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What Is “You Formal” in Spanish?

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What is “You Formal” in Spanish? Recently I had someone ask me this question, so, I thought I would give a quick explanation here for anyone else wondering.

YOU FORMAL in Spanish is a grammar structure we use when talking to another person we do not speak to on a first name basis. This is a general rule of thumb, although it can vary a little from country to country in different cultures.  Examples of “formal” speaking would be a student talking to a teacher, talking to your doctor, talking to a police officer, a child speaking to an adult who is not a family member, two adults speaking to each other who don’t know each other well, etc.

So, for example, if you are studying Spanish verb conjugations, you learn that there is a form for “he/she/you formal”. That is the Spanish verb form you use to speak “formally” TO that person. If you are speaking to more than one person formally, you use the “they/you all” form.

Example using the verb “comer = to eat”

como = I eat

comes = you eat

come = he or she or you formal eat

comemos = we eat

coméis = you all eat (informal used in Spain only)

comen = they or you all eat

So, let’s say you want to ask in a formal way, “Do you eat the tacos?”, you would say, “¿Come los tacos?” or to a group, “¿Comen los tacos?” If you were being informal, you would ask your friend or family member, “¿Comes los tacos?” or to more than one personal informally, “Comen los tacos?” or if in Spain, “¿Coméis los tacos?

If you are studying other grammar structures, like possessive adjectives, you also need to use the you formal version if speaking to a person formally. For example, let’s say you want to ask someone, “Is this your house?” The formal way to ask is, “¿Es su casa?” as opposed to “¿Es tu casa?” The “su” is the formal way of saying “your”, and “tu” is the informal way of saying “your”.

Making a distinction like this does not exist in English. So, for English speakers it takes a little getting used to and requires learning verb conjugations and other grammar structures to accommodate this distinction.

I hope this explanation helps any of you who may be wondering, “What is you formal in Spanish?”


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