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Gringa Guide to Spanish: What the heck is the Vos form?

by Amanda La Gringa
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Gringa Guide to Spanish: What the heck is the Vos form?

Like most gringas, I learned my Spanish in school where they taught us the basic subject forms, and how to conjugate verbs accordingly. I spent countless hours with my little “verb conjugation” chart filling in yo, tú, usted, él/ella, nosotros, ellos/ellas, and sometimes vosotros.

For whatever reason, in both my high school and college, the teacher never required us to learn the vosotros/vosotras form. They explained to us, it was only used in Spain. So, we really didn’t need to know it, but we could for bonus points. Anyone else experience the same thing?


Living in Tennessee/Miami and during my extensive travels throughout Mexico, I never really came across many people who spoke using anything but the forms of tú, usted, ustedes that I had already mastered. So, I was feeling pretty confident about my Spanish skills.  Not to say I didn’t meet a handful of Spaniards along the way and understanding their verbs forms was a challenge, but I always figured it out. And if I didn’t understand, I just faked it.

But then, I found out about VOS. Originally, I thought it was the same thing as vosotros, and people were just too lazy to say the entire palabra. Pero no, that wasn’t it. Imagine my surprise, when after 7+ years of “mastering” the Spanish language, I find out that there is an entirely new verb form that I had never even heard of before, much less been taught in school! That my amigos, is Vos.

So, what is VOS? This little trickster is a second-person singular pronoun – it replaces “TÚ” as the informal “you” form  in certain countries that want to make our lives more difficult (j/k, the list of countries is below).

Here is the problema, VOS has its own set of verb conjugations that are distinct from those used with other pronouns, and the practice of using this form even has its own cute name = voseo.

Voseo Example

Bueno, let me answer the importante preguntas you probably have:

How do you conjugate a verb when you want to voseo? It’s not that bad! Besides present and the command, all verb conjugations (preterite, imperfect, future, etc.) are identical to tú. You don’t even have to worry about stem changes…woot woot!

  • Present: -ar verbs drop the r and add ás, -er verbs use -és, -ir verbs use ís
  • Command: -ar verbs: drop r and add á to the stem, -er verbs: use -é, ir verbs use í

Are there any vos irregulars? Just a few! Seriously, why did no one teach this to us? Seems simple enough:

  • In the present tense: ser (sos), ir (vas) and haber (has).
  • Ir in the “you” affirmative command form is andá

When do I say “vos”?

  • Anytime you would use “tú” replace it with “vos”
  • Use “con vos” instead of “contigo”
  • Use “a vos” instead of “a ti”

Where do they speak using Vos? Now this is where it gets complicated! Below are the countries who are known to use the vos form, but the starred countries are the “irregulars” of the grupo. These countries, like Costa Rica, have been influenced in recent years by the increase of foreign media in their country (especially from Mexico), and the use of tú is growing and growing. The tú vs. vos vs. usted usage depends on with whom you are speaking, how well you know them, what part of the country you are in, and even the level of sarcasm in your conversation. AKA- its a hot mess and every person I ask gives me a different answer.

  • Argentina
  • Guatemala*
  • Costa Rica*
  • Nicaragua*
  • Paraguay
  • Uruguay
  • El Salvador*
  • Honduras*
  • Bolivia*
  • Chile*
  • Colombia*
  • Ecuador*
  • Panama*
  • Venezuela*

Ya! That’s all I have por ahora. What has your experience been like with Vos? Have you lived in one of the countries and were confused on which form you should use? Is there anything that I missed?  Let me know in the comments section below!

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Sam Rodgers April 12, 2014 - 6:39 am

this was an excellent and enjoyable read!!! thanks La Roja 🙂

La Tica-Gringa Blog April 13, 2014 - 6:16 am

It's so funny because I grew up on Costa Rican Spanish so I always used usted/vos, tu was always so hard for me!!

Norma Scarlette Matus Caro May 24, 2014 - 4:49 pm

Good post! I must say that in Chile is not very common to hear it, but it is associated to the lower classes.

Objetivisto August 21, 2016 - 8:07 pm

“Vos” no es un verbo como dicen algunos erroneamente. y, logicamente, no se debe conjugar. Es un substituto por “tu” o “usted”

Fairly Fluent April 10, 2019 - 4:29 pm

I took the time to learn the vosotros conjugations (particularly helpful when reading La Santa Biblia) and therefore vos was much less confusing basically just drop the i from the vosotros form. Sois becomes sos and habláis becomes hablás, etc. I have traveled through Latin America, and In my experience I probably heard it more in Chile than anywhere else (even though I had been warned that it was most common in Argentina). I also found that in some countries they used both tú and vos – but not interchangeably. Tú was used for a close friend where vos was used for children – it wasn’t condescending, per se, but it definitely implied that the subject of the vos was not considered on the same level as the speaker.


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