In Spanish, there are two singular pronouns which mean you. These are tú and usted. I want to offer a tip on how to refer to people in Spanish and not offend anyone.

The different uses of tú

Tú and its verb conjugation are used when you are talking to or about someone that is younger than you, or someone that you know. More generally, this pronoun and verb conjugation is applied to informal situations.

The different uses of usted

Usted and its verb conjugation are used for talking to or about someone older then you, a stranger, someone you are not familiar with, and sometimes someone in a higher status than you, like an authority figure or boss. This pronoun is used when more politeness is needed.

These are the general rules, but the uses can differ depending on the country. In some Spanish speaking countries, usted is used by default, and in other countries, this is just a formality.

Sometimes it can be difficult to know when you can switch to the less formal language and when you cannot.

My recommendation is to use usted as a default. Use the form that will not offend anyone if you aren´t sure how formal you need to be. Sometimes Spanish speakers will even correct you and eventually say that the informal pronoun and verb conjugations is fine.

Use the usted to be safe and not sorry.

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Tú vs Usted
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