Let's start today's lesson with a quote from the Argentinean telenovela, Yago:
Pero si no te casás,
But if you don't get married,
no tenés nada para aportar a la sociedad.
you don't have anything to contribute to the company.
No sos nadie, Melina. No sos nada.
You're nobody, Melina. You're nothing.
Captions 27-29, Yago - 9 RecuperaciónPlay Caption
What's going on here (aside from a seemingly very dramatic situation)? Since the speaker is addressing this character as "you," shouldn't these verbs be conjugated as (tú) te casas, tienes, and eres?
What's going on here, grammatically speaking, is that in Argentina, Uruguay, and many other regions (including parts of Paraguay, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Mexico, and Venezuela) vos is used in place of tú as the informal second person singular pronoun ("you"), causing some of the verb conjugations to vary slightly.
"Do I really have to learn another verb tense?!" you might be saying. However, even though el voseo (the use of vos instead of tú) might seem intimidating at first, there is a lot of "good news" regarding vos, particularly if you are already familiar with el tuteo (the use of tú):
1. The verb conjugations for vos only differ from those with tú in two tenses: the present indicative and the informal imperative (command). All of the other verb tenses (preterite, imperfect, etc.) are exactly the same as with tú, as are many of its pronouns (e.g. direct object, indirect object, reflexive, and possessive).
2. The formulas for conjugating verbs with vos in both present indicative and imperative are extremely simple.
3. With the voseo, there are a lot less irregular verbs than with tú. In fact, in the present indicative of vos, there are only three irregular verbs, while in the present indicative of tú, there are over one hundred irregular/stem changing verbs to memorize.
Let's start with how to conjugate -ar, -er, and -ir verbs with vos in the present indicative: Simply take the infinitive, replace the "r" with an "s," and add an accent to the final vowel. Let's look at some examples with the infinitives escuchar (to listen), saber (to know), and subir (to go up).
Qu'... Vos no me escuchás ni cuando yo te estoy contando
Wh'... You don't listen to me, not even when I'm telling you
una cosa que para mí es importante.
something that is important to me.
Caption 50, Yago - 2 El pumaPlay Caption
Si vos sabés muy bien que yo me sé adaptar.
You know very well that I know how to adapt.
Caption 43, Cuatro Amigas - PilotoPlay Caption
En el segundo piso, de ahí subís y ahí es tu salón.
On the second floor, you go up there and there's your classroom.
Caption 49, La Sucursal del Cielo - Capítulo 1Play Caption
In the case of these regular -ar and -er verbs, you will note that their conjugations with vos are virtually identical to their tú forms (escuchas and sabes) with the addition of their written (and spoken) accents. However, regular -ir verbs like subir, which are typically conjugated with -es in their tú form (subes), retain their-i vowel plus an accent.
As previously mentioned, verbs that are irregular or stem-changing with tú are regular with vos. To get an idea, let's take the common verbs comenzar (to begin), tener (to have), and decir (to say), all of which have irregular forms when conjugated with tú. With vos, on the other hand, these verbs follow our regular pattern of replacing the "r" with "s" and adding an accent to the final noun:
|Verb in Infinitive:||Present Indicative with Tú:||Present Indicative with Vos:|
Let's look at a couple of these in action:
Y decís: "Bueno, pará que mañana tenés que seguir."
And you say, "Hey, hold on 'cause tomorrow you have to continue."
Caption 66, Biografía - Natalia OreiroPlay Caption
There are only three irregular verbs in the vos form of the present indicative, one of which we already saw (ser) and two of which share their forms with tú (haber and ir). All three of these appear in the following clip:
Además, vos ni vas al colegio, has perdido un montón de años.
Besides, you don't even go to school, you have missed a ton of years.
Vos no sos nadie.
You're [a] nobody.
Captions 33-34, La Sucursal del Cielo - Capítulo 1Play Caption
Now, let's take a look at these captions again, substituting the verb tú for vos:
Además, tú ni vas al colegio, has perdido un montón de años. Tú no eres nadie.
Besides, you don't even go to school, you have missed a ton of years. You're [a] nobody.
While the vos form of ser, sos, does differ from the tú form (eres), the verb conjugations for ir (vas) and haber (has) are exactly the same for both tú and vos.
Conjugating verbs with vos in the imperative (command) form is even easier: Simply take the infinitive, remove the r, and add an accent over the final vowel. Let's look at some examples of the vos command forms for each type of verb ending, utilizing the verbs tomar (to drink), tener (to have), and venir (to come).
Sabés que no tomo whisky. -¡Pero tomá!
You know that I don't drink whiskey. -But, drink it!
Caption 22, Muñeca Brava - 2 VenganzaPlay Caption
Este... tené un poquito de paciencia.
Umm... have a little bit of patience.
Caption 7, Muñeca Brava - 45 El secretoPlay Caption
Vení, vamos a bailar.
Come, let's go dance.
Caption 33, Muñeca Brava 7 El poema - Part 6Play Caption
Once again, verbs like tener and venir that are irregular in the imperative form with tú (ten and ven, respectively) are regular in the imperative form with vos. While ir (to go) is the only irregular verb in this category, its formal conjugations, id or ite, are almost never heard, and the command form of andar (to walk/go), andá, is often used in its place.
Keep in mind that, due to the Spanish accent rules, the addition of a pronoun to a command form with vos may lead to the omission of the written accent:
Olvidate, divertite, hacé algo. -No quiero,
Forget about it, have fun, do something. -I don't want to,
Caption 8, Muñeca Brava 46 Recuperación - Part 7Play Caption
To conclude, remember that in all of the other tenses besides the present indicative and informal imperative, vos is conjugated in exactly the same way as tú. In the following example, we see the preterite form of ser (to be) fuiste as well as the imperfect form of estar (to be), taking into account that the indirect object pronoun te is also identical for both vos and tú:
Porque a vos no te hice absolutamente nada.
Because I've done absolutely nothing to you.
Todo lo contrario.
On the contrary.
Fuiste la protagonista de la fiesta, estabas maravillosa.
You were the star of the party, you were looking wonderful.
Captions 15-17, Muñeca Brava - 41 La FiestaPlay Caption
We hope that this lesson has made conjugating verbs with the informal second person pronoun vos seem a bit less daunting. For more information on this topic, we recommend this Yabla series on the Voseo, ustedeo, and tuteo as well as this video on the use of vos in Argentina— and don't hesitate to contact us with your comments and suggestions.