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Full Guide To Formal Spanish

Unlike in English, the difference between formal and informal Spanish is much greater. From different conjugations to words and phrases, to different definite articles which should be used.

In this article, we are going to go over all of these things and more, and I’ll give you an example of a formal Email so that you can see how we express ourselves formally in Spanish.

¿Estás listo/a para aprender? (Are you ready to learn?)

Empecemos (Let’s start)

picture of two cartoon people standing with briefcases + a title that says "Formal Spanish"

1: Understanding the Basics of Formal Spanish

Before I show you how to speak in the Usted form (formal), let's go over the basics of the formal language in Spanish. First we'll talk about the difference between formal and informal language, when to use the formal language. Let's get started.

Difference between formal and informal language

In Spanish, the distinction between formal and informal language is based on politeness and respect. Formal language is used when addressing individuals you don't know well or those in positions of authority, like elders, teachers, or supervisors. Informal language, on the other hand, is used among friends, family, or people of the same age or status. The formal language uses less slang, and expressions, and comes with a different set of conjugations.

When to use formal Spanish

Formal Spanish is essential in professional settings, such as the workplace or during job interviews. It is also necessary when addressing strangers or older individuals, as a sign of respect. Furthermore, formal Spanish is often preferred in official and academic contexts.

Importance of context

Context plays a significant role in determining when to use formal language. Even if you're unsure, it's usually safer to start with formal Spanish and then switch to informal if the situation permits. Remember, it's better to be too formal than too informal, especially in situations requiring respect.

picture of two businessmen smiling and shaking hands

2: Conjugation Used To Speak Formally

When we speak formally in Spanish, instead of using Tú conjugations, we use the same conjugations for Él & Ella. Take a look below and you’ll see what I mean.

Yo quería decirle que ha hecho un gran trabajo.

(I wanted to tell you that you have done a great job)

¿Está feliz con su trabajo?

(Are you happy with your work?)

3: Vocabulary and Expressions for Formal Situations

picture of a business man using the phrase "Que pase un buen día señor"

Formal greetings and farewells

Formal greetings such as Buenos días, and Buenas tardes, for example, should be used in place of the informal “Buenos” and “Buenas.” Of course, there are more alternatives, such as the ones listed below:

  • Buen día señor/señora - Good day sir/ma'am.

  • ¿Cómo está usted? - How are you?

  • Que tenga un buen día - Have a good day.

  • Que pase un buen día - Have a good day.

  • Que le vaya bien - May things go well for you.

  • Cuídese - Take care.

Polite requests and commands

Alright, when making requests or commands politely, of course, the tone of our voice plays a part in it, but one of the most important changes to make is in our use of verbs. Simply changing the conjugation to the conditional tense will work wonders.

For example:

“¿Puede escribir esos correos hoy?”

(Can you write those emails today)

Which can sound quite disrespectful and direct in formal situations, so instead we say:

”¿Podrías escribir esos correos hoy por favor?”

(Could you write those emails today please?)

Avoiding slang and colloquialisms

When speaking in formal contexts, it’s extremely crucial to avoid slang which generally is reserved for close friends. Some words that we should most certainly avoid include but are not limited to:

  • Chido/a - Cool or awesome.

  • Guay - Another way to say cool or nice.

  • Pedo - This word has several meanings, including "fart," "problem," or "drunk." It's best to avoid it in formal contexts.

  • Pendejo/a - A derogatory term for a stupid person.

  • Cabron/a - A derogatory term that’s used to talk about disliked persons or even close friends which translates to “Dumbass” or “Asshole.”

  • Chaval - A young person, kid, or guy.

  • Chisme - Gossip or rumors.

4: Phrases To Use In Formal Contexts

These phrases should be utilized in formal contexts to show respect, intellect, and focus. These phrases aren’t necessary in formal contexts, and you can use their simple alternatives, but these phrases make you seem more attentive and serious. I wouldn’t say that they will make you sound smarter… but they will, lol.

Si ❌ - Siempre y cuando ✔️ (Meaning: As long as…)


"Podrás asistir al evento, siempre y cuando confirmes tu asistencia antes del viernes."

(You can attend the event, as long as you confirm your attendance by Friday.)

Pero… ❌ No obstante/Sin embargo ✔️


El proyecto estaba lleno de desafíos técnicos; no obstante, el equipo de ingenieros logró encontrar soluciones innovadoras."

(The project was filled with technical challenges; nevertheless, the engineering team managed to find innovative solutions.)

Y… ❌ Además ✔️


"Además de su experiencia en marketing, María también posee habilidades excepcionales en análisis de datos."

(In addition to her marketing experience, Maria also has exceptional data analysis skills.)

Por eso… ❌ Por lo tanto ✔️


"Hemos completado todas las etapas del proyecto con éxito, por lo tanto, podemos proceder a la siguiente fase de desarrollo."

(We have successfully completed all the project stages, therefore, we can proceed to the next development phase.)

A través de… ❌ A lo largo de ✔️


"A lo largo de su carrera, el científico realizó numerosos experimentos para recopilar datos relevantes para su investigación."

(Throughout his career, the scientist conducted numerous experiments to gather data relevant to his research.)

5: How To Use Definite Articles In Formal Spanish (Lo/La/Le)

You know how when we say a phrase like “I appreciate you for your time” in informal Spanish we would say “Te agradezco por tu tiempo.”

In formal Spanish that would be “Lo/La/Le agradezco por su tiempo.” So what the heck is the difference between Lo/La/Le?

Good question, basically Lo and La are used in formal situations where you know the person well, for example, you’re father/mother-in-law.

It remains formal but is a tiny bit intimate. Whereas Le is very neutral and as formal as it can get.

6: Formal Spanish - Example Of An Email To The Boss

picture of a man emailing his boss

Subject: Agradecimiento por la Reunión sobre el Presupuesto Anual

Estimado [Nombre del Jefe],

Espero que este mensaje lo encuentre bien. Quería expresar mi más sincero agradecimiento por la reunión que tuvimos ayer sobre el presupuesto anual. Fue un encuentro sumamente productivo y es un reflejo de su arduo trabajo y liderazgo en nuestro equipo.

Durante la reunión, pudimos analizar en detalle todos los aspectos del presupuesto para el próximo año fiscal. Gracias a su orientación y experiencia, hemos logrado identificar oportunidades clave y tomar decisiones informadas que beneficiarán a la empresa en el futuro.

Nos sentimos afortunados de contar con su liderazgo en este proceso crucial para nuestra empresa.

En nombre de todo el equipo, quiero expresar nuestro agradecimiento más sincero. Esperamos continuar trabajando juntos en la implementación de las decisiones tomadas durante la reunión y en el seguimiento constante de nuestro presupuesto anual.

Si necesita alguna información adicional o tiene comentarios adicionales que quisiera compartir, no dude en comunicarse conmigo.

Gracias nuevamente por su dedicación y liderazgo continuo.


[Tu Nombre]

[Tu Cargo]

[Tu Empresa]

Click this arrow for the translation

Conclusion: Full Guide To Formal Spanish

In this article, we went over the importance of mastering formal speech so that we can show respect, seriousness, and intellect when speaking with our bosses, elders, and respected acquaintances.

We went over how to speak formally, there are just some simple steps to follow including:

  • Use the He/She conjugations when talking to somebody formally (usted form)

  • Use lo/la/le depending on how formal and non-intimate the situation is

  • Using phrases such as “siempre y cuando” instead of “si” to show seriousness and precision in our speech

  • Using the conditional tense when making polite requests such as “Podrías ayudarme” (Could you help me)

  • And of course, avoiding slang words and colloquialisms such as pendejo, cabrón, and chido

If you have any questions after reading this article, leave them in the comments or shoot me an email and I’d be happy to come back and explain something better!

If you’re interested in learning more phrases that will make you sound smarter, check out this article I wrote on “How To Sound Smarter In Spanish.”

Thanks for stopping by Acquire The Language, and we’ll see each other again soon.

You’re friend, Ben


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