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I understand that usted is used for formal usage.

When conjugating a verb is there a rule for its use? Must it always be used along with the conjugated verb? Or are there any instances where an implied (omitted) usted is appropriate?

  • What do you mean by "conjugated verb"? In Spanish, verbs are always conjugated. – MikMik Jan 17 '12 at 7:37
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    With "usted" you must use the third person singular, so if in a conversation you adress someone using the third person singular you're implying the "usted". I'm not sure if this answers your question. – Laura Jan 17 '12 at 7:54
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    @MikMik, not quite true. The infinitive is an exception. – Peter Taylor Jan 17 '12 at 13:10
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Usted is grammatically third person singular, such a use is called honorific third person. Actually word usted doesn't have to be used, it's enough if you address person directly, but using 3rd person.

Obviously being grammatical 3rd person singular means that the verbs need to be conjugated as 3rd person singular. Also all pronouns must be 3rd person.

Example:

Estimado Señor Lee, le recordamos que las reglas gramaticales exigen conjugación de los verbos.

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    +1. I would add another +1 for the example if I could – MikMik Jan 17 '12 at 12:17
  • Tú irás conmigo/Usted irá conmigo, ¿Fuiste a la fiesta?/¿Usted fue a la fiesta?. Tú eres mi jefe/Usted es mi jefe. Please, don't tell me this is a regionalism!! – Ricardo Jan 17 '12 at 16:02
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Usted needn't always be used directly with a verb; it can also be an object.

Se lo doy a usted.

This means "I give it to you." In this case, of course, doy is conjugated for yo, not for usted, and usted is the indirect object of the sentence.

Estos papeles son de usted.

Here, usted is the object of the preposition de, and the sentence means "These papers are of you" or, more idiomatically, "These papers are yours." Again, son isn't conjugated for usted.

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I think what was being asked was, is it okay to omit the subject usted similarly to omitting other subject pronouns.

Yes, it's often fine to do that, but this subject pronoun is omitted less often than others. Including the optional subject pronoun tends to happen for a couple reasons:

  • to eliminate ambiguity, since the conjugated verb by itself looks/sounds the same as for he/she/it

  • to sound a bit more polite and flowery

Similarly, usted used as an object tends to be omitted a bit less often too. Compare, for example:

Ya te dije.

Ya le dije a usted.

Including "a usted," which is optional (assuming the context has made clear who "le" refers to), softens the statement.

However: if one were to do this in 100% of one's sentences in a particular conversation, one might start to border on sounding obsequious.

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