I lived for a while in Bolivia, and I noticed some people used "vos" instead of "tú" as the second person familiar singular pronoun. Which countries use "vos" instead of "tú", and are there any that use it nearly exclusively?
According to Wikipedia's article on voseo, the geographical distribution can be split into three categories:
Countries where voseo is predominant:
- Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica
Countries where both forms are used:
- Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela
Countries where vos is practically out of use:
- Spain, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Peru, Cuba
However, it is difficult to generalize based on country, and there are often differences from one region to the next. See the Wikipedia article for more details.
Spanish learners are often taken aback, not surprisingly, by the use of vos or "voseo" amongst Spanish speakers because we don't really learn about it in school in the U.S. because our neighbors in México don't really use it much except in a few areas down in Chiapas and Tabasco (*). We Spanish learners are so comfortable with "tú" and can recognize and use usted, but vos can seem like even more of a foreign language, as does it even to some native Spanish speakers.
So then, when traveling we hear people using "vos" and we realize, "hey, this isn't what I learned in School!!!" (Learning about voseo for me was as surprising as the day my teacher introduced the subjunctive in high school.) ¡¿Qué?!
Here is a really great article and very thorough chart from la Real Academia Española that really helped me to better understand voseo and where and how it is used:
Here are some of the interesting tidbits the page touches on about voseo en different parts of Latin America:
"En Bolivia, Se usa el tuteo en el habla culta. El voseo es propio de hablantes de zonas rurales y de las clases populares urbanas" (*).
"En Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua y Costa Rica, el voseo es un fenómeno general en todas las clases sociales"(*).
"En Chile el voseo es un fenómeno general en el habla familiar y coloquial, sobre todo entre los jóvenes, mientras que en los registros formales se tutea" (*).
"El Perú es un país tuteante, aunque en el norte y en el sur —zonas limítrofes con áreas de voseo— el uso de tú coexiste con el de vos" (*).
"En la Argentina, el Paraguay y el Uruguay las formas de voseo son aceptadas sin reserva por todas las clases sociales" (*).
It is extremely important, when talking about word usage in Spanish, to avoid the general thought that every country has an homogeneous way to do so.
For example, here in Chile we use
tú as the normal way, but, in some cases you want to sound a bit rude, and then use
vos, pronounced like
Y vos, qué te crees que eres? (And who do you think you are?)
At least, this is the use in central Chile.
I've visited central Argentina several times, and there they have a very widespread use of
vos, along with their own way to conjugate the verbs in the second person singular (what lies beyond the scope of this question).
To add to other answers: bear in mind that, even in regions where "vos" is the norm (as in Argentina), "tú" is readily recognized and accepted as "neutral Spanish", so you won't have any problem at all if you use it. For example: young people in Buenos Aires would never use "tú" in normal speak, however they will find it natural in poetry, songs lyrics, "fansubs" (movies subtitles), movies dubs, etc.
I noticed my mothers family in El Salvador uses Vos excessively. My Salvadoran family here in the States uses vos and tu equally. I think tu might be a bit more formal. Whenever they're joking about they tend to use vos more. My Mexican family doesn't use vos at all. I once traveled from El Salvador to Mexico (I picked up the Salvadoran accent and dialect) and my Mexican family couldn't keep up with me.
Generally North/Central America and Caribe countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, Cuba use "tú".
South America countries like Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Venezuela, Argentina use "vos".
In Colombia vos is used mostly in the pacific coast states to talk with friends and relatives, but tuteo is also very common. Voseo predominates in the states of Antioquia, Risaralda, Caldas and Quindío.
In Spain 'vos' is considered an archaic term from the medieval era and the American colonies. Nowadays it's only heard in old poetry where we want to refer to show reverence or politeness to somebody. As other users have said, in America is a different story. Countries such as Argentina, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica are predominantly 'vos' users.
I am Tico (Costa Rica).
Vos is used almost exclusively, although
tú is recognized and understood with no difficulty. Also, when conjugating in the past tense the Costa Rican
vos incorrectly uses the
tú form. For example, the correct conjugation for "caminar" should be "Vos caminastes," but in Costa Rica it becomes "Vos caminaste." I cannot speak for other countries, because although I have a pretty good idea where
vos is predominantly used, I know little about the subtleties and regional differences (although I notice that hasn't stopped many people on this webpage from writing completely erroneous things as though they are fact).
I studied Spanish in University in the USA, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. I learned to use voseo/tuteo simultaneously, but I still refer to people close to me in vos(voseo), even when I speak in tuteo I use the pronoun vos.
I prefer voseo and usted because of my connections to Central America/Middle part of Ecuador-Quito.
I currently live in Nicaragua and we use Vos and Usted all the time.
Countries like Spain don't use usted because when they broke free from a one-party (communist) government they wanted everyone to be the same so they referred to everyone as Tu because they felt if you used usted then that would mean someone is higher then someone else and they wanted everyone to be equal.