31 Vote

What is VOS?

¿De dónde SOS?, ¿Cuántos años TENÉS?, ¿Y VOS?.

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These questions quickly confront anyone who comes to Buenos Aires or any other city in the vicinity of Rio del Plata. Even if you are an experienced Spanish speaker you may be surprised when you first hear these pronouns and verb forms. So what in the world is VOS?

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“VOS” is the second-person singular pronoun – it replaces the more common pronoun “TÚ” that is used in most other Spanish-speaking countries. It is the equivalent of the English “YOU” when used to address a single individual. VOS has its own set of verb forms that are distinct from those used with other pronouns.

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For example:

Vos sos una buena persona. (Here “sos” replaces “eres” that is normally used with “TÚ”)

You are a good person.

Note that “VOS” is the informal form of address. For formal means of addressing a single individual use “USTED” the same way it is used in Spain or other Spanish-speaking countries. The use of “VOS” is referred to as “voseo”. In Argentina it replaces “TÚ” completely. You will never hear anyone use “TÚ” in Buenos Aires (but people will understand you perfectly if you use it). VOS and Standard Spanish

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Sometimes students looking for a Spanish course get concerned that Argentinian Spanish is non-standard. “Will I be able to speak Spanish elsewhere if I learn all this VOS stuff?” – they wonder. In practice this is never a problem. First, all you have to know about VOS is described in this article. Secondly, if you learn Spanish in Argentina you will have no difficulty in understanding or using “TÚ”. All Spanish teachers in Argentina make it a point to teach both forms. Conversely, if you already learned Spanish elsewhere Argentinians will understand you perfectly. Conjugations of VOS.

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When using vos, verbs are conjugated differently in just two cases: Indicativo Presente and Imperativo Affirmativo. All other conjugations are the same as “TÚ”. VOS in Indicativo Presente.

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The Indicativo Presente form of VOS is actually easier to remember than that of any other pronoun. It always follows on simple rule:

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1-Replace the last “R” with “S”

2-Add an accent over the last vowel.

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Accordingly the VOS form of a verb is pronounced differently than “TÚ” because stress is always on the last syllable. Here are the conjugations for VOS in Indicativo Presente.

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......................HABLAR COMER VIVIR

TÚ ........... hablas ..... comes ..... vives

VOS .............hablás ......comés ...... vivís

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There is only one exception: Indicativo Presente of the verb SER for VOS is SOS.

Example:

Tú eres medico.

Vos sos medico.

You are a doctor.

VOS in Imperativo Affirmativo.

The formation of Imperativo Affirmativo for VOS is also very easy. The rule is as follows:

  1. Drop the last “R”

  2. Add an accent over the last vowel.

Accordingly the VOS form is pronounced with the stress always in the last syllable. Here are the conjugations of regular verbs in Imperativo Affirmativo:

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............ HABLAR ....COMER .....VIVIR

TÚ .......... habla .... come .......vive

VOS ........ hablá ...... comé ..........viví

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There is only one exception: the Imperativo Affirmativo conjugation of IR is ANDÁ. Here are conjugations in Imperativo Affirmativo for some common irregular verbs.

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......SER ... IR ....SABER

TÚ ........ sé ...... ve ........ sabe

VOS........ sé ... andá ..... sabé

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Note: In Imperativo Negativo VOS is conjugated the same way as “TÚ”.

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The History of VOS

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VOS comes from the second person plural pronoun YOU in Latin (also VOS). Around V century the plural form VOS started to be used to address the Roman Emperor as a sign of respect because the Emperor represents the people. Later his use of plural YOU has spread to other social groups as a general form of polite address. Many languages still retain this influence. For example in French the plural VOUS is used to address a single person in a formal way.

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In Spain and it’s colonies the use of VOS evolved to replace TÚ even in informal contexs such as among friends and family. Thus VOS lost its original purpose as a means of polite address of people in authority.

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The Spanish aristocracy then came up with a new mode of polite address VUESTRA MERCED which later with time became abbreviated into the now common USTED.

With the rise of USTED as a formal way of address TÚ made a comeback in Spain and regained its original use as a familiar form of YOU. The use of VOS correspondingly declined. However, the countries such as Argentina that were less connected to the Spanish Empire and thus were less influenced by its fashions have retained the use of VOS for the familiar form of address that was common when the country was originally settled.

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More info here

27 Answers

11 Vote

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En azul oscuro y azul claro los países con predominancia del voseo. En verde, los países donde la práctica se restringe a algunas zonas y en celeste, aquellos países donde su presencia es proporcionalmente pequeña. En rojo, la República Dominicana, España, Guinea Ecuatorial y Puerto Rico, donde el voseo no se usa nunca.

Countries that feature voseo.

Dark blue: countries that use vos as the primary spoken and written form.

Medium blue: countries where voseo is predominant, yet not as intensive.

Green: countries where the use of voseo is regional.

Light blue: countries where the presence of voseo is proportionally small.

Red: countries where voseo is practically non-existent.

  • See? Somos muchos los que usamos el voseo!!! - Benz Apr 4, 2010 flag
  • Thank you this was a huge help!! - Katie-McNiel Apr 4, 2010 flag
3 Vote

Benz

You won't get many answers to this - you have answered everything yourself. grin

2 Vote

I don't want answers Ian smile

This is just information for you... learners of Spanish!!! It's good info and if I don't post it here, where should I post it? I think I'll link it to the Reference thread I opened some time ago...

Thanks anyway Ian wink

  • I know I asked the question about "vos" - ian-hill Apr 4, 2010 flag
  • I remember Ian :) - Benz Apr 4, 2010 flag
  • Hi Benz, I may be wrong but I think Ian made his "not many answers" post a little tongue in cheek. - Eddy Apr 5, 2010 flag
2 Vote

This is great, thanks! Benz do we also use the pronoun TE with voseo? Ponételo? Andáte?

2 Vote

I'm still contemplating Argentina for next year so this is good to know.

  • You won't regret visiting Argentina!! - Benz Apr 5, 2010 flag
2 Vote

I still remember a week I spent in the southernmost point of Chile with my parents and a guide from Argentina. I and the guide got along well and we both attempted to show a level of informality but failed utterly. He kept using vos and I kept using tú. One of us eventually asked the other why they were being so "formal". We got a good laugh out of it. smile

I should add that the teenagers in Chile seemed to use an extremely informal manner of address that could be described as voseo but sounded a lot more like the vosotros form. e.g. ¿Cómo estáis? which in true chilean teen fashion was pronounced "¿Cómo 'tai'? The "e" and "s" inevitably got swallowed.

1 Vote

Funny I haven't come across 'vos' while taking spanish. I am only in my first year but my teacher is from Mexico and I guess she didn't think it necessary to mention that. Thank you for filling me in!

  • Most Spanish teachers won't mention it. My Spanish teacher didn't know it's conjugations or where it was used really - 003487d6 Apr 4, 2010 flag
1 Vote

Where is "vos" commonly used? geographically

1 Vote

Ask all and everything you want to know about the use of "vos"... I'm here to answer your questions

Okay - 2 questions.....

1) If I come to Argentina and say ¿Hablas inglés / español ...etc ? (using only tú form) .......... will you laugh at me? (Obviously I'm a foreigner) Please be honest wink

2) ... okay ... this has nothing to do with vos but ... I'm just curious ... Do you know how to use vosotros? I know it is not used in Argentina but - for example - can you conjugate ser, haber and poder using vosotros?

..... I've always wondered about this

Muchas gracias

  • 1- Not at all patch 2- We don't use it in Arg. it's vosotros sois, habéis, podéis :) - Benz Apr 4, 2010 flag
  • That's great - thanks again - patch Apr 5, 2010 flag
1 Vote

Benz, it'd be great if you prepared a lagre reference article about the grammar differences between Peninsular and Argentinian Spanish. I know it would require some work, but I think many students would be really grateful (I would definitely be smile )

  • That's a good idea Isaa!! - Benz Apr 5, 2010 flag
1 Vote

¿Cuántos años TENÉS?

Is that a typo or is tener conjugated without the stem change? If so, is that change only when conjugating vos ? Also does it apply to any other stem-changing verbs?

It's all very interesting and useful Benz, Thank you for your work here. smile

  • As Benz said, "drop the 'r', add 's' and accentuate the last syllable." - samdie Apr 5, 2010 flag
  • Oh of course, I was being too hasty! - galsally Apr 5, 2010 flag
1 Vote

Do you drop r and and add i for the preterite. For example in song title I saw enojai instead of enojaste.

  • No, in Argentina we say "Vos te enojaste" (I think Chileans say "te enojai") :) - Benz Apr 10, 2010 flag
  • Chileans definitely add an i but I don't think that's necessarily for the preterite. - lachelvi Jul 14, 2011 flag
1 Vote

is voseo related to francés, portugués, catalán o italiano

1 Vote

I have never been to Argentina, but "voseo" has been part of my Spanish-speaking since my growing up years (1950s and 1960s) in Bolivia. From recent personal travels I know that "vos" is still very commonly used among friends in Bolivia; it is also in common use in Guatemala.

The map that was submitted to indicate geographical areas of the use of "vos" was not that helpful to me because: 1) it was very small and I couldn't figure out what color each of the Central American countries are; and 2) I wasn't sure which color was medium blue and which was light blue!

  • maps can be found on the wiki page for 'voseo'... the medium blue color is Chile Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Costa Rica. light blue is Peru, Panama, Mexico. - Inomae Dec 18, 2010 flag
1 Vote

Okay, here is my personal story about this verb form.

A long time ago and far away, I grew up in a small town in Ohio, USA. I went to a high school with the children of farmers. There were no Spanish-speaking people as far as the eye could see.

I took the only foreign language offered in my high school -- mostly because it was recommended if you wanted to get into college. That language was Spanish, and it was taught by the only Spanish-speaking native in the community, a woman from Mexico.

She taught us the vosotros verb form, but she said that it was only used in Spain and therefore, we would probably NEVER need it. I learned it for the exam and then promptly forgot it.

Life is long. I grew up. I moved away. I lived in places like Pittsburgh, Houston and New York City. The teacher was right. I never needed that verb form. I met a man who had grown up in the U.S., but had been born in Ecuador. His mother, who came from an upper class family from Colombia, never used the "tu" verb form, always preferring "Usted." One less verb to remember! I was happy.

A couple of decades passed. My husband took a job in Spain. I was thrown into social situations ALONE in which I had to speak Spanish. I remember the first time I was asked a question that used the vosotros verb form. The wife of one of my husband's clients' had been kind enough to pick me up in their van to take me to IKEA to buy things we needed for our apartment. It was a Monday. I get in the van and she asks:

"Tenaías una buena fin de semana? Did you all have a good weekend?

It is an innocent enough question, but I felt like someone had just thrown a brick at my head. I remembered my teacher explaining that I would never need this verb form, UNLES*S I happened to be in Spain. Yet, that was exactly where I was and I needed it like a drowning man needs a life preserver.

"Si, tenemos una buena fin de semana," I replied. I was new, so always spoke in the present.

I went on to take Spanish classes every day. I remember one teacher who always addressed the class with questions in this verb form.

In conclusion, in Spain you need this. They use it.

  • That's a good story and a good reason to at least get familiarized with some of the less-common verb forms. - webdunce Jul 14, 2011 flag
  • However, just FYI, this thread is about vos and not vosotros. The confusion is understandable since vos is *also* the object form of vosotros, but in this case vos is the subject pronoun and is singular and has a conjugation different from vosotros. - webdunce Jul 14, 2011 flag
  • You experience still is very applicable, though, as vos is a verb form used mainly in Argentina and, should you ever find yourself in Argentina, you'll find it helpful to know. - webdunce Jul 14, 2011 flag
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