What is Vos?

Do you know that there is another 2nd person singular personal pronoun “Vos” other than tú and usted? Of course, “tú and usted” mean “you” in English, but vos is also used although it is less common and it is considered more informal and dialectical expression. Vos is used differently depending on the country with slightly different meanings, usage, conjugation and pronunciation of the conjugated verbs.

When I saw the word “vos”, the first thing came to my mind was “vosotros”, and I thought they meant vosotros but they just made up the word “vos” which is smaller and easier to pronounce. Even though my assumption was not exactly right, I found out that vosotros and vos were closely related.

In spite of the fact that “vos” is used as a dialect, the word itself was used like “you” in English which can mean singular and plural “you”. “Vosotros” was born from the word “vos” in order to clarify whether they talk about multiple people or one people. So, vosotros was made by sticking “otros (others)” to vos. Vos was originally “you” plural in Latin, but, when they had 2 emperors at the same time in 4th century, they referred them to mean plural of course, then they started using it to the emperor they had after. This is just a theory, but originally the word itself was plural.

Now, let’s look at the usage and differences in using “vos” among Spanish-speaking countries.

Mainly, there are 4 types of different verb conjugation for vos.

Present Indicative AR VerbER VerbIR Verb
Voseo 1-áis-éis-ís
Voseo 2-áis-ís-ís
Voseo 3-ás-és-ís
Voseo 4-ás-és-és

※Voseo is tendency or preference of using “vos”

 

Voseo Type 1 (northeast Venezuela, northeast Colombia, northwest Bolivia, central Panama, northeast Cuba)

Venezuela: In the northeast part of Venezuela, they use Type 1 Voseo and more people use it as you go further to the north east. Sometimes, they do not pronounce or aspirate S that is in between other letters or at the end.

Colombia: In the northwest of Colombia, people use vos casually, but in the south part of the Colombia, it is used only when they look down on speaking opponent. Along the Caribbean cost, people use more tú, and rest of the Colombia use usted generally.

West Bolivia: In Bolivia, they use the different type of vos in different regions within the country. In the west, people use both vos and tú, and tú is considered to be formal and used in documents.

Panama: In central Panama, and by the border with Costa Rica, voseo can be seen. They sometimes use tú as a subject with vos conjugated verb.

Cuba: In northeast Cuba, they also use “vuestro” and “os” in addition to the use of vos.

Present IndicativeAR VerbER VerbIR Verb
Voseo Type 1Vos trabajáisVos coméisVos vivís

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VoseoType 2 (north/central Ecuador, north/south Peru, Chile, north east Argentine, south east Bolivia)

Ecuador: In Central and north part of Ecuador (except for capital), vos is used, but conjugated like tú (vos eres, vos tienes).

Peru: In the north, people use tú conjugation, and people use type 2 vos conjugation in south.

Chile: Type 2 vos is used in Chile, and the letter “S” at the end of the –ar conjugation is never to be pronounced neither written. (vos/tú pensái, vos/tú trabajái)

Bolivia: In south part of Bolivia, tú is acceptable in formal situations even though people use type 2 or 3 vos in speaking.

Present IndicativeAR VerbER VerbIR Verb
Voseo Type 2Tú trabajáisTú comísTú vivís

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Voseo Type 3 (south-west Mexico, Central America except for Panama, on mountain in Colombia and Venezuela, coast side of Ecuador, east Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentine)

Argentine/Uruguay/Paraguay: People always use vos with no usage of tú. It can be used to anybody in these countries.

Costa Rica: Vos is only used among very close friend or family members, and usted is used if they are not so close or to strangers. Tú is barely used, and it can be said that vos is used for tú as well completely.

Bolivia: In the east part of Bolivia, people use vos more than west part of Bolivia.

El Salvador: In El Salvador, they use all vos, tú, and usted, and vos is only used with family members or close friends.

Guatemala/Honduras Just like El Salvador, people only use vos among close friend and family members, however, the use of vos is more common among men and women tend to use tú. Despite this, it is still common to use tú or usted when they talk with strangers.

Nicaragua: Informally, vos is used and tú is used formally.

Mexico: Southern states like Chiapas State in Mexico, vos is used although people from the other part of Mexico see it as “uneducated” or “low-class”.

Present IndicativeAR VerbER VerbIR Verb
Voseo Type 3Vos trabajásVos comesVos vivís

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Voseo Type 4 (Northern city “Santiago del Estero” in Argentina)

Present IndicativeAR VerbER VerbIR Verb
Voseo Type 4Vos trabajásVos comésVos vivés

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If you ever have a chance to go to one of those countries, why don’t you try listening to their accent and usage of vos! It might be very interesting and funny to hear them speaking a little differently from the other part of Spanish speaking countries.


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