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In Argentina I often hear the word (or prefix?) 're' meaning 'very/real/really'

Some examples are:

La prueba fue re difícil

La película era re chota

Estoy re bien

  • Is 're' an abreviation of another word? (Maybe realmente?)
  • Is 're' used anywhere else apart from Argentina?
  • Are there any rules regarding the use of 're'?
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  • 2
    re = muy = very
    – César
    Jan 13, 2012 at 14:33
  • 2
    Archi-requete-recontra-riquísimo. Jan 13, 2012 at 18:57
  • It's as common here in Uruguay. Jan 16, 2012 at 21:39
  • It's not slang, it's common spanish.
    – Jaume
    Mar 18, 2015 at 4:38
  • @Jaime In South America, I have only heard "re" as a synonym of "very" from Argentineans and Uruguayans. Nobody use it in Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela, so I don't think it is common Spanish. Dec 2, 2019 at 1:43

8 Answers 8

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It's a prefix. This is what RAE says:

re-. (Del lat. re-).

  1. pref. Significa 'repetición'. Reconstruir.

  2. pref. Significa 'movimiento hacia atrás'. Refluir.

  3. pref. Denota 'intensificación'. Recargar.

  4. pref. Indica 'oposición' o 'resistencia'. Rechazar. Repugnar. Significa 'negación' o 'inversión del significado simple'. Reprobar. Con adjetivos o adverbios, puede reforzarse el valor de intensificación añadiendo a re- las sílabas -te o -quete. Retebueno. Requetebién.

In the uses you provide, it's the third meaning, where it's used to intensify the adjective.

I think in Spain "requete-" is more used than "re-", at least in some cases. In fact, if I hear someone say rebueno I automatically think they're from America.

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    As a sidenote, sometimes in Argentina, requete- is used as a more emphatic version of re-. In the popular reasoning, it makes sense that it is bigger since it includes the word. :P
    – Alpha
    Oct 9, 2012 at 22:32
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Are there any rules regarding the use of 're'?

First, as said in other answer, it's a prefix, not a word.

It should be used only colloquially, in casual speak. It's emphatic and slightly childish. In general, you'll prefer 'muy'.

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  • I don't think it is childish in Argentina. I have met a lot of Argentineans in their 20s which use it. Dec 2, 2019 at 1:44
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This is very common in Mexico as well it is considered very improper but it is used very often in social situations to reenforce and remark a word. The most common is

El examen fue redifícil

to say it was not just hard, but really rehard.

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  • ¿Absurdo? Qué tiene de absurdo un intensificador, cuando existen precisamente para eso, para intensificar.
    – Jaume
    Mar 21, 2015 at 18:23
  • Considered improper? Improper in English means indecent or behaviorally bad. It's just colloquial.
    – Lambie
    Feb 12 at 21:37
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Is 're' an abbreviation of another word? (Maybe realmente?)

Sometimes it's used as recontra, especially if used as stand alone word. Not sure of the etymology, my first thought would be bidding in contract bridge where one of translation of double and redouble is contra and recontra. But that just my impression, could be totally wrong.

A derivative of re- is requete- sometimes used to indicate something even more intense, than re-.

Is 're' used anywhere else apart from Argentina?

Yes, it's very typical in Mexico,it is used in other Latin-American countries (eg. in Peru).

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    In Perú we usually use recontra, re is really uncommon
    – César
    Jan 13, 2012 at 15:18
  • I have never heard "re" used as "very" in Peru. Dec 2, 2019 at 1:48
  • @AlanEvangelista "RCSM" is one clear example very popular in Peru.
    – vartec
    Dec 4, 2019 at 23:34
  • @vartec Thanks for the example, but is "re" ever used outside fixed expressions such as CSM in Peru? In Argentina, it is as usual as "muy", so you hear in everyday dialogue: recopado, rehermoso, retranquilo, etc. And if anyone wondered what RCSM means: diccionariolibre.com/definicion/RCSM/3724 Dec 4, 2019 at 23:53
  • @AlanEvangelista there are few more like that. It's not used for everything like in Argentina, but it is used.
    – vartec
    Dec 5, 2019 at 0:02
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The expression "re" is very common in my country (Colombia) and it has the same meaning you implied, basically to augment the effect of something.

Its usage is more common among young people. Older people do not use it as much, or sound kind of off when they they say it.

I do not think it is an abbreviation of another word. I believe it works as an adverb.

I can attest it is pretty common in Colombia in all generations up to the gen-x, and, from previous interactions with other people, I know for a fact it is widely used in Venezuela too. It most likely is often used in Chile and Mexico as well.

The only rule I can think of regarding its usage is that it almost always precedes an adjective. I.e. He is very TALL --> He is re TALL; that said, it can also precede verbs, but that usage is less common. i.e "La re cagué" (I screwed up BIG TIME), highly informal usage, mainly among friends.

By the way, it is highly informal. Do not use it in formal conversation. In that case replace "re" with "muy", "bastante" or "demasiado".

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  • Yes, in all the telenovelas. Which is where I heard it a lot, as in Reina del Flow. :)
    – Lambie
    Feb 12 at 21:38
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Soy de argentina y sí, se usa solo acá. Como dijieron anteriormente, se utiliza para intensificar algo (verbos y adjetivos, sobre todo) Y no, no hay reglas concretas de gramatica porque no creo que se una palabra "oficial"

Te lo comiste a Juan? Sí, me lo re comí. 
Messi es re buen jugador. 
¡Anoche la cena estuvo re linda!
Ese pibe esta re bueno
Aquella montaña rusa es re divertida
Etc

Espero que te haya servido!

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I am not a native speaker but...

Some other answers seem to be confusing re- as a prefix and re as a word, a slang equivalent of 'muy' (= very). As an example in context (from Gaturro, referring to a smartphone)

¡¡Está genial, re cool, re moderno!!

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  • The distinction between a prepositioned adjective and a prefix is almost purely orthographical as evidenced with the changes to ex- in the 2010 Orthography. The standard way to write what you have would be recool and remoderno, just as with other similar prefixed intensifiers: requetemoderno and permoderno. Re as a single word refers to the musical note D Feb 18, 2017 at 3:06
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Estoy seguro de que esta partícula re (p.ej., "recontar") se oye sólo en la Argentina. Hasta ahora no se puede encontrar de dónde lo sacaron los Argentinos. Re significa "muy" y el también sufijo "-ísimo", igualmente tiene el significado de "gran", "grande", "súper"... En vez de decir : Buenísimo, decimos : Rebueno.

A veces, si queremos ir más allá de la intensificación, el esquema resultará así: Rebuenísimo o Recontrabuenísimo.

Cabe notar que "recontra" se usa frente a una palabra que empieza con la consonante R.

No se dice "rerápido" pero sí "recontrarápido".

Lo empleamos con un verbo casi del mismo modo que si fuera un adjetivo o sustantivo, sólo en ese caso él tomará el significado intensificado del verbo.

ej:

estoy refeliz esta noche.

tengo una relija ( un gran Hambre)

este bondi viaja recontra rápido

esta frutilla, me la recomí anoche. ==== en este caso, significa que : anoche yo me comí la frutilla con muchas ganas, y me la disfruté mucho.

reviajar = viajar mucho y con muchas ganas...

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