"Sir, are you using the telephone?"
Translation:Señor, ¿usted usa el teléfono?
You're right! They do mean different things in English. They also mean different things in Spanish, but the difference is...well, different.
In Spanish, it's pretty common to use what we'd call the "simple present," or just the "present" tense, moreso than it is in English. That's the "you use" tense, and the "tú usas" one. In English, we'd be more likely to use the present progressive tense, the "you are using" or "tú estás usando" one. While you can use the present progressive in Spanish, it's a lot more likely to sound out of place, or like you're not quite comfortable with the nuances of the language. It's generally used in situations when you really want to emphasize that this is what you're doing right now, maybe in contrast to what you were doing five minutes ago or what you plan to do tomorrow.
Because of this difference in connotation and usage, it's become quite common and acceptable to translate the Spanish simple present into the English present progressive, and vice versa. Just another little thing that reminds us that different languages are structured differently, and the translations don't always line up perfectly!
Anyway, I hope this helps!
thats what throws me off... I get "you need? is tu necesitaS" and "he needS is el necesita."... for the most part, if the verb ends in S in english, it doesnt in spanish.... but usted goes with 'he/she' and not 'you', thats why the verb is different for the same person at the same time. right?
Your two examples are certainly correct, but I don't believe "está usted usando" is technically wrong, let's call it "taking poetic licence" with your word order. You can say both "Usted está usando el teléfono?" or "Está usted usando el teléfono?" or omit the usted entirely and it still makes sense.
Usually in Spanish, unless you've got a specific reason for doing so, you don't break up verb phrases. "Está usando" is the verb phrase, here. If you take either word on its own, it doesn't convey the whole meaning of the action, so it acts as a unit. "Usted" is something else, so it doesn't belong in the verb phrase. In English, we break these up all the time, but in Spanish, I'm pretty sure it's usually avoided, except for, like, specific poetic effect or some such.
Sometimes Duo accepts typos. If I wrote "cat" instead of "car", it would probably not accept it because "cat" and "car" are both words. "If I wrote "csr" instead of car, it probably would accept it because "csr" is not a word in any language I know. My finger hit the "s" unstead of the letter next to it.
I am really confused and am either stupid in my interpretation of the hints provided (not my first post) but please clear this problem up for me and I presume many others. I have just deleted a load of cross references but I believe it to be prudent to leave the clarification up to Duolingo and others to complain as well.
Because in Spanish the verbs are conjugated according to the subject pronouns and not the gender of the pronoun (just like in English there is no difference between he and she)
I use You use He/ she/ it useS
Yo uso Tu usas El/ ella/ usted usa
However, nouns and their articles are gendered in Spanish.