If you’re meeting new people in a Spanish-speaking country, one of the first things you’ll need to do is introduce yourself and exchange names.
You could be meeting someone casually, in which case, ¿cómo te llamas? will do just fine.
But what about more formal contexts? How do you say “what’s your name” in Spanish, in contexts like these?
Since this context is different, you’re going to need a different opener when asking someone their name in this formal situation.
That’s what this guide is for.
If you’re not sure how to ask a colleague’s name in Spanish, or a person who you don’t know, continue reading to learn how. Since possessive adjectives are crucial for this, I’ll include a quick explanation of why they’re important.
How do you ask “what’s your name” in Spanish, formally?
If you want to ask someone their name in a formal situation, simply use this interrogative sentence:
¿Cúal es su nombre?
If you want to know someone’s surname, simply substitute nombre for apellido:
¿Cúal es su apellido?
And since most native Spanish speakers tend to have two surnames, you might want to ask someone what their surnames are, which we will explain later in this guide.
Possessive adjectives for asking someone’s name
A possessive adjective is a small word that is used to indicate that something belongs to someone.
In English, some of the possessive adjectives you might know include: your, their, her, his, our, etc.
Spanish has its own set of possessive adjectives, which also indicate pertenencia, or that something belongs to someone, but here’s a bit more on the importance of possessive adjectives.
Spanish possessive adjectives are critical in the context of asking someone’s name and must be used, whether that’s an informal situation or a formal one. They’re an essential part of the sentence _¿cúal es su nombre? _and you’ll need to be able to choose the correct possessive adjective when asking this question.
The Spanish possessive adjectives are:
|Spanish possessive adjective||English translation|
If you use the possessive adjective tu, you are using an informal register, which you should reserve for people you know.
For example, if you’re meeting a friend of a friend, you could use this sentence to ask their name:
Hola, ¿qué tal? ¿Cómo es tu nombre?
You might never have to use the possessive adjective mi when asking a question about your own name. But if you lose your memory and can’t remember what you’re called, you might ask your doctor:
¿Cúal es mi nombre?
And the same goes for the possessive adjective nuestro if you ever forget your family name because you’re experiencing amnesia, where you might ask:
¿Cúal es nuestro nombre?
But, as previously mentioned, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever have to use these examples.
Pluralising possessive adjectives: In which contexts is pluralisation required?
It’s important to know that Spanish possessive adjectives can be pluralised.
They are pluralised when complimenting a Spanish plural noun. The reason it’s critical to be aware of this is that you might be asking people for their first and surnames in an informal context.
Here are the pluralised versions of the Spanish possessive adjectives:
|Spanish possessive adjective||English translation|
So, if you wanted to ask a colleague who you know well for the name of someone who has just joined your organization, you can use the plural possessive adjective sus to ask their name:
¿Cuáles son sus nombres?
Note that in this situation, sus means “their” and not “your”.
You might also be in a situation where you need to tell someone your apellidos (that’s surnames) in a formal situation. If you go to register at the bank or at a new doctor’s surgery, you will need to complete a form that might ask for all of your names.
In these contexts, you’ll either see a question on the form or hear the speaker ask:
¿Cuáles son sus apellidos?
Note that this example is strictly used for formal contexts, which is indicated by the possessive adjective sus.
Choose sus if you want to ask someone for all of their names or su if you want to know just their first name.
This is because sus is a plural possessive adjective, and su is a singular possessive adjective.
And keep in mind that when you’re pluralising a sentence, the entire sentence must be pluralised.
So, the word cúal becomes cuales, the verb es becomes son, and the noun apellido becomes apellidos.
Using _vuestros _to say “what’s your name” in Spanish
The possessive adjective _vuestros _can also be used if you want to say “what’s your name” in Spanish formally.
For example, say you’re getting to know your colleagues, you would ask their names by using the following question:
¿Cuáles son vuestros nombres?
Alternative ways to ask for names in Spanish (formally)
One alternative way to say “what’s your name” in Spanish, formally is:
¿Cómo se llama?
Note the use of the impersonal se.
This is used instead of the pronoun te, and shows that this sentence is a formal, usted version.
This sentence literally translates to English as “what do you call yourself?” but the use of the pronoun se makes it appropriate for formal situations.
You can also use the plural version to ask several people what their names are:
¿Cómo se llaman?
You can see that the impersonal se is still included in this sentence, but the difference is the use of the word llaman.
This word is used in formal contexts.
It is the usted plural version and is fine to use if you’re greeting several colleagues for the first time.
In contexts like these, you might say:
Encantado de conocerlos a todos. ¿Cómo se llaman?
Ask native Spanish speakers for their names and start practising
All that’s left is for you to start practicing.
Whenever you meet new people in formal contexts, don’t hesitate to ask their name in Spanish.
The more regularly you use the examples in this article, the more confident you’ll get when asking colleagues or strangers their names.
Don’t forget that usted is a crucial part of the Spanish language. Although it’s not a register that exists in the English language, it’s very important and shows that you respect the people you are speaking to.
Anything I missed?