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Usted y Tu y Vos [VIDEO]


It's video post time! This one got a little off track as we discus when to use the varied versions of "you" in Spanish.

If you need a little Spanish 101 refresher, usted is the formal "you," typically used to show respect. Tu is the informal version. Guatemalans also use vos, which I'll describe as a common slang. Kinda like if we all said "dude" a lot more often. Maybe?

I had some questions about how these pronouns influence DTR conversations. Billy's responses are fantastic (and not at all what I expected)! Check it out.



So, seriously, is this crazy? How do you decide which "you" to use?

31 comments

  1. Ha, I love this! I'm so with you--tú and usted have haunted me since high school...and then I went to Nicaragua and Guatemala and found out there's ANOTHER form?? I don't even venture into vos. And now I think I'll stop using tú when I go to Guatemala! I don't want anyone reading into it...lol. Costa Rica keeps it a little less complicated and just uses usted for pretty much everything (even the dog).
    Pues, seguimos a aprender. Poco a poco.

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  2. Precious! I constantly second guess myself when choosing a "you." Honduras pretty much uses usted for everyone who isn't their best friend. I appreciate when someone starts using tú with me because it feels like I've broken the friendship walls and I'm on the inside haha. I learned quickly as a teacher that I was supposed to get on to the kids at school if they EVER used vos with me!

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  3. Michelle11:56 AM

    oh. my. gosh! I have so much to say about this--- IN FACT not to confuse you, but I have learned from a lot of Guatemalans that some families use usted among them ALL the time. So instead of telling your mom or your son that you "te amo" you would "la amo" or "lo amo." I was shocked when my old Spanish teacher told me this! And our ninera said she and her novio still use usted between them!! But my husband and his family all talk in vos to each other, but use usted with me!! (the foreigner) I can't even handle it or figure it out. I miss the simple "you."

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  4. Too funny! I love Billy's laugh. I've never been to a place that uses vos, but I would use usted for anyone I didn't know or as a term of respect, like if in English I would call them Mr. or Mrs. Or maybe simply if they were older. And yes, my main experience is in Costa Rica or with Mexicans here, but here most of my interactions are with what I would consider peers so I use tu a lot.

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  5. I know! It's so mystical! :) In reality, I've never heard anyone use tu in Guatemala. It's always been either usted or vos, but I am mostly in family or close friend settings, so that may be why. I think I'll just always use people's names and avoid pronouns. I'm sure that'll sound natural! ;)

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  6. That is so funny, Kristen. Tell me the truth. Are you secretly like, "OMG. They called me tu!" Because that would totally be me. LOL.

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  7. Don't worry. I'm always confused, so no hard done. I did notice early on that Billy uses usted when talking to his mom and vos to his dad and siblings. That surprised me! I've actually never heard him use tu, but maybe that's because he wasn't trying to "make his move" on me in Spanish! ha!

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  8. That was pretty much my guiding rule as well. Billy's nuances crack me up. Maybe he's just pulling my leg! ;)

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  9. I have always followed a similar rule of thumb. Does Billy's ridiculousness make you wonder if a bunch of people think you're hitting on them? Because now I'm thinking about that a lot.... ha!

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  10. I really hope that this story all stems out of a grammar miscommunication. That would be awesome. :)

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  11. Yes! I'm like, "sooo… we're besties, right?"

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  12. L Coker8:39 PM

    Still as confused as I ever was. Edy uses usted with his mom, but wants our kids to use tu with us. And he uses vos with his sister. I found this particularly challenging in a work setting where my tendency is to be pretty casual with people who work for me, but I did not want to offend them either. Can I request a video on when to kiss people? This is not as applicable to life in the US, but is equally confusing to me and has similarly blurry social cues. EVERYONE kisses EVERYONE hello on the cheek in Guate. Entering the office can take about 20 minutes. And even strangers when first meeting. So, I got with the program. But then Edy told me I messed up when I kissed the carpenter who came to our house to build shelves. oops! (I bet Billy will get a good laugh out of that one.)

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  13. Hi there! In Barcelona, we "tuteamos" (use "tú") with family, friends. We use "usted" when speaking with older people or people you don't know personally and if you want to show you respect, for example, your dentist! By the way, we can also use "vosotras", if they're female. Congrats on this cool video! Marta A Bilingual Baby blog

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  14. Thanks for stopping by, Marta! It's interesting that there's 3 forms in Spain as well. Love it!

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  15. Before I could even read the "I bet Billy will laugh..." part, Billy was screaming "nooooooo!" and laughing hysterically. All I could say is "Why wouldn't you kiss the carpenter???!!!" Maybe that will be a future video! ;)

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  16. Funny! Like most language things, I think it depends so much on the country, and then even within countries, it depends on the people you're with and their expectations.

    When I went to Mexico by myself to renew my visa once, I met and stayed with Mardo's family there. Since I didn't know them, I was using "usted" with the adults. But they immediately told me, "no, you don't have to use "usted". In Mexico we just use "tu"."

    However, with my in-laws, I have to be really careful (well, especially with my FIL) to use "usted" or else he feels like I am not showing him enough respect, even now after being in the family for 4+ years.

    My brother-in-law and his girlfriend of like 6 years STILL use "usted" with each other.

    Lastly, I have found (again, just in my experience) but "vos" seems to be something much less formal and usually used more by the guys or girls who live in bigger cities. Mardo doesn't really like me to use it - he doesn't like how it sounds, haha!

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  17. Hello guys, That was so funny, Yo soy de Guatemala, should I say puro Chapin.

    About my experience I have to admit is not easy even for me to know when to choose, Usted, Tú or Vos. but like other thinks in life it all about the situtation, like in my friends we found "Cool and Modern Young people" who always are going to use Tú, becasuse is Cool and you are part of the circle.

    Usted always for people older then you, that show respect "some people use it for girls years ago, but now days, it's not popular.

    "Vos" for friends, brothers, sisters sounds normal, for parents all depends, some parents don't like it, because you don't show respect. even if they use "Vos" to you.

    When you don't know the person and you want to be respectful is better to use "Usted" and if this person feels comfortable with you, she/he will let you know about to use "Tú"

    PS. Para mi siempre fue sencillo iniciar con usted, y al sentir que la conversación fluye bien, preguntar y cambiarse a "Tú" el mismo dia, :)

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  18. I totally agree, Carrie! It seems to vary by about every factor. LOL. :) I have heard that in Mexico they don't use usted. Interesting!

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  19. Nadia (la esposa de Byron)2:50 PM

    Jajajaja Byron, finally I know why you address your cousins as "Vos" on the phone. I was always wondering what do you mean by that:) Very enlightening video for me.

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  20. Jajaja, with this blog you gonna understand and learn my secrets lol... jajaja

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  21. Nadia (la esposa de Byron)4:27 PM

    Jajajaja...

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  22. Denise L Hershberger9:51 PM

    I spent a summer in Costa Rica where they only use Ud or Vos. They do NOT use Tu. then i spent the next summer with a bunch of Mexicanos in Guate and I'd gotten so used to NOT using TU that I got yelled at for not using it with them. But it wasn't my fault after so long without it in Costa Rica!

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  23. Haha. I hate it when people yell at me for how I use pronouns! ;)

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  24. I love this thread. It's nice to meet you both!!!

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  25. Shelly4:38 PM

    I second you, L, :). I have the same tendency to not discriminate with what I thought was the appropriate kiss-on-the-cheek greeting. Also, Rana says that sometime you can digress in formality from Usted to Tu to Vos in some relationships, and others relationships stick with whatever you initiated with. I can't figure it out, I'm glad the Guatemalan people are gracious.

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  26. Nadia (la esposa de Byron)10:12 AM

    Muchas Gracias Sarah!! :) We were very excited to come across your website! It is an awesome read and very close to our hearts!

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  27. KidWorldCitizen1:43 PM

    Oh my gosh, laughing so hard- this is SO MUCH FUN! :)

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  28. Amanda7:58 PM

    I normally say usted To anyone older than me and Tu to anyone my age or younger. I don't use vos hardly ever because I feel like a silly gringa when I do lol

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  29. Now? I would say no, I usually have a passel of kids with me. ;) But... that actually makes me wonder... when I was in Bible school in Costa Rica I had a classmate from Cuba who spoke very little English. I was one of 3 students that actually spoke much Spanish prior to arriving so I spent quite a bit of time with him. He developed a HUGE crush on me and actually tried to kiss me one night when we were sitting outside the main building. Eek, wonder if that was partly to blame on the language???

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