December 2, 2023 ·

Vos instead of Tú – Spanish from Argentina



When it comes to learning Spanish, understanding the regional variations can be as essential as mastering the grammar and vocabulary. In Argentina, you’ll quickly encounter a distinction that sets the local Spanish apart from what you may have learned elsewhere: the use of “vos” instead of “tú.” This linguistic nuance is a hallmark of Argentine Spanish, and it’s worth exploring in detail.

months of the year in spanish

Hi there, I’m Agustina.

I’m a passionate Spanish teacher based in Argentina. When I’m not unraveling the intricacies of LGBTQ in BA, I’m exploring the vibrant culture and landscapes of my country. My journey in teaching is fueled by a love for linguistics and a deep commitment to sharing the richness of Spanish dialects with learners around the world

Why is VOS used in Argentina?

Many students get a bit intimidated in their first Spanish lesson when they found out that the only conjugations they felt confident about, are not commonly used in Buenos Aires. I’m talking about their first contact with the “voseo”, the use of “vos” instead of the more familiar “tú” to address “you”.

The Basics: Vos vs. Tú

Let’s start with the basics. In most Spanish-speaking countries, “tú” is the informal singular form of “you.” However, in Argentina, “vos” takes its place. While both forms are used to address one person informally, understanding when and how to use “vos” is crucial for effective communication in this unique linguistic landscape.

Historical and Cultural Context

To truly appreciate the use of “vos” in Argentina, it’s essential to delve into the historical and cultural roots of this linguistic distinction. The choice of “vos” over “tú” can be traced back to Argentina’s colonial history and its distinct identity within the Spanish-speaking world. This regional peculiarity has endured and continues to shape the way Argentines communicate today.

Tu vs Vos Usage and Examples

Here are some common scenarios where you might encounter “vos” in Argentine Spanish:

  1. Addressing Friends and Peers: Argentines often use “vos” when speaking informally with friends or peers. For example, instead of saying “Tú eres simpático” (You are friendly), you’d say “Vos sos simpático.”
  2. Verb Conjugation: The use of “vos” also affects verb conjugation. For instance, “Tú hablas” (You speak) becomes “Vos hablás.”
  3. Questions: Formulating questions with “vos” is slightly different. While “Tú hablas español” (Do you speak Spanish?) uses the same word order as in English, in Argentine Spanish, you’d ask, “Vos hablás español?”

When to Use “Tú”

While “vos” is prevalent in Argentina, there are situations where “tú” is still used:

  1. Formal Settings: In formal settings, such as business or academic contexts, “tú” may be preferred over “vos.”
  2. Regional Variations: In some regions of Argentina, like the Rioplatense region, “tú” is used alongside “vos.”

Embrace the Diversity of Language in Argentina

Understanding the nuances of Argentine Spanish, including the use of “vos,” can enhance your language skills and cultural immersion. As you explore this linguistic landscape, remember that language is a living entity, shaped by history, culture, and people. Embrace the diversity of Spanish, and you’ll find it’s a journey of linguistic discovery and cultural enrichment.

Looking for an University Spanish Program in Buenos Aires, Argentina? Start Now

Examples of Present Indicative conjugation of regular verbs for Tú and Vos

Verbs ending inVerb ExampleVos
-AR llamar (to call)tú llamasvos llamás
-ERcomer (to eat)tú comesvos comés
-IRsalir (to leave/go out)tú salesvos salís

Find your Spanish Teacher in Buenos Aires

Start your Spanish Classes Today!

Spanish School in Valencia

Spanish School in Barcelona

Spanish School in Madrid

Spanish School in Santiago Chile

Spanish School in Mexico

Spanish School in Colombia

Spanish School in Peru

Spanish School in Argentina

Basically, in Spanish we have three different options for the second person singular “you”. “Usted” is mainly used in formal situations, when you’re addressing your boss, the doctor, or an old lady in the street. We use “usted” in every Spanish speaking country in the planet. We use both “tú” and “vos” in informal contexts, but you will only hear the latter in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and some countries in Central America.

Also Read: My study abroad experience in Argentina

The origin of the pronoun “vos” dates back to Spain in the 4th century, when this form was used to address the emperor, and it implied high respect. Its use began to extend and spread in the next centuries and slowly lost its original meaning of authority until the 1800’s, when it became almost offensive and finally disappeared.

In the Americas, the countries more closely related to Spain, followed the European tendency and began to use only “tú”. In the south of the continent, where its influence was not so marked, we keep on using “vos” when talking to someone informally.

Here’s a comprehensive look at why Argentina uses “vos”

1. Historical Roots in the Spanish Language:

  • Origin in Old Spanish: “Vos” was originally used in medieval Spanish as a form of respectful address, similar to the use of “thou” and “you” in English. Over time, “vos” started to be used more broadly, not just for respect but also for familiarity.
  • Influence of the Reconquista: The Reconquista period in Spain (8th to 15th centuries) saw various linguistic changes due to cultural and social shifts. During this time, the use of “vos” spread and evolved in different regions of Spain.

2. Colonization and Linguistic Divergence:

  • Spanish Colonization: As Spanish colonizers settled in the Americas, they brought with them the linguistic practices of their respective regions in Spain. This included the use of “vos”.
  • Regional Variations: Different regions in Latin America developed distinct linguistic identities. The use of “vos” persisted in some areas (like Argentina) while “tú” became more common in others.

3. Sociolinguistic Factors:

  • Class and Social Structures: In colonial times, language was a marker of social class and education. The use of “vos” in Argentina could be linked to these social distinctions.
  • Cultural Identity and Resistance: Over time, the use of “vos” became a part of Argentine cultural identity, distinguishing it from the colonial power and other Spanish-speaking countries.

4. Linguistic Evolution in Argentina:

  • 19th and 20th Century Developments: During this period, Argentina experienced significant immigration and cultural shifts. These changes influenced the language, solidifying the use of “vos” in the national dialect.
  • Contemporary Usage: Today, “voseo” is fully integrated into Argentine Spanish, used in all levels of society and in formal and informal settings.

5. Influence of Media and Literature:

  • Literary Works: Argentine literature has played a role in popularizing and legitimizing “voseo”.
  • Media and Pop Culture: Television, films, and music from Argentina often use “voseo”, spreading its use and recognition both domestically and internationally.

Don’t Fret! VOS and TÚ have more similarities than differences

Most importantly, there’s no reason to panic when you arrive in Buenos Aires when you notice this! Here are why:

1) First of all, your teachers at Vamos Spanish will explain to you how to use both forms.
2) Second, since the differences between “tú” and “vos” only occur in the Present Indicative and in the Imperative, the other conjugations are exactly the same!
3) Finally, no matter which variation of Spanish you decide to learn and use, everyone will understand you wherever you go, the same way a New Yorker can perfectly communicate with someone from Dublin.

If you haven’t already, check out the ‘Vos, Tú y Usted’ video right at the top of this blog. It demonstrates all these in an easy to understand way.

At VAMOS Spanish Academy, both in Buenos Aires and Malaga, we celebrate the richness of language and culture. Join us in your Spanish learning adventure, where you’ll not only grasp the language but also explore the fascinating intricacies of Spanish-speaking countries. Share your experiences and questions about Argentine Spanish in the comments below—we’d love to hear from you!

Also Read: How to Better Understand Local Spanish in Buenos Aires

Share this post!

Start your Spanish Immersion Experience Today. We offer both In-Person and Online Spanish Classes. Discover Our Malaga School or our Buenos Aires School. No matter your plans VAMOS Academy has a course for you!

Join the conversation on social:


Exploring Spanish Dialects: Regional Variations in Argentina

Spanish makes us think of flamenco, paella, and European buildings. But, do we think…

Computer Parts in Spanish: Vocabulary Guide

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on computer parts in Spanish. In this tutorial, we…

Superlative Adjectives in Spanish

To effectively discuss the best and most challenging aspects of learning a new language…

Buenos Aires Street Vendors

Have you ever wondered how street vendors in Buenos Aires manage to turn their…