Use of 'Tú' And 'Usted'.

Latin American Executive Opinions

• Alejandro Octavio Aguilera
• Roxana Danae Bannach
• Martha Mateos Brito
• Carlos José Bueso Más
• Carmen Gladys Zapata Uizurraga
• Roberto Salmón Rodríguez

Key vocabulary related to this topic

Cultural points related to this topic

Alejandro Octavio Aguilera
México, Monterry, N.L.
"Sí es muy importante esto del 'usted' y el 'tú'..."
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Roxana Danae Bannach
Chile, Santiago
"Bueno normalmente uno siempre se dirige a la persona de 'usted'..."
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Martha Mateos Brito
México, Monterrey, N.L.
"Bueno, el 'usted' yo generalmente lo uso para gente mayor..."
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Carlos José Bueso Más
Puerto Rico
"El 'usted' y el 'tú,' los americanos tienen la ventaja obviamente..."
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Carmen Gladys Zapata Uizurraga
Perú, Lima
"Utilizamos generalmente el 'usted' cuando no hay mucho grado de confianza..."
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Roberto Salmón Rodríguez
Perú, Lima
"Bueno, comenzaremos echando una mirada retrospectiva..."
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americanizar to americanize
amistad (f) friendship
comportarse to behave
confianza (f) confidence
distinción (f) distinction
formalidad (f) formality
gente joven (f) young people
gente mayor (f) older people
grado de confianza (m) level of confidence
informal (adj) informal
mirada (f) glance, look
mutuo (adj) mutual
persona mayor (f) older person
por cortesia out of courtesy
rector (m) university president
respeto (m) respect
romper el hielo to break the ice
ventaja (f) advantage
Juan es un poco gordito. Juan is a little chubby.
María es más alta que Susana. María is taller than Susana.
Pepe tiene los ojos claros
y la tez blanca.
Pepe has light colored eyes
and white skin.
Mi tío es bastante peludo, alto y de barba abundante. My uncle is very hairy, tall, and with a full beard.
Mi prima es muy bonita, rubia y de nariz fina. My cousin is pretty, blonde, and has a thin nose.

The difference between 'tú' and 'usted' is usually thought of as a difference in formality. One uses 'usted' in formal-level conversations and 'tú' in informal. North Americans generally prefer informality (use of first names, non-use of titles, etc.). Consequently, North Americans sometimes want to use 'tú' thinking that it is a sign of informality when in actuality 'usted' would be more appropriate. The problem is that in addition to formality and informality, the use of 'tú' and 'usted' also signify respect (similar to 'sir' and 'ma'am' in the southern portion of the United States.). As such, Mexicans, for example, use 'usted' to show respect more than simply to display formality or informality. Note, however, Roberto Salmón's observes that 'tú' is used much more today among young executives than what it was 30 years ago. He goes so far as to say that in this respect they are becoming Americanized. A good rule of thumb in professional situations is to begin with 'usted' and wait for your Latin American counterpart to invite you to use 'tú'. It does vary from one country to another, not to mention the use of 'vos' that is prevalent as well.