I am practicing using memrise. In this site, the following means: "Are you ready to order?"

¿Están listos para pedir?

However, as far as I know, "están" refers to they and I argue that the correct sentence should be

¿Estás listo para pedir?

Can someone help?

6 Answers 6


The sentence given by memrise is correct, since the implied subject is "ustedes." Think of the case where a waiter was asking a group of patrons at a restaurant. I'm assuming your confusion is simply due to the fact that English does not distinguish between you (singular) and you (plural).

A note - Your suggested sentence is grammatically incorrect; if you wanted to address this question to just one person, it should be "¿estás listo para pedir?" with the implied subject "tú."

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    English does distinguish, though modern English doesn't distinguish them in all dialects (but words like y'all, youse, yinnz are alive and well) Oct 31, 2016 at 11:38

Bear in mind that a question like

Are you ready to order?

depends heavily on the context when translating into Spanish, as there are four possible ways to translate it:

  • ¿Estás listo/a para pedir? (informal, "you" as "tú" or "vos")
  • ¿Está listo/a para pedir? (formal, "you" as "usted")
  • ¿Estáis listos/as para pedir? (informal, "you" as "vosotros")
  • ¿Están listos/as para pedir? (formal, "you" as "ustedes")

So both you and memrise (given that there is no context) are right. You have more information in this question (in Spanish).

  • 1
    I hope my edits weren't too intrusive, if so, feel free to roll them back. Oct 31, 2016 at 16:25
  • 1
    @guifa I wouldn't dare to roll back an edition of yours, sir!
    – Charlie
    Oct 31, 2016 at 16:27

The simple answer is "está listos para pedir" is not correct. "Está" is more like the formal form of "he" so the sentence makes no sense with "listos" which is a plural form.


In Spanish, If you say “¿están listos para pedir?”, the implicit subject has to be “ellos”, “ellas” or “ustedes”. If you say “¿estáis listos para pedir?” the implicit subject has to be “vosotros” “vosotras”. That is in a plural form. If you use a singular form “¿está listo para pedir?”, the implicit subject has to be “usted” o “él” o "ella" Saying “¿estás listo para pedir?”, the implicit subject has to be only “tú” . “Usted”,” ustedes” are the same as “you” in English when you address to a person in an official o respectful manner and you use “tu”, “vosotros” when you are talking to someone of the same age, the same rank or the same education level.


Upfront admission: I'm just a novice at Spanish like you, so don't take my answer as any authority whatsoever...

But I did often see "you" translated two different ways in sentences when practicing cards in Anki as well... and it certainly confused me too. Such as ...

¿Estás listo para pedir?


¿Está listo para pedir?

As far as I've come to understand it, the primary difference stems from formality. The first form, estás, is the friendly\casual version of you, the second form, está, is the respectful version of you. You'd use the respectful form in specific social situations, such as if you're a child, if you're in a position of submission, or if in formal settings. So maybe consider it a bit like how we are comfortable using certain voices, contractions, phrases only in certain situations in English.

As Emily noted, están would indeed be to a group of people. However I'm pretty sure you still use it to mean a subject of what we might colloquially say in English as you all. It definitely works in polite settings, such as when addressing a gathering with ¿como están?.

Then, as Carlos noted, the vosotros form (estáis), where used (mainly in Spain and parts of South America?) comes in when less formal. I believe (and please someone correct me if I'm wrong!) that estáis is mostly the informal version of you all.

Such that the real direct comparisons informal to formal comparisons are:

estás -> está (single person) and
estáis -> están (multiple people)

In those places where vosotros is used. But I did come into this question thinking that in vosotros-less places, estás could work for a less formal version of you all, but it appears I've learned something from the other answers!

Regardless, it boils down a lot to formality\politeness regardless.

Suffice to say, I sure find learning Spanish pretty complex too. It probably has a bit more complicated regional variability than English has. But it also is a bit more consistent and reliable at some things (pronunciation\spelling, grammar). But slowly but surely it does get better, through all the mistakes and errors. Persistence friend!


In Spanish, as a form of respect, the third person is used, instead of the second person.

First person is me or we (yo o nosotros), second person is the person I'm speaking to ( o vosotros), third person is someone that is not here, and I'm speaking about (él o ellos).

The waiter shows respect to the people he's speaking, that's why instead of using the (¿Estáis listos?), 2nd person that can be used between friends, uses the more respectful 3rd person form (¿Están listos?).

Note that when you use this form of respect, you can't say "Él" or "Ellos" to the person/s you're talking to, you need to use "Usted" for singular or "Ustedes" for plural. So the waiter could also say "¿Ustedes estan listos?".

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