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How To Use “Vos” In Spanish: Voseo 101

I was in my new apartment in Panama City, Panama. The newly hired maid walked in with a great big smile and said. "¡Guau, vos sos alto! ¿Cómo te llamás?"

I immediately knew I was going to enjoy her presence in the apartment. I don't know, my opinion the use of voseo just adds a super cool vibe to the Spanish language.

It just screams "Latin" at me and makes me feel like I'm living in the past.

In this article, we will discuss what voseo is, how to use it, where it is used instead of - and where both are used in the same borders.

Table of Contents:

a picture that says "how, when, and where to use Vos in Spanish"

What is “Voseo” And Where Did It Come From?

Vos started to be used in the 5th century during the roman empire. This is because the emperor of that time began saying “Nos” (or “We”) when he would refer to himself.

Think about how we still do this in English - we might start telling somebody about how to do something and we say “Well, what we want to do is find the mean…” even though we mean “what you want to do is find the mean."

So the emperor, and thereafter, the church leaders began to speak in the form of “Us” (Nosotros). As a way to show respect to those church leaders and the emperor, the people began referring to them as vos, meaning you (Plural).

So vos found its way into the language as a way to show extreme respect to the person being spoken to. However, through the centuries vos lost much of its respectful connotation until eventually, it became just another way of saying tú but with a little bit more respect. Pretty nuts right?

How To Use “Vos”

Vos in many places is just a replacement for the personal pronoun tú. So in general you use it when referring to people your own age, friends, family, your spouse, etc.

Let’s take a look at how the vos conjugations work!

How Personal Pronouns Work When Using Voseo

chart showing how to use tu and vos as personal pronouns in spanish

When using vos as a personal pronoun (Ex: You wrote / You know / You tried)

we just replace with vos and that's it! Not too much struggle to be had here.

Vos in the present tense - a little trick for when it gets tricky

So vos in the present tense can be a little tricky at first, but rest assured that it’s not too hard to acquire these conjugations with exposure.

Let’s take a look at a trick that might help you, and how these conjugations look

The Trick To Vos in the Present

Now I assume that if you are looking into voseo, you probably didn’t start learning Spanish yesterday. You probably have been learning for at least a year.

So let me ask you, have you learned about the Castilian vosotros conjugations?

It’s quite probable you have. If you can imagine those conjugations -

take sabéis for example (meaning you know - Plural).

If you subtract the second vowel from a vosotros conjugation, you’ll have the corresponding vos conjugation.

Vosotros sabéis - the last vowel = Vos sabés.

Let’s take a look at a few more examples in the chart below:

a chart comparing tu and vosotros in the present tense

Now, although the vosotros conjugations look similar, maybe you don't know those because since day one you have studied Latin American Spanish.

If that’s the case let’s take a quick look at that chart again, but comparing tú and vos.

a chart comparing tu and vos in the present tense

Explanation if you only know the Tú conjugations:

If it's an IR verb, remove IR and replace it with ÍS (Ex: Escribir = Escribís)

If it's an ER verb, remove ER and replace it with ÉS (Ex: Aprender = Aprendés)

If it's an AR verb, remove AR and replace it with ÁS (EX: Hablar = Hablás)

The Imperative Form (Mood)

Now let’s go over the imperative form. For those who don't know, the imperative mood in English (For example) are words like Run! or Go!

The imperative helps us form commands, or requests. In Spanish of course, this has its own form/conjugation. This is how they compare when we are using and Vos.

a chart comparing tu and vos in the imperative form

What the heck is “sos”?

Sos is one of the really common words that you’ll hear from speakers of voseo and it’s just the replacement for eres (you are).

So for example instead of saying:

Tú eres chistoso (you’re funny) you would say - Vos sos chistoso

How do I learn all of the vos conjugations?

If you are asking yourself this question, good on you! I’m glad you haven’t been scared away. I could show you a few more charts with some other less heard differences - but I won't.

I don't believe in this “showing conjugation charts crap” and I don't want to be the reason you got a headache trying to understand a new concept. If you really want to understand how to use vos in Spanish you should learn these conjugations naturally, aka - acquire them.

Read Argentine stories and authors, and listen to Argentine podcasts and YouTube Channels to learn the conjugations. Acquire these conjugations just as I have and don’t overwhelm yourself. You got this!

Use ChatGPT To Learn Voseo

Another method for learning how to use voseo is by asking ChatGPT questions like "How do I say ... using vos." Or if you would like to learn how a specific conjugation is used with Vos you can say "Give me examples of the Past Progressive conjugation in Spanish using Vos".

Below is an example of me getting information about Voseo with Chat GPT.

example of me using chatgpt to learn about how to use the past progressive conjugation in Spanish with vos

Where Is “Vos” Used?

Vos is used in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Costa Rica.

vos vs tu in spanish (a map of where vos and tu is used)

In some of these countries, it’s a matter of the region you are in. For example in Colombia vos is used in most parts, but co-exists with tú in and outside of those very regions.

How many people use vos?

If Lucas Villar is correct in his calculations, then approximately 22% of all Spanish speakers use voseo instead of tuteo.

Countries Where Both “Vos” And “Tú” Are Used

Costa Rica for example uses both vos and tú, and according to many, the use of tú is on the rise in the tiny country. This can be found happening in Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, El Salvador, and Venezuela, to name a handful.

Should I learn Vos?

The answer depends on your goals. If you want to go to Argentina (for example) and talk more like the average person there, you should definitely learn how to use vos.

Anywhere you go, your use of tú will be understood, so don't worry about that problem. It comes down to - do you want to fit in with users of voseo?

Conclusion: How To Use Vos In Spanish

Voseo comes with its own set of conjugations that are probably easy to explain and learn than the conjugations for Tú.

If you want to learn voseo after looking over this article I recommend you check out some of the works of Argentine or Uruguayan authors, podcasters, or YouTubers so that you can easily acquire the conjugations.

If you came here to learn about voseo for your interest in Argentina, check out this article “The Dialect Of Argentine Spanish” where we go over a ton of super unique words and phrases that are used in Argentina.

Trust me you won't regret it! Have a wonderful morning/evening/night friend, we’ll talk again soon!

~ Benjamin


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