Tu vs. Usted in Spanish: Big key differences & how to use them

When it comes to formal and informal pronouns in Spanish: What is the difference between and usted, and how important is it to use the right one?

You might have already heard that Spanish differentiates between formal and informal pronouns. They’re both used the same way the singular “you” is used in English, except that one is used when addressing people you want to show respect to, while the other is used in casual settings and people you’ve already built rapport with.

Learning how to use vs. usted in Spanish is actually quite easy, as all you need to do is swap the pronoun and use a different conjugation that you already know (more on that below!). The hard part is knowing when to use formal vs. informal, as using the wrong one could be embarrassing or even rude.

This is why using vs. usted is one of the reasons Spanish can be difficult to learn for English speakers. Learning the language requires more than just memorizing a few grammar rules, as you’ll have to understand the cultural context to navigate any situation.

Below, we’ll show you how to conjugate these verbs as well as when to use which of the two pronouns. ¡Disfrute usted!

Learning how to use tú vs. usted in Spanish.

What is the difference between and usted?

and usted are both Spanish pronouns for the second-person singular (you). The difference is that is an informal pronoun, whereas usted is a formal pronoun. When learning Spanish, you will have to learn how to use both of them in different situations so you can address people appropriately.

Using vs. usted involves more than just swapping out the pronoun. The conjugation of the verb will also change when you use a different pronoun, as will the sentence structure in some cases. That’s why it’s important to learn how to use the informal and the formal usted, as it’s not as simple as just using another pronoun.

What is the difference between ustedes and vosotros?

Ustedes and vosotros are both second-person plural pronouns. You use them to address two or more people directly, like the English pronoun you (plural).

Technically, ustedes is the formal version of the pronoun and vosotros is the informal version. However, in practice, ustedes is used as both formal and informal throughout most of Latin America. Vosotros is used as the informal version of the pronoun only in Spain and Equatorial Guinea.

So, unless you are eager to learn Spanish from one of these two countries, you don’t have to worry about differentiating between formal and informal when addressing two or more people!

What is the difference between and vos?

and vos are both second-person singular pronouns, like the English pronoun ‘you’ (singular). While they are both used for the same purpose, different regions use different pronouns. Most of the Spanish-speaking world uses , while only Argentina, Costa Rica, and Uruguay use vos exclusively.

However, certain regions of many Latin American countries also use vos to varying degrees. In some cases, the use of vos might be associated with class status, as it used to be considered incorrect and uncultured. Some countries that use vos in certain regions are:

  • Mexico
  • Cuba
  • Guatemala
  • Nicaragua
  • Honduras
  • El Salvador
  • Panama
  • Colombia
  • Venezuela
  • Ecuador
  • Bolivia
  • Paraguay
  • Chile

It’s also worth noting that there are three types of voseo:

  • Absolute: Both the pronoun and verb conjugation change. So, you use vos instead of and also change the conjugation of the verb to match the new pronoun.
  • Verbal: The pronoun remains, but the verb is conjugated according to the vos pronoun.
  • Pronominal: The pronoun changes to the pronoun vos, but the verb remains conjugated according to the pronoun.

What is the difference between and tu?

You might’ve noticed that Spanish sometimes uses and sometimes tu. So, what’s the difference? If you’ve read our ultimate guide to Spanish accent marks, then you know that a single accent mark can change a word completely. And that’s precisely what’s going on here:

  • : As you know, this is the second-person singular pronoun in Spanish, equivalent to the English “you.”
  • Tu: This isn’t a pronoun at all, but instead a possessive adjective. It helps establish possession, just like the English “your.”

How to conjugate verbs with tú and usted

Using these two pronouns will change the verb conjugation. Fortunately for you, you won’t have to learn any new or special conjugations when using usted, as it simply uses the third-person singular conjugation (él or ella).

Below, we’ll do a refresher on the general conjugation rules for the second-person pronouns we covered in the previous section. Of course, irregular verbs in Spanish are everywhere, so we’ll also take a look at a few of the most common conjugations at the end.

Doing a refresher on the general conjugation rules for the second-person pronouns.

How to conjugate

Conjugating the second-person is one of the most important skills in Spanish. This is likely the person you’ll use most often as you make friends and even start conversations with strangers.

If you’ve already learned the basics of conjugating regular verbs in Spanish, then you already know that there are three types of infinitive verbs in Spanish: -ar, -er, and -ir. Each of these is conjugated slightly differently. To conjugate them in the tú person, you must:

  • -ar verbs: Remove the last two letters and add -as.
  • -er verbs: Remove the last two letters and add -es.
  • -ir verbs: Remove the last two letters and add -es.

Here are some examples:

EnglishVerb in infinitivePronounConjugated verb
To thinkPasarPasas
To askPreguntarPreguntas
To takeTomarTomas
To eatComerComes
To decideDecidirDecides

How to conjugate usted

Conjugating in the usted person is quite easy if you already know how to conjugate verbs in the third-person singular (él or ella). All you need to do is use the pronoun usted and the conjugation of the third-person singular! Here are the general rules:

  • -ar verbs: Remove the last two letters and add -a.
  • -er verbs: Remove the last two letters and add -e.
  • -ir verbs: Remove the last two letters and add -e.
EnglishVerb in infinitivePronounConjugated verb
To thinkPasarUstedPasa
To askPreguntarUstedPregunta
To takeTomarUstedToma
To eatComerUstedCome
To decideDecidirUstedDecide

How to conjugate ustedes

Ustedes is the second-person plural pronoun. To conjugate verbs in this person, you will need to follow these rules:

  • -ar verbs: Remove the last two letters and add -as.
  • -er verbs: Remove the last two letters and add -es.
  • -ir verbs: Remove the last two letters and add -es.
EnglishVerb in infinitivePronounConjugated verb
To thinkPasarUstedesPasan
To askPreguntarUstedesPreguntan
To takeTomarUstedesToman
To eatComerUstedesComen
To decideDecidirUstedesDeciden

How to conjugate vosotros/vosotras

Vosotros is the other second-person plural adjective, which is mostly only used in Spain as an informal version of usted. However, if you’re learning Latin American Spanish, then you won’t need to worry too much about this pronoun as it is never used in Latin America.

Note that conjugating for the vosotros pronoun usually requires an accent mark. If you’re still getting used to accent marks, then we recommend giving out our guide to accent marks in Spanish a quick look.

To conjugate verbs with vosotros, you’ll want to:

  • -ar verbs: Remove the last two letters and add -áis.
  • -er verbs: Remove the last two letters and add -éis.
  • -ir verbs: Remove the last two letters and add -ís.
EnglishVerb in infinitivePronounConjugated verb
To thinkPasarVosotrosPasáis
To askPreguntarVosotrosPreguntáis
To takeTomarVosotrosTomáis
To eatComerVosotrosComéis
To decideDecidirVosotrosDecidís

How to conjugate vos

Vos is another second-person singular pronoun, so you might think to look for the verb conjugation of for some guidance on conjugating this. However, vos is a variation of vosotros, so you’ll want to look to that conjugation for guidance. Want an expert tip? For -ar and -er verbs, all you have to do is remove the i from the conjugation of vosotros!

Here are the guidelines for conjugating for vos:

  • -ar verbs: Remove the last two letters and add -ás.
  • -er verbs: Remove the last two letters and add -és.
  • -ir verbs: Remove the last two letters and add -ís.
EnglishVerb in infinitivePronounConjugated verb
To thinkPasarVosPasás
To askPreguntarVosPreguntás
To takeTomarVosTomás
To eatComerVosComés
To decideDecidirVosDecidís

Common irregular verbs with and usted

Many of the most common Spanish verbs are irregular, so you won’t be able to use and usted appropriately if you don’t know how to conjugate them. Fortunately, just mastering a handful of irregular verbs will take you far! Here are some of the most common.

To beSerEresEs
To beEstarEstásEstá
To sayDecirDicesDice
To haveTenerTienesTiene
To wantQuererQuieresQuiere
To goIrVasVa

Example sentences with different pronouns

Now that you have the basics of conjugating verbs with each of the second-person pronouns, let’s take a side-by-side look to see how they compare to each other.

Can you pick me up?¿Pasas por mí?¿Pasa usted por mí?¿Ustedes pasan por mí?¿Vosotros pasáis por mí?¿Vos pasás por mí?
What you’re asking about cannot be answered.Lo que preguntas no se puede responder.Lo que usted pregunta no se puede responder.Lo que ustedes preguntan no se puede responder.Lo que vosotros preguntáis no se puede responder.Lo que vos preguntás no se puede responder.
I think you eat very healthy.A mí me parece que comes muy saludable.A mí me parece que usted come muy saludable.A mí me parece que ustedes comen muy saludable.A mí me parece que vosotros coméis muy saludable.A mí me parece que vos comés muy saludable.
Do you take any medication?¿Tomas algún medicamento?¿Toma usted algún medicamento?¿Ustedes toman algún medicamento?¿Vosotros tomáis algún medicamento?¿Vos tomás algún medicamento?
You decide what we’re going to eat.decides qué vamos a comer.Usted decide qué vamos a comer.Ustedes deciden qué vamos a comer.Vosotros decidís qué vamos a comer.Vos decidís qué vamos a comer.

When to use

Knowing how to use vs. usted is only one part of the problem. You also need to know when using formal vs. informal is appropriate, as being too casual can be rude and being too formal can be awkward.

Here are some situations when you can use the informal :

Being too casual can be rude and being too formal can be awkward.

For friends and family

Of course, the people you should feel most comfortable using with are your friends and family members. Anyone you feel a close relationship with and is also on the same social or bureaucratic level as you is probably safe to refer to as .

Note that some parts of Latin America will use the formal usted to refer to older family members, particularly in rural communities. This is a tradition that has been passed on as a way to show respect, so don’t be surprised if you see people refer to their parents by usted.

You can generally use to refer to your:

  • Friends
  • Classmates
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Cousins

Here are some example sentences. Note that the pronoun is often skipped as Spanish is a null-subject language. So, you can infer that the pronoun is being used based on the conjugation of the verb.

What do you want for breakfast?¿Qué quieres desayunar?keh key-air-ess dess-ah-yoo-nahr?ˈke ˈkjeɾez ðesaʝuˈnaɾ ‖
Tell my mom that I’m going out to the store.Dile a mi mamá que voy a salir a la tienda.dee-leh ah me mah-mah keh voy ah sah-leer ah lah tee-ehn-dahˈdile a mi maˈma ˈke ˈβoj a saˈliɾ a la ˈtjenda ‖
Do you know what was assigned for homework?¿Sabes qué nos dejaron de tarea?sah-bess keh noss deh-hah-rohn deh tah-reh-ah?ˈsaβes ˈke noz ðeˈxaɾon de taˈɾea ‖

For children

You can use when talking to children and, by extension, anyone younger than you. The only exception is if you’d like to use formal pronouns ironically or as a term of endearment for your nieces and nephews or any small children you interact with.

Hi little one, how are you?Hola pequeñito, ¿cómo estás?oh-lah peh-keh-nyee-toe, co-mo ess-tass?ˈola pekeˈɲito | ˈkomo esˈtas ‖
Where is your mom?¿Dónde está tu mamá?don-deh ess-tah too mah-mah?ˈdonde esˈta tu maˈma ‖
Who’s your favorite superhero?¿Cuál es tu superhéroe favorito?coo-all ess too soo-pehr-eh-ro-eh fah-vo-ree-toeˈkwal ˈes tu supeˈɾeɾoe faβoˈɾito ‖

For colleagues

As you’ll see below, formal language is expected when addressing your superiors at work, like your boss or the CEO. However, you’re not expected to use formal pronouns when addressing people on the same organizational level or below. In other words, just because you’re in a formal setting doesn’t mean you must use formal pronouns with everyone. In general, only use formal pronouns for people you answer to — you can use informal pronouns for everyone else.

Hey, do you know if this meeting’s canceled?Oye, ¿sabes si esta junta se canceló?oh-yeh sah-bess see ess-tah hoon-tah seh cahn-seh-lo?ˈoʝe | ˈsaβes sj ˈesta ˈxunta se kanθeˈlo ‖
I have already finished my report, so let me know if you need me to help you with yours.Ya terminé mi reporte, así que avísame si necesitas que te ayude con el tuyo.ya tehr-me-neh me reh-pore-teh, ah-see keh ah-vee-sah-meh see neh-seh-see-tass keh teh ah-yoo-deh cohn elle too-yoʝa teɾmiˈne mi reˈpoɾte | aˈsi ˈke aˈβisame si neθeˈsitas ˈke te aˈʝuðe kon el ˈtuʝo ‖
I’m going to grab a coffee, do you want one?Voy a ir por un café, ¿quieres uno?voy ah eer pore oon cah-feh, key-air-ess oo-noh?ˈboj a ˈiɾ poɾ un kaˈfe | ˈkjeɾes ˈuno ‖

For animals

Okay, sure, animals can’t speak Spanish, and they probably don’t mind how you refer to them. But those with pets know that a strong connection trumps any linguistic barrier. So, when you talk to your furry friends, which pronouns should you use? Informal!

Of course, you’re welcome to use the formal usted occasionally if you want to be cute or ironic, but the informal will be perfectly fine.

Do you want to go out for a walk?¿Quieres salir a pasear?key-air-ess sah-leer ah pah-seh-are?ˈkjeɾes saˈliɾ a paseˈaɾ ‖
Michi, don’t go on the table!Michi, ¡no te subas a la mesa!mee-chee, noh teh soo-bass ah la meh-sah!ˈmiʧi | ˈno te ˈsuβas a la ˈmesa ‖
Nala, was it who who bit the rug?Nala, ¿fuiste tú la que mordió el tapete?nah-la, foo-ees-teh too lah keh more-dee-oh elle ta-peh-teh?ˈnala | ˈfwiste ˈtu la ˈke moɾˈðjo el taˈpete ‖

For strangers

This one’s quite controversial, as you’re gonna have to make a judgment call any time you address a stranger. You may use usted if you want to be extra polite or when dealing with older people, but you’ll want to use the informal when addressing people around your same age or younger.

Hello, how can I help you?Hola, ¿en qué te puedo ayudar?oh-lah, ehn keh teh poo-eh-doe ah-yoo-dahr?ˈola | en ˈke te ˈpweðo aʝuˈðaɾ ‖
Welcome! Right this way, please.¡Bienvenido! Pasa por aquí, por favor.bee-ehn-veh-nee-doe! pah-sah, pore fah-vorebjembeˈniðo ‖ ˈpasa poɾ aˈki | poɾ faˈβoɾ ‖
Excuse me, do you know what time it is?Disculpa, ¿sabes qué hora es?dees-cool-pah, sah-bess keh oh-rah ess?disˈkulpa | ˈsaβes ˈke ˈoɾa ˈes ‖

When to use usted

Now, using usted may seem a bit intimidating at first, but now you know that all you need is a new pronoun and the conjugation for él or ella. Using usted isn’t difficult, per se, but it can be tricky to figure out when the pronoun is necessary. Below, we’ll cover some of the most common situations when you might be expected to use usted.

Learning when to use usted in Spanish.

For older adults

You should use formal pronouns when addressing persons over 65 in pretty much all circumstances.

The only exceptions are your own parents, grandparents, and any other older people you’re directly related to. Just note that you’re still expected to use formal pronouns with your in-laws unless they explicitly request you not to!

Good morning, Mrs. Imelda, how are you?Buenos días, Doña Imelda, ¿cómo está usted?boo-eh-noss dee-ass, doh-nyah e-mell-dah, coh-mo ess-tah oos-tehd?ˈbwenoz ˈðias | ˈdoɲa jˈmelda | ˈkomo esˈta wsˈteð ‖
Excuse me, may I help you cross the street?Disculpe, ¿le puedo ayudar a cruzar la calle?dees-cool-peh, leh poo-eh-doh ah-yoo-dahr ah croo-zahr la cah-yeh?disˈkulpe | le ˈpweðo aʝuˈðaɾ a kɾuˈθaɾ la ˈkaʎe ‖
I’m so happy to hear that you’re doing well, Mr. Fernando.Qué gusto me da escuchar que se encuentre bien, Don Fernando.keh goose-toe meh dah ess-coo-char keh seh ehn-coo-ehn-treh bee-ehn, dohn fehr-nahn-doeˈke ˈɣusto me ˈða eskuˈʧaɾ ˈke se enˈkwentɾe ˈβjen | ˈdom feɾˈnando ‖

For business superiors

Although Spanish business culture can be a bit more relaxed, you should still use formal pronouns when addressing your superiors. In many cases, they will ask you to use informal pronouns as your relationship gets closer, but you should stick to formal pronouns until and unless they specifically say informal pronouns are fine. Here are some examples:

Would you like to reschedule the meeting for a different day?¿Le gustaría cambiar la junta para otro día?leh goose-tah-ree-ah cahm-bee-are la hoon-tah pah-rah oh-troh dee-ah?le ɣustaˈɾia kamˈbjaɾ la ˈxunta ˈpaɾa ˈotɾo ˈðia ‖
Here’s the sales report for the month.Aquí tiene el reporte de ventas del mes.ah-key tee-eh-neh elle reh-pore-teh deh vehn-tass delle messaˈki ˈtjene el reˈpoɾte ðe ˈβentaz ðel ˈmes ‖
Our sales team has managed to exceed the most important goals of the month thanks to your instructions.Nuestro equipo de ventas ha logrado superar las metas más importantes del mes gracias a sus indicaciones.noo-ess-troh eh-key-poh deh vehn-tass ah loh-grah-doe soo-peh-rahr lass meh-tass mahs eem-pore-tahn-tess dell mess grah-see-ass ah soos in-dee-cah-see-oh-nessˈnwestɾo eˈkipo ðe ˈβentas ˈa loˈɣɾaðo supeˈɾaɾ laz ˈmetaz ˈmas impoɾˈtantez ðel ˈmez ˈɣɾaθjas a sus indikaˈθjones ‖

For bureaucratic situations

Bureaucratic situations are never fun, but being extra polite can make them go a bit smoother. When you go to apply for a visa, residence permit, driver's license, or any other document, being extra polite and using the formal usted can help you save some time and avoid many headaches!

Excuse me, is this the office to apply for the voter registration card?Disculpe, ¿esta es la oficina para el trámite de la credencial de elector?dees-cool-peh, ess-tah ess la oh-fee-see-nah pah-rah elle trah-me-teh deh la creh-dehn-see-all deh eh-lec-toor?disˈkulpe | ˈesta ˈez la ofiˈθina ˈpaɾa el ˈtɾamite ðe la kɾeðenˈθjal de elekˈtoɾ ‖
Excuse me, do you know if these are all the required documents for the visa application?Disculpe, ¿sabe si estos son todos los documentos necesarios para el trámite de la visa?dees-cool-peh, sah-beh see ess-toes sohn toe-doss loss doh-coo-mehn-toss pah-rah elle trah-me-teh deh la vee-sah?disˈkulpe | ˈsaβe sj ˈestos ˈson ˈtoðoz loz ðokuˈmentoz neθeˈsaɾjos ˈpaɾa el ˈtɾamite ðe la ˈβisa ‖
Hello, my name is Fernando. I am getting in touch with you to ask about the admission application requirements.Hola, mi nombre es Fernando. Me comunico con usted para preguntar por los requisitos para la solicitud de admisión.oh-la, me nohm-breh ess fehr-nahn-doe. meh co-moo-nee-co cohn oos-tehd pah-rah preh-goon-tar pore loss reh-key-see-toss pah-rah la soh-lee-see-tood deh ad-me-see-ohnˈola | mi ˈnombɾe ˈes feɾˈnando ‖ me komuˈniko kon usˈteð ˈpaɾa pɾeɣunˈtaɾ poɾ loz rekiˈsitos ˈpaɾa la soliθiˈtuð ðe aðmiˈsjon ‖

For clients

In most situations, you’ll want to address your clients with the formal usted. That goes for very high-level clients if you’re making multi-million dollar deals and also for customers at your store, like a coffee shop or a restaurant. Here are some examples:

Good afternoon, my dear Mr. Rosales, how are you?Buenas tardes, estimado Señor Rosales, ¿cómo está usted?boo-eh-nas tar-dess, ess-tee-mah-doh seh-nyor ro-sah-less, coh-mo ess-tah oos-tehd?ˈbwenas ˈtaɾðes | estiˈmaðo seˈɲoɾ roˈsales | ˈkomo esˈta wsˈteð ‖
Good morning, I’m getting in touch with you on behalf of your phone company to offer you our most recent deal.Buenos días, me comunico de parte de su compañía telefónica para ofrecerle nuestra más reciente promoción.boo-eh-noss dee-ass, meh co-moo-nee-co deh par-teh deh soo com-pah-nyee-ah teh-leh-foh-nee-cah pah-rah oh-freh-sehr-leh noo-ess-trah mass reh-see-ehn-teh pro-mo-see-ohn.ˈbwenoz ˈðias | me komuˈniko ðe ˈpaɾte ðe su kompaˈɲia teleˈfonika ˈpaɾa ofɾeˈθeɾle ˈnwestɾa ˈmaz reˈθjente pɾomoˈθjon ‖
Hello Jorge, how are you? I’m getting in touch with you to confirm your most recent order number 3848.Hola Jorge, ¿qué tal? Me comunico para confirmar su más reciente pedido número 3848.oh-la hor-heh, keh tall? meh co-moo-nee-co pah-rah cohn-feer-mahr soo mahs reh-see-ehn-teh peh-dee-doe noo-meh-ro tress oh-cho coo-ah-tro oh-cho.ˈola ˈxoɾxe | ˈke ˈtal ‖ me komuˈniko ˈpaɾa komfiɾˈmaɾ su ˈmaz reˈθjente peˈðiðo ˈnumeɾo ˈtɾes ˈoʧo ˈkwatɾo ˈoʧo ‖

When in doubt…

Finally, when in doubt, stick to formal pronouns! In most situations, it will be less embarrassing to be extra formal than to be a bit too casual. Plus, if the other person is comfortable with informal pronouns, they will let you know!

It’s also common to use formal pronouns when the identity of the other person is unknown, such as when making or answering a phone call. For example, if you call an unknown number, you might want to use formal pronouns until you confirm who you’re speaking to.

Professor Roberta, can you explain this one more time, please?Profesora Roberta, ¿me puede explicar esto una vez más, por favor?pro-feh-so-rah ro-behr-tah, meh poo-eh-deh ex-plee-car ess-toe oo-nah vehs mas, pore fah-vore?pɾofeˈsoɾa roˈβeɾta | me ˈpweðe ekspliˈkaɾ ˈesto ˈuna ˈβeð ˈmas | poɾ faˈβoɾ ‖
Good morning, Miss Yolanda, how are you?Buenos días Señorita Yolanda, ¿cómo está?boo-eh-noss dee-ass, seh-nyor-e-tah yo-lahn-dah, koh-mo ess-tah?ˈbwenoz ˈðias seɲoˈɾita ʝoˈlanda | ˈkomo esˈta ‖
Hello? Who would you like to speak to?¿Bueno? ¿Con quién se quiere comunicar?boo-eh-no? cohn key-ehn seh key-air-eh co-moo-nee-carˈbweno ‖ kon ˈkjen se ˈkjeɾe komuniˈkaɾ ‖

FAQs about formality in Spanish

Reading FAQs about formality in Spanish.

How do you know when to use formal vs. informal in Spanish?

There is no hard-and-fast rule on when to use formal vs. informal language in Spanish. You will have to make a judgment call based on factors like age, relationship, and social standing. Different countries also have different customs (as do different regions within the same country!), so you’ll also have to take clues from locals.

The best way to become an expert in formal vs. informal Spanish is to immerse yourself in the language. If you have the chance, travel to or even move to one of the Spanish-speaking countries to get the experience necessary to navigate cultural situations like these. Will you make a few mistakes along the way? Of course! But don’t let that stop you — each faux pas is getting you closer to Spanish mastery.

How do you ask someone to speak informally to you in Spanish?

As you communicate more and more with Spanish speakers, you will invariably end up in a situation where someone addresses you with formal pronouns. You may ask them to address you informally if you feel like your relationship has developed enough trust or if you’re simply a more laid-back person and don’t wanna bother with formalities. Whatever the case, you may use any of the following expressions to ask someone to use informal pronouns when referring to you.

There’s also a common expression used to refer to the act of using informal pronouns: tutear. It just takes the pronoun tú and modifies it to act as a noun.

Note that it’s generally frowned upon to ask if you may use informal pronouns to refer to someone. If you use formal pronouns to refer to someone, you should continue doing so until and unless they ask you to stop.

Speak of me by “tú”Háblame de “tú”ah-blah-meh deh tooˈaβlame ðe ˈtu
Don’t speak to me by “usted”No me hables de “usted”noh meh ah-bless deh oos-tehdˈno me ˈaβlez ðe usˈteð
You can “tutearme”Puedes tutearme.poo-eh-dess too-teh-are-mehˈpweðes tuteˈaɾme

Is “¿Cómo está?” formal or informal?

Asking ¿Cómo está? is the most common formal way of asking asking “How are you?” in Spanish. It is actually short for ¿Cómo está usted?, but the adjective can be omitted since Spanish is a null-subject language.

Don’t get tripped up by tú vs. usted in Spanish!

At the end of the day, using the formal vs. the informal pronoun in Spanish shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Of course, getting the pronoun right is important, but remember: when in doubt, use the formal pronoun! If you’ve already built a relationship with the other person, then they won’t hesitate to ask you to use the informal pronoun. Simple as that!

For more helpful tips about learning Spanish, check out our Spanish blog. We publish all kinds of helpful guides in Spanish, like our guide to using the upside-down question mark and our guide to demonstrative adjectives in Spanish. We have dozens of (free!) articles, so browse our library and choose the ones you like best!

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