Coffee break

Talking to people

Talking to people

Familiar and polite forms

In Spain the use of the polite form Usted (with the third person form of verbs) is becoming less and less frequent. It used to be used automatically with anyone older than yourself or from outside the family circle. This is still the norm in Latin America. However, nowadays it is only really used to address people of authority (police, judges, etc), in formal situations (in a bank, shop, etc) and if you are speaking to someone older than yourself. To be safe though, use the polite form with anyone new you meet until/unless they tell you otherwise.

Using Christian names

First names alone can be used to address someone if that is how they have introduced themselves. If you would like to sound very respectful with someone older or in authority, you may use Don/Doña in front of their first name.

Using surnames

When addressing someone by their surname, always use Señor/Señora in front of it.

Please and thank you

Spaniards use por favor (please), but not to the same extent as 'please' is used in English. In shops, bars, cafés, and restaurants you only need to ask politely for what you want without por favor. When you do say gracias, or someone says it to you, the reply is De nada, No hay de qué, or often simply, Nada. A usted is also used. If you want to return good wishes, e.g. Feliz año nuevo (Happy New Year), say Igualmente (Same to you). 

More Spanish language social survival tips can be found here.

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