When to use “vosotros”



Most American students of Spanish never hear the subject pronoun vosotros until they have a teacher from Spain. Until then, students learn the ustedes form. Both, vosotros and ustedes, are used to address a group of two or more people directly in an informal setting. In American English they are the equivalent of you guys or the form y ‘all used in the south of the U.S.

While you are more likely to encounter a Spanish speaker from Latin America than one from Spain, it is important to be familiar with vosotros as well. If you travel to Spain, you will hear vosotros ALL THE TIME except in the Canary Islands and in some parts of Andalusia.

Maybe in Spain we use vosotros so much because we have a quite relaxed way of treating each other. Young people, for example, only use ustedes with older people when the situation is formal; once a situation becomes more informal because people get acquainted (student/teacher) everybody may use vosotros. Age is an indicator to take into account; older people use vosotros with younger individuals. For example, radio and television hosts use ustedes when talking to a mature audience, but vosotros if the audience is young. A pop artist would use vosotros to talk to his or her young public, but an opera singer would prefer ustedes. In stores and restaurants young customers are addressed with the vosotros form. I will conclude by saying that if you are older, you can use vosotros with everybody except in formal situations; and if you are young, you should use ustedes to stay safe; the adults will tell you when you can transfer to vosotros.

That said, as the Spanish saying goes: No pongo la mano en el fuego – I don’t put my hand on the fire –  for this explanation. There is no definitive rule. Language usage fluctuates and changes constantly. What doesn’t change, however, are the verbal endings. Here you have the most common tenses in the vosotros form of regular verbs in the -ar, -er and -ir families.

VOSOTROS FORMS OF REGULAR VERBS HABLAR (TO TALK), CORRER (TO RUN) AND ESCRIBIR (TO WRITE)

PRESENT: hablÁIS, corrÉIS, escribÍS

PRESENT PERFECT: habÉIS hablado, habÉIS corrido, habÉIS escrito

PRETERIT: hablASTEIS, corrISTEIS, escribISTEIS

IMPERFECT: hablABAIS, corrÍAIS, escribÍAIS

FUTURE: hablarÉIS, correrÉIS, escribirÉIS

PRESENT SUBJUNTIVE: hablÉIS, corrÁIS, escribÁIS

IMPERFECT SUBJUNTIVE: hablARAIS, corrIERAIS, escribIERAIS

COMMAND: hablAD, corrED, escribID

As you know, irregulars require individual attention, they have special needs, so we will deal with them in a future post. And now I will use vosotros as I sign off: Espero que estudiéis mucho español esta semana. I hope that you (guys) study a lot of Spanish this week.