I was speaking to a woman from Mexico in English about Spanish. I said to her something like "I see a lot of Spanish sign advertising using second person familiar, she didn't know what I meant. When I said tu, she did. What is the word or phrase for "second person familiar" in Spanish? More generally, how are the conjugations said in Spanish. When I took Spanish decades ago in English it was:

first person
second person familiar 
second person formal and third person
first person plural
second person familiar plural
second person formal plural and third person plural

I would imagine the phrase would only be used in classes teaching Spanish grammar to Spanish speakers.

  • Can you provide more context? A part of a phrase?
    – Schwale
    Dec 16, 2015 at 20:30
  • Te refieres a los pronombres? Yo, tu, el, nosotros, vosotros, ellos? Dec 16, 2015 at 20:45
  • @Subjunctive, I've clarified.
    – curt
    Dec 16, 2015 at 21:18
  • 2
    When you asked your friend about "la segunda persona singular informal", probably your friend gave you a "what are you talking about?" look. I believe that was the situation. That's because that definition -however proper- it's kind of intermediate grammar level, and not all of us will recognize it right away. After you told her "tu", she immediately knew what you were talking about. As the average native language speaker -any language-, we can talk more or less properly (depends on education, I believe), but not all of us know the grammar rules as well as these wise guys here ;)
    – Delonix R.
    Jul 28, 2016 at 16:45

3 Answers 3


If I'm understanding you correctly, and you're just wanting to the grammatical term for (rather than the actual word used), then it's segunda persona singular informal. In total you have:

  • yo: primera persona singular
  • nosotros: primera persona plural masculino o mixto
  • nosotras: primera persona plural femenino
  • vos: segunda persona singular informal o reverencial
  • : segunda persona singular informal o de formalidad intermedia
  • usted: segunda persona singular formal
  • vosotros: segunda persona plural informal masculino o mixto
  • vosotras: segunda persona plural informal femenino
  • él: tercera persona singular masculino
  • ella: tercera persona singular femenino
  • ello: tercera persona singular neutro
  • ellos: tercera persona plural masculino o mixto
  • ellas: tercera personal plural femenino

You can prefix all of these with "pronombre de" if you feel the need to be more specific. You can also use de tratamiento informal/familiar/cercano instead of just informal, and de tratamiento de respeto/cortesía/distanciamiento instead of just formal.


Well, there are variations in the Spanish spoken in different Spanish-speaking countries (The same way that there are differences in English, for example with the words centre and center or different meanings for smart).

So of course we have 1st, 2nd and 3rd person, singular and plural. Basically: yo, tú, el/ella, nosotros, vosotros, ellos. Oh, well, there is another one, which may make things a little bit confusing, usted/ustedes, which is the formal way of addressing someone (a 2nd person). The only tricky thing about it is that for verb conjugations it will use the 3rd form instead of 2nd, even if it is a 2nd person form.

But, why that woman had never heard of ? Well, among some of these variations of Spanish they don't use or vosotros. See this reference for a basic look into this.

Some of the countries use voseo so instead of saying "eres muy amable" would say "Sos muy amable", using "vos" instead of ("Vos sos muy amable").

Some other countries would even use sois, like "sois muy amable", with sois being a 2nd person singular form even when for another Spanish would be plural.

Vosotros sois muy amables.

Some countries favor the use of the ustedes form for 2nd person. For example, a teacher in Spain would ask her students

Niños, qué veis aquí?

But a teacher in Mexico would say

Niños, qué ven aquí?

Again, the usted form uses a 3rd person conjugation.

So, this is not to give you a complete insight about all the differences and/or all the variations, but just to tell you that these variations exist, and thus some countries don't use because the favor usted or vos (and maybe use a particular conjugation for it).

  • That said, I'd be very surprised that any Spanish speaker wouldn't be familiar with the word , even in voseante regions. Dec 16, 2015 at 21:08
  • @guifa, I agree. My understanding from the question is that the OP must have used a 2nd person verb conjugation and being told that they don't use that form there.
    – Diego
    Dec 16, 2015 at 21:11

If you mean informal you (tú) as opposed to formal you (usted), I don't remember ever making the difference explicit except for some expressions like tuteo or tutearse (I never heard an equivalent of tuteo for usted, maybe it's something like ustedeo), or tratar de usted vs tratar de tú (use the tú conjugation vs the usted conjugation). Here's an example:

A: ¿Me puede usted decir la hora?

B: Las seis... pero no hace falta que me trates de usted.

A: De acuerdo, te tutearé entonces.

However, we don't use the word 'familiar' to refer to the pronoun tú, maybe that's what confused her.

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