Grammar Linguistics

How To Choose Between Formal and Familiar Verb Forms

Every language has a way of communicating with people we consider close and others we don’t know very well. Today, we will learn how to use the formal and familiar forms of Spanish verbs to address people correctly.

Formal and familiar second person

We conjugate verbs according to the person used in the sentence. In Spanish, the first person is yo (I) while the second person is (you). Additionally, we find usted (you), which is another second person that we use in more formal contexts. 

The conjugation of the verb when using and when using usted marks the central difference between the formal and familiar forms of the verb.

Note: A very important detail is that most of the time, you can use just the conjugated verb and omit the explicit mention of the person, which often acts as the subject of the sentence. The conjugation will already tell you if it is a formal or familiar form.

How to use verbs with

is the familiar second person with which we address a friend, relative, or coworker we know well. 

Tip: Click on any of the linked sentences in this article (while on a mobile) to add them directly to your Fluent Forever app, so you can study them later. Don’t have our app yet? Download it here!

Time for a calculator!
Image by Jacqueline Macou from Pixabay

As you can see in the second example, we can omit the subject and the sentence will still be correct.

Conjugate verbs with usted

Usted is the formal form of the second person. We use it to talk to a person of authority or someone we don’t know very well. Let’s look at some examples:

Notice how we can also omit the subject and the formal conjugation will still be there, conveying distance or lack of familiarity between speakers.

That’s it! You can now choose between formal and familiar verb forms to show how close you are to those you’re communicating with.

Written by Isabel Matos

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