vosotros vs. usted

Forms of address in Spanish – Uses of the pronouns “ustedes / vosotros” 1


As a petition from one of the followers of my Facebook page Online Spanish Tutor (Check it out to learn daily idioms and expressions and post questions or suggest topics you want to learn about in this blog) I am going to dispel all doubts about the use of the pronouns “tú, vosotros” versus “usted, ustedes“.

I am going to explain, in first place, how we use the politesse forms in Spanish.

is the standard form of the second person of the singular, whereas vosotros / vosotras is the standard form for the plural.

Usted is the courtesy form of the second person of the singular, and ustedes is the courtesy form of the second person of the plural.

So vosotros is the plural of (standard form) and ustedes is the plural of usted (courtesy).

That happens in the majority of Spain but it works differently in South América and some parts of Spain (mainly in the south: Andalucía and Isles Canaries).

Now look at these examples translated all by “what are you doing this weekend?”

¿Qué haces este fin de semana? <— Tú
¿Qué hacéis este fin de semana? <— Vosotros

¿Qué hace este fin de semana? <— Usted
¿Qué hacen este fin de semana? <— Ustedes

As you can see, is followed by the verb in the 2nd person of singular and vosotros by the 2nd person of plural, whereas usted is followed by the 3rd person of singular and ustedes by the 3rd person of plural.

However there are different uses in different parts of Spanish speaking countries. There is no standard form for the 2nd person, as they only use the form “usted / ustedes” with the verb in the 3rd person in Latin America, and the south of Spain prefer using “ustedes” (only in the plural)  but followed by the 2nd person instead of the 3rd!

Look at these examples:

(General Spain) Vosotros vais al cine. (familiar) / Ustedes van al cine. (courtesy)

(South of Spain) Ustedes vais al cine. (both familiar and courtesy forms)

(Latin America) Usted van al cine. (both familiar and courtesy forms)

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