Formal

Formal

We could say that Spanish is quite a "direct" language in terms of formalities. If we compare it to other languages like English for example, Spanish day to day conversation doesn't include as many formal words or structures as English does. This doesn't mean that Spanish people are rude, but it is just a cultural thing.

However, we do have some formulas if you want to add an element of politeness/formality. 

Using "por favor"

For example, adding the words "por favor" and "gracias" to any request is a first step to add politeness, whichever sentence you've used for your request. 

¿Puedes darme mi chaqueta?
 Can you give me my jacket?

¿Puedes darme mi chaqueta, por favor?
 Can you give me my jacket, please?

By simply adding "por favor" you are adding politeness to the sentence. 

 

Using verbs in the 3rd person singular

Another way of adding politeness to your sentences is using the 3rd person singular conjugation of the verb (as if using "usted") instead of using the 2nd person singular (as if using ""). See the difference between these two sentences:

¿Puedes darme mi chaqueta?
 Can you give me my jacket?

¿Puede darme mi chaqueta, por favor?
Can you give me my jacket, please?

By changing the "puedes" to "puede" you would be adding politeness to your request. And of course you can always add "por favor" as well.

 

Using the conditional tense

One way of stepping up in politeness is using the conditional tense:

¿Puede darme mi chaqueta, por favor?
Can you give me my jacket, please?

Podrías darme mi chaqueta, por favor?
Could you give me my jacket, please?

Podría darme mi chaqueta, por favor?
Could you give me my jacket, please?

Bear in mind that using this type of structure using the conditional in a friendly conversation with someone you know well would not be appropriate, instead it would seem odd. This is used in very formal situations and/or with people you do not know.

 

Using certain formal phrases

Another way to make sure you sound very formal if that is your style, you can start requests with "Te/le importa..." or even more formal "Te/le importaría..."

¿Te importa bajar el volumen?
Do you mind turning the volume down?

¿Le importaría si subo el volúmen? 
Do you mind if I turn the volume up?

There are more words that help with politeness in Spanish in general, for example, perdón/ perdone /disculpa/disculpe.

Perdón, ¿la Avenida Zaragoza, por favor?
Excuse me, Avenida Zaragoza, please?

Perdone, ¿hay una farmacia por aquí?  
Excuse me, is there a chemist around here?

Disculpa, no te había visto.
Sorry, I didn't see you.

Disculpe, ¿me presta su bolígrafo?"
Excuse me, may I borrow your pen?

 

 

 

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