1. Formal register - Usage
  2. Forming the Formal Register with Usted F
  3. Other forms to express courtesy
  4. Cultural notes
  5. Tuteo in the Formal Register

Spanish, like other languages, has two main registers: the formal register and the informal register.



¿Cómo está usted señor?

How are you, sir?

Formal register - Usage

Rule 1: The formal register is used in situations that require formality. For example, when talking to a teacher, a director, a boss, etc. It is also used in customer service scenarios such as at the bank, when shopping at the supermarket , when ordering in a restaurant, etc.

It is a register that shows courtesy and respect towards the person you are talking to. Some Spanish-speaking families use this register with adults and elderly people.



Disculpe profesor, me puede repetir la instrucción por favor.

Here, we are addressing an authority - in this case, a professor - so we use a formal register.

Forming the Formal Register with Usted F

Rule 2: The pronoun used with the formal register is the second person ofthe verb usted. However, to use the formal register, you need to conjugate this verb in the third person (él/ella).

Although this pronoun is part of the<strong> second person (tú/usted</strong>), you will commonly find it grouped in the third person because it uses the same conjugation and it is easier to remember it that way.



Ella puede hablar por teléfono.

Usted puede hablar por teléfono.

As you can see, in both examples the verb poder is conjugated exactly the same.

More examples:

Él está bien. Usted está bien.
Ella corre todas las mañanas. Usted corre todas las mañanas.

Other forms to express courtesy

Rule 3: There are other ways of expressing formality or courtesy in Spanish. For example, by

  • adding words such as señor, señora, profesora.
  • saying phrases such as por favor, disculpe, muchas gracias, buenos días.
  • using other tenses such as el condicional that you will learn about later.
Buenos días señor Gutiérrez, ¿cómo está hoy? Good morning Mr. Gutiérrez, how are you today?
Abuela, usted cocina delicioso. Grandma, you cook delicious.

Cultural notes

Rule 4: The use of the formal register and the pronoun usted may vary from country to country depending on the culture. For example, while usted is used to establish distance or respect in countries such as Mexico and Argentina, in Colombia usted is used informally - that is, it is also used with friends or close people.

Tuteo in the Formal Register

Tuteo is a word that comes from the pronoun and is a way in which speakers express that you can speak to them informally. Some people do not feel it is necessary to speak to them in a formal register.

For example, when you meet a person, you address them using usted because you want to be respectful. If they say "No me hables de usted, me puedes tutear" (Don't address me as you (formal), you can address me as you (informal)) it means that you can use the informal register with them.



- ¿Cómo se llama usted?

- No me hables de usted, me haces sentir mayor. Me puedes tutear.

- What is your name?
- Don't address me as you (formal), you make me feel old. You can use you (informal) with me.



From the following options, choose with whom you would use the formal register.


correct answers.