We've had a question about identifying yourself when initiating a phone conversation, for an informal situation.

But what if you are making a formal call? What if you address the other person formally, e.g. don Roberto or Sr. Rodríguez, and they call you doña Alicia, Señorita Julia, Maestra Conchita, or Señora Álvarez?

I know that it's best to begin with Buenos Días or Buenas Tardes. But then what?

Please answer for both the case in which the person you want to talk to answers the phone, and also the case where a receptionist answers.


1 Answer 1


This depends a lot on the culture, so, as they say, your mileage may vary. For me, using honorifics is mostly out of the question except for señor or señora. Using señorita for unmarried women is still heard of, and there's no suitable neutral replacement equivalent to English Ms. Female kindergarten and primary school teachers are customarily termed señorita but it's mostly by their pupils and their parents. I've never heard don or doña being used in formal calls.

I employ academic titles only in the most formal situations, mostly doctor, arquitecto, ingeniero, profesor and their feminine versions, only when I'm sure that the other person is normally addressed like that and/or insists on it. If not, señor and señora.

If I know the full name, I use it. This I find best if the other person has a very common surname like Pérez, García, López, etc.

I usually begin by saying «Mi nombre es... y estoy llamando desde... Quería/Querría/Quisiera hablar con... ¿Se encuentra él/ella?» or something like that. If I begin formally like that and the other person replies informally (i.e. by calling me by my first name), I tend to switch to the informal register immediately (but that's me and my usual kind of exchange).

If the person I want to talk to picks up the phone and I recognize their voice, I might simply say «¿Hablo con...?» to confirm. If not, I assume some receptionist or secretary is talking to me and proceed as above.

This all applies to calls from my office. I seldom call anyone formally for private purposes. When doing so, I guess I would be leaving out my own identification and just get to the point of asking for whoever it is I want to talk to, or simply state what it is that I want in a conventional polite register («Quisiera averiguar sobre...» or «Llamo para preguntar si sería posible...» or the like).

  • Great start, thanks. Now we need you to use your imagination and tell us how you would do it if you were the older or self-important person who does not introduce himself as Juanito, especially in situations where the two people already know each other. I used to stumble over this when I was making business calls. The relationship was solidly on usted footing, partly because the two parties were of opposite genders. A weekly call was needed for business purposes. I think it's easiest to use one's imagination to write authentic examples if you write a snippet of dialogue. Thanks much. Commented Jun 30, 2019 at 15:38
  • To clarify, you want me to imagine that I'm an older/important person and I prefer to introduce myself formally even though I could afford not to do so, and also even though I personally know the other person. Right?
    – pablodf76
    Commented Jun 30, 2019 at 22:39
  • I got a little confused about the "afford not to do so." Let me start over. Imagine you are writing a screenplay. There are two characters that have to call each other from time to time, sometimes one, sometimes the other. They use usted with each other. One is a woman and the other is a man. Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 21:14

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