1-01-02 PRESENTARSE – Forms of addressing

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Forms of addressing

The forms of addressing are the formulas with which the emitter addresses to an interlocutor (listener).

The two basic ways are the courtesy form of address (usted) and the informal form of address (tú, vos).

The courtesy formulas which we use to address in a polite way are also included (don Luis; señora García), as well as those that vary according to a particular range or hierarchy (Su Majestad, Su Excelencia, Su Santidad).


Courtesy form: Usted puede pasar.
Informal form: Tú puedes pasar.

It should be stressed that the form vos is used in most Hispano-American countries, especially in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. To use the vos form, we have to conjugate the second person singular in its archaist form “vos”. In Spain the form “vos” is never employed. Nevertheless, the use of “usted” with an informal tone is common in Andalusia.

Courtesy form of address Informal form of address
Usted Vos
Conjugation in 3rd person Conjugation in 2nd person Conjugation in 2nd person
Señor, Señora, Don, Doña In contemporary Spanish it can be observed that there is a greater expansion of the informal form of addressing as a sign of equality. In those areas where tú and vos do not coincide, addressing with tú is the common way between friends, relatives, mates and friends.
Nowadays, the form tú has spread to some situations in which, until recently, the form usted had always been used. For instance, the relationship between healthcare personnel and patients, or between teachers and students.
Su Excelencia, Su Majestad, Su Santidad (if they go with a noun they can be used in small letter)

The use of one form of addressing or the other is subject to social and geographical circumstances and there are notorious usage differences according to concrete linguistic areas.