formal

Formal Phrases and Words in Spanish

Once you’ve started studying Spanish, you will quickly realize that it has two different formality levels, unlike English

In everyday, casual conversations with friends, classmates, and peers, you will refer to people as “” (informal YOU), or – if there is more than one of them – as “VOSOTROS” (at least in Spain)

When you find yourself in a formal situation, however, you will have to replace “TÚ” with “USTED” and “VOSOTROS” with “USTEDES”. 

IMPORTANT! 
If you are learning South American Spanish, you will actually never use the “VOSOTROS” form, as “USTEDES” is used here to indicate the plural “YOU,” no matter if your relationship with those people is formal or casual.

What context requires you to speak formal Spanish? Whenever there is a difference in age or seniority level. Whenever you want to show respect, admiration, or helpfulness. 

Running errands, shopping, placing an order at a restaurant, getting a taxi, or booking a hotel room – these are also examples of formal situations that will have you use the USTED or USTEDES form. 

Basic Formal Greetings and Good-Byes Spanish:

If you are still a beginner in Spanish, the phrases below will help you greet people and say goodbye to them in a formal or neutral way. 

  • 🇪🇸 Buenos días – 🇬🇧 good morning
  • 🇪🇸 Buenas tardes – 🇬🇧 good afternoon / good evening
  • 🇪🇸 Buenas noches – 🇬🇧 good night
  • 🇪🇸 ¡Qué tal? – 🇬🇧 How do you do?
  • 🇪🇸 ¡Adiós! – 🇬🇧 Goodbye!
  • 🇪🇸 Un placer – 🇬🇧 My pleasure
  • 🇪🇸 ¡Hasta luego! – 🇬🇧 See you later! (it can be used both in a formal and informal context)
  • 🇪🇸 ¡Buen viaje! – 🇬🇧 Have a good trip!

Verb Conjugation in Formal Spanish Phrases

Before I show you some of the Spanish phrases that have two different versions depending on the formality level, I’d like to review the basic grammar difference between TÚ and USTED. 

As you hopefully know by now, verbs in Spanish change their form depending on the subject they refer to. That means that you will have to conjugate the verb differently each time you change the pronoun from TÚ to USTED to VOSOTROS to USTEDES: 

🇪🇸 Test Your Spanish Knowledge 🇪🇸

Let’s take the verb “TENER” – “TO HAVE” as an example:

  • 🇪🇸 Tú tienes – 🇬🇧 you have (informal)
  • 🇪🇸 Usted tiene – 🇬🇧 you have (formal singular)
  • 🇪🇸 Vosotros tenéis – 🇬🇧 you have (informal plural)
  • 🇪🇸 Ustedes tienen 🇬🇧 you have (formal plural)

Now that we’ve established that point, let’s have a look at how certain formal greeting and goodbye phrases in Spanish change, depending on what subject they use (USTED or USTEDES).

Singular USTEDPlural USTEDES
¡Bienvenido/a – Welcome!
¿Cómo está (usted)?How are you? 
¿Cómo le va?How is it going? 
Un gusto en conocerle It’s a pleasure to meet you
Encantado/a en conocerle Pleased to meet you
¡Qué esté (muy) bien! – Be well!
¡Cuídese! – Take care!
Espero verle prontoI hope to see you soon!
Un placer haberle conocidoNice meeting you. 
¡Bienvenidos /as Welcome!
¿Cómo están (ustedes)?How are you?
¿Cómo les va?How is it going? 
Un gusto en conocerles It’s a pleasure to meet you
Encantado/a en conocerles Pleased to meet you¡
Qué estén (muy) bien! – Be well!
¡Cuídense! – Take care!
Espero verles pronto I hope to see you soon!
Un placer haberles conocidoNice meeting you. 

If you’d like to see more of such expressions and how they can be used in a context, please check out my posts on greetings, goodbyes, and introductions

Also, please note that where Spain Spanish adds “le” and “les” at the end of the verb to indicate a direct object, Latin American Spanish tends to add “lo” / “la” and “los” / “las”.

Formal Phrases to Show Good Manners in Spanish

Being a gentleman and showing respect is always a good idea, no matter how formal the situation. 

To make sure you have all the essential phrases covered, have a look at the list below: 

  • 🇪🇸 Muchas gracias – 🇬🇧 Thank you very much.
  • 🇪🇸 De nada – 🇬🇧 You’re welcome.
  • 🇪🇸 No hay de qué – 🇬🇧 Don’t mention it.
  • 🇪🇸 Lo siento / lo lamento  – 🇬🇧 I’m sorry
  • 🇪🇸 Por favor – 🇬🇧 please
  • 🇪🇸 Si no es mucha molestia – 🇬🇧 if it is not much hassle
  • 🇪🇸 No es ninguna molestia – 🇬🇧 it is no hassle at all
  • 🇪🇸 No se preocupe / preocupen – 🇬🇧 Don’t worry (singular / plural).
  • 🇪🇸 Encantado / Encantada – 🇬🇧 Delighted / With pleasure (masculine / feminine).
  • 🇪🇸 Disculpe / Disculpen – 🇬🇧 Excuse me (when apologizing to 1 person / to 2+ people)
  • ¿Perdón? – 🇬🇧 I beg your pardon?
  • (Con) permiso 🇬🇧 Excuse me (when plowing your way through a crowd or asking for permission). Literally, it means “(with) permission.”
  • 🇪🇸 Después de usted, señora – 🇬🇧 After you, madam.
  • 🇪🇸 Por favor, sírvase / sírvanse 🇬🇧 Please help yourself / yourselves.
  • 🇪🇸 ¿Le ofrezco algo para beber / comer? 🇬🇧 Can I offer you something to drink/eat?
  • 🇪🇸 Siéntese en mi asiento, por favor. – 🇬🇧 Please take my seat.

The three mini dialogues below show how to use these phrases conversationally:

🇪🇸
A: Muchas gracias por la invitación.
B: De nada, encantado de tenerle con nosotros. 
🇬🇧
A. Thank you very much for the invitation.
B: You’re welcome! I’m delighted to have you with us. 

🇪🇸
A: Siento mucho haber llegado tarde, pero hay mucho embotellamiento en las calles.
B: No se preocupe. Cuando llueve, el tráfico siempre se pone malo.
🇬🇧
A. Sorry for having arrived late, but there is a lot of traffic jam on the streets. 
B: Don’t worry. When it rains, the traffic always gets bad.

🇪🇸
A: ¡Bienvenida! ¿Le ofrezco algo para tomar?
B: Gracias, un vaso de agua, por favor.
🇬🇧
A. Welcome! Can I offer you something to drink?
B: Thank you, a glass of water, please.  

The Subjunctive Mood in Formal Phrases

Have you noticed that the last sentence uses the imperative form? To be able to give formal instructions like this in Spanish, you’ll have to review the subjunctive mood

Here are a few more examples:

Dígame! – Tell me! (usted)
Entren! – Come in! (ustedes)
Permítame su abrigo! – Let me take your coat! (usted)
Déjenme ayudarles con su equipaje! – Let me help you with your luggage! (ustedes)

Spanish Formal Phrases and Words for Letters and Emails

Do you speak Spanish at work? In that case, you surely have to do a lot of formal business writing, don’t you?

How many of the phrases below do you use in your emails?

  • 🇪🇸 Estimado / Estimada / Estimados – 🇬🇧 Dear (can be followed by a name, or go alone)
  • 🇪🇸 Estimado Señor / Estimada Señora – 🇬🇧 Dear Sir / Dear Madam
  • 🇪🇸 A quien corresponda – 🇬🇧 To whom it may concern
  • 🇪🇸 Le escribo de parte de – 🇬🇧 I am writing to you on behalf of
  • 🇪🇸 En relación a… – 🇬🇧 With reference to…
  • 🇪🇸 Lamentamos profundamente – 🇬🇧 We are deeply sorry / It is with great concern
  • 🇪🇸 Lamentablemente – 🇬🇧 Unfortunately
  • 🇪🇸 Tengo el placer de avisarle 🇬🇧 I have the pleasure to inform you
  • 🇪🇸 Me temo que no será posible 🇬🇧 I’m afraid it won’t be possible.
  • 🇪🇸 Agradeciéndole de antemano su ayuda – 🇬🇧 thank you in advance for your help
  • 🇪🇸 Estoy a su plena disposición – 🇬🇧 I am at your full disposal
  • 🇪🇸 Quedo atento/a a su amable respuesta – 🇬🇧 I look forward to your kind reply
  • 🇪🇸 Saludos cordiales – 🇬🇧 Kind greetings
  • 🇪🇸 Atentamente – 🇬🇧 Sincerely yours 

If you feel you wouldn’t know how to use the phrases above intuitively, here is a short email we can use as an example:

Estimado Señor Gonzalez,

En relación a su correo del 8 de agosto, tengo el placer de informarle que nuestra empresa es el fabricante más grande de México en ventanas de techo. 
A pesar de que agradecemos mucho su interés en adquirir nuestros productos, lamentablemente no contamos por ahora con el stock que usted requiere. 
¿Estarían ustedes dispuestos a darnos un par de semanas más para poder despachar su pedido? Estoy a su disposición para conversar todos los detalles. 

Agradeciéndole de antemano su paciencia,

Saludos cordiales

Juan Pérez
Dear Mr. Gonzalez,

With reference to your email from Aug 8th, I am happy to inform you that our company is the biggest manufacturer of roof windows in Mexico. 
Even though we are very grateful for your interest in purchasing our products, we, unfortunately, don’t have enough stock for the moment. 
Would you be willing to give us a couple of weeks to ship your order? I remain at your full disposal to discuss all the details. 

Thank you in advance for your patience

kind greetings

Juan Pérez

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Joanna Lupa
Joanna Lupa
Polish by birth, Chilean by the turns of life. Has spent 20 years in that beautiful South American country working as a language teacher and translator. Has taught Spanish and English to students of all proficiency levels. Passionate about languages, books, and traveling. A mother of 2 trilingual teenagers.

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