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How To Be Polite in Spanish 101

Don’t be an a**hole!

Hey there, language enthusiasts and curious minds! Are you ready to dive into the art of being polite in Spanish? Well, buckle up, because we're about to uncover the secret sauce that makes your conversations go from basic to brilliant.

Whether you're dreaming of impressing your boss, nailing that first meet-and-greet, or simply making your amigos smile, I've got your back.

Politeness isn't just about words; it's a whole vibe, and I’m here to help you master it like a pro.

So, grab your virtual sombrero, amigos, because we're about to embark on a journey through the realm of Spanish politeness 101! 🌟🗣️

Summary: How To Be Polite In Spanish

The nuances of politeness in Spanish are essential for smooth interactions. Distinguishing between informal and formal speech is vital; for instance, Panamanians use slang with friends but switch to standard language with bosses.

Below are the top tips for speaking politely/formally in Spanish.

Choosing Standard Words over Slang

Transform "Qué onda" into "Buenos días" for clarity. Swapping colloquial slang for standard expressions enhances politeness.

Using Formal Address

"Señor/señora" adds respect. Greetings are the first impressions, nail them with by referring to the other person with these words.

Polite Responses

"Igualmente" means "likewise," a common reply to "mucho gusto." "El placer es mío" perfectly reciprocates the energy when someone says "Es un placer..." This sets a positive tone and shows mutual respect.

Polite Greetings

"Buenos días" with a smile brightens anyone's day. Instead of "a what's up" try some more polite forms like "How was your night" or "Good morning, sir."

Polite Requests

The conditional tense, like "Podría," expresses respect. "Could" replaces "Can" for politeness. "Quisiera" conveys "I would like."

"Perdón, no entendí, ¿podría hablar un poco más despacio?" is used to ask politely if somebody could repeat themselves.

two cartoon characters - one is young and the other is old + there is a title that says "Being Polite In Spanish 101"

What Politeness Looks Like In Spanish

One thing that really shocked me while living in a Spanish-speaking country, was the difference between informal and formal speech.

Panamanians for example, speak with lots of slang, shorten words, and cut letters with their friends, whereas they speak extremely standard with their bosses.

Not Cutting Words

Hey, amigos! Let's talk about why not chopping words in formal Spanish convos is a big deal. It's all about vibes – sounding respectful, pro, and on-point.

Skipping words definitely sends an "I'm too chill for formality" signal to the listener. Keep your words precise and use complete phrases for smooth and impressive convos!

When I was in Panama, I met people that between friends would say:

“Qué xopa mami, ¿’ónde ha’ e’ta’o tú?” but with their boss, they would say

“¿Buenos días señora Raméz, dónde ha estado usted esta semana?”

Big difference, right!?

Choosing Standard Spanish Words Over Slang

Just like in the last example the phrase “Qué xopa” was switched to “Buenos días”, we should do this with almost all colloquial slang. Slang is the base of informality in Spanish convos.

So some other changes we could make might be:

Slang Word/Phrase

Formal Replacement

Qué onda

Cómo está

Qué es la que hay

Cómo le va


Maravilloso, Emocionante



Using Usted, Señor/Señora/Señorita, Don/Doña

Some of the most basic ways to show absolute respect is by calling the other person “Sir, Mrs, Mr, or Miss”. Below is a chart with each of these words in Spanish.

Politeness When You Meet Somebody In Spanish

Whenever we meet somebody we have 7 seconds to make the best impression possible - after that, they already have made their judgments. These phrases can make for an extremely polite and pleasant first contact.

Mucho gusto - Nice to meet you

"Mucho gusto" is a phrase meaning "nice to meet you" or "pleasure to meet you." This phrase's literal translation is “A lot of pleasure.” It's used when meeting someone for the first time to express politeness and friendliness. On a formality scale of 1-10, this would sit at 7.5.

Encantado de conocerlo/a - Delighted to meet you

"Encantado de conocerlo" is a Spanish expression meaning "delighted to meet you." It's a courteous and charming way to greet someone you're meeting for the first time. On a formality scale of 1-10, this would be reaching 8.5.

Es un placer, señor/señora - It’s a pleasure, sir/ma’am

“Es un placer” is a way of showing that you are delighted to meet the person you are saying it to. Imagine how good that will make them feel! On that same formality scale, this phrase would be a 9/10.

The Response To These Phrases

So you said one of these phrases to somebody, what can you expect to hear back? Most likely it will be one of the two following responses.


Igualmente literally means equally, and just means “likewise” in Spanish. This might be the most common response to “mucho gusto” for example.

El placer es mío

This would be the perfect response to “Es un placer…” because it throws all of the politeness back to the original giver. If you start your conversation like this, it will be hard to screw it up after.

cartoon characters shaking eachothers hands and saying "Es un placer, señora?" and the other says "El placer es mío, señor"

How To Greet Somebody Politely In Spanish

Whenever you see somebody you know, or maybe you just want to be polite and acknowledge a stranger, these are the most common and respectful greetings.

Buenos días, señor Ramón

A “Buenos días'' paired with a warm smile is enough to make just about any Latino-American’s day a bit better.

While as with friends and coworkers you might say “What’s up, how was your night” - with your boss, for example, a simple “good morning sir” is sufficient.

Buenas tardes, señora Rodríguez

Whenever you want to say hi to your boss afternoon, say “Buenas tardes” with a smile and surely it will make her/his day!

If you know your boss decently well, you can also just say “Buenas” which is a short but extremely common version of the phrase.

¿Cómo está señorita Rámez?

If you want to say “What's up” to your boss, maybe a “How are you” can take its place. But remember, we have to use the Usted-form of the verb.

cartoon characters shaking eachothers hands and saying "Buenas tardes señor, ¿cómo está?" and the other says "Buenas tardes, señora rodríguez"

Politely Asking For Stuff In Spanish

When we want to request something, generally the most polite way to do it is with the conditional tense. The conditional tense shows more respect for the desires of the person you’re asking. The same difference is found between the English phrases “Can I…” and “Could I…”.

¿Podría..? (Could I/Could you..?)

If you want to ask if you can do something, use the word “podria” instead of “Puedo”. This works in English, check these two examples out:

Puedo hablar con usted - Can I talk with you?

Podría hablar con usted - Could I talk with you?

You see how “Could” sounds better than “Can”?

¿Qué usted quisiera que haga?

Using the word “Quisiera” shows respect too! Just like “Puedo” is more direct and short, whereas “Podría” shows more flexibility and consideration to the other party. Quisiera translates best as “I would like.” Let’s look at how to use it in these examples:

¿Qué usted quisiera que haga? - What would you like me to do?

Quisiera almorzar a las 11 hoy - I would like to have lunch at 11 today

Perdón, no entendí, ¿podría hablar un poco más despacio?

If you need to ask somebody to repeat something, you can use our “Podria” to sound more polite. This sentence in its entirety means “Sorry, I didn’t understand, could you speak slower?

cartoon characters shaking each others hands and saying "¿Podrías terminar ese proyecto hoy?" and the other says "Sí, podría tenerlo listo a las 3PM"

Polite Vocabulary In Spanish

Polite vocabulary in Spanish holds the key to harmonious interactions. From "por favor" (please) to "gracias" (thank you), these expressions reflect respect and consideration.

In this section, we’ll go over a bunch of polite vocabulary that you will need every day in the Spanish-speaking world!

Please, thanks, and you're welcome!


Thank you

De nada

You’re welcome

Por favor


I’m sorry & Excuse me


Excuse me (Polite interjection)

Lo siento

I’m sorry (Apology for doing something bad)

Con permiso

Excuse me (When walking by someone)


Hasta luego

See you later

Buen día

Good day



Example Of A Polite Letter To A Boss

Formal Letter: Employee to Boss

Señor Raméz,

Espero que se encuentre bien. Aprovecho esta oportunidad para expresar mi agradecimiento por su continua orientación y apoyo en nuestro proyecto. Me complace informarle que hemos logrado cumplir los objetivos del trimestre y hemos recibido elogios de nuestros clientes.

Sin embargo, me gustaría disculparme por el retraso en la entrega del informe de la última semana. Me hago responsable y aseguro que tomaré medidas para evitar que esto vuelva a suceder. Aprecio su comprensión y su guía constante.

Le agradecería mucho si pudiéramos tener una reunión para abordar este asunto y recibir su retroalimentación. Estoy comprometido en aprender y mejorar continuamente.

Nuevamente, gracias por su liderazgo y confianza en mí. Espero con ansias su respuesta.



Click The Arrow For The English Translation

Mr. Raméz, I hope this message finds you well. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for your continuous guidance and support of our project. I am pleased to inform you that we have successfully achieved the quarterly objectives and have received accolades from our clients. However, I would like to apologize for the delay in delivering the report last week. I take full responsibility and assure you that I will take steps to prevent this from happening again. I appreciate your understanding and constant guidance. I would greatly appreciate it if we could have a meeting to address this matter and receive your feedback. I am committed to learning and continuously improving. Once again, thank you for your leadership and trust in me. I look forward to your response. Sincerely, Juan

Conclusion: How To Be Polite In Spanish

In Spanish, the difference between formal and informal speech is much bigger than in English.

To speak politely in Spanish we use different vocabulary, we conjugate verbs differently, and we neutralize our accents a little bit to sound more standard.

Here are some words we can use to sound more polite in Spanish:

  • Podría instead of Puedo/Puede

  • Quisiera instead of Quiero/Quiere

  • Es un placer instead of De nada

  • Buenos tardes instead of Qué tal

I hope this article helped you out! If you have any ideas of words or phrases to add to this list, put them in the comments and I’d love to add them! Have a great day/evening/night!

¡Hasta luego!

- Ben


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