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Tú vs. Usted in Spanish.


If you were to meet the President or another important person, you probably wouldn't try to get their attention by shouting "Hey, you!"  You would more likely call out, "Excuse me, Sir/Ma'am!"  In English, the use of the last name shows formality and respect, whereas the use of the first name only indicates informality and friendliness. Spanish also has ways of showing respect towards another person or group of people when addressing them directly.   


In Spanish, these differences are denoted by the use of and Usted to address people according to their age or relationship to you.  When talking to a close friend or a family member, you would use .


When talking to a recent acquaintance or a person who is older than you, Usted should be used.  Many Latin American countries favor in politeness in speech, and therefore Usted is more common than .  In Colombia, for example, it would be appropriate to address your own mother using Usted.


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