Usted and Spanish Formal Commands
Healthcare workers learning Spanish need to get comfortable with Spanish formal commands.
Whether you’re giving hand washing instructions, talking about how to take medications, or simply directing someone to follow you, you’re going to use Spanish formal commands.
Usted is the subject that you use day in and day out with your adult patients. So, usted is the verb form you always want to use with formal Spanish commands as well.
Often times, my students ask me if using commands in Spanish is rude (and they don’t want to sound bossy); but it’s really no different sounding than in English. If you say: “wash your hands for at least 30 seconds”, you’re using a command in English. Unless you have super aggressive tone, no one will interpret that as bossy. This is the same with Spanish. You can use usted commands confidently and not be concerned about offending others. If you feel the need, you can of course always add a “por favor” in there.
Here is our Video Viernes lesson on Spanish formal commands:
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Now let’s get back to hand washing. You can use the verb “lavar las manos” or “lavarse las manos”. Technically, the reflexive form isn’t required, but in practice it’s super common. So how will you use the formal command in Spanish?
- lavar las manos antes de comer (lave las manos antes de comer)
- lavarse las manos después de tocar carne cruda. (Lávese las manos después de tocar carne cruda)
- no lavarse las manos… (No se lave las manos…) REMEMBER: the reflexive pronoun goes before the verb in the negative.
Irregular Spanish formal commands:
Of course there has to be a handful of irregular verbs for every tense. We have a few of the usual suspects with this tense, but honestly there are very few irregulars, most are just based off the yo form of the present tense. Here are a few common irregulars:
- Haber (a form of to be that is usually “there is”) > Haya, no haya
- Ir (to go) > Vaya, no vaya
- Saber (to know) > Sepa, no sepa
- Ser (to be) > Sea, no sea
- Dar (to give) > Dé, no dé
- Estar (to be) > Esté, no esté
Here is a little song we recorded onto Youtube a few years ago for the irregular Spanish formal commands. Some people like it, others think it’s scary :).
Here is a list of verbs that the family medicine residency identified during their conversational practice time:
- Agarrar – grab
- Apretar – squeeze
- Dejar de (verb) – stop (bad habit)
- Doblar – bend
- Empujar – push
- Enseñar / Mostrar – show
- Extender – extend
- Girar – turn
- Hacer gárgaras – gargle
- Jalar – pull
- Mantener el aire – hold your breath
- Moverse – scoot
- Oprimir – press
- Parar de (verb) – stop (action)
- Poner – put
- Provocar – trigger, provoke, cause
- Pujar – bear down
- Respirar profundo – breathe deeply
- Sentarse – sit down/up
- Virarse – roll over