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What Is “Vosotros” and When Do You Use It?

Welcome to a different week of Pricey Duolingo, an recommendation column only for language learners. Atone for previous installments right here.

Dear Duolingo logo with the Duolingo character Lucy strutting on top of a speech bubble that says "Dear Duolingo"

We’re again this week with one other learner-inspired Pricey Duolingo submit! We have gotten a variety of related questions on this matter, and it is one I bear in mind fascinated with loads, after I first traveled to Spain:

This week’s query:

Pricey Duolingo,

I simply celebrated my 365-day streak in Spanish on Duolingo, and I’ve lately tried to learn some Spanish books to check my abilities. I got here throughout vosotros and seemed it up, as a result of vosotros and the verb endings have been unfamiliar to me.

So my query is: Is that this one thing that can are available later items, or has there been a motive to not incorporate this?

Is Vosotros Verb-oten?

Ahh, vosotros–that is the type of “y’all” utilized in Spain! What’s it, why is it there, and do it’s good to comprehend it?

Once I studied Spanish at school within the U.S., one yr we would have liked to know vosotros and the subsequent we did not, and it was at all times forwards and backwards like that. You’d form of see it in textbooks, but it surely was typically skipped, and I used to be principally advised to disregard it…after which I studied overseas in Spain.

At this time we’ll get into Spanish verb varieties and the way vosotros matches in. It’s going to be a fast tour via pronouns, etymology, and Spanish dialects!

Okay, ¿estáis listos? (That is the Spain verb kind for “okay, are y’all prepared?”)

Pronouns 101

To know what vosotros is in English, first let’s overview what pronouns are and the way they work in English and Spanish (and in lots of different European languages).

Pronouns like vosotros substitute a noun, and languages have completely different pronouns for various linguistic conditions. In Spanish and plenty of European languages, there are principally six slots for sorts of pronouns, and right here they’re in English:

Singular Plural
First particular person I we
Second particular person you you
Third particular person he / she / it they

Now, there’s one thing a bit of bizarre in that English pronoun chart: English has the exact same phrase—”you”—for referring to only one particular person and for speaking to a gaggle of individuals. That is due to some very previous, very gradual adjustments within the historical past of English, and over time English dialects around the globe have developed to resolve this downside, by creating new second particular person + plural pronouns, to be completely different from singular “you”: Irish English typically makes use of ye (a really previous pronoun!), many English audio system say you guys, you will hear youse in components of the northeastern U.S., y’all is utilized in many regional and ethnic dialects throughout the U.S., and in Duolingo’s hometown of Pittsburgh, you would possibly hear yinz!

Spanish has a parallel six-slot pronoun chart that you just may need seen used for verb conjugations. Here is the complete chart, together with all pronouns, as they’re utilized in Spain. (Be aware that usted and ustedes are used with third particular person verb conjugations!)

Singular Plural
First particular person yo nosotros / nosotras
Second particular person vosotros / vosotras
Third particular person él / ella / usted ellos / ellas / ustedes

As you may see, vosotros (and the female kind vosotras) are in the identical slot as plural you (or y’all, or youse, or yinz).

So…why would not everybody be taught vosotros in Spanish? And why is it solely utilized in Spain?

What’s the take care of “vosotros” in Spain?

English pronouns have the oddity that “you” has two meanings, and Spanish pronouns have a unique complicating issue: formality.

Spanish and plenty of different languages have particular pronouns used when it’s a must to present further politeness to somebody, perhaps as a result of they’re a stranger, they’re older than you, or they’re able of energy, like a professor or decide. So in Spanish, to speak to your finest good friend you will use (casual “you”), however to speak to your candy, aged neighbor, you will use usted (formal “you”), which got here from vuestra merced (form of like “your honor”).

Or…that is the TLDR as we speak. 👀

Within the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the Spanish started colonizing the Americas, the Spanish pronoun system labored one thing like that: for talking instantly to 1 particular person you could possibly communicate to informally, vosotros for talking informally to a gaggle of individuals, usted for talking instantly to 1 particular person you wished to talk formally to, and ustedes for talking formally to a gaggle of individuals. And in order that’s how issues began in lots of the Spanish varieties used within the Americas.

However formality is form of a bizarre factor. It is easy to see how being formal with somebody can create distance, like politeness, however utilizing formal phrases with folks you are near also can present affection, like saying “you’re worthy of some further respect, sweetheart/pal/momma.” That is what occurred in English: you was initially for teams of individuals (like “y’all”) or for being formal and well mannered, and over time it turned the a technique we speak on to anybody, whether or not we’re being formal or casual.

And the identical occurred in Spanish! Within the Spanish of the Americas (and the Spanish Canary Islands off the coast of Africa), that extra formal ustedes turned the way in which of speaking to all teams of individuals, whether or not formally or informally. As soon as ustedes had claimed this new territory of second particular person plural, vosotros step by step bowed out of the scene within the Americas. In the meantime, throughout the Atlantic in Spain, the pronouns did not change on this method; in reality, as we speak in Spain you are unlikely to listen to a lot ustedes in any respect—it is reserved for essentially the most formal of conditions, and for a lot of Spaniards it has the texture of being unnecessarily distant.

Ought to I be taught vosotros?

Nicely, it relies upon!

In case you go to Spain and use ustedes, everybody will perceive you, and I feel that is a very powerful factor. You’ll talk and categorical your self, even if you happen to will not actually hear others use ustedes. You will not sound such as you’re from Spain, however vosotros isn’t the one distinctive characteristic of Spanish in Spain!

In fact, in Spain you will hear a lot of vosotros used, however as you will see beneath, the vosotros verb varieties simply have completely different endings, so with a bit of follow you will get used to understanding them shortly. In case you’re somebody who shall be spending lots of time in Spain (like I used to be firstly of my examine overseas, not figuring out my vosotros!), you will choose it up in the identical method that you’re going to choose up slang, expressions, phrases used solely in Spain, tradition, and pronunciation. No single course, app, teacher, or textbook can train you all the things you will want in your specific state of affairs, in a selected metropolis with a selected age group and context (work? college? journey? digital nomad?), so search for the perfect basis within the language.

For instance, Duolingo’s Spanish course for English audio system teaches ustedes and never vosotros as a result of there are lots of extra Spanish dialects that use ustedes, and as we have mentioned, ustedes is known in Spain as effectively. We have gotten a lot of Pricey Duolingo questions on Spanish dialects around the globe, so we’ll get into dialects and studying them in one other submit!

What’s the “vosotros” conjugation?

The essential verb endings for vosotros are -áis/éis/ís:

Verb Vosotros kind
-ar verbs hablar habláis (y’all communicate)
-er verbs comer coméis (y’all eat)
-ir verbs vivir vivís (y’all stay)

And, naturally, the extra irregular verbs have barely completely different vosotros varieties.

Verb Vosotros kind
ser sois (y’all are)
estar estáis (y’all are)
hacer hacéis (y’all do/make)
tener tenéis (y’all have)
querer queréis (y’all need)
poner ponéis (y’all put)

There’s simply a few different phrases that go together with vosotros in Spanish:

  • vuestro/vuestra/vuestros/vuestras. To say “y’all’s” (like “y’all’s footwear”), you will use a type of vuestro, which works identical to nuestro (ours): vuestro zapato (y’all’s shoe), vuestra casa (y’all’s home), vuestros zapatos (y’all’s footwear), and vuestras casas (y’all’s homes).
  • os. Spanish has direct and oblique object pronouns, and for each of them you will use os, which works identical to nos: for instance, os quiero (I like y’all), os gusta la música (y’all just like the music), and os doy el regalo (I give yall the reward).

And—I can not resist a bit of phrase origin data—if you understand one other Romance language like Portuguese, French, or Italian, did you discover anything about vosotros to assist perceive when it is used? Nosotros and vosotros began as two phrases! Nosotros started as nos otros (actually, “we others,” form of like “all of us”), and vosotros started as vos otros (actually, “y’all others”—like “all of yall”!). Are you able to see the hyperlink between the phrases for “we” in different Romance languages (nós in Portuguese, nous in French, noi in Italian) and the phrases for “y’all” (vocês in Portuguese, vous in French, voi in Italian)?

Y’all preserve training your Spanish, okay?

After only a couple weeks in Spain, I used to be utilizing vosotros myself and was effectively on my option to getting the dangle of meals phrases and different slang expressions, too. Did you see the latest submit on French dialects? What different dialects and languages would you prefer to see us focus on?

You’ll be able to submit your individual Pricey Duolingo language and studying questions by emailing us at!



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