voseo

Voseo: Where and How it’s Used

You probably already know that Spanish has an informal and a formal “you.” 

However,  isn’t the only informal “you” in Spanish. There’s also vos , which is used as the informal “you” in many regions throughout Latin America.

But don’t panic.

The voseo , or the use of vos, is actually somewhat similar to and often even easier than the tuteo  (use of ).

In this post, I’ll show you where the voseo is used, how it works and where to practice it. 

Contents

Why Bother with the Voseo?

Yes, you’ll be understood everywhere with the tuteo, but that’s no reason to skip out on the voseo. In regions that prefer vos to , doing the same is an easy way to impress the locals. Using the tuteo in inappropriate contexts will immediately out you as a foreigner and in many countries can come across as pretentious.

As you’ll see below, in some areas, the tuteo and voseo are both common but are used in different contexts and with different connotations. In Chile, for example, the pronoun vos is almost exclusively used when trying to offend someone. It’s great to know in case someone spills a drink on you at the club, but not so much if you’re asking someone to go to the club.

It has very few irregular verbs, and outside of Chile, voseo conjugations are only used in the present tense, affirmative command form and sometimes the present subjunctive. This means you can still use your tuteo conjugations for all other tenses and moods!

It may seem hard to believe, but trust us, learning the voseo can actually be kind of fun

Soon enough it’ll be just another “you” in your Spanish toolbox.

Where You’ll Hear the Voseo

The voseo is common in much of Latin America, but let’s cover exactly where.

There are only three countries in which the voseo is used almost exclusively in spoken Spanish: Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina. In these countries, you’ll always be addressed as vos instead of .

The voseo can also be heard in Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and eastern Bolivia, where it often exists alongside the tuteo. In Costa Rica and Nicaragua, you’ll hear the voseo in urban areas, but usted  is the go-to form elsewhere. You’ll also hear the voseo in some areas of Colombia, most notably the Paisa region in the country’s northwest.

The voseo will pop up in small regions of Ecuador, Peru, Cuba and Mexico. If you aren’t sure, it’s probably best to stick to the tuteo until you hear a native speaker do otherwise.

If you’re in the Venezuelan state of Zulia or Panamá’s Azuero Peninsula, you may hear a unique phenomenon in which native speakers use the pronoun vos with vosotros conjugations.

For centuries, the voseo was considered slang instead of just a regional difference, and this is where things get a little tricky. In addition to permanently reducing its prestige, this refusal to formally recognize the voseo took away the opportunity to standardize it, meaning there are some variations. It’s possible that you’ll hear some conjugations beyond the ones that are covered in the post below, especially if you’re traveling in countries where the voseo is only used in certain regions.

How Do Pronouns Work with the Voseo?

Vos is to voseo as is to tuteo. In other words, vos is used in any context where you would normally use .

Vos is also used after prepositions, so para ti (for you) and sin ti (without you) become para vos and sin vos , respectively. This is also true for contigo  (with you), which becomes con vos  in the voseo.

Object and reflexive pronouns remain the same as they are in the tuteo, as do possessive pronouns.

Let’s take a look at a few examples. We’ll review the verb conjugations in a minute, but for now just pay attention to the pronouns in bold.

Vos comés. — You eat.

Lo hicimos para vos. — We did it for you.

Estoy con vos. — I’m with you.

Before we move on, let’s compare these sentences to their tuteo equivalents to get a better sense of the differences:

comes. — You eat.

Lo hicimos para ti. — We did it for you.

Estoy contigo. — I’m with you.

How to Conjugate with Vos in the Present Tense

The present tense is the most common form of the voseo. As usual, we’ll start by dividing our verbs into -ar, -er and -ir verbs.

Type of verbPresent tense vos verb endingExamples (tuteo → voseo)
-ar -ástú hablas (you speak) → vos hablás
tú andas (you walk) → vos andás
-er-éstú comprendes (you understand) → vos comprendés
tú sabes (you know) → vos sabés
-ir-ístú escribes (you write) → vos escribís
tú vives (you live) → vos vivís

Now that we’ve covered regular verb endings, we can move on to the irregular forms. The good news is there are only three.

The most common, ser  (to be), becomes sos  in the voseo, while the other two, ir (to go) and haber  (to have), are the same as they are in the tuteo ( vas and has , respectively).

Keep in mind that this lack of irregularity applies to stem-changing verbs as well. For example, tú dices  (you are), becomes vos decís , while tú puedes  (you can) becomes vos podés .

Summary: Vos Present Tense Conjugation

That was a lot to cover, so to review, here are some of the most common Spanish verbs conjugated in the present tense vos form. 

VerbPresent tense vos conjugation
Hablar (To speak/talk) hablás (You speak)
Jugar (To play) jugás (You play)
Estar (To be) estás (You are)
Trabajar (To work) trabajás (You work)
Pensar (To think) pensás (You think)
Hacer (To do/make) hacés (You do/make)
Poder (To be able to) podés (You can/are able to)
Poner (To put) ponés (You put)
Ser (To be) sos (You are)*
Comer (To eat) comés (You eat)
Ir (To go) vas (You go)*
Sentir (To feel) sentís (You feel)
Pedir (To ask for) pedís (You ask for)
Decir (To say) decís (You say)
Salir (To leave/go out) salís (You leave/go out)

*Irregular forms.

How Do Affirmative Commands Work with Vos?

Affirmative command forms (also known as the affirmative imperative mood) are nearly identical to the present tense. All verb endings are the same, except without the -s at the very end: -ás becomes á, -és becomes  and -ís becomes :

Type of verbAffirmative command vos verb endingExamples
-ar Hablá con él. — Talk to him.
-er Comé un poco más.  — Eat a little more.
-ir ¡Vení acá! — Come here!

Not too bad, right? Even better, there are no irregular command forms in the voseo. The closest thing to an exception is the verb ir  (to go), which simply has no voseo equivalent. Luckily, in just about all contexts where you would otherwise use ir, the versatile verb andar  works just fine.

One more thing to note: if you add an object or reflexive pronoun to the end of the verb, make sure you remove the accent to comply with Spanish accent rules:

¡Lavate las manos! — Wash your hands!

Comprame algo. Buy me something.

Ponete cómodo. — Get comfortable.

Summary: Affirmative Commands with Vos

Here’s a list of commonly used affirmative commands with vos in Spanish.

Affirmative commandEnglish translation
¡Salí!
Leave!
Andá al banco. Go to the bank.
¡Decime! Tell me!
Mandanos algo. Send us something.
Leé el libro. Read the book.
Conseguí mis cosas. Get my things.
¡Corré! Run!
Llamame más tarde. Call me later.
Escuchá. Listen.
¡Aprendé más! Learn more!

The Present Subjunctive and the Voseo

If you’re only looking to learn the standard voseo as it’s used in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, then congratulations! You’ve covered all the rules you need to know. In these three countries, the present subjunctive is almost always the same as it is in the tuteo, so all you have to do is change the pronoun from to vos.

However, in some other regions, you may encounter a different, non-standard form of the present subjunctive in the voseo. The general guidelines for these conjugations are below so you can recognize them, but be aware that they’re highly regional and considered incorrect by the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy)—you may raise some eyebrows if you try to use them in many areas.

Non-standard Present Subjunctive Conjugation

The conjugation follows a relatively simple process:

  • Take the subjunctive of the verb in the tuteo
  • Add an accent to the last syllable
  • In the case of stem-changing verbs, there’ll be a “half” stem change (the stem change is eliminated completely for -ar and -er verbs, but -ir verbs take a special form)

So, for example, let’s take the phrase “I hope you go.” We know the beginning is “Espero que,”  but what about the verb? Ir (to go) is irregular in the present subjunctive and the form is vayas . An accent gets added to the last syllable and the full sentence becomes “Espero que vayás.”

Here are some more vos conjugations of common verbs in the present subjunctive:

VerbPresent subjunctive conjugationPresent subjunctive vos conjugation
Hablar (To speak/talk) hables hablés
Jugar (To play) juegues jugués
Estar (To be) estés estés
Trabajar (To work) trabajes trabajés
Pensar (To think) pienses pensés
Hacer (To do/make) hagas hagás
Poder (To be able to) puedas podás
Poner (To put) pongas pongás
Ser (To be) seas seás
Comer (To eat) comas comás *
Ir (To go) vayas vayás
Sentir (To feel) sientas sintás
Pedir (To ask for) pidas pidás
Decir (To say) digas digás
Salir (To leave/go out) salgas salgás

*This conjugation is also sometimes written without an accent in the vos present subjunctive form (depending on the country or region).

The Chilean Voseo: A Beast of Its Own

As fun as Chilean Spanish may be, irregularity comes with the territory, and the voseo is no exception. If you’re traveling in Chile, you’ll likely hear usages of the voseo that break with the rules outlined earlier.

We’ll give you the basic rundown, but again, these are non-standard forms that the Real Academia Española considers incorrect.

Formality in Chilean Spanish

Before we touch on the conjugations, we need to talk about how and when the voseo is used in Chile.

Chilean Spanish employs four basic levels of formality:

Level of formalityExplanation
1. Vos pronoun + voseo conjugationThis is considered very rude and should only be used when trying to insult someone.
2. pronoun + voseo conjugationThis is one of the most common forms that is mostly heard among friends and in informal situations.
3. pronoun + tuteo conjugationThis is used among people who don’t know each other well and in somewhat formal situations.
4. Usted pronoun + usted conjugationThis is used in formal situations.

One last thing to note is that Chileans use the voseo almost exclusively in speech, so you’re unlikely to see it in many written contexts.

Non-standard Conjugations You’ll Encounter in Chile

Regular present tense verbs are easy to conjugate: -ar verbs take the ending -ái, while -er and -ir verbs take . Note that although they are vos conjugations, they are most commonly used with the pronoun .

Type of verbPresent tense Chilean vos verb endingExamples (tuteo → Chilean voseo)
-ar -áitú hablas (you speak) → tú hablái
tú andas (you walk) → tú andái
-ertú comprendes (you understand) → tú comprendí
tú sabes (you know) → tú sabí
-irtú escribes (you write) → tú escribí
tú vives (you live) → tú viví

Like the standard voseo, the Chilean voseo only has three irregular verbs in the present tense: ser  ( tú soi or tú erís ), ir ( tú vai ) and haber ( tú hai ).

Though Chilean Spanish doesn’t use the voseo for affirmative commands, it does for the future tense. When speaking in the voseo, Chileans often replace all future tense endings with . Instead of cocinarás  (you will cook), for example, it would simply be cocinarí . You may also hear the voseo in the conditional and imperfect forms, including the imperfect subjunctive.

Because the present subjunctive maintains the irregularities of the tuteo in the same way that it does in the standard voseo, we can identify a three-step process:

  • Take the subjunctive of the verb in the tuteo
  • Change the -ar verb ending to -ís and the -er/-ir ending to -ái
  • With a stem change, reduce it to a “half” stem change if it’s an -ir verb and eliminate it completely if not
VerbPresent subjunctive conjugationPresent subjunctive Chilean vos conjugation
Hablar (To speak/talk) hables hablís
Jugar (To play) juegues juguís
Estar (To be) estés estís
Trabajar (To work) trabajes trabajís
Pensar (To think) pienses pensís
Hacer (To do/make) hagas hagái
Poder (To be able to) puedas podái
Poner (To put) pongas pongái
Ser (To be) seas seái
Comer (To eat) comas comái
Ir (To go) vayas vayái
Sentir (To feel) sientas sintái
Pedir (To ask for) pidas pidái
Decir (To say) digas digái
Salir (To leave/go out) salgas salgái

Once again, that process is mainly for you to recognize as it’s only used in specific regional contexts.

Where to Practice the Voseo

Though the voseo may seem a bit complicated, it gets infinitely easier with practice. To help you out as you get accustomed to the rules above, here are a few resources you can use to master it.

  • Spotify: Plenty of music exists from artists who use the voseo. You can usually find some songs on the Argentinian, Paraguayan or Uruguayan Top 40, but we made a playlist with some of our favorites to spare you the trouble. Songs are sorted by genre, so click around until you find something you like.
  • Netflix: There are some great Argentinian shows that heavily feature the voseo, such as “Estocolmo” (“Stockholm”) and “El marginal” (“Marginal”). This is an incomplete list, of course, so we recommend taking a look around to see what else you can find from regions that use voseo!
  • YouTube: Many voseo-using countries don’t have a very heavy media presence, so YouTube is a great way to overcome that. Germán Rodezel is a popular Costa Rican YouTuber and Desoxigenados is a popular Paraguayan channel.

 

Daunting as it may feel to have to master an entirely new set of conjugations, the voseo is an incredibly important part of the Spanish language in many countries that teachers of the language neglect more often than not.

Learning the voseo goes a long way toward gaining the respect of Spanish speakers from regions where it’s used, and it’s a great way to distinguish yourself from other Spanish learners. You can Using an immersive resource like FluentU is a great way to hear from regions that use and don’t use the voseo.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

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So keep learning! You’ll be a master of the voseo in no time.

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