In English we use the 'you' form when explaining things and giving examples e.g. 'There are lots of things to see in London for example, YOU could visit the houses of parliament...etc' In Spanish is the 'tú' form used in the same way?

3 Answers 3


You can perfectly say in that case, but it would sound really weird. Instead we would use the impersonal pronoun se, as it sounds a lot more natural. In your example, it would be,

"Hay muchas cosas que ver en Londres. Por ejemplo, se puede (podría) visitar El Parlamento... etc".

As a general rule, we use almost exclusively to (informally) address the person we are talking to, not as an impersonal pronoun. For the latter case we would use se instead. For example,

'Como se puede ver en esta foto...' (As you can see on this picture...)

I hope this cleared up your question.

  • How would I say something which, in English, would use the word "you" several times, such as "You can't write your own name on your own ballot"? I can only guess how to translate "your own name" in that case—"su propio nombre", "el nombre de sí mismo", something else? Apr 10, 2016 at 22:02
  • 1
    I would say "No se puede escribir el nombre de uno (sí) mismo en su propia papeleta" or, you can also use the negative formal (i.e. using usted instead of , su instead of tu, etc,) imperative, "No escriba su propio nombre en su propia papeleta". I guess the native English speakers woud prefer the latter as se is not used, but both of them sound perfectly fine.
    – alfdc80
    Apr 12, 2016 at 8:29

Yes, you could use or vosotros (or usted, or ustedes, or vos) to the same extent you would use you in English.

@alfdc80's answer, albeit correct-ish, overly emphasizes the possibility of using the passive reflective se to turn the verb into an impersonal construct. Many times this creates an unnecessary detachment between the speaker and their audience.

If you want to connect with your audience or whomever you are speaking with, be sure that you can (and are encouraged to) use personal forms in Spanish. If you are talking about abstractions, then go for it and use the passive reflective se.

A more practical example:

  • A friend is going to London and a week and asks advice on what to do. You answer that podrías visitar el Parlamento. (You want to omit the subject every single time that it can be inferred by the termination of the verb and/or the context.)
  • You are having a discussion at work about whether or not certain landmarks in London can be visited. You say that se puede visitar el Parlamento.

It is perhaps worth saying that English does have an impersonal form. We can say 'one can visit'. In fact whenever this seems a reasonable alternative to 'you can visit' then the Spanish 'se puede visitar' seems natural. If not then some form with tu or Usted seems more likely. Note to native Spanish speakers seeking to improve their English: the use of impersonal one is quite old fashioned and unless you are sure it is idiomatic it is best avoided.

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