How do you say "you" in Spanish? In contrast to English, where "you" just say "you," there are a plethora of different ways to say this in Spanish, which we'll explore today.
Subject pronouns in Spanish (e.g. yo (I), tú (you), él/ella (he/she), etc.) are the most basic way to say "you." While in English, "you" is the only second person subject pronoun, in Spanish, there are five different ones, and the one you choose will depend on such factors as whether you are addressing one or more than one person, if the situation is more or less formal, and what region you are in. Let's take a closer look.
Simply put, tú means "you" for speaking to just one person in less formal situations, such as speaking to someone you already know. This is the most common familiar second person subject pronoun in most Spanish-speaking countries.
Tú hablas obviamente muy bien el español, pero
You obviously speak Spanish very well, but
Caption 10, Carlos y Xavi Part 4 Tradiciones y comida de BarcelonaPlay Caption
Vos is used in a similar fashion as tú in certain countries/regions. It is heard predominantly in Argentina and Uruguay but also in certain areas of Paraguay, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Mexico, and Venezuela.
¿Y vos hablás de mí?
And you talk about me?
Caption 51, Muñeca Brava 18 - La Apuesta - Part 11Play Caption
Usted is used to address just one person in more formal situations. Examples might be when you don't know someone and wish to be polite or, perhaps, when addressing an elder.
¿Usted habla del ganso ese? -Sí.
Are you talking about that goose? -Yes.
Caption 54, Muñeca Brava 1 Piloto - Part 10Play Caption
Vosotros and vosotras are employed to address more than one person informally and are thus the plural equivalent of tú. Vosotros is used for a group of all males or a mixed male-female group, while vosotras is used for more than one person when everyone is female. Vosotros and vosotras are only used in Spain.
You [plural] speak.
Caption 11, Fundamentos del Español 7 - Ser y EstarPlay Caption
Ustedes is used in all Spanish-speaking countries except Spain as the only plural form of saying "you," regardless of formality. However, in Spain, it is used more formally as the plural equivalent of usted (to distinguish it with the less formal vosotros/as).
Y es que hay muchas diferencias entre la forma en que ustedes hablan el español
And it's just that there are a lot of differences between the way in which you guys speak Spanish
Captions 44-45, Carlos y Xavi Part 2 Ustedes y VosotrosPlay Caption
All of the aforementioned subject pronouns in these clips have been translated as "you" with the exception of the last one, which was translated with the informal "you guys" to emphasize that it is directed to more than one person. However, it would be perfectly acceptable to translate ustedes as merely "you" since English often employs this pronoun to address multiple people.
For an abundance of additional information on these five subject pronouns for "you" in Spanish, we recommend Carlos' five-part video series on the Tuteo, ustedeo y voseo.
As you may have noticed in the examples above, all of which contain the simple present form of the verb hablar (to speak), the form of "you" utilized affects the verb conjugation. Although this happens in every verb tense in Spanish, let's start by taking a look at the simple present tense conjugations of three common Spanish verbs with their various "you" forms highlighted.
You will note that the verb conjugations for all of the five forms of "you" in Spanish differ from one another. Additionally, the conjugation for usted is the same as the conjugation for the third person singular él/ella (he/she) while the conjugation for ustedes is the same as the third person plural conjugation for ellos/ellas (they). Additionally, the conjugations for vos and vosotros/as are the same for -ir verbs.
Remember that in Spanish, you don't necessarily need to explicitly say the subject pronoun in order to know which one is in use because the verb tenses themselves make that clear. That said, let's examine a few examples with different forms of "you" and the verb saber (to know).
¿Sabéis qué es un volcán?
Do you know what a volcano is?
Caption 18, Aprendiendo con Silvia Los volcanesPlay Caption
Ay, ¿sabes qué?
Oh, you know what?
Caption 21, Club 10 Capítulo 1 - Part 1Play Caption
¿Sabe que no me parece suficiente?
Do you know that it doesn't seem like enough to me?
Caption 62, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 3 - Part 3Play Caption
Despite the absence of subject pronouns, you can tell from the verbs' conjugation that the first example refers to vosotros, the second example refers to tú, and the third example refers to usted, and for this reason, all three have been translated with "you know." While the third example could technically refer to él or ella as well since the conjugations for all three are the same, the context (one person speaking directly to another rather than talking about anyone else) alerts you that the speaker is addressing the other person as usted.
Subject pronouns are not the only way to represent the word "you" in Spanish. Other types of Spanish pronouns (direct object, indirect object, and prepositional) also mean "you." Let's see which of each of these types of pronouns correspond with which "you" subject pronouns:
|Subject Pronoun||Direct Object Pronoun||Indirect Object Pronoun||Prepositional Pronoun|
While we won't delve too deeply into these topics, we will provide a brief summary of each of them and give you some examples.
Direct object pronouns take the place of the direct object (the recipient of an action) in a sentence and answer the question of "what" or "who." Let's see a couple of examples:
Vale, no... no os veo... no os veo con mucha...
OK, I don't... I don't see you... I don't see you with a lot...
Caption 39, Escuela BCNLIP Clase con Javi: el futuro - Part 3Play Caption
Los veo en el próximo video.
See you in the next video.
Caption 44, Manos a la obra Postres de MinecraftPlay Caption
In both examples, the translation of the direct object pronoun is "you." In the first, os takes the place of vosotros, and in the second, los takes the place of ustedes.
Indirect object pronouns answer the question "to who/whom" or "for who/whom" an action is carried out. Let's take a look:
De verdad, yo le doy la plata que tengo ahí;
Seriously, I'll give you the money I have there;
Caption 25, Confidencial: Asesino al Volante Capítulo 1 - Part 1Play Caption
Otra recomendación que les puedo hacer es que traigan zapatos para el agua,
Another recommendation that I can give you is to bring water shoes,
Captions 35-36, Alan x el mundo Mi playa favorita de México! - Part 2Play Caption
In the first example, le lets you know that the speaker will give the money "to" usted, while in the second, the recommendation is being given "to" ustedes. While the indirect object pronouns in these two captions have been translated with simply "you," the translator might also have opted for "I'll give the money I have there to you" and/or "Another recommendation that I can give to you is to bring water shoes."
To learn more about indirect and direct object pronouns, check out this two-part lesson on How to Use Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns.
Prepositional pronouns are pronouns that follow a preposition (words like para (for), de (of, about), en (in, about), etc.) in a sentence.
Este libro es para ti. Este libro es para vos.
This book is for you. This book is for you.
Captions 47-48, Carlos y Cyndy Uso del Voseo en ArgentinaPlay Caption
y hoy, he preparado para ustedes estos objetos
and today, I've prepared these objects for you
Caption 3, Ana Carolina El uso correcto de los adjetivosPlay Caption
Interestingly, ti is the only prepositional pronoun meaning "you" that differs in form from its corresponding subject pronoun.
We hope that this lesson has made clear the many different ways that Spanish expresses the concept of "you." That's all for today... and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments.