se sabe
  •  you can’t do that here = aquí no se puede hacer eso


uno with the third person singular

This can be used to translate you as subject, direct object or indirect object; note the use of the pronoun in translations of you as direct or indirect object:


  •  you can’t do that here = aquí uno no puede hacer eso
  •  when a policeman stops you = cuando a uno lo para un policía
  •  they can cause you a lot of trouble = le pueden crear a uno muchos problemas


This use is less common and more formal in tone in Spain than in Latin America, sounding to a Spaniard more like the English one.

For more examples and particular usages, see the entry you

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