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What is the best informal imperative form for saying Be Quiet! or Hush! e.g. to a small child or pet?

A friend of mine said ¡Callado! would work, not sure about that or ¡Cállate! (which I guess means "shut up").

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Calla and cállate, as well as (estate) callado will work, meaning exactly shut up and be quiet.

Also silencio, and the shush shhh. And maybe chitón.

Any of these will work for adult the same as for children. I don't know of any words specifically for children.

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    Good answer. I would add "chisst" to that list, to chistar somebody to be quiet.
    – Diego
    Oct 31 '14 at 16:24
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If you go for singular:

Calla. Cállate.

as you suggested. If you go for plural:

Callaos.

but I would not consider that informal. I'm unsure if culturally is considered less rude than in English to tell somebody to shut up. Also I think that many people use wrongly the imperative in Spanish (I mean, native Spanish Speakers), using the infinitive instead of imperative when referring to the plural (e.g. vamos, comer, instead of vamos, comed). I can confirm that your friend is wrong when suggesting callado. That is the participle and not the imperative. Would only work if you say

Estate callado, por favor.

But the is estar what is in the imperative form.

To answer your question, for a kid I would use the Estate callado, por favor form (you want to teach them manners, after all). For a pet, I would probably go with just chisst!! or calla.

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  • You don't have to be close-minded about language. "Callado" would work just fine, even if it isn't the actual imperative form. Also, suggesting a native speaks their own language incorrectly is a very bold claim (and normally can't be sustained)
    – clinch
    Oct 31 '14 at 18:33
  • I Strongly disagree on both things. I'm a native speaker and I would never use "callado". I would either use "estate callado" or "calla/cállate". I have never heard it being used as imperativo. Second, people make mistakes when they talk. I have heard many of those "patadas al diccionario" in both countries. I have heard some native speakers saying in English "He don't" for example. Trust me, I have heard people use infinitive to express a command many many times.
    – Diego
    Oct 31 '14 at 19:28
  • Is there a difference between countries? (Spain / Mexico / Caribbean / South America) My friend is Mexican-American and grew up at various times on both sides of the border.
    – Jason S
    Oct 31 '14 at 19:29
  • @Diego No, I think you misunderstood my comment. I do believe you when you say people use the infinitive. I'm saying it's wrong to say that it's incorrect. The other answer here seems to suggest callado is a possibility, and seems to be made a native.
    – clinch
    Oct 31 '14 at 19:52
  • @JasonS, I'm pretty confident that we use the imperative the same way at both sides of the pond.
    – Diego
    Oct 31 '14 at 19:52
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If you want to be more polite you can also say:

Guarda silencio por favor.

which would translate to

Keep quiet please.

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"Callate" or "Callate la boca" in Mexico are equal to "shut up" or "shut your mouth"in the US. Calla is softer, more like "Hush!" or "Quiet!" in the US.

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