How do Spanish speakers politely point out that an action is rude or inconsiderate and what do they say (For example, a stranger bumping into me without apologizing, someone in his car aiming his highlights at my place, etc.)

Google Translate says maleducado but is this accurate?

It would be nice to distinguish how and what is said from different regions.

  • 3
    Could you give any example? Also it depends a lot on the relation you have with the other person and if you are answering the rude person or talking about a third person.
    – Miguel
    Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 20:34
  • Calling someone maleducado isnt polite. If someone would call me maleducado I probably would reply with an insult and if things get heated it could end in a fight. How about just "por favor no haga eso por este motivo". "please dont do that for this reason".
    – Pablo
    Commented Mar 15, 2022 at 14:02

3 Answers 3


Maleducado is somewhat extreme, even offensive, means the person has not received the proper education, which implies possible social, cultural, economic issues, family status. I understand the question doesn't refer to social behavior, but whoever uses the term maleducado towards another person indirectly makes it clear that it's he/she who has received a "good education", so it can be interpreted as arrogance.

In particular, I never use this word to indicate someone's fault or error, I find it offensive and classist. Paradoxically, this depends on the "education" each one has received. On the other hand, indicating to someone that he/she is a maleducado doesn't help at all to resolve a problematic or conflictive situation, preferably the fact should be emphasized and not the personality of the person who executes it.

Some alternative words from highest to lowest use:

Juan es un maleducado por hablar con el móvil mientras conversamos
Juan is rude for using the cell phone while we talk

Alternative to the fact: desconsideración
Alternative to the person: desconsiderado (m) o desconsiderada (f)

Juan es un maleducado por burlarse de los mayores
Juan is rude for making fun of the elders

Alternative to the fact: falta de respeto
Alternative to the person: irrespetuoso (m) o irrespetuosa (f)

Juan es un maleducado por subir antes que nadie al autobús
Juan is rude for getting on the bus before anyone else

Alternative to the fact: descortesía
Alternative to the person: descortés (m/f)

Juan es un maleducado por utilizar términos inapropiados
Juan is rude for using inappropriate terms

Alternative to the fact: impertinencia
Alternative to the person: impertinente (m/f)

Juan es un maleducado por comer con la boca abierta
Juan is rude for eating with his mouth open

Alternative to the fact: grosería
Alternative to the person: grosero (m) o grosera (f)

Juan es un maleducado por faltar el respeto a la autoridad
Juan is rude for disrespecting authority

Alternative to the fact: sinvergüenzada (not used) / sinvergonzonería (not used)
Alternative to the person: sinvergüenza (m/f)

Juan es un maleducado por mentir
Juan is rude for lying

Alternative to the fact: descaro
Alternative to the person: descarado (m) o descarada (f)

Juan es un maleducado por no ceder el asiento a una mujer embarazada
Juan is rude for not giving up the seat to a pregnant woman

Alternative to the fact: incivismo
Alternative to the person: incívico (m) o incívica (f)

  • 1
    From your (very good) examples/suggestions, "impertinente" and "incívico/a" would not be used in the rioplatense (and probably wider) variety, in normal speech or writing. In the last example ("incívico") perhaps "desconsiderado/a" (or some expletive) are more frequent.
    – Pablo H
    Commented Mar 15, 2022 at 13:06

maleducado in everyday Spanish means: to have no manners or to be ill mannered, that is, to be rude or impolite. The Spanish meaning comes from how one is raised or brought up.

Fue mal educado. He was brought up with no manners.

An alternative is: malas maneras. Aquella persona tiene malas maneras. That person is rude or has no manners.

One has to be careful because there is a partial false friend with the word educación and education in English as educación can refer to how someone is brought up or raised and education in English does not mean that.

The other answer has some alternatives but I was interested in giving a sort of baseline to the idea.

What you say depends on you. If you say in English, "How rude!", that would be: ¡Qué malas maneras! or ¡Qué mal educado!=

Also in everyday lingo: falta de cortesía is lack of manners, to have no manners. [descortés is a higher register]

In English, inconsiderate is much less heavy that bad mannered.

How inconsiderate of him. ¡qué falta de consideración de su parte! [Collins Dictionary]


I cannot answer about Spanish in general. This topic is perhaps very regional, if you want to know what is really used, as opposed to textbook answers or what appears in film/theatre/books/etc.

In the Rioplatense area, I think the answer is complicated, because you ask for how to politely point out that an action is rude or inconsiderate. :-) I think that, first, a rude or inconsiderate action would be ignored, or rather, tolerated, to some extent. In many cases it is the "perpetrator" the one who apologises when noticing. But, if the action is repeated, or goes too far, or the "victim" is tense for whatever reasons [something common in large dense cities], then the reaction would be more aggressive.

For example,

(When bumped or trodden on)

Che, tené cuidado.
Hey, be careful

Or simply,


(Someone in his car aiming his highlights at my place [?])

Che, las luces.
Hey, the lights.


Che, ¿podés bajar/apagar las luces?
Can you turn down/off the lights?

(That is, something specific to the situation.)

("Che" can be/is replaced by other words depending on the speaker and listener: "Disculpá/Disculpe", "maestro/jefe/etc." [ * ], ... Also, you can add "por favor" (please) at the end. But note that it can be even more aggressive if you add "por favor" and say it with an aggressive tone. Nuances :-) )

[* This one is complicated. Don't use it.]

If you add more situations/scenarios to your question, I'll try to add responses/reactions to them.

Regarding "maleducado", it may be used referring to misbehaving children. But saying "¡Qué maleducado!" (by an adult) to another adult...? I can only imagine a rather posh well-off middle aged or old lady saying that. :-)

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