Estaba ardiendo en dudas cuando una secretaria me invitó a seguirla por la misma puerta del fondo, hasta una oficina pequeña, con una larga estantería de gruesos volúmenes. Un beduino colosal se levantó en el escritorio del fondo y me estrechó la mano tuteándome con una efusión de viejo amigo. Hicimos juntos el bachillerato, me dijo, a modo de saludo.

From Gabriel García Márquez, "Memorias de mis putas tristes".


I was burning with doubts when a secretary asked me to follow her through the same door in the rear, into a small office with long bookshelves that held thick volumes. A colossal Bedouin at a desk on the far side of the office stood and shook my hand, calling me _ tْ __ with the effusiveness of an old friend. We were in secondary school together, he said by way of greeting (Grossman).

I do not understand what the meaning of "tuteándome" in the first paragraph is, whereas the second one does not seem to give a clear translation of it. Any ideas?

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    now that you've got your answer: I'll say that even though some of the subtlety of the meaning in English may be lost in this translation, the point is still carried forward in the context of the whole sentence by interpreting "tuteándome con una efusión de viejo amigo" as "greeting me with the effusiveness of an old friend," in English. – Gabriel Staples Jul 6 '16 at 0:58
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    In films translated into Spanish, often the characters use "usted" or "Mr. Something" until one of them says, i.e., "llámame Sam". Then they start using "tú". Sometimes, they even translate the "call me Sam" as "puedes tutearme" instead of "llámame Sam". – MikMik Jul 6 '16 at 9:25

It is the gerund conjugation of verb "tutear", which is "tuteando", plus the personal pronoun "me". "Tutear" means to treat someone with the colloquial singular 2nd person "tú" particle, instead of the alternative formal one "usted". As there is not such difference in English, there is not a concrete translation.

Then, "me estrechó la mano tuteándome[...]" would mean something like "he shook my hand treating me informally (using "tú" instead of "usted")[...]".

  • Thank you for your quick answer. Is this mostly colloquial Spanish? By the way, I do not find tutear in my Spanish dictionary. – codezombie Jul 5 '16 at 20:53
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    No, it's not colloquial. It's a standard Spanish term. It is in wordreference.com, my go-to dictionary of choice for Spanish and French (wordreference.com/es/en/translation.asp?spen=tutear) and it is also found in the Royal Spanish Academy's dictionary, which is the standard for the Spanish language in Spain (dle.rae.es/?id=azNQE9X). – Gabriel Staples Jul 6 '16 at 0:24
  • @JasonStack the closest equivalent in English which has lost the T-V distinction (it used to have it with thee being the informal tone and you the formal) is calling someone by their name (e.g. John) as opposed to last name (e.g. Mr Jones). Tutear isn't colloquial at all, it's simply informal. – terdon Jul 6 '16 at 11:30

I think the most accurate yet outdated translation of tutear would be to call thee.

As Gabriel Staples said in his comments, in Old English they had two words: thou (second person, singular informal) and ye/you (second person, plural or formal singular). The word thou was declined this way:

thou         Nominative
thee         Oblique
thy/thine    Genitive
thine        Possesive

So the informal way to address someone was thou or thee, a form that has reached our days in formal religious contexts or in literature that seeks to reproduce archaic language. The word you was reserved to address a superior person. Although very rare, the use of "thou/thee" as a verb appeared in the English language. Two examples mentioned in the Wikipedia are:

I thou thee, thou traitor! (¡Yo te tuteo, traidor!)

Don't thee me, thee; I'm you to thee! (¡Tú, no me tutees, para ti soy "usted"!)

As time went by, the form you replaced almost every use of thou. So now it is very hard to find a proper translation of tutear in English. As others said, the verb just expresses that someone is addressing other person with familiarity.

  • Had never heard of thou as verb, very interesting examples, though I don't yet know what they mean :) – codezombie Jul 6 '16 at 9:14

As I am not a native English speaker, I am not sure whether this translations would help to understand the situation.

A colossal Bedouin at a desk on the far side of the office stood and shook my hand, calling me by my first name with the effusiveness of an old friend.

Though you are adding information not provided by the narrator. Maybe,

A colossal Bedouin at a desk on the far side of the office stood and shook my hand, addressing me in familiar terms with the effusiveness of an old friend.

Or you could simply use the Spanish word, not hiding that this is a meeting between Spanish speakers.

A colossal Bedouin at a desk on the far side of the office stood and shook my hand, addressing me as with the effusiveness of an old friend.

Please, tell us what (if any) of the translations sounds good to you.

  • Good point, on using tu as is, thanks. All of your translations look good, but what do you mean by first name – codezombie Jul 6 '16 at 9:03
  • The given name or Christian name (in Spanish, nombre de pila). I believe using the first or last name with somebody is similar to tutear or tratar de usted. Am I wrong? – cdlvcdlv Jul 6 '16 at 9:10
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    I hope I made clear the "first name" issue. Remember that you can edit your comments during 5 minutes after you add them. – cdlvcdlv Jul 6 '16 at 9:18
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    I do not agree with @cdlvcdlv as there is not a necessary connection between "tú/usted" and using first or last name. Moreover, it is not unusual to use a friend's last name when you refer to him/her. – Jalo Jul 6 '16 at 11:33
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    I said it was similar. I believe that, in a formal context like this, if an English speaker is called by her first name by someone he has never seen (or he believes so) the impression would be more or less that of a Spanish speaker of being tuteado by a stranger. But, as I said, I am not a native English speaker and social interactions are subtle. – cdlvcdlv Jul 6 '16 at 12:05

In answer to your comment, it is undoubtedly a more colloquial Spanish using "tú" instead of "usted". However, and depending on the country, it has different connotations. In the case of Spain, it is widely spread the use of "tú", even in quite formal contexts, especially between the youth and adults who are not very old. However, in South America they use "usted" much more, being in some countries almost inexistent the word "tú" in most contexts

About the dictionary, I ussually use this one for translating to English, and works in the other direction though.

I hope it helps.

  • Thank you it absolutely helps. The dictionary also is a good one and has the word "tutear". – codezombie Jul 5 '16 at 21:07
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    @JasonStack As a rule of thumb (and depending on the country -I think Colombia is a big exception to this) you are more likely to say usted to someone you owe more respect (e.gr. because of older age), or distance (e.gr., someone you have just met and seem to have little in common). In turn you would probably tutear people you know more or have more in common. Also younger generations tend to use a lot more than the older: my dad used to call usted to his father, but I'd never do that. – Rafael Jul 5 '16 at 22:35

"tuteándome" is not really used in English since you do not have two different ways to say "you". In Spanish when you owe respect or you hardly know someone you would say usted and when you are familiar to some one or very friendly you would say "tú". So if some one is "tuteando" it means he is treating you in a very familiar or friendly way as if he has known you for a very long time.

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    Sort of not true. In modern day English we have only "you" for the singular or plural 2nd person personal pronoun. In Shakespearean English (ie: early modern English), however, we have "thou" for the singular informal 2nd person (equiv. to the Spanish "tú"), & "ye" for the plural informal 2nd person (equiv. to the Spanish "vosotros"), and "you" for the formal 2nd person sing. (equivalent to the Spanish "usted") or formal plural (I believe) (equiv. to the Spanish "ustedes"). See here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ye_(pronoun) & here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Modern_English#Pronouns – Gabriel Staples Jul 6 '16 at 0:40
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    Notice that these "extra" personal pronouns in English also have different conjugations. Ex: Art thou hungry? (Are you hungry?) Where walkest thou? (Where are you walking?). These archaic English forms are very commonly found and used in scriptural texts such as the King James version of the Bible, and the Book of Mormon. For those readers who understand these personal pronouns, more meaning can be obtained, just as is available in Spanish via the differences between tú/usted, and vosotros/ustedes. – Gabriel Staples Jul 6 '16 at 0:45
  • Thank you @GabrielStaples, very interesting and insightful tips. – codezombie Jul 6 '16 at 4:41

As a small addendum I will say that in Argentina "tú" is not used; "vos" is the colloquial second person pronoun. Even in that case the verb "tutear" (strangely) means to use "vos", that is, the informal pronoun. "Vosear" is not unheard of, but very rare.


As several people have pointed out in standard English (whatever that is) we only have one word for the second person singular and plural, familiar and formal. However we do have ways of getting round this.

If you go into an expensive restaurant/hotel/bar/shop the staff will address you as sir or madam but if you go into a less refined place they may well use some form of endearment to emphasise that we are all social equals here. These vary hugely as a function of the region and the respective sexes of the people involved but I am not surprised to be asked 'What are you having dear/love/darling?' depending. Between men the use of 'mate' is quite common although I would not expect bar staff to call me that. In the context of the original question it might work though - he started calling me mate.

Interestingly we have a much more widespread way of dealing with the lack of a familiar plural second person. I think this has come from North America but it is quite common to hear the phrase 'you guys' or even 'guys' where peninsular Spanish might have vosotros or vosotras.

Needless to say using these even for native speakers is fraught with problems of getting the wrong tone and offending people so unless you are confident of the situation you might want to avoid them. I should also add that I am referring here to the English spoken in England, other dialects will differ,

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    Funnily, nowadays it is common in some new companies like low-cost airlines, to address customers as , so that they look cooler and closer to the passengers. – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Jul 7 '16 at 12:48

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