Last updateFri, 02 Jan 2015 5pm

Two ways to say 'you' in spanish

Mexico fortunately isn’t wracked by the linguistic controversy that has swept France in recent years: the conflict over when to use the informal form of “you” (tú) and the formal form (vous in French, usted in Spanish).

On Bastille Day this year, the Los Angeles Times published a detailed chart on when and when not to use the tú form of address when visiting France. For example, “Are you speaking to a child? Is the child like a prince or something? Yes: use vous. No: use tú.” Or, “Do you consider the person a peer? Yes: use tú. No: use vous.”

Despite such guidelines, in France young people now throw the tu around as easily as Americans call one another by their first names.   However, this breakdown in linguistic tradition has created a conflict between not wanting to seem too disrespectful (too tú) and not wanting to seem too unhip (too vous).

In Mexico change has happened more slowly.  Young people now address their parents with tú – a generation or two ago only usted would have been acceptable – and now usually call strangers their own age or younger tú as well.

Please login or subscribe to view the complete article.