In Argentina, when speaking in the second person, they use the pronoun vos instead of tú. Not only is it a different pronoun, but it is also a slightly different conjugation than tú, when used in the present or the imperative (see our post on the vos form for more detail). Most people, including many Argentines, believe that the vos form is only used in Argentina or perhaps in Argentina and Uruguay. This is, however, incorrect. The vos form is used in many countries across South America, and is the predominant form in 5 different Latin American countries – Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. It is also used in most other Latin American countries, in specific regions.
This brings up the question. Why do they use the vos form?
Way back in the end of the 15th century, the tú form and the vos form were used in Spain, depending on the level of formality and the social relationship between the speaker and the listener. It was also at this time that Spain first began colonizing Latin America which meant that the Spanish that arrived in Latin America included both the vos and tú. Over time, the vos form became regarded as derogatory and slowly disappeared from use in Spain. In Latin America, the countries were still colonies of Spain and consequently, the people tried to follow the same customs as the ones in Spain. This was especially true for the countries that were closely linked to Spain, specifically the viceroyalties (such as Mexico and Peru). For this reason, the vos form in these countries disappeared at a similar time.
In Argentina, only the upper classes used both the vos and tú form, mainly due to a pressure to conform to the norms of Spain (Argentina was still a colony of Spain). It wasn’t until the early 1800s that the vos became the dominant form in Argentina, and probably happened for two reasons. One, there was a big crisis in Argentina at the time, and many of the rural people moved into the city. The rural people all used the vos form, so the end result was a much greater population of people using the vos form. The more it was heard, the more it was used. It was also around this time that Argentina achieved independence from Spain. The desire of independence meant people did not want to be like Spain, and they became proud of their proper customs. This included their dialect of Spanish, and since the vos form was unique and certainly not Spanish, it led to the loss of tú and the use of vos.
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