How Is 'Vos' Used in Argentina?

Pronoun Used As the Familiar Singular 'You'

Calle de Tilcara
Calle de Tilcara, Jujuy, Argentina. Juan/Creative Commons

One of the key grammatical differences between the Spanish of Argentina and other varieties of the language is in its use of vos as the second-person singular personal pronoun.

Vos is also used in scattered other areas, particularly in parts of Central America.

In these areas, vos completely or partially replaces . In some places where vos is used, it takes the same verb forms as does . But not so in most of Argentina. Generally speaking, present-tense verbs take the endings of ás added to the root of -ar verbs, és for -er verbs, and í for -ir verbs. And because the accent is on the final syllable, you won't find the stem changes that you do when is used. The present-tense, second-person familiar form of tener (to have), for example, is tenés, and the present-tense form of poder is podés. Among the irregular forms is sos for ser. Thus, vos sos mi amigo is the equivalent of tú eres mi amigo, or "you are my friend."

Here are some examples of using vos in Argentina:

  • Ésta es para vos. íLa querés? (This is for you. Do you want it?)
  • ¿Tené pies grandes? Estos estilos son perfectos para vos! (Do you have big feet? These styles are perfect for you.)
  • Todos queremos que vos ganes. (All of us want you to win.)
  • No se enojí con vos por eso. (She didn't get angry with you because of that.)
  • Hay cinco cosas que vos tenés que saber. (There are five things you need to know. Note that vos could be omitted in this sentence because the verb form for vos, tenés, is used.)

If you're not familiar with the use of vos and are visiting Argentina, don't despair: is universally understood.

Using Vos in Guatemala

Although the use of vos is fairly uniform in Argentina and in some neighboring areas, such as parts of Uruguay, that isn't the case in Central America. Here is a real-life Spanish-speaker's experience with vos in Guatemala:

I grew up in Guatemala, la capital to be specific. Here are some conversation examples of how I use tú/usted/vos (this is in no way a representation of how everyone else in Guate uses them):
To a male friend: "Vos Humberto mano, a la gran pu--, porque no la llamaste!"
Between my parents(*): "Hola mijo, como está? Ya almorzo?" (They use usted to address me). "Sí mama, estoy bien, y tú como estas?" (I use to address them.)
To a girl I just met or an acquaintance: Usted is the universal rule.
To a girl who is very close: "Claudia, te gustaría ir a comer algo?" Tutear is the term used when a guy and a girl reach the comfort level to refer to each other using .
To my sister(**): "Vos Sonia, a qué horas vas a venir?"

And another real-world account regarding experiences in Guatemala:

The usage of vos and is interesting because it is an important element in the regional characteristics of the language and social relationships. What the other Guatemalan user pointed out in his clarification is true. Vos is used when there is a lot of familiarity, but if used out of the familiarity context it can be disrespectful or impolite. In fact, some people use vos in a disdainful way to address a Mayan stranger, but use the formal usted when addressing a ladino (non-Maya) stranger of equal or "higher" social level. In other cases, using vos with a stranger is regarded as rather friendly than impolite, but this is a deeply rooted cultural and social element that can't be described in just a few lines.
Between male friends, vos is indeed the predominant form. Using between men is very rare, and it is often characterized as queer. Vos is also used between close female friends, and relatives and friends of whichever sex, to a lesser extent. However, whenever is used, it's conjugated as with vos (e.g., tú sos mi mejor amiga. Ana, tú comés muy poco). The use of the traditional conjugation of is very rare.
In some cases, the use of vos, or usted is not mutual. Sometimes, a person will address you in either way, and you in turn will address that person with a different pronoun. This can be seen with people from different generations, social groups or levels, sexes or even a peer, depending whether you want to show respect, friendliness, distance or simply because that is the way you are used to address a certain group. This explains the example of the other Guatemalan, where his mother uses usted and he uses , and how he addresses acquaintances or women with usted, which is due to the way he is used to address them within his social sphere.
This is true for all social levels of ladinos in urban areas and many rural areas. Some things vary with people of Mayan descent.
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Erichsen, Gerald. "How Is 'Vos' Used in Argentina?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Erichsen, Gerald. (2020, August 26). How Is 'Vos' Used in Argentina? Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "How Is 'Vos' Used in Argentina?" ThoughtCo. (accessed March 22, 2023).