Costa Rican Spanish and the use of Vos (The Other You):

The Spanish spoken in Costa Rica is more or less the same as standard Castilian Spanish, except for one big difference that confuses many people. Spanish has two forms of addressing a person: usted (called ustedeo) and tú (called tuteo).

However, in Costa Rica there is a third form, vos (in Spanish called el voseo). This form is rarely taught because it is considered familiar. In fact, it’s not found in most Spanish textbooks or usually taught to English-speaking students in their Spanish classes.

Although usage of vos varies from region to region, and its consideration as Standard Spanish varies widely from country to country, you can hear vos used in many Central American countries, in the southern countries of South America (Chile, Argentina, Uruguay) and parts of Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.

In areas of America where there was a strong influence from the Court of Spain, places like Mexico and Peru, the eventual change of vos to tú and vuestra merced-usted reflected the evolution of the Spanish language in Spain. However, in regions farther from the centers of power, this evolution did not necessarily follow the same pattern.

Instead, in some regions, tú was replaced by vos in the friendly address and usted was used in the polite address.

Vos is used in Latin America in different ways. It simply replaces tú and has its own conjugation. Although it resembles tú verbs, there are slight differences in spelling and also in stress/pronunciation. Vos is used only with present indicative, present subjunctive and command forms.

In Costa Rica, vos replaces tú and has its own conjugation. Although it resembles tú verbs, there are slight differences in spelling as well as stress and pronunciation.

The verb form used with vos is formed by changing the “r” at the end of an infinitive verb (unconjugated verb) to “s” and adding an accent to the last syllable of the present tense. For example: your comprás (comprar), your comes (comer), your vivís.

In the present subjunctive, the forms are exactly the same. For example: your comprés (comprar), your comás (comer), your vivás (live).

Let’s review some examples:

Verbal ending type

For example using verbs:

  • live
  • halar
  • be
  • hold
  • walk
  • to build
  • trace
  • to sleep

The Tú command would be:

  • live
  • Hablas
  • so
  • hold on
  • spades
  • interpreter
  • tras
  • durms

The Vos command would be

  • long live
  • halas
  • sos
  • held
  • pedis
  • built
  • lines
  • sleeping

Your and Use of Orders

When vos is used in commands, simply remove the final “r” from the infinitive ending of the verb and stress the vowel at the end.
For example: comprá (comprar), come (comer), escribí (escribir).

For example using verbs

  • hold
  • be
  • to come
  • tomar
  • halar
  • live
  • baby
  • dar

The Tú command would be

  • Ten
  • se
  • fri
  • volume
  • habla
  • strongly
  • baby
  • a

The Vos command would be

  • tenuous
  • se
  • to come
  • Toma
  • habla
  • long live
  • baby
  • a

Hope this gives a better understanding of the Vos form and as a quick final reminder, to form vos in the present tense you simply use the infinitive without the “r”, add an “s” and stress the vowel of the infinitive se ending with a written accent if there is more than one syllable.

REMARK: Beginner and intermediate Spanish students do not need to study the vos form of the verbs. They usually have their hands full to learn Tú and the worn forms of most verbs – no need to get confused.

About Chris Howard

Christopher Howard Costa Rica’s leading relocation expert and has been conducting monthly relocation/retirement tours in Costa Rica for over 30 years. See www.liveincostarica.com. He is also the author of the one-of-a-kind best-selling New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica – the official guide to relocation and “Guide to Costa Rican Spanish”, which can be purchased through
www.costaricabooks.com or www.costaricaspanish.net

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