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Lesson 15: Formal YOU - Using Usted

From the Carnavalito Grammar Chapter


In Spanish there are 2 main ways to say "you" - , and usted (a 3rd informal word for "you", vos, is used only in select countries). Usted is used to show respect as well as to put a little bit of distance between you and the person you are calling usted (abbreviated as Ud.) Some Spanish speaking countries, like Mexico, use the word usted extensively, and almost always when you first meet someone. Other countries like Spain are a bit more relaxed. For the elderly or people in positions of authority, you should always use usted unless asked to use .

In Costa Rica it isn't uncommon for family members to call each other Ud. - whereas this is not the norm for most Spanish speaking countries. In Argentina they practically do away with and usted altogether - using the word vos for "you" most of the time. They do use usted occasionally, but vos is the dominant word for "you" in Argentina and Uruguay. But cross over into Chile and vos is rarely used!

usted or Ud. - Spanish formal word for YOU

If you travel to a Spanish speaking country - you can judge what the tendencies are in that country by taking note of who tends to call you usted, and who calls you . Since I learned Spanish in Mexico I was very suprised the first time a taxi driver called me ! Later when living in Buenos Aires, I adjusted to nearly everyone calling me vos. You'll find that usage does vary from country to country. A good rule: call people Ud. until you notice that they are all calling you or vos.

hear audio mp3Click to hear an mp3 of the word usted

hear audio mp3Click to hear an mp3 explaining the usage of usted

Quiz: Usted

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Spanish Practice Idea:

Try renting one of your favorite movies on DVD, and turn on the Spanish subtitles feature! This is a great way to reinforce grammar lessons that you've learned, and will help you to expand your vocabulary. You can also do the opposite - rent a Spanish DVD and turn on the English subtitles. Once you feel comfortable with your level of comprehension - turn the subtitles off.



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