Recently, I was speaking to a friend from Spain and I used the term usted. I learnt Spanish in Latin America and was used to addressing someone in this way. However, my friend was surprised when she heard me using ‘usted’ when referring to her.
Learning the difference between tú, vos, usted, vosotros or ustedes can seem confusing but actually is quite simple to understand!
|You informal (mainly used in Latin America)|
|You singular formal|
|You plural (mainly in Spain)|
|You formal plural|
Tú, vos and usted all mean ‘you’ in singular whereas ustedes and vosotros mean 'you' in plural.
Cultural differences: tú, vos, usted, vosotros or ustedes
In Spain they predominantly use tú and vosotros. It is used when the person is on a first name basis or on familiar terms with you. They also use usted and ustedes but that is only when you are speaking to someone on a formal basis i.e job interviews or speaking to the older generation. Please note that this is not a rule and most native Spanish speakers will understand the difference if you get it mixed up.
In Latin America they generally do not use vosotros and instead the form of ustedes. This resulting in usted and ustedes also being used in a less formal way in Latin America compared to those who use it in Spain.
Vos is used in parts of Latin America and replaces/used as well as tú. Each country in Latin America has their own significance when using vos; in some areas ‘vos’ implies greater intimacy then tú does. As a foreigner, unless you know the particular Latin American country well you will be fine to use tú instead of vos.
Try a free Spanish lesson today:
Connect with our experienced Spanish teacher in a 1-to-1 free Spanish lesson: