How to use tú, usted and vos in Spanish speaking countries

Zeph Snapp

Spanish is on the rise around the world

Spanish is one of the most influential languages on Earth. It’s the official language of more than 20 different countries, such as Mexico, Spain and most of Latin America, and it’s a common language in dozens of other countries, such as France, Italy and the UK.

Of course, Spanish is hugely relevant in the United States as well; an estimated 57.5 million Americans—over 13% of the total population—speak Spanish. That makes the US one of the top five Spanish speaking territories in the world, alongside Mexico (121.6 million), Colombia (48.6 million), Spain (46 million) and Argentina (43.7 million).

Why is Spanish so important to your business?

Differences between countries with Spanish as the official language

Adapting your content to the Spanish language is hard because meaning, usage and connotations of certain words vary greatly from country to country—sometimes even from region to region.

, usted and vos—all of which mean “you” in English—are prime examples.

For example, using vos is quite common throughout Argentina. Travel north to Mexico, however, and vos suddenly sounds quite foreign—it’s only used by the small indigenous population that borders Guatemala. In Mexico you would use instead.

The following infographic will help teach you the correct way to use , usted and vos in countries with Spanish as an official language and Puerto Rico, which is US territory.

México

  • Tú: common, informal
  • Usted: common, formal and professional
  • Vos: uncommon, except in rural regions of the states of Tabasco, Yucatan and Quintana Roo. *
* Mainly used by indigenous population

Guatemala

  • Tú: common, formal and professional*
  • Usted: common, formal between people with different gender, age or authority
  • Vos: common, informal between people of similar age and gender
*  is frequent among women in professional settings, but frowned upon between men

El Salvador

  • Tú: occasional, semi-formal (used between acquaintances or casual friends)
  • Usted: common, formal and professional (e.g. workplace, teacher-student relationship, etc.)
  • Vos: common, informal and familiar (considered trustworthy or vulgar depending on relationship)

Honduras

  • Tú: common, moderately formal but frowned upon between men
  • Usted: common, formal
  • Vos: common, informal (considered familiar or trustworthy)

Nicaragua

  • Tú: very uncommon (used in literary discourse, as well as in friendly correspondence between middle class people)
  • Usted: common, formal (especially as a show of respect to public figures, adults & the elderly)
  • Vos: common between family and friends*
*Also used in commercial and literary markets to build trust

Costa Rica

  • Tú: practically nonexistent, considered pedantic
  • Usted: uncommon, formal
  • Vos: common, general use

Panamá

  • Tú: common, general use
  • Vos: common in the west and interior of the Peninsula of Azuero

Cuba

  • Tú: common, general use
  • Vos: uncommon and slowly disappearing*
* More widespread in the mountainous regions, countryside & among the elderly

República Dominicana

  • Tú: general use
  • Vos: practically nonexistent (only used rhetorically and in ancient or liturgical writings)

Puerto Rico

  • Tú: common, informal
  • Usted: common, formal
  • Vos: common at the eastern end of the island, but not used by educated speakers

Colombia

  • Tú: common on the Caribbean coast
  • Usted: common, rest of the country
  • Vos: common in the west & northeastern parts of the country (e.g. paisa region, etc.)

Ecuador

  • Tú: common throughout most of Ecuador, except the north and central mountains.
  • Vos: common in the north and central mountains

Venezuela

  • Tú: common in most of the country.
  • Vos: limited to specific geographical areas such as the Andean territories and the states of Zulia, Lara and Yaracuy. Use is generally rural or colloquial.

Perú

  • Tú: common between close relatives
  • Usted: common, moderately formal
  • Vos: formal, used exclusively in the north and south of Perú

Bolivia

  • Tú: generally used in institutions or companies, used mainly in the west of the country
  • Vos: generally used in the east of the country and fully used in Tupiza, western Tarija, and in select regions (Villa Abecia, Camargo, Chuquisaca, southern Chichas, and others)

Paraguay

  • Tú: practically nonexistent
  • Vos: common, general use

Chile

  • Tú: common, formal (in cultured speech)
  • Vos: common, informal (familiar, colloquial and vulgar speech)

Argentina

  • Tú: practically nonexistent
  • Vos: common, universal and accepted at all social levels

Uruguay

  • Tú: uncommon, used primarily in regions like Rocha, Rivera and cities bordering with Brasil
  • Vos: common, general use

España

  • Tú: common, general use
  • Vos: practically nonexistent (only used rhetorically and in ancient or liturgical writings)

Guinea Ecuatorial

  • Tú: common, general use
  • Vos: practically nonexistent (only used rhetorically and in ancient or liturgical writings)

¡IMPORTANT!

United States

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the USA and it’s officially recognized in many jurisdictions in the Southwest. However, because the USA’s Spanish-speaking population has emigrated from different countries around the world, the correct use tú, usted and vos varies depending on region and/or country of origin.+

 

This is just one example of the linguistic and cultural differences in Spanish speaking territories. When you need to clearly communicate with Spanish speaking audiences no matter their geography, colloquialisms or quirks, Altura Interactive is your ace in the hole.

 

 

Sources:

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search