What is Voseo in Spanish And How Can I Use It?

voseo-in-spanish

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Voseo in Spanish (or vos) is simply, an alternative way to express the second person singular, in addition to tú & usted.

That’s right – there are three ways to express “you” in Spanish.

For example:

  • You must arrive earlier –  debes llegar más temprano
  • You are a very good teacher – Usted es una profesora muy buena
  • You are my best friend – Vos sos mi mejor amigo

Each form is used differently, depending on your relationship with the person you are speaking to, whereas in English, we use “you” regardless of whether we are talking to a group of people, our boss or our best friend.

Wait, Voseo vs Vos, what is the difference?

When we mention voseo or vos, we are talking about the same thing – voseo being the name of this concept, whereas vos is the actual personal pronoun used. Likewise, though it’s not as commonly heard, the use of  is known as tuteo.

What is Voseo?

This refers to the use of the personal pronoun vos as a substitute for , when talking with friends and family (i.e informally).

It’s debatable which countries use vos, but in general, you’re more likely to hear vos than in Argentina and Chile, as well as some other parts of Latin America. It’s rare that you will hear it in Spain – instead you’ll hear and usted.

When to choose: , vos and usted?

The general rule is:

1) Tú and vos are informal pronouns that are interchangeable, and used with:

  • Family and friends
  • Peers
  • Pets (for all animal lovers that enjoy talking to their pets)

2) Usted is formal, and used with:

  • Elders
  • Strangers or people you are not familiar with
  • People held in high status (e.g your boss)
  • Parents or in-laws: In some Latino families, it is a tradition to use this pronoun with parents, as a sign of respect

How is Voseo Conjugated?

For most tenses or moods, you can use personal pronoun vos with the conjugation of the verb.

However, there are three different instances that require a dedicated voseo conjugation.

Below, you can see each of these forms, along with the conjugation to see how it differs.

1) Simple present tense

  •  You can – Tú puedes – Vos podés

2) Imperative (affirmative)

  • (You) come here! – Tú ven – Vos vení

3) Certain subjunctive forms

  • When you sing everyone will hear – Cuando cantes todos oirán – Cuando vos cantés todos oirán

Like we said, the good news is that for all other tenses or moods, you can use vos with the tú conjugation.

(Ps, make sure to read our previous posts on the Imperative and subjunctive mood)

In the next section, we will cover the basic rules for conjugating voseo in the forms we mentioned.

1) Voseo: Simple Present Tense Conjugation

AR Verbs: drop ar and add ás ending to the stem

Verb ending Verb Conjugation English
-AR Viajar viajás You travel
Amar amás You love
Nadar nadás You swim

-ER Verbs: drop -er and add -és to the stem

Verb ending Verb Conjugation English
-ER Beber bebés You drink
Correr corrés You run
Leer leés You read

-IR Verbs: drop -ir and add -ís to the stem

Verb ending Verb Conjugation English Equivalent
-IR Vivir vivís You live
Dormir dormís You sleep
sonreír sonreís You smile

Remember – in the voseo form, the accent is in the second syllable, whereas in the form the first syllable is stronger. This implies that even the spelling is pretty similar, the pronunciation is notably different.

In most tenses, using vos as a substitute for  does not require you to change the conjugation of the verb. Instead, you simply replace the preceding pronoun with vos.

For example:

Tense Vos English Equivalent
Past Simple (Tú) comiste ayer (Vos) comiste ayer You ate yesterday
Imperfect (Tú) estudiabas mucho (Vos) estudiabas mucho You used to study a lot
Simple Future (Tú) viajarás mañana (Vos) viajarás mañana You will travel tomorrow

(as mentioned, the two exceptions to this rule are: simple present conjugation and imperative mood conjugation)

Irregular verbs conjugated in vos form have more of regular verbs conjugation, since the stem doesn’t always change as it does with the verb conjugated in .

Let’s see this comparison in the following chart.

Verb Vos
Jugar jueg – as jug – ás
Tener tien – es ten – és
Dormir duerm – es dorm – ís

There are only three irregular verbs in the present tense, and these are:

  • Ser (to be)
  • Ir (to go)
  • and Haber (to have).

Let’s see how they are conjugated in both the  and vos form.

Verb Vos English Equivalent
Ser (Tú) eres (Vos) sos You are
Ir (Tú) vas (Vos) vas You go to
Haber (Tú) has (Vos) has You have

2) Voseo: Imperative Conjugation (Affirmative)

To use voseo in the imperative (for commands or instructions), you need to remember the below rules:

  • For -AR and -ER verbs, simply remove “r” from the infinitive ending and add an accent (tilde) to the final vowel of the verb.
  • When conjugating -IR verbs, you replace -E with an -I ending
  • Do not change the stem for irregular Verbs.

Don’t worry – this will make more sense once we see more examples.

-AR Verbs: Drop –ar and add ending to the stem

Verb ending Verb Conjugation English Equivalent
-AR Viajar viajá Travel!
Amar amá Love!
Nadar nadá Swim!

-ER Verbs: drop -er and add -é to the stem

Verb ending Verb Conjugation English Equivalent
-ER Beber bebé Drink!
Correr corré Run!
Leer leé Read!

-IR Verbs: drop -ir and add  to the stem

Verb ending Verb Conjugation English Equivalent
-IR Vivir viví Live!
Dormir dormí Sleep!
sonreír sonreí Smile!

Of course, there are a couple of exceptions to the rules mentioned.

The good news is that there are fewer irregular verbs in voseo imperative, compared to tuteo.

Common irregular verbs in tuteo like Ser (to be), Salir (to leave), or Poner (to put), are not irregular in voseo.

Let’s see:

Verb Vos
Ser
Salir Sal Salí
Poner Pon Poné

There is only one irregular verb in imperative voseo, and that’s the verb ir (to go).

However, the imperative form of ir is not typically used in voseo, and instead, locals will use the verb andar (To go, To walk), which is regular.

Let’s see both of them conjugated side by side below.

Verb Vos
Ir Ve Id
Andar Anda Andá

3) Voseo Subjunctive conjugation

To use the subjunctive mood with voseo, you simply use the personal pronoun vos + along with the conjugation of the verb.

Keep in mind that the last syllable should always be stressed.

The only subjunctive moods to use voseo are the: present subjunctive & imperfect subjunctive.

Present Subjunctive

Verb ending Verb Conjugation
-AR Viajar viajés
Amar amés
Nadar nadés

 

Verb ending Verb Conjugation
-ER Beber bebás
Correr corrás
Comer comás

 

Verb ending Verb Conjugation
-IR Vivir vivás
Competir compitás
sonreír sonríás

Imperfect Subjunctive

There are two valid and accepted verb forms for the imperfect subjunctive conjugation. 

Verb ending Verb Conjugation
-AR Viajar viajaras/viajases
Amar amaras/amases
Nadar nadaras/nadases

 

Verb ending Verb Conjugation
-ER Beber bebieras/bebieses
Correr corrieras/corrieses
Comer comieras/comieses

 

Verb ending Verb Conjugation
-IR Vivir vivieras/vivieses
Competir compitieras/compitieses
sonreír sonrieras/sonrieses

Examples

  • I don’t want you to eat that sandwich. It’s awful – No quiero que vos comás ese sándwich. Es horrible.
  • We need you to go to the supermarket, we have no cereal – Necesitamos que vos vayás al supermercado, no tenemos cereal.
  • I hope you attend tomorrow’s meeting – Espero que vos asistás a la reunión de mañana.
  • If you live there you will understand – Si vos vivieses allí, vos entenderías
  • If you travel, you will be in touch with other cultures – Si vos viajaras, vos estarías en contacto con otras culturas.
  • If you love me as I love you, you will come – Si vos me amaras como yo te amo, vos vendrías

Different Types Of Voseo You’ll Hear

Voseo is a concept that has evolved throughout the years, meaning that the form you hear will often depend on which region you hear it in.

While I wouldn’t sweat it if you use it incorrectly, it’s always good to know how locals typically use this concept.

1. Voseo Dialectal Americano

This is the most important form of voseo to know.

Across Central and South America, locals use voseo when referring to a person with whom they have a bond of affection or intimacy with.

Within this type of voseo, there three different forms:

a) Voseo absoluto

The first combination uses vos pronoun + voseo verb conjugation:

Subject (vos) + voseo conjugation + complement
                                        Vos         +       podés              +     hacerlo

Examples

  • Do you want a sandwich? – ¿Vos querés un sándwich?
  • You are a terrible student – Vos sos un estudiante pésimo
  • You have a nice Colombian accent – Vos tenés un bonito acento colombiano

b) Voseo pronominal

The second way,   pronoun must be paired with voseo verb form

Subject (tú) +  voseo verb form  + complement
                                 Tú                +     cocinás              +     muy bien

Examples

  • Do you love your family? – ¿Tú amás a tu familia?
  • You want to go to the party but I don’t – Tú querés ir a la fiesta pero yo no
  • You cry all the time – Tú llorás todo el tiempo

c) Voseo verbal

In this combination, vos pronoun will go along with  conjugation

                  Subject (vos)      +                 tú verb form           +     complement
                             Vos             +                 te levantas              +     muy temprano

Examples

  • You make a cake every two weeks – Vos haces un pastel cada dos semanas
  • Do you use a PC or a laptop? – ¿Vos usas una PC o una laptop
  • You work in a big company – Vos trabajas en una compañía grande


The main difference in when to use one over the others will depend on the region where you are and their culture.

For example, the voseo pronominal is commonly used in Argentina but in Uruguay, you will hear people using the pronominal form and the verbal form.

Our best advice, in this case, is to mimic what you learn local or native speakers in the region say.

Once again, we must reiterate that you will be understood regardless of whatever form you use.

2. Voseo Reverencial (or Español)

It is used when a person refers respectfully or with reverence to another in the 2nd person singular. This type of voseo is practically outdated nowadays. It is only found in historical novels or ancient literature.

It is formed by using the vos pronoun, plus the verb in the second person plural (vosotros).

Examples

  • You are the King of Spain – Vos sois el rey de España
  • Whatever you say, it will be good – Lo que vos digáis, será bueno
  • You have the last word – Vos tenéis la última palabra

Vos vs Vosotros

Vos should not be confused with the pronoun vosotros (as).

Here are their main differences:

a) In grammatical terms, vos is an informal second person singular pronoun used in many Latin American countries. Vosotros is an informal second person plural pronoun only used in Spain.

b) As mentioned before, the use of vos is a characteristic of many areas from Central and South America, but it is almost non-existent in Spain. Whereas vosotros (as) is only used in Spain.

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