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Thread: Formalities

 
  1. #1
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    Default Formalities

    I've purchased learning software.. but the wrong one. I actually wanted Spanish (Spain), not Spanish (Latin America). Since they're worried I just copied the discs as a pirate, I cannot return them, or exchange them. I've already accepted this. Exactly how disrespectful is it to use informal, rather than formal? I know this varies by location.. But for those of you that are natives of Latin America, or Spain, I would like some insight. Do you guys really get offended when someone uses tú rather than Usted?

    I've heard that in areas where Castilian is common, using Usted actually makes the other person you're speaking to feel old, and therefor informal is most common. Also that most people in Spain consider Usted to be a bit stuffy (too formal/snobbish).

    Also, would the following response be too informal?
    ¿Cómo está Usted? / ¿Cómo estás?
    Bien, ¿y tú?

    Why, or why not?

    Or should I stick with some varient of Bien, ¿Cómo estás tú?

    Thanks
    Last edited by t0qt4u; 06-01-2008 at 03:38 AM.

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    Senior Member Guadalupe's Avatar
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    Hi, how are you?

    Well, that's a difficult question. I think that these are the most complicate issues to learn in relation to a foreign language.

    I'm not going to make things even more difficult (as we use "vos" in Argentina, which is like a variety of "tú": if you need some information on this topic, you may post another thread. Step by step...).

    The first thing you have to bear in mind is that "usted" is more formal than "tú/vos". However, you don't always need to use the pronoun. Actually, it is more common that you omit the pronoun in these cases (I put them in brackets so that you find the examples clearer, I hope... ). But the person knows how you are treating him/her (whether formally or informally) because of the verb.

    For example, if you meet someone you don't know, you could say: "¿Cómo está (usted)?" What I mean is that I would omit "usted" (or "tú/vos", as the context may require).
    If you meet a friend, you may say "¿Cómo estás (tú/vos)?"

    If you answer a question it is a bit easier: you follow the same pattern the other person uses:

    If someone asks: "¿Cómo está?", you can answer: "Bien, ¿y usted?" (formal version).
    If someone asks: "¿Cómo estás?", you can answer: "Bien, ¿y tú/vos? (informal version).

    However, this is the theory...

    Some time ago, old people used to demand that you treated them respectfully (this meant that you should use "usted" instead of "tú/vos". This even happened in families: you had to use "usted" to refer to your grandparents and even your parents). Some adults still stick to this old custom (in Argentina it is not widely used, though). However, there are adults who prefer the use of "tú/vos" so that they don't feel old. But I would definitely say that treating them more formally (using "usted") wouldn't mean that you are being rude.

    My personal advice is: use the formal structure when you don't know someone. There's always time to be more informal. I think that being polite is a must, even when on these days, many people forget about this.

    Mind you, among young people or with children, the use of the informal structure is common, so you could seem ackward when using the formal structure in these cases...

    Hope you find it useful!

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    Thumbs up Excellent post!

    That is an excellent explanation Guadalupe!!

    Speaking from experience, and not as a native, I recommend following Guadalupe's advice by using usted at first meetings, unless the other person uses tú.

    My experience is mainly limited to Mexico and Central America and I have travelled there for many years. I am so used to using the familiar "tú" that I can hardly use "usted" without concentrating on it in advance.

    The only times I have ever been chastized, but in a friendly manner, was when I used usted instead of tú. As you said, some consider it too formal but that's usually among friends and acquaintances; it might make a difference if you are a very young person amongst much older people.

    For what it is worth, I never worry about it. I have never noticed anybody take offense because I used tú. From government officials to taxi drivers they all accept that I am not a native speaker and forgive any errors I make.

    The first thing I learned when I started studying Spanish was not to worry about making mistakes
    because the people to whom you are speaking know that you are learning and want to help you understand their language. They will not make fun of you or be offended.

    What is more important, I believe, is the way you say something rather than the words you use. Proper respect will overcome most ill-chosen words.
    Last edited by vicente; 06-01-2008 at 07:47 PM.
    vicente

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    Senior Member exxcéntrica's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guadalupe
    My personal advice is: use the formal structure when you don't know someone. There's always time to be more informal. I think that being polite is a must, even when on these days, many people forget about this.

    Mind you, among young people or with children, the use of the informal structure is common, so you could seem ackward when using the formal structure in these cases...

    Hope you find it useful!
    I would go with this recommendation.I think it is a widespread and silly thing to think that people get annoyed if you address them (in Spain) formally with "Usted". If you don't' know somebody, that's what you should do.

    In any case, if the person addresses you with "tú" you can answer back the same.

    Among younger people (up to 30ish here in Spain) we do not use the formal version. but I find it rather annoying myself, when I see young shop attendants ask old ladies "¿qué la doy?" (topping it with bad grammar!!)
    Los hombres son superiores a las mujeres porque Alá les otorgó la primacia sobre ellas. Portanto, dió a los varones el doble de lo que dió a las mujeres. Los maridos que sufrieran desobediencia de sus mujeres pueden castigarlas: abandonarlas en sus lechos, e incluso golpearlas.
    No se legó al hombre mayor calamidad que la mujer."


    El Corán (libro sagrado de los musulmanes, recitado por Alá a Maomé en el siglo VI)


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    Senior Member Guadalupe's Avatar
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    Thanks for your contributions, Vicente and Exxcéntrica!

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    What's the English equivalent to "¿qué la doy?"?

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    Senior Member exxcéntrica's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by t0qt4u
    What's the English equivalent to "¿qué la doy?"?
    Literally: What can I give you?

    In the context: What would you like? (normallu¡y used in a market place)

    The pronoun "la" is not correct here. It must be "le" for either women or men!
    Los hombres son superiores a las mujeres porque Alá les otorgó la primacia sobre ellas. Portanto, dió a los varones el doble de lo que dió a las mujeres. Los maridos que sufrieran desobediencia de sus mujeres pueden castigarlas: abandonarlas en sus lechos, e incluso golpearlas.
    No se legó al hombre mayor calamidad que la mujer."


    El Corán (libro sagrado de los musulmanes, recitado por Alá a Maomé en el siglo VI)


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    Senior Member Guadalupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by exxcéntrica
    Literally: What can I give you?

    In the context: What would you like? (normallu¡y used in a market place)

    The pronoun "la" is not correct here. It must be "le" for either women or men!
    Great explanation, Exxcéntrica! This would be the "formal" structure: a synonym could be: "¿Qué va a llevar?" The informal equivalents would be: "¿Qué te doy?"/"¿Qué vas a llevar?"

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