https://www.duolingo.com/JBoy_Advance

How to Remember When to Use Usted/Tú when Context is not Specified?

When doing these lessons, I learned about usted and tú. They really interested me, because usted and tú mean the same thing, but are used in different context.

But they're harder to master than I thought.

I learned that usted is polite, and tú is more casual (please correct me if I'm wrong). But how do you remember when to use usted and when to use tú if the context doesn't specify if it's polite or more casual?

4 months ago

15 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Lrtward
Lrtward
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If you think there is any possibility at all that you might address the person as "Sir" or "Ma'am", use usted. If there is no possibility of that, then use tú.

It's not foolproof, but it's an excellent rule of thumb.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/b05aplmun.ca
b05aplmun.ca
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Except that many of us live in areas where "sir" and, especially, "madam" are seldom used. I, for instance, never used "sir" or "madam" when addressing a teacher - it wasn't regionally appropriate - but a Spanish-speaking high school student would, I am pretty sure, use "usted" to address a teacher.

This is actually being a bit of an issue in some of the Spanish language forums for the new sentences, where people are insisting that "lady" (which I think is so informal as to be rude) should be an appropriate translation for "señora" as a term of address and/or that no one would use "ma'am" and thus "miss" should be appropriate.

That said, those of us who are widely enough read to have been exposed to somewhat different language use in other places and times can probably figure it out most of the time.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lrtward
Lrtward
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Oh, wow, good to know.

Where I'm from (southern USA), I cannot imagine not saying "Yes, sir" and "Yes, ma'am" to a teacher! It would draw attention and cause people to question my upbringing :D

Translating señora is tricky. I was fortunate enough to do a study abroad in México when I was in college, and we lived in homes with families. When my friends and I would get together at the common area for the International Students, we'd say "My señora lets me...." and "With my señora, we're expected to...." One of our Mexican friends asked us why we used the Spanish word señora when we were speaking English, instead of translating it and using English. There's just not a good translation in that situation! Señora is the only word that will work :)

While I have an excuse to talk to you, I want to express my thanks for your comments and insights. I frequently up vote your comments and always look forward to hearing what you have to say.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/elizadeux
elizadeux
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My Spanish teacher objects to anyone calling her usted even high school students. "I'm not 100 years olds," she says. So, the best thing to do in real life is to ask what people would prefer.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Chilotin
Chilotin
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Yep. In most Spanish speaking societies, it is not OK using "tú" with a teacher in high-school, specially when there is a noticeable difference in age. Moreover, some teachers prefer to use "usted" and last names with students ("¡Siéntese, García!").

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Melyndi
MelyndiPlus
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if you have a Spanish teacher it's probably best to use the usted form with him or her. That's what I did the semester I was taking Spanish but generally when practicing with strangers online I just use the tu form... Don't know if that is wise but it's generally what I do...

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wombatua
wombatua
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Context is usually fairly clear - and if it's not default to formal and use ud./uds.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/StarlitTardis

Do you mean in the course or in actual social interactions (or both)?

I can't help with actual interactions, but the course generally accepts both versions for most questions. From what I've seen so far, the only times when it doesn't are when words like 'señor' (sir) and 'señora' (madam) are used, because those specify that the situation is more formal, so 'usted' is required.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/b05aplmun.ca
b05aplmun.ca
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The system will sometimes use words like "hijo" or someone's first name to signal use of "tú."

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Chilotin
Chilotin
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Parents could use "usted" with "hijo" in many contexts: advice, reprension, tender speaking. "Cuídese m'hijo", "Es mi hijo, así que me respeta y se calla", "¿Le duele algo hijo?"

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DeniMusic

Here in Venezuela we use "Tú" when it is a friend or a trusted person, how a friend of school and that. But when he or she is a unknown person, a adult, a boss or a teacher, we use "Usted". I hope I have explained myself well, I do not speak English well.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JBoy_Advance

I understand. I figured that was the case.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/heyJudebyeJude

I live in Spain and speaking from personal experience, I don't use usted a lot since it's a more formal way of speaking and I'm 19 so I'm not in a lot of profesional enviroments I mostly use tu.

When I do use usted is if I'm talking to a stranger and asking for something like asking a waiter for a coke, or asking the lady beside me in the bus if she could let me through. It's something you kind of need to observe and socially understand, but mostly if you want to be polite use usted.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Blas_de_Lezo00
Blas_de_Lezo00
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It is different in every country, so "Do in Rome as Romans do!". In Spain we use "tú" ("tuteo") because it is considered more "friendly" and we use "usted" in very formal context. People sometimes do not like to be addressed as "usted" because the person seems to be older.

In some other countries even parents and children are addressed each other as "usted". This sounds weird in Spain when we watch a film or serial ("culebrón") of some American country!

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Melyndi
MelyndiPlus
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Duo usually takes both forms (or no pronoun at all but the respective conjugations) but in real life it's just a question of whether you are trying to be polite or friendly/casual.

4 months ago
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