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For example: You are talking to a person who has worked at a company for many years and you want to compliment him by saying "You must be very experienced" or "You must be very talented" or "You must be an expert after all these years"

Google translate gives the following:

Debe ser muy experimentado
Debe ser muy talentoso
Debe ser un experto después de todos estos años

But as I understand it, debe means "ought to" or "should". So the phrase is no longer a compliment. It becomes a command.

I've searched around and I've seen people use "tiene que" in place of "Deber". But as I understand it, "tiene que" means "have to", so this changes the compliment to a requirement.

How can you say the phrases as a compliment?

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    You can find more information in the answers to this question. – Charlie Aug 8 '16 at 15:36
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    You had asked twice already this "does it change if it is "it" and not "you" E.g. Would It must be beautiful become Debe de ser hermoso?" and the answer is no. You must be beautiful=Debes ser hermosa or That lake must be beautiful = Ese lago debe ser hermoso – DGaleano Aug 8 '16 at 20:26
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This is very unusual but I agree with Google Translate this once on the translation but not in what you want to accomplish.

First let me say that I understand the "debe de ser" use as explained in @fedorqui's answer but in Colombia we many times omit "de" and just say "debe ser muy experimentado". This part is where I agree with Translate.

However I'd say that to another person and not directly to the subject especially in a speculative way. i.e talking to his boss or some other coworker I'd say:

Creo que él debe tener mucha experiencia después de todos estos años de trabajo.

Creo que él debe ser muy experimentado después de todos estos años de trabajo.

This is a compliment to the subject but the sentence is directed to someone else.

To say it directly to the subject I would not use the speculative sentence but instead an affirmative one without debe.

Tienes mucha experiencia después de esos años de trabajo. (You are very experienced after all those years of working)

This last one I think is more of a compliment than the other because I'm stating the fact, while using "debe" or "debe de" could have all the other meanings you described in your question.

However since the tile of your question is "using You must be in the context of a compliment" I'd say it like a speculative/question.

Creo que debes ser muy experimentado después de todos esos años de trabajo. ¿Cierto? - I think you must be very experienced after all these years of working. Aren't you?

Creo que debes tener mucha experiencia después de todos esos años de trabajo. ¿Cierto? - I think you must have a lot of experience after all these years of working. Don't you?

I feel like saying it in question form is more polite and would make a better compliment which is what you want to accomplish.

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The suggestions of Google translate are almost fine -they just need de after deber-; also "tiene que" would be correct. Why? Because it uses deber's last meaning:

deber
Del lat. debēre.
(...)
6. tr. U. como auxiliar en las perífrasis, en las que añade una nota de inseguridad o probabilidad al verbo principal. Debe DE hacer frío. Debieron DE salir a pelear.

Which is also explained by the Diccionario panhispánico de dudas:

deber

(...)

\2. Funciona como auxiliar en perífrasis de infinitivo que denotan obligación y suposición o probabilidad:

(...)

b) deber de + infinitivo. Denota probabilidad o suposición: «No se oye nada de ruido en la casa. Los viejos deben de haber salido» (Mañas Kronen [Esp. 1994]). No obstante, con este sentido, la lengua culta admite también el uso sin preposición: «Marianita, su hija, debe tener unos veinte años» (VLlosa Fiesta [Perú 2000]).

That is, it uses the construction deber de to indicate must be. All together, your sentences would be:

Debe de ser muy experimentado

Debe de ser muy talentoso

Debe de ser un experto después de todos estos años

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  • I believe this is too formal. It's OK to treat people in your job as usted? For us in Chile this is discourage as it's not inclusive for older people. Do older people need to be treated differently just because they are older? How does this work in your country? – Vladimir Nul Aug 8 '16 at 16:51
  • @fedorqui does it change if it is "it" and not "you" E.g. Would It must be beautiful become Debe de ser hermoso? – big_smile Aug 8 '16 at 18:33
  • I think the English you must be an expert is not really a supposition as some of those explanations suggest. It seems to me as a personal opinion that we say it as a polite way of saying you are an expert – mdewey Aug 8 '16 at 19:31
  • @mdewey To me you must be an expert is like saying it's important you be an expert. (Taken in the Spanish context.) – Alejandro Aug 8 '16 at 19:33
  • @Ustanak I agree it could be ambiguous. It could be an injunction: you really have to be an expert, or praise: wow, that was really clever, you must be an expert. – mdewey Aug 8 '16 at 20:21
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Tienes mucha experiencia. Eres muy talentoso. Eres todo un experto después de todos estos años.

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    ¡Bienvenida! Intenta dar una explicación a la pregunta más que simplemente traducir, de esta forma ayudarás a la persona que pregunta (y a otros que puedan tener la misma duda) a entender el porqué más que simplemente traducir de forma mecánica. Considera también que puede haber diferencias regionales así que intenta ser genérica o indicar en qué país se acostumbra a decir de tal forma. – Vladimir Nul Aug 8 '16 at 17:06
  • @YaYa Villa does it change if it is "it" and not "you" E.g. Would It must be beautiful become Debe de ser hermoso? – big_smile Aug 8 '16 at 18:33

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