I'm listening to Language Transfer for Spanish and on one lesson he was saying "Lo esperaba" for "You were waiting (formal)" and then the next lesson he was talking about "Usted quemaba (formal)" for "You were burning".

I know the verbs are different but I was wondering about the structure of Usted vs Lo usage.

To be clear; would "Usted esperaba" and "Lo esperaba" be the same thing? Different? Or even possible? Same for "Lo quemaba (la cena)" and "Usted quemaba (la cena)"?

He didn't use all these words but I'm wondering about Lo (formal you) vs Usted. Is one a direct/indirect object and the other a clarifier?

Could I combine the two to make "Usted lo esperaba?"

  • Lo esperaba can also mean: I was expecting it. – Lambie Apr 6 at 21:34

to add to aparente's Answer and make it clearer :

both are correct, but have a different meaning and in english they would be like this :

For esperaba:

"Usted lo esperaba" : you were waiting for Him/Her/It
"Usted esperaba" : you were waiting (for something)

we can also add the reflexive pronoun "se"

"Usted se esperaba": you were waiting (and that's it)

For quemaba :

"usted lo quemaba:" you were burning Him/Her/It
"Usted quemaba:" you were burning (something)
"Usted quemaba:" you were very hot you could burn. (as with a fever)

With the reflexive pronoun "se"

"usted se quemaba" : you were burning (you were the one burning) or (You use to burned yourself)

I think at this point that THESE DON'T HAVE A FORMAL OR INFORMAL speech difference. the only difference is the use of the indicative.

The formality difference lies in the uses of "Tu" and "Usted" where the informal (tu) is not being used.

even "lo esperaba" is already conjugated with the pronoun "Usted" , the real

informal options are :

Without explicit pronoun

Lo esperabas

With the explicit pronoun

Tu lo esperabas
Tu esperabas


Spanish allows one to omit the subject when the context makes things clear. Presumably, the author of your lesson had set up a situation where the subject was clearly implied for the sentence "Lo esperaba." The subject here might have been él (he), ella (she) or usted ([formal] you).

"Lo" isn't a subject pronoun, it's an object pronoun meaning him, it or [formal] you. So, "Lo esperaba" might mean, for example, "You were waiting for him." You are right that it would be formal, in this case -- the informal would have been "Lo esperabas." But in both cases, the subject is omitted, that is, it is implied.

The sentence you constructed, "Usted lo esperaba?" is correct and natural. What we have there is an explicit subject ([formal] you), and an object pronoun. (We would need to see the context to know exactly which English pronoun this "lo" corresponds to.)

  • Well for the "Lo esperaba" it was an exercise of saying a "you were waiting" so not much more there. However the other exercise was a longer sentence that was "he burned the dinner" (Usted quemaba la cena) which got me thinking about the differences of when to use lo and Usted. Thanks for the helpful answer! – George Cavazos Jul 4 '18 at 4:54
  • @GeorgeCavazos - You're very welcome. Each book has its own sequence in how it presents ideas and builds on previous material. I don't know how your book is structured. Perhaps you haven't gotten to the "other" past tense yet. But eventually you will, and when you do, you might want to come back and revisit that exercise. You might decide to choose the other past tense and say, "Él quemó la cena / Quemó la cena." And then, as FGSUZ pointed out, when you get to yet a more advance level, there are more polite ways, involving the passive voice, of ... – aparente001 Jul 4 '18 at 15:08
  • ... talking about the dinner getting burned (presumably by accident). But Rome wasn't built in a day. You will get there. – aparente001 Jul 4 '18 at 15:09

I'm Spanish and I had never seen "Usted quemaba" with that meaning before.

What's more, I can't find any reference to your meaning among the many possible definitions of "quemar" in DRAE. I think it's wrong.


From the comment:

Well the full example sentence in the podcast that was being used was "Usted quemaba la cena"

That changes it all a lot.

It "means" that you're burning the dinner, in the sense that you're "letting the dinner burn". The host is awaiting for the guest before taking the turkey out of the oven. The trkey may burn inside if the guest is too late.

It is a rare sentence though, at least in Spain. It might be common in America.

Personally, I find it a little impolite, because it's blaming the guest for the dinner to be burnt, but the host is actually guilty because he should have got the turkey outside anyways. However, the sentence is very likely to be said in a funny way, joking.

  • Ok. Well the full example sentence in the podcast that was being used was "Usted quemaba la cena" for burning the dinner. I was able to find it in DRAE and SpanishDict but maybe I'm using another website? – George Cavazos Jul 3 '18 at 23:42
  • However, it's not common in Spain either, it might be in America. It's like blaming the guest you didn't take it out of the oven haha. We0d rather say "Se ha quemado la cena". – FGSUZ Jul 3 '18 at 23:45
  • Sorry I didn't provide the full sentence, I didn't think it would change the meaning so much! Thanks. – George Cavazos Jul 4 '18 at 0:01
  • @FGSUZ - Granted, it's not the most common thing I can imagine -- but here are some phrases: Ud. quemaba mucha gasolina así; Ud. quemaba el zacate; Ud. quemaba el incienso; Ud. quemaba la espiral contra zancudos. – aparente001 Jul 4 '18 at 2:20
  • 1
    Not really an answer. What about moving it into the comments section? – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Aug 14 '18 at 7:10

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