Tú and Usted: Respecting the Boundaries

Tú and Usted Respecting the Boundaries

Tú and Usted: Respecting the Boundaries

Translating documents from English to Spanish in this day and age of globalization is essential for many businesses. It can be tempting to attempt these translations on your own, especially if you or someone you know has a reasonable grasp of the Spanish language. Translations, however, are best left to the Spanish language experts to ensure accuracy. There are several subtle differences between English and Spanish that can be troublesome for those not trained in Spanish language translation and copy editing. For example, something as seemingly simple as ascertaining the correct way to address others. In other words, the word ‘you; and the associated verb conjugations.

In English, whether we are addressing someone very formal such as a head of state or a university professor, or if we are addressing small children or our employees, we conjugate verbs with ‘you’. The rest of the sentence may have varying formalities, but overall, when addressing others, we use ‘you’ across the board.

The Spanish language on the other hand, makes use of two very different conjugations when addressing others: and usted. Depending on who your intended audience is, you have to select carefully. Simply put, is less formal and usted is more formal. But how do we know when we should use which?

Here are some of the considerations that should be taken into account when deciding if you will use or usted to address someone:

  • Showing Respect in the Spanish Language
  • Maintaining Hierarchical Boundaries in Spanish Culture
  • How Spanish Speakers Relate to Different Age Groups
  • Intimacy and Friendship among Spanish Speakers

Showing Respect in the Spanish Language

Showing appropriate respect to others is important to Spanish speakers, as it is to speakers of many other languages. One of the methods Spanish speakers employ to show such respect is in the appropriate use of the usted form of verbs. When deciding whether to use the form or the usted form, it is important to consider if the person you are addressing is in a position that generally commands a high level of respect.

How Spanish Speakers Relate to Different Age Groups

Another aspect to take into consideration when deciding to use or usted is the age of the person you are addressing. A good general rule of thumb is to use for those who are younger than you and usted for those who are older.

Maintaining Hierarchical Boundaries in Spanish Culture

Maintaining appropriate hierarchical boundaries is another instance when it is important to pay close attention to the appropriate usage of and usted. For example, typically in structured corporate environments you would refer to those in higher positions as usted and those in lower positions as tú.

Intimacy and Friendship among Spanish Speakers

As relationships between Spanish speakers develop and a certain level of closeness, or intimacy is achieved, it may be possible to transition from referring to someone as usted, and begin using the more informal tú.

As we can see, it is easy to make mistakes, and as such it is incredibly important to rely on professional translation and copy editing services such as Spanish with Style for your translation needs. With such a culturally nuanced approach to something as seemingly simple as ‘you’ and the subsequent verb conjugations, undertaking your own translations can be risky. Allowing a highly trained Spanish language expert to translate your documents, you can be sure that your message is being communicated accurately and effectively to the intended audience.