Tú vs. Vos vs. Usted vs. Vosotros vs. Ustedes – Master Them in 1 Hour

One of the trickiest aspects of Spanish for my English-speaking students is the difference between the pronouns “tú” vs. “vos” vs. “usted” vs. “vosotros” vs. “ustedes”. 

This common confusion comes from the fact that all the above pronouns translate to English as “you”. So, what is the difference between them and how do I know which one to choose?

I’ll try to clarify that for you today. 

“Tú” vs. “Usted” – Which One To Pick?

When you first start studying Spanish and get to see personal pronouns, you’ll observe that the English “you” in singular has two standard translations: “tú” and “usted”

🔔 What’s more, “” appears as the 2nd person singular, while “usted” conjugates the same as “él” or “ella”, i.e. 3rd person singular. 

🇪🇸 “Tú eres”, but “usted es” – both mean 🇬🇧 “you are” (“you” refers to a single person)
🇪🇸 “Tú tienes”, but “usted tiene” – both mean 🇬🇧 “you have” (“you” refers to a single person)
🇪🇸 “Tú puedes”, but “usted puede” – both mean 🇬🇧 “you can” (“you” refering to a single person)

No wonder so many students get confused and want to know the difference between using “” vs. “usted”. 

 🔔What differentiates these two pronouns is the level of formality, “” being less formal than “usted”. 

It is OK to use “” when talking to friends, family, peers, equals, children, pets. 

Usted”, on the other hand, should be used when referring to elders, superiors, teachers, professionals, or people whom you don’t know. Some people use “usted” when talking to their mother or father. This custom however is losing popularity. 

In some countries of Latin America “usted” is also a sign of fondness and love. A boyfriend may refer to his girlfriend using “usted”, or even a parent to a child. 

“Tú” vs. “Usted” – Examples

🇪🇸 Tú eres mi mejor amigo.
🇬🇧 You are my best friend. 

🇪🇸 ¿A qué hora termina usted hoy, doctor?
🇬🇧 What time do you finish today, doc?

🇪🇸 ¿Cómo se siente usted hoy, mi amorcito?
🇬🇧 How are you feeling today, my love?

🇪🇸 Usted tiene que acostarse ya, mi princesita. 
🇬🇧 You have to go to sleep now, my little princess. 

🇪🇸 Mamá, ¿cómo se ha sentido usted últimamente? (a little old-fashioned, but is still used in some families)
🇬🇧 Mom, how have you been feeling lately?

🇪🇸 Hermano, ¿tú me puedes reemplazar en el trabajo mañana?
🇬🇧 Bro, ¿can you cover for me tomorrow at work?

🇪🇸 Oye, amiguito, ¿por qué estás (tú) llorando?
🇬🇧 Hey, buddy, why are you crying?

🇪🇸 Pedro, ¿(tú) sabes dónde está el gerente de ventas?
🇬🇧 Pedro, do you know where the sales manager is?

“Usted” vs “Tú” – Are They Always Necessary In A Sentence?

When learning personal pronouns in Spanish, it is important for you to remember that they don’t always appear in a sentence. In many cases, the verb itself – thanks to its conjugation – provides enough information to identify the implied subject. Hence, using pronouns is unnecessary. 

However, that doesn’t mean you can forget about the difference between “tú” vs. “usted”. As I mentioned before, they represent the 2nd and the 3rd person singular respectively. “Usted” finds itself in the same category as “él” or “ella“.

Choosing the correct verb form will show your listener whether or not you understand when and how to use these two pronouns. 

🇪🇸 ¿Tienes un momento? 
🇬🇧 Do you have a moment?

🇪🇸 ¿Tiene un momento? 
🇬🇧 Do you have a moment?

In the first example, the verb form indicates that the implied subject is “”. In the second example, “tiene” corresponds to the pronoun “usted”. 

Let’s see some more sample sentences to compare the use of “” and “usted”:

🇪🇸 ¿En qué trabajas? – verb in 2nd person singular implies that the subject is “tú”
🇪🇸 ¿En qué trabaja? – the verb in 3rd person singular implies that the subject is “usted”
🇬🇧 What do you do for a living?

🇪🇸 ¿Quieres algo para comer? – the verb in 2nd person singular implies that the subject is “tú”
🇪🇸 ¿Quiere algo para comer? – the verb in 3rd person singular implies that the subject is “usted”
🇬🇧 Do you want something to eat?

🇪🇸 Test Your Spanish Knowledge 🇪🇸

🇪🇸 Eres muy amable– the verb in 2nd person singular implies that the subject is “tú”
🇪🇸 Es muy amable – the verb in 3rd person singular implies that the subject is “usted”
🇬🇧 You are very kind.

🇪🇸 ¿Puedes ayudarme?– the verb in 2nd person singular implies that the subject is “tú”
🇪🇸 ¿Puede ayudarme? – the verb in 3rd person singular implies that the subject is “usted”
🇬🇧 Can you help me?

🔔 When the personal pronouns are placed in brackets, they are not necessary and the sentence is perfectly clear without them. 

“Tú” vs. “Vos” – Do They Mean The Same?

If your contact with Spanish goes beyond the coursebook and the grammar book, you may have heard people use “vos” – another personal pronoun that means “you”.

As a colloquial equivalent of “”, “vos” is particularly popular in such Spanish-speaking countries as Paraguay, Argentina, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, or Uruguay, where people use it much more often than “tú”. 

You can also hear “vos” in other parts of Latin America, e.g. Chile, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, México, or Cuba, but in contexts that are exceptionally informal, often pejorative, and low-class. 

The Map of Vos vs. Tú

Voseo” is a term that refers to the use of “vos” as a second-person singular pronoun. 

Tuteo” is an equivalent term referring to the use of “”. 

The phrase:

🇪🇸 “Por favor tutéame” means
🇬🇧 “Please call me “tú” (not usted)”

and is a common way to ask someone to drop the unnecessary formality.

As you (hopefully) know, Spanish has developed differently in each country that speaks it. The use of “” vs “vos” varies from place to place.

The map below shows which of the two pronouns is more popular in different countries of Latin America. 

source: HiNative

“Vos” vs “Tú” – Key Differences

Let’s compare “tú” vs. “vos”:

🇪🇸 ¿Y tú, qué haces acá?
¿Y vos, qué hacés acá?
¿Y vos, qué hacís acá?

All of these three sentences have the same translation: 

🇬🇧 And you, what are you doing here?

1. The first sentence is written in standard Spanish and the use of “” indicates familiarity and no difference in hierarchy between the person asking the question and the person responding to it. 

2. The second question is likely to be heard in Argentina, or any of the above-mentioned Latin American countries where “vos” is predominant. It is polite enough, has no negative connotation, and can be used in any situation. 

3. The third question is taken from underprivileged neighborhoods of Santiago de Chile, where people with low education levels live. Depending on the specific context it can be used between friends or – with a menacing tone – between strangers. 

“Vos” And Verb Conjugation

Have you noticed the present tense form of the verb “hacer” in these three examples?

🔔 In countries that use “vos” predominantly, the “r” in the infinitive form of most verbs is replaced by “s” and stress is added on the last syllable. 

🇪🇸 puedes – vos podés
🇬🇧 you can

🇪🇸 vivir – vos vivís
🇬🇧 you live

🇪🇸 trabajar – vos trabajás
🇬🇧 you work

🇪🇸 entender – vos entendés
🇬🇧 you understand

🇪🇸 viajar – vos viajás
🇬🇧 you travel

🔔 In Chile, on the other hand, where the use of “vos” is associated with low education, the verb replaces the “as” or “es” ending with “ai” or“ís”.

🇪🇸 puedes – vos podís
🇬🇧 you can

🇪🇸 vivir – vos vivís
🇬🇧 you live

🇪🇸 trabajar – vos trabajai
🇬🇧 you work

🇪🇸 entender – vos entendís
you understand

🇪🇸 viajar – vos viajai
🇬🇧 you travel

Below you’ll find a few sentences that compare the verb conjugation for “” vs “vos” in Argentina” vs “vos” in Chile.

🇪🇸 Tú no sabes nada. – standard Spanish
🇪🇸 Vos no sabés nada. – Argentina
🇪🇸 Vos no sabís nada. – Chile
🇬🇧 You don’t know anything. 

🇪🇸 Tú no puedes salir hoy. – standard Spanish
🇪🇸 Vos no podés salir hoy. – Argentina
🇪🇸 Vos no podís salir hoy – Chile
🇬🇧 You can’t go out today.  

🇪🇸 ¿Quieres (tú) algo para comer? – standard Spanish
🇪🇸 ¿Querés (vos) algo para comer? – Argentina
🇪🇸 ¿Querís (vos) algo para comer? – Chile
🇬🇧 Do you want something to eat? 

🇪🇸 ¿Por qué (tú) no te mueves? – standard Spanish
🇪🇸 ¿Por qué (vos) no te movés? – Argentina
🇪🇸 ¿Por qué (vos) no te movís? – Chile
🇬🇧 Why don’t you move?

🔔 The differences in conjugation get particularly striking in the case of the verb “ser” (“to be”). 

🇪🇸 ¿De dónde eres (tú)? – standard Spanish
🇪🇸 ¿De dónde sos (vos)? – Argentina
🇪🇸 ¿De dónde erís / soy (vos) – Chile
🇬🇧 Where are you from?  

“Vos” vs. “Usted” – Are They Interchangeable?

It depends on the country. In some places, where “vos” is associated with low-class language, the gap in the formality level between these two pronouns is too big for them to be considered synonyms. 

🔔 When you find yourself in Chile or Perú, for instance, never use “vos” to address a person you need to be respectful to, as it might sound out of place and some may even find it offensive. 

🇪🇸 ¿Me podís dar un minuto?
🇬🇧 Can you give me a minute?

A sentence like that would sound absolutely inappropriate when directed to a boss or another person of respect. 

🇪🇸 ¿Me puede (usted) dar un minuto? sounds much better in that context. 

🔔 How about countries that have massified the use of “vos”, especially Argentina? This pronoun is so deeply rooted in their culture and language that it can even replace “usted” in a formal context. 

🇪🇸 ¿Me podés (vos) dar un minuto? is totally OK even if you are talking to your boss. 

“Vosotros” vs “Tú” – Is It The Same “You”?

We’ve already compared three different forms of “you” in Spanish and we still have some work to do. 

My students often get immensely surprised when they see Spanish conjugation tables for the first time and realize there is a separate rubric for plural “you”. 

Puzzled, they tell me “you is you, no matter if it is singular or plural”. 

Well, it sure is the case in English, but Spanish works in a slightly different way here. 

🔔 The singular “” is very different from the plural “vosotros” and always requires a different verb conjugation. 

Let’s compare the sentences below:

🇪🇸 Alex, ¿quieres (tú) ir al cine conmigo? 🧍
🇬🇧 Alex, do you want to go to the cinema with me?

🇪🇸 Juana, Lucía, ¿queréis (vosotros) ir al cine conmigo? 🧍🧍
🇬🇧 Juana, Lucía, do you want to go to the cinema with me?

🔔 As you can see, when you are talking to one person you need to coordinate your verb conjugation with the implied pronoun “”. 

🔔 On the other hand, when talking to 2+ people, the pronoun “vosotros” is in order. Don’t forget to adjust the verb conjugation accordingly. 

🇪🇸 ¿Puedes (tú) ayudarme?🧍
🇪🇸 ¿Podéis (vosotros) ayudarme?🧍🧍
🇬🇧 Can you help me?

🇪🇸 ¿Qué hiciste (tú) ayer?🧍
🇪🇸 ¿Qué hicisteis (vosotros) ayer?🧍🧍
🇬🇧 What did you do yesterday?

🇪🇸 ¿Quieres un helado?🧍
🇪🇸 ¿Queréis (vosotros) un helado?🧍🧍
🇬🇧 Do you want an icecream?

🇪🇸 ¿Estarás (tú) en la casa mañana?🧍
🇪🇸 ¿Estaréis (vosotros) en la casa mañana?🧍🧍
🇬🇧 Will you be home tomorrow?

🇪🇸 ¡Ven a verme!🧍
🇪🇸 ¡Venid a verme!🧍
🇬🇧 Come see me!

“Ustedes” vs “Vosotros” – Which One Is More Formal?

There is something very important for you to know: “vosotros” is almost exclusive to Spain and is considered one of the key differences between Latin Spanish and European Spanish.  

Spaniards use it as a plural equivalent of the singular “tú” and it appears in the same informal context. In that country, “vosotros” is something you can say to friends, relatives, peers, kids, etc. 

🔔 When in Latin America, however, you’ll hardly ever get to hear the “vosotros” form. Not in everyday conversations, at least. 

Instead, the plural “you” is expressed there with the pronoun “ustedes”. No matter if the context is formal or informal. People use “ustedes” all the time! 

Ustedes” is considered the 3rd person plural, keep that in mind when conjugating your verbs!

Does “ustedes” exist in Spain? It sure does, but…. It is used only in formal situations. 

The sample sentences below should help clarify the difference between “vosotros” vs “ustedes”. 

🇪🇸 ¿Sois (vosotros) extranjeros? – informal in Spain
🇪🇸 ¿Son (ustedes) extranjeros? – formal everywhere + informal in Latin America
🇬🇧 Are you foreigners?

🇪🇸 ¡Sentaos, por favor! (vosotros)- informal in Spain
🇪🇸 ¡Siéntense, por favor! (ustedes) – formal everywhere + informal in Latin America
🇬🇧 Please, sit!

🇪🇸 Parecéis cansados (vosotros). –  informal in Spain
🇪🇸 Parecen cansados (ustedes)– formal everywhere + informal in Latin America
🇬🇧 You seem tired.

🇪🇸 ¿Dónde vivís (vosotros)? – informal in Spain
🇪🇸 ¿Dónde viven (ustedes)? – formal everywhere + informal in Latin America
🇬🇧 Where do you live?

🇪🇸 Tenéis una casa muy bonita – informal in Spain
🇪🇸 Tienen una casa muy bonita – formal everywhere + informal in Latin America
🇬🇧 You have a very beautiful house.


Thanks for bearing with me until the end. I realize “tú” vs “usted” vs. “vos” vs “vosotros” and “ustedes” is a lot of information to retain, which is why I have prepared a simple table that summarizes all the Spanish “yous”. 

SingularPluralFormal InformalFormal and Informal
Vosxx (in Chile)x (in Argentina)
Vosotrosxx (only used in Spain)
Ustedesxx (in Spain)x (in Latin America)

Hope it helps you juggle these prepositions like a native.

Until next time!

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Joanna Lupa
Joanna Lupa
Polish by birth, Chilean by the turns of life. Has spent 20 years in that beautiful South American country working as a language teacher and translator. Has taught Spanish and English to students of all proficiency levels. Passionate about languages, books, and traveling. A mother of 2 trilingual teenagers.

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