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English:

I've always thought the Spanish pronoun "su" means "his/hers", as in su perro es grande. Recently though in my language studies, I've noticed "su" being used in the "your" context as in por favor, dame su maleta.

Is this correct or merely an aberration that shouldn't be followed? In my English mind, both sound good, but that has failed me many times already. :)

Español:

Siempre he pensado que el pronombre español "su" significa "his/hers", como en su perro es grande. Recientemente, en mis estudios de la lengua, me he dado cuenta de "su" que se utiliza en el contexto "your" como por favor, dame su maleta.

¿Es esto correcto o simplemente una aberración que no se debe seguir? En mi mente Inglés, tanto suena bien, pero eso me ha fallado muchas veces. :)

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

When you use "usted" to address someone (here implicitly), you need to use the third person singular so the proper pronoun is "su".

Por favor, (dame) tu maleta. (informal)

Por favor, (deme) su maleta. (formal, honorific)

See usted and its usage

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In the second case the verb should also be in third person singular, so it should be deme su maleta. –  rsanchez Jul 29 at 22:16
    
Indeed, thanks. Reply edited. –  jlliagre Jul 29 at 22:25
2  
Usted evolved from 'vuestra merced', which took the third person singular. And the verb forms still are identical to third person singular. The possesive pronoun likewise takes the third person singular form, 'su'. –  Walter Mitty Jul 30 at 1:37
    
Just for the record: Dame su maleta --> "..his/her suitcase". Deme su maleta --> "..your suitcase" –  SysDragon Aug 1 at 11:39

Ah su. Perhaps the most polysemantic word in Spanish for us English speakers alongside se.

su can mean, thanks to our lack of distinction in the second-person and our extra distinction in the third person, any of the following: his, her, its, their, your, or y'all's.

The apparent mixing of second and third persons is because the formal you functions grammatically as third person (compare to in English taking to a judge: "Has Your Honor seen his/her docket for the day?")

If there's a risk of confusion, you might de Vd. instead, but since you're hearing it in a formal command, the presumptive weight is on su==Vd..

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