Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | September 28, 2013

You and you

Some things about speaking Spanish are hard because English just works in a different way. For example masculine and feminine. Why are nouns- things- masculine or feminine? I have no idea. And why are some things that should surely be feminine actually masculine- like dresses, I mean if a dress has to be described as masculine or feminine it should be feminine. Surely. But, oh no- a dress- vestido is masculine. Who decides this kind of thing anyway?

Although that tirade may make it slightly unbelievable, I have actually come to accept that side of Spanish. I don’t understand it, don’t think about it too much, it just is. And you have to learn it. Like some things in Maths as I tell my students sometimes there are things we just have to learn, not worry too much about understanding.

However when it comes to you and you my understanding needs to improve. In Spanish there are two words for you. Well actually there are four to be accurate- usted, tu, ustedes and vosotros. It is fairly clear when to use the plural you- ustedes. I can count if I am talking to more than one person, so that’s alright. But the other yous are for formal and informal situations.

My main issue is that I am unclear on when I should show respect and use usted- with someone who is older (but how much older?) or who I don’t know. But how long should I know someone before using tu? And then here in Santa Cruz people will sometime use vos in informal situations.

Clear as mud then. My current tactic, and I have utilised this for a while, is to mix it up a bit. Inconsistency, that’s the key. This means that the people I am talking to and I myself have no idea what you will come out of my mouth next. It’s like living on the edge. Make’s conversation that little more exciting.


  1. Safe strategy is to use usted with anyone unknown and people who look older than you. They will normally tell you if you are being too formal. sometimes it is easier to take your lead from them. politeness and respect does go a long way out there.

    Vosotros is rare in south America apart from in certain versions of bible.

    Hope you 5 are well.

  2. 🙂

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