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Tú, usted or vos? A guide for which to use and why

Singular you can be translated in three different ways in Spanish: , usted or vos. The choice of which to use depends on the formality and familiarity of your relationship with the other person. It also depends on which part of the world you are in.

pronoun use example
when addressing a friend, relative, child, or pet
Sandra, tú eres una gran cocinera.
Sandra, you are a great cook.
usted Formal
when addressing an older person, a stranger or a superior
Sandra, usted es una gran cocinera.
Sandra, you are a great cook.
vos Informal
when addressing a friend, relative, child, or pet
Sandra, vos sos una gran cocinera.
Sandra, you are a great cook.

Vos is a form used mainly in Latin America: Paraguay, Guatemala, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Panama, etc. In Argentina and Uruguay, vos has replaced completely.

Remember that your choice of , vos, or usted will make a difference in the verb form (conjugation) you use. Compare the three conjugations of the verbs vivir, comer, amar and ser below.

To conjugate a regular verb with vos in the present, you simply drop the -r from the infinitive verb, replace it with an -s, and add an accent on the last syllable.

verb vos usted
vivir vives vivís vive
comer comes comés come
amar amas amás ama
ser eres sos es

Vos should not be confused with vosotros/vosotras. First, vos is a singular form of you, while vosotros/vosotras is a plural you. Second, as mentioned, vos is mainly used in Latin America and almost nonexistent in Spain, whereas vosotros/vosotras is only used in Spain.

Spanish English
singular Vos caminás en el parque sola.
plural Vosotros/Vosotras camináis juntas.

Which have you heard more often: tú or vos? When do you use usted?

August 21, 2017



I think you forgot to explain that the "voseo" (the use of vos) in Spain is used mainly in literature, cause it has only a reverential use. In this case the verb is conjugated like the second person of plural. For example: «Han luchado, añadió dirigiéndose a Tarradellas, [...] por mantenerse fieles a las instituciones que vos representáis»


They say in literature and in liturgical (religious) writting in Spain. So "vos" is rare, very old-fashioned, and very formal. But "vos" is informal elsewhere (in countries using it).


This is a tricky subject. I generally always start out with usted except with young children.

¿Te puedo tutear? is one way to ask if using the form is okay.

I have heard married couples use usted with each other, both married friends and couples on telenovelas. I've also heard them call each other mijo and mija, which seems odd.

Amazon.com uses with me.

I read that in some parts of Latin America males using with each other implies homosexuality.

So it's important to know the context and culture.


Just to point out a small detail:

"¿Te puedo tutear (a ti)?" that question addresses the person you are talking to informally.

"¿Lo puedo tutear (a usted)?" would address that person formally.


Would it not be ‘‘¿Le puedo tutear (a usted)?’’? Or is this one of those cases ‘‘Loísmo’’?


Le puedo tutear would be leísmo. There are two types, both apply here. Tutear needs a direct object pronoun, so lo or la.


It's even more tricky if you also speak German, French and Dutch. They all have their Usted and tú, but criteria for using one or the other are different in all of them. In Czech it's still different.


In Polish you can't say TU to anybody you don't know well besides kids .


I've heard mijo with restaurant workers and wondered if that meant it was his actual son but concluded that it was just a casual endearment. I may be wrong.


Nah. I get called mi hija by older men all the time. I am nearly 40, (though perhaps I don't look it), but the men are never that much older.


That's a funny one; I've lived in Mexico and spent most of my adult life in New Mexico;I am graduate student/alumn (M.Sc./Ph.D.) of New Mexico State University; I am fluent in Spanish (as well as other languages) and I've taught Spanish; Many "viejitos" and others use Mijo/Mija as a term of endearment--i.e., "my child" or "my son/daughter" but in Mexico it is only really used to refer to a person's actual child or a very close member (child) of the person's family; In Mexico most people use the term "cuño," "cuñado" or "ahijado" when referring to someone who is not related to them by blood or marriage but who are endeared to the person for whatever reason. Also in Mexico, I noticed that even though "Usted" essentially implies something similar to "Sir" or "Ma'am" the standard is to address anyone that a person does not know intimately with "Usted;" I've spoken with many a Hispanophone and other speakers who become offended by people using "tú" with people that they are not intimately familiar with and/or do not have a very long historical relationship.


Spanishdict.com shows mijo as meaning "millet" or "dear". It says nothing about it being offspring.

Google translate on the other hand... mijo=son, mija=pee


Mijo and mija are slang abbreviations for my son or daughter.

Mi hijo = mijo

Mi hija = mija

However, I've frequently heard it used as casual endearment like "dear" as you mentioned. This is from one of the links below: ‘Mija‘ or ‘mijo‘ can also be used with anyone, even an adult, and means something similar to the English slang terms ‘honey‘ or ‘sweetie’.



As for the other translation of mija, you probably know that Google translate isn't always reliable.


When using Google translate you should always avoid contractions and contracted verbs and nouns...you have to spell everything out correctly because mijo and mija are actual words in Spanish while the mijo/mija we are discussing are actual contractions of Mi hijo and Mi hija.


my husband is a native Spanish speaker and calls his son mijo and his daughter mija. I have never heard him use it with people outside our family. His father was from the Guadalajara area.


I'm a native spanish speaker, and say between men doesn't imply homosexuality anywhere in Latin America.


Lo siento, está equivocado.

Depende de la clase y la ubicación.

En algunos grupos sociales en Colombia:

Sip. Pero tengamos en cuenta lo siguiente:
Entre hombres: Siempre se ustedea. Tutear entre hombres es visto como algo muy cursi, algo de mujeres y homosexuales.
Entre mujeres: Las de clase social alta, casi siempre se tutean; las de clase social baja, casi siempre se ustedean.
Entre mujeres y hombres: También depende de la clase social.


También en algunos grupos en Guatemala:

Aprendí mi español en Guatemala, y allá estaba usando la forma vos con todos mis amigos y entre hombres, ya que la forma tú entre hombres significaba relaciónes homosexuales.


Observaciones sobre las clases sociales en Tolima, Colombia:



Sin intención de ofender no debería publicar ese tipo de comentarios a menos que lo haya presenciado, mucho menos influenciarse por un par de comentarios cuando en los mismos foros hay otras personas que lo desmienten. Personalmente no creo que suceda lo que asegura y suena muy triste, principalmente en el siglo XXI, además que confunde a las personas que están aprendiendo español.


I've read the "tú" not being good between males too, but I didn't know it was because of homosexuality.

How did it happen that this pronoun took this meaning?

Mijo (males), Mija (for females), is a short for "mi hijo/mi hija", it's basically like saying "honey".


Can someone knowledgeable tell me please how to say "contigo" in a vos-speaking country? Will it be simply "con vos"? And if so, is there any abbrevation for it in messages and chats? Thank you very much!


I think it's still "contigo".


Vos As I know, it's used only in Argentina and Uruguay. The rest of countries only uses and Usted.

I'm peruvian and in Peru we don't use "Vos".


Mis amigos son de Ecuador, Mexico, Peru y Venezuela y nunca usan "vos". En mis clases de español oí que esta forma existe pero en la vida real-nunca la usan!


Te apoyo, porque yo soy de perú, y jamás usamos "vos", solo "Tú" y "Usted"


Pues, como el autor de esta discusión ya dijo, el «vos» también se usa en América Central, no solamente en la Argentina y Uruguay. Según leí, en Costa Rica el «tú» denota pedantería.


My husband says they also use vos in Honduras


Also, is important to note that "vos" is used almost exclusively in Uruguay and Argentina. In the rest of Latin America they use "tú".


In California, I've mostly heard tú, maybe because I normally only talk to people who already know me. In Mexico and Spain, I generally use usted unless the other person changes first. I used tú recently with someone I'd just met at a Duolingo event as I'd assumed that California was very informal. He looked surprised perhaps, so I wondered if perhaps that was a mistake.


I always address people I'm just meeting with usted and I generally stick with that if they're significantly older than me or they're of a higher position.

I've never heard vos in person, only ever in telenovelas and movies (particularly Chilean movies, but mostly just the conjugated form and not the actual pronoun). Then again, I live in the US and the Latin-American communities I interact with are very mixed so the conventions of individual countries of origin melt together.

A friend of mine who studied Spanish in Mexico said that the convention there was to use usted for anybody older or in a higher position and tú for everyone else so she got used to this. Then she spoke to her Venezuelan in-laws for the first time on the phone and they were a little off-put by her formality.


Wow, I didn't realise it was that complicated! It's interesting.


I met a lady from the north coast of Colombia and asked her ¿podemos tutearnos? (Can we use tú?) and she said that usted had practically disappeared from her region.


SI, that's true, in Colombia we don't use "Usted" that much, mainly "Tú" and for example i live in Medellin, we use "Vos" a lot :D


That's really interesting. One of my profs, who was from Colombia, mentioned she hated being called by younger people she didn't know. But she was a much older woman. Is this a result of the generational gap?

Qué interesante. Una de mis catedráticas, quien fue de Colombia, me mencionó que odió cuando un joven la tuteó, pero fue una vieja. ¿Es posible que esto resulte de una brecha generacional?


Yes, there are a lot of people who don't like being tuteada and mostly old people, or when you don't know so much a person is better you don't use "tú" but we are super friendly and surely quickly will use "tú, ti" with the people we just know. the good part for foreing people who come here and talk in Spanish is that for us it's nice to help them and we don't care so much about those little mistakes.


Neat! This looks like a very helpful guide. Just something I'd like to point out, though:

Vos is a form used mainly in Latin America: Paraguay, Guatemala, Chile, Perú, Bolivia, Panama, etc. In Argentina and Uruguay, vos has replaced tú completely.

This sounds a bit misleading, as really only Argentinians, Uruguayans, some Colombians, and Central Americans use vos. No one else uses it.

On an unrelated note, if Perù gets an accent mark, shouldn't Panamà get one, too? Or is it because the word Panama has a different stress in English? Not that this is really that important, haha.


Neither should get an accent in English. We are very strange about accents. A few words we borrowed from French retain them (like café), but I can't think of a single loanword from Spanish that keeps an accent. We do sometimes retain the Ñ in borrowed Spanish words, however.



In Chile we use Vos when we are talking to friends or people that we don't respect, it's a very informal way of talking that almost every Chilean use at least in the central zone. And as always, we don't pronounce the "S" so it sounds like Voh

PS: We have our own rules for Voseo which are a little bit different than the Argentinian ones, for example they say "Vos como te llamás" but we say "Vos como te llamais" (remember we don't pronounce the "S") Unfortunately it's not considered formal in my country, what a shame, damn you Andres Bello... damn you!


why dont you respect a people? just because you dont know them?


Maybe nomasqwer meant not exactly that they disrespect the person, but it is not someone to whom they need to show great respect?


I find it hard to remember when to use each one. I rarely use the vosotros form - only in class


the real form of using it is with "Tu" at least that's the correct form on neutral spanish ..
although .. in my country we use "vos" as reference to 2nd singular person .. yeah ..spanish is tough. ..


I have never heard vos, but then, I have never been to latin America, only in Spain.


Tú is from "you"(singular/informal), usted is for(plural/formal), vos can be(singular/formal or singular/informal) ;-)


El "vos" es siempre informal, el "tú" y "usted" dependen del país. En Uruguay usamos ambos de modo formal, con algunas diferencias.


Thanks, my mistake


this was very helpful because i spoke to my friends saying usted


I use "tu" very common and I never use "usted" (only because I believe that 'tu bebes' sounds better than 'usted bebe'). But now that I know, I will begin to say "usted" more often when speaking to strangers.


I noticed in some of the Duolingo Spanish stories that a character will meet someone new and immediately begin using "tú." I wanted to ask how common this is. Thank you :)


In Spain “vos” is used as a short form of vosotros.


Since I mainly use my Spanish in speaking to people at work who I don't know well, I use usted to be on the safe side and not offend anyone by using language that seems too familiar.

I learned Spanish a very long time ago and wasn't aware of the use of "vos" discussed in the OP, so that was very interesting. Makes me want to go ask my Spanish speaking friends what they use and when.


Very clear post. Gracias!


¿Qué muestra la falta de uso uniforme entre los países de habla hispana? Tal vez, después de la independencia de todos de España, no se busca a ningún país para establecer los estándares.

Hoy cuando se trata de inglés, Gran Bretaña y Estados Unidos todavía compiten en esa área, con el inglés americano cada vez más influyente. ¿Alguien dice, "Line up for the cue" más? Para bien o para mal, incluso en Londres, la gente está empezando a decir "Get in line".

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