Spanish for Professional Purposes...

...for teachers and students who see the need for Spanish language and Hispanic cultures knowledge in professional contexts.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Use "Usted" in Professional Contexts

Have trouble choosing between informal (tú) and formal (Ud.) address in Spanish?

Here's a good rule of thumb for professional contexts:

Use “Usted”, then observe carefully to see if/when “” is appropriate.

Most Spanish students understand the difference between the informal "tú" and the formal "Usted." And most students can judge situations in which informal address is appropriate (peers, children, etc.) and when it's better to use the formal "Usted" (older people, those in position of authority, etc.).

However, just choosing between the two terms "tú" and "Usted" is only the tip of the iceberg.  You also have to manage the corresponding verb conjugations, possessive adjectives and direct/indirect object pronouns.  

For example, here's how some different verbs look:
Tú                        Ud.
te llamas          se llama
estás                 está
eres                  es

And possessives:
Tú                        Ud.
tu/s                  su/sus
tuyo/a –s          suyo/a –s

And pronouns:
Tú                        Ud.
te                        lo / la
te                         le

Here is an example of what it might look like to introduce yourself to someone and start a basic conversation using Ud.:
Lo siento. No sé su nombre. ¿Cómo se llama Ud.?  Es un placer conocerlo/la.  ¿De dónde es? ¿Le gusta Carolina del Norte/Chapel Hill?.”

As you can see, it's a lot more than just choosing between the two terms "tú" and "Ud."

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