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What is Voseo?

What is Voseo?

This post is contributed by Rodney. He is an avid traveler who enjoys sharing his language learning experiences and love of the Spanish language through blogging. Check out his blog –  My Spanish Notes.

I was several years into my Spanish studies when I started hearing and seeing things like:

Hola, ¿Cómo estás? Bien, ¿y vos?

¿De dónde sos?

¿Vos qué hacés?

VosSos? Hacés?  Say what?  I couldn’t help but think, is that even Spanish?  How could I have gone all these years and never have heard these terms before?


So what is vos, sos and hacés?  Let’s take a look at them, starting with vos.

Vos is actually the equivalent of , in that it’s an informal way of addressing someone.

¿Cómo estás tú? = ¿Cómo estás vos? (How are you?)

Sos is the equivalent of eres.

¿De dónde sos? = ¿De dónde eres? (Where are you from?)

Let’s look at the next example.

¿Vos qué hacés? (What are you doing?)

I’ll bet you’re thinking, shouldn’t that be haces, with no accent?  Well, it would be if we weren’t using vos.  And now it’s time to look under the hood at this thing called vos.

Not to be confused with vosotros, when you use vos you’re actually using what’s called voseoVoseo is simply another conjugation method equivalent to the informal form.   Voseo is used instead of in numerous Spanish speaking countries, like Argentina for example.

By the way, I’ll let you in on another little secret.  When you speak using the conjugation, i.e. tú eres, tú tienes, that also has a name – tuteo.   But let’s get back voseo, or vos.

¿Vos qué hacés? (What are you doing?)

Let’s take a closer look.  This sentence should look familiar, with the exception of two things: vos instead of and hacés instead of haces.  What’s up with that?  It’s because voseo a follows a different conjugation pattern.   Let’s compare conjugating the form (tuteo) to conjugating vos (voseo).


Not to hard is it? Let’s look at the conjugations rules.

Present Tense

For AR verbs: Drop the AR and add ás
For ER verbs: Drop the ER and add és
For IR verbs: Drop the IR and add ís

The nice thing about vos is that there are no stem changes in the present tense, so conjugating verbs like tener is super easy.  Instead of tienes it’s tenés.

There are only three irregular verbs in the present tense – ser, haber and ir.

Rather than reinvent the wheel (and make this article super long) I’m going to send you to a great page that tells you everything you need to know about conjugating vos and how voseo compares to and vosotros.

Spanish from Argentina

There are a number of countries that use vos besides Argentina, including Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Uruguay and a whole lot more.  Wikipedia has a very informative page on who uses vos and to what extent.

I’ll leave you with this short video, Como hablar argentino, which is about using vos.  Although the video is titled Argentinian Spanish, what you learn about vos can be used in any country that uses vos, so it’s worth the 3 minutes.  It’s also a great listening practice as it’s in Spanish.  But if your Spanish isn’t that great, don’t worry, he has some great slides in the video that illustrate the key points.

That’s it, now you’re ready to vosear (speak using the vos conjugations) with the best of them.

¡Ojalá que les sirva!

22 Colombian Spanish Words You Should Know

22 Colombian Spanish Words You Should Know

This post is contributed by Rodney. He is an avid traveler who enjoys sharing his language learning experiences and love of the Spanish language through blogging. Check out his blog –  My Spanish Notes.

A lot of people say Colombian Spanish is the “best Spanish in the world”.  Well, I don’t know about all of that, but I will say based on my experiences in Colombia and talking to Colombianos in general, the people from Medellín and Bogotá speak pretty clearly and are relatively easy to understand. 


However, if you don’t understand the local terms, that’s a moot point. 

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In this article we’re going to look at some words that I’m calling the staples of Colombian Spanish.  I recently went to Medellín and having known some of these words in advance definitely made my life a little easier.  These words are so common and in-grained in the vocabulary of the Colombian people that they use them without thinking, and you’ll quickly find yourself lost if you’re not familiar with them.


With that said, let’s take a look at some words you should know before going to Colombia. 


1. Who’s who in Colombia


Ask someone in Medellín where they’re from, and there’s a good chance they’ll say:


Soy Paisa


So what does paisa mean?  Paisa is the term used to refer to anyone from the state (estado) of Antioquia.  However, in practice the term paisa is mostly used to refer to people from Medellín.


Depending on who you talk to, you may also hear the terms rolo or rola and costeña or costeñoRolos are from Bogotá and costeños are from the coast.  Of course you’ll run into people from all over Colombia so this list is far from exhaustive, but it’s a good start.


2. Saying Hi


Of course you have your basic Spanish greetings, but there are two perhaps not so common greetings I heard that stood out in my mind.  I haven’t heard these as much in my travels to other Spanish speaking countries, but they were unavoidable in Medellín and I imagine most, if not all of Colombia.




This is an informal greeting,  I would say it’s along the lines of what’s up. 


You can use this in really informal situations and with friends.  It’s on par with que onda for Mexicans and que lo que for Dominicans. 

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This is a catch all greeting that you can use anytime.  Instead of buenos días, buenas noches or buenas tardes, you can just say buenas.


And we can’t forget the famous Que más.  This is another way to say what’s up and is uniquely Colombian.


3. Minding Your Manners

Que pena


If you’re thinking this phrase means what a shame, then you’d be right.  Unless you’re in Colombia. 


In Colombian Spanish que pena means I’m sorry.  You can use it to apologize for anything, from something small to something big.


If you bump into someone – Que pena con usted


Forgot to send that email to your sister?  Ay, que pena, se me olvidó


Que pena con usted! no tengo plata sencilla, tranquilo! yo le cambio

I’m sorry sir, I don’t have any small bills, no worries, I’ll get change


Murió mi abuelita – Que pena, tienes mi mas sentido pésame

My grandmother died – I’m sorry, you have my deepest sympathy


Bien pueda


The easiest way for me to explain this is to give you some examples of this very Colombian expression.


You answer the door and want to tell them to come in?  Bien pueda.


Someone asks you if it’s ok to turn on the radio.  Bien pueda.


You ask someone if you can use their bathroom.  They reply bien pueda.


Want to offer someone a seat? Bien pueda, siéntese


You’re out shopping and walking past a store?  The clerk will likely say bien pueda (come in) as you walk by.


Now that we’re on the topic of shopping, it’s the perfect lead in to the next expression . 


A la orden


You’ll hear this when shopping or receiving any other type of help or service.  When you’re passing by a tienda the clerk is as likely to say A la orden as much as bien pueda.  So what does A la orden mean


A la orden means at your service or at your command.  If you walk up to someone and ask for help, they’re likely to reply “A la orden“.   It can also be used to say gracias. Here  are a few a real life examples.


In my hotel I would ask the clerk if he or she could call me a cab.  The response?  A la orden


I bought a Colombian soccer jersey and thanked the salesperson.  The response?  A la orden.


Con mucho gusto


When you say gracias for something, you’ll very often hear con mucho gusto in reply.  It’s the Colombian way of saying de nada


4. Night Life


You don’t go out to party in Colombia (ir de fiesta) you ir de rumba, or rumbearse.


Nos vamos de rumba

Let’s go party


Estoy de rumba

I’m out partying

Cuando estés de rumba (whenever you’re out partying), you’ll probably be offered some guaro


What is guaro? Guaro is what they call aguardiente. A very popular choice of alcohol in Colombia   In fact, it’s probably the most popular alcoholic beverage in Colombia and is made from sugar cane (caña de azúcar).

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5. Food and Drink


Well, we’ve covered some of the local lingo, so let’s talk a little about the local food.  And the superstar of Colombian dishes is none other than the bandeja Paisa


What’s a bandeja paisa you ask?  Well, más vale una imagen que mil palabras – A picture’s worth a thousand words. 

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That’s a lot of food.  And that’s the way it’s served, every time.


Let me guess, you want to know:


¿Qué lleva una bandeja paisa?

 What does a bandeja paisa have in it?


Es un plato típico de la región antioqueña de Colombia.  Consta de frijoles, arepa, chorizo, chicharrón, arroz blanco, huevo frito, papa criolla, carne molida , trocito de morcilla, tajada de aguacate, tajadas fritas de plátano maduro


I’ll leave the translation of that as homework for you.  Or you can click on the link below and watch a YouTube video.  Actually, I’m leaving you two videos, one in English and one in Spanish, so you can choose which one you’d like to watch, or you can watch both.


Bandeja Paisa – Anthony East America


Bandeja Paisa Colombiana – Despierta America


Tinto / Tintico


After enjoying your bandeja paisa, you just might want to enjoy a cup of coffee, but don’t expect anyone to offer you un café.  More than likely they’ll offer you un tinto, or un tintico instead.  What’s a tinto you ask?  It’s the Colombian word for coffee.  Café negro to be exact.  So when you find yourself in Colombia, show off your Spanish a little bit and order like a true Colombian by asking for a tinto or a tintico if you really want to show off.




I won’t go so far as to say this word is uniquely Colombian, but it’s most certainly the word you want to use for soda in Colombia.  In most other places the word you’ll want is refresco.




Don’t let This strange looking word confuse you.  Agüita  is actually the diminutive form of agua.  I won’t say this is uniquely Colombian Spanish, but you’ll hear it quite a bit when you’re there.


I had heard this word before in Colombian telenovelas, so I decided to try it out.  I was at a small convenience store and instead of asking for una botella de agua, I simply said una agüita por favor. It was like magic, he gave me exactly what I wanted, a bottle of water.  And just to clarify, agüita doesn’t have to be in a bottle.


¿Te traigo un vaso de agüita?

Can I bring you a glass of water?


Tengo sed.  Dame una agüita

I’m thirsty. Give me some water


6. Everything Else


Que chimba


The word chimba is definitely one of the trademarks of Colombian Spanish and quite possibly the trickiest word of all to master.  It’s meaning changes based on context and/or the intonation of your voice, but for now we’re going to keep it simple.

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What a great country)


When you say Que chimba you’re saying that something is really cool or great. 


Que concierto tan chimba

What a great concert


Que chimba





Just like que chimba, chévere is way to say something is really cool, good, or great.  It’s probably a lot less slangy than que chimba though.   In fact, unless you’re hanging out with a very young and hip crowd, I would recommend you use this over que chimba


Que Chévere

How cool


La película estaba chévere

The movie was really good


Es una persona muy chévere

He’s a really cool guy


Parce or parcero


Sin duda (without a doubt) this word is very Colombian.  It means friend, or amigo in standard Spanish.  You’ll also hear it used in the same manner we use the word dude, or man.  Keep in mind these are equivalents, not exact translations.  Also keep in mind that you can use this term with men or women.


Parce is the short form of parcero (parcera for a woman).  You’ll often hear this combined with a greeting.


¿Qué más parce?

What’s up dude?

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Most Spanish speakers use the verb dar when they order or ask for something.

Me da un café por favor

Can you give me a coffee please?




¿Me puede dar una servilleta?

Can you give me a napkin?


But in Colombian Spanish you’re going to hear the verb regalar.


Me regala un café por favor

Can you give me a coffee please?

¿Me puede regalar una servilleta?

Can you give me a napkin?


¿Me regalas una cerveza?

Can you give me a beer?


Pero ¡Pilas parce!


In standard Spanish regalar means to give something as a gift, so don’t be surprised if you order you beer in another Spanish speaking country by asking:


¿Me regalas una cerveza?


And the bartender replies…


Aquí no regalamos nada

We don’t give anything away here




The dictionary says pilas means batteries, so you’ll probably be confused when a Colombian points at his eye while saying pilas.   No, he doesn’t need a battery for his bionic eye.  Although that would be cool, right?


In Colombian Spanish pilas has another meaning.  It’s a way to say watch out, be careful.  Sure, you could say cuidado or maybe even ojo, but you know what they say, “when in Rome…”.  Besides, you’ll sound way cooler. And although it’s optional, you can add the body language and point at your eye when you say it.


¡Pilas!  Ese barrio es bien peligroso

Be careful!  This neighborhood is dangerous


And that’s it.  Master these terms and you’ll have the basics you need to survive in the world of Colombian Spanish.


¡Espero que los sirva!

How to Master the Vowels of Spanish

How to Master the Vowels of Spanish

This post is contributed by Marc Belley. He is a linguist who graduated from the Université de Montréal in Canada. He speaks 4 languages and strives to speak them like a native. He is also the founder of LearnLanguagesOnYourOwn where he teaches a language learning method, which includes a page on how to learn Spanish on your own.

In this guide, I’ll teach you how to articulate the Spanish vowels correctly. Of course, these vowels may vary from one dialect of Spanish to the other, but the ones I’ll teach you about are pretty standard and they’ll make you sound more Spanish. Also, there are just 5 of them, but they might be more difficult to master than you’d think.

Here they are:

  • a as in amar ‘to love’
  • i as in si ‘yes’
  • o as in ocho ‘eight’
  • u as in uva ‘raisin’
  • e as in siempre ‘always’

The Vowel i

Let’s start with the easiest one: i.

Why is it the easiest?

Because it is present, almost as is, in many dialects of English.

The Spanish i is found in a word like sea in English.

There is one crucial difference, however, and that is the length of the vowel.

Vowel Length

Yes, you may or may not have noticed it, but English has a lot of long vowels.

To make things worse, learners of Spanish whose native language is English tend to maintain that length when speaking Spanish.

Let me be clear:

Spanish does NOT have true long vowels.

Just take the word sea in English, and let’s compare with the word si in Spanish.

The vowel sound in sea and the one in si are essentially the same, except for the fact that this sound is longer in English.

So, when saying the word si or any other word in Spanish, make sure you keep all the vowels short, such as in the English words put and met.

The next one up is the vowel a.

The Vowel a

English generally does not have this vowel on its own. It is normally found coupled with another, such as in the word night.

If you’re unable to see how there are two vowel sounds in night, then let me introduce a simple concept: the diphthong.

The Diphthong

It is important to be mindful of diphthongs when learning Spanish because this language has a lot of vowels which are not diphthongs, but which may be “mistakenly” realized as such by native English speakers.

In simple terms, a diphthong is a combination of two vowel sounds. Just say the words, outnight and toy, really slowly, and you should be able to distinguish two different vowel sounds in each word.

Now, take the word night and attempt to isolate the first vowel only. This first vowel is almost equivalent to the Spanish vowel sound a.

In case you’d like more accuracy, the Spanish a is articulated slightly more to the back of the mouth and should sound like that. It lies between the a sound from night, which is more to the front and the o from the word hot, which is more to the back.

The Vowels e and o

These two sounds are not present in a lot of varieties of English, so you might have to make an effort to articulate them. Have a listen and try to mimic them:

e and o

If you’re not sure if you’re able to mimic them accurately, then I have an alternative for you.

I’m going to teach you a technique that I used myself in order to learn how to do them.

First, let me tell a bit about how vowels are articulated in general. Vowels have basically two main features: a degree of openness and a depth. In order for me to teach you how to articulate the e sound in Spanish, we only need to familiarize ourselves with openness.

Vowel Openness

Read these two words out loud and notice how your mouth opens as you go from the first word to the second: beet and bat.

For this reason, we say that the ee in beet is closed while the a in bat is open.

Now, with this in mind, there’s a trick you can use to articulate the Spanish e correctly. English does have a sound that’s slightly more closed than the Spanish e and it also has a sound that is slightly more open than the Spanish e.

What if we articulated these two sounds without interruption and try to stop in between?

Well, if we did that correctly, we’d land on the Spanish e.

So, let’s give it a try.

Here are the two sounds you need:

The first sound is found in the diphthong present in the word mail. As we saw earlier, a diphthong is a sequence of two vowel sounds. Say the word mail slowly and try to isolate only the first sound of the diphthong. This will be your first sound needed for the technique. This is what it should sound like.

The second sound is the vowel in the word met. Just read the vowel out loud and it should sound like this.

Now, for the actual technique. I would like you to start saying the sound you isolated in mail and immediately follow it with the vowel sound in met. Go back and forth between the two sounds and notice how your mouth opens and closes each time.

What you must be able to do now is to stop in between the two vowels, or in other words, open your mouth half as much when you’re about to go from mail to met or close it half as much when doing the opposite. If you do it right, you’ll land right on the Spanish e sound.

The same technique can be used to articulate the o sound in Spanish. The two sounds you should use for the technique are the first sound of the diphthong in boat (which should sound like that) and the o in oil (which should sound like that).

If you do it right, the Spanish o sound should be coming out of your mouth.

The Vowel u

Last but not least, I’ll tell how to do the Spanish u. This one is a little trickier for native English speakers because it is not exactly the same as the oo from boot in most English dialects.

In fact, it is articulated farther to the back of the mouth.

Maybe you can already do that u, but in case you can’t, here’s a tip:

Start by doing an o like in the word oil like I invited you to do a short moment ago.

Remember how it felt like your mouth closed when going from bat to beet?

Well, I would like you to close your mouth the same way after doing the o sound in oil.

The result should be the Spanish u.

So there you have it. You should now be able to master the 5 Vowels of Spanish.

Grammatical Mistakes You Can Avoid – SER vs. ESTAR

Grammatical Mistakes You Can Avoid – SER vs. ESTAR

What could be so confusing about two verbs that both mean “to be”?

ser – Refers to permanent states of being (physical appearance, personality, job, permanent characteristics of an object)

※Ser is also irregular and must be memorized.

  • soy
  • eres
  • es
  • somos
  • sois
  • son

– Characteristic –

Characteristics are personality descriptions of a person.

Amalia es inteligente, atrevida, y amable.
(Amalia is intelligent, daring, and friendly.)

– Time –

The hour, day, and date.
For hours, use es for one o´clock and son for all other hours.

Hoy es lunes.
(Today's Monday.)

Ayer fue mi cumpleaños.
(Yesterday was my birthday.)

Son las dos.
(It's two o'clock.)

– Occupation –

Soy profesora del español.
(I am a Spanish teacher.)

Ellos son estudiantes.
(They are students.)

Mi padre era jardinero.
(My father was a gardener.)

– Relationship of one person to another –

Even after someone dies or someone breaks up, we still use ser.

Es el esposo de Marta.
(He's Martha's husband.)

– Description –

Yo soy Rogelio. (I am Roger.)

– Place of origin –

As the place a person is from or the material something is made from is not going to change we use ser for origin.

Soy de Colombia.
(I'm from Colombia.)

Mi anillo es de oro.
(My ring is gold.)

estar – Refers to more transient states of being (location, how someone feels right now)
※To address condition, use estar. Estar is an irregular verb. It does not follow the standard rules of conjugation for regular -ar verbs. Therefore, you must memorize it.

  • estoy
  • estás
  • está
  • estamos
  • estáis
  • están

– Mood and Physical Condition –

Los estudiantes están aburridos.
(The students are bored.)

Estoy triste.
(I am sad.)

Estoy tan cansada esta mañana.
(I am so tired this morning.)

La señorita Martínez está enferma.
(Miss Martinez is sick.)

– Location –

Estamos en el café ahora y estarémos en el cine en 20 minutos.
(We are at the café right now and we will be at the movie theatre in 20 minutes.)

El cine está cerca del centro.
(The cinema is near the center of town.)

Estoy en el laboratorio.
(I'm in the laboratory.)

– Action –

Estar is used to describe an ongoing action using the present progressive tense.

Estoy lavando los platos sucios.
(I am washing the dirty dishes.)

Estamos leyendo los periódicos.
(We are reading the newspapers.)

Los niños están de pie.
(The children are standing.)

La audiencia está sentada.
(The audience is seated.)

– Position –

Position is the physical position or posture a person or thing is in.

Mi abuela está sentada.
(My grandmother is sitting down/seated.)

Yo estaba acostada cuando me llamaste.
(I was lying down when you called me.)

Meaning Changes With Ser & Estar



 Pick the correct conjugated form of ser or estar for each phrase and list the reason for why you chose your answer.
e.g (Soy/Estoy) bajo y perezoso.
-> Soy – description and characteristic

La cena (es/está) en la mesa.
(Son/Están) las siete de la mañana.
Yo (soy/estoy) muy cansado. Tengo muchos exámenes mañana.
Mi madre (es/está) llamandome. Tengo que irme.
¿De dónde (es/está) la Srta. Peris-Peris?
Ángela (es/está) policía en Nueva York.
Ahora (somos/estamos) en la oficina.
Mi ex-novio todavía (es/está) enojado.
Sus abuelos (son/están) muertos.
(Soy/Estoy) acostado ahora.


está – location
Son – time
estoy – condition
está – action
es – origin
es – occupation
estamos – location
está – emotion
están – action remember death is ongoing in Spanish
Estoy – position

Hacking Spanish! – Gender of Nouns

Hacking Spanish! – Gender of Nouns

Masculine Feminine
el chico

la chica

el jardín

la universidad

el libro

la revista

el miedo

la libertad

 The idea that nouns have gender seems perfectly natural when the noun stands for a living creature.  This is because in English, living creatures often have different names, depending upon whether they are male or female.
Masculine  Feminine
man woman
tiger tigress
aviator aviatrix
The following Spanish nouns all denote living creatures.
male cat
el gato
female cat
la gata
male dog
el perro
female dog
la perre
el chico
la chica
el abuelo
la abuela

Hint: “El” and “la” both mean “the.” They’re are called “definite articles.”

el chico (the boy)
la chica (the girl)

el perro (the male dog)
la gata (the female cat)
Masculine – Feminine
gato - gata

perro - perra

chico - chica

abuelo - abuela
 Nouns that end in -o are usually masculine.  
Nouns that end in -a are usually feminine.  
Notice the word usually! 
 One cannot predict the gender of a noun that stands for a non-living thing. Try to predict whether the Spanish words for the following things are masculine or feminine:
Masculine or feminine?
 One cannot predict the gender of a noun, except in the case of living creatures. Do not try to analyze the nature of the object, looking for some inherent masculinity or femininity. It won’t work!
 Take a guess. Do you think the Spanish word for “dress” is masculine or feminine? You might expect it to be feminine, since a dress is an article of clothing worn by females.
 Actually, the word for “dress” is a masculine word:
el vestido
 When you learn a new noun, you should also learn its definite article (el, la). There are several reasons for this:
  1. Because you cannot predict the gender of most nouns.
  2. Because not every noun that ends in -o is masculine, and not every noun that ends in -a is feminine.
  3. Because many nouns end in letters other than o or a.
  4. Because the definite article (el, la) is your clue as to whether a noun is masculine or feminine.