The Different Forms of saying the word You in Spanish

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In my last post, I spoke about how to form the Spanish Present Tense for regular verbs. Here I talk about how to say You in Spanish. You may have noticed that there are four versions of the word ‘you’, each with its own verb ending. Which one is used depends on:

  • whether you are talking to one person or more than one person;
  • whether you are talking to someone formally (e.g. to a complete stranger) or informally (e.g. to a friend/(young) child); and
  • whether the dictionary form of your verb ends in ar (e.g. hablar = to talk), er (e.g. comer = to eat) or ir (e.g. vivir = to live).

This post focuses on traditional usage of the different versions of ‘you’ in Spain, but please be aware there are variations, particularly in South America. These variations are not discussed here, but may be dealt with in a future blog post.

The ‘tú‘ form for ‘you’

The form for ‘you’ is usually used when you are speaking to one person informally. The main situations where you use are:

  • speaking to one friend (or to one person like a friend); or
  • speaking to one (young) child

The verb ending for the ‘‘ form in the present tense usually ends in as for ‘ar’ verbs or ‘es‘ for ‘ir’ and ‘er’ ending verbs. Therefore:

  • hablar = to talk
    • becomes hablas = you talk (informal and singular ‘you’)
  • comer = to eat
    • becomes comes = you eat (informal and singular ‘you’)
  • vivir = to live
    • becomes vives = you live (informal and singular ‘you’)

The ‘usted’ form of ‘you’

The usted form of ‘you’ is usually used when you are speaking to one person formally. The main situations where you use usted are:

  • speaking to a complete stranger; or
  • speaking to someone in authority.

The verb ending for the ‘usted’ form in the present tense usually ends in a (for ‘ar’ verbs) and (for ‘er’ and ‘ir’ verbs). Therefore:

  • hablar = to talk
    • becomes habla = you talk (formal and singular ‘you’)
  • comer = to eat
    • becomes come = you eat (formal and singular ‘you’)
  • vivir = to live
    • becomes vive = you live (formal and singular ‘you’)

The ‘vosotros/vosotras’ form of ‘you’

The vosotros/vosotras form of ‘you’ is usually used when you are speaking to more than one person informally. The main situtations where you use vosotros/vosotras* are:

  • speaking to two or more friends (or to two or more people like friends); or
  • speaking to two or more (young) children

The verb ending for the ‘vosotros/vosotras’* form is usually áis (for ‘ar’ verbs), éis (for ‘er’) and ís (for ‘ir’ verbs). Therefore:

  • hablar = to talk
    • becomes habláis = you talk (informal and plural ‘you’)
  • comer = to eat
    • becomes coméis = you eat (informal and plural ‘you’)
  • vivir = to live
    • becomes vivís = you live (informal and plural ‘you’)

*’Vosotros’ is the informal plural ‘you’ when you are speaking to all males or a mix of males and females. ‘Vosotras’ is the informal plural ‘you’ when you are speaking only to females. The verb ending is identical for both ‘Vosotros’ and ‘Vosotras’ (i.e. áis (for ‘ar’ verbs’), ís (for ‘ir’ verbs) and éis (for ‘er’ verbs)).

The ‘ustedes’ form of ‘you’

The ‘ustedes’ form of ‘you’ is usually used for speaking to more than one person formally. The main situations where you use ustedes is:

    • Where you speak to two or more strangers; or
    • Where you speak to two or more people in authority.

The verb ending for ustedes is usually an (for ‘ar’ verbs) and en (for ‘er’ and ‘ir’ verbs. Therefore:

  • hablar = to talk
    • becomes hablan = you talk (formal and plural ‘you’)
  • comer = to eat
    • becomes comen = you eat (formal and plural ‘you’)
  • vivir = to live
    • becomes viven = you live (formal and plural ‘you’)

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Hopefully this has helped you to understand which form of ‘you’ is used when in European Spanish. For information on how to form the Present Tense, refer to my article on Forming the Present Tense.

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