[#028] ¡Epa, qué colorcito!

¿Querés una birrita? ¿No tendrás un tomatito para la ensalada? ¿Por qué no nos sentamos allá, al solcito? ¡Qué carita que tenés!

These are all things that you can hear from rioplatófonos. Actually, from Spanish speakers in general. But since this is a common phenomenon in the River Plate area, it is important to talk about it and explain a few things. ¿Solcito? Little sun? ¿Birrita? Little beer? What’s all this about?



Friday… I deserve a cold one!


If you’ve already had a Spanish lesson or two, you will have probably noticed that word endings change all the time and these changes are quite common. Look at the verb “to speak” in the present tense: hablo, hablás, habla, hablamos, etc. You already know that these endings (or suffixes) convey different meanings. In this case, they point to the subject of the sentence, and that’s why you don’t need to use personal pronouns like “yo” or “ella” all the time… Yes, exactly, I’m talking about verb conjugation. And yes, we all hate it. Moving on!

There is a special kind of suffix in Spanish that is often used to imply a different meaning, which has to do with size. When we add “-ito/a” (or “-cito/a“) to some words, we add the meaning of “small”. So for example, “casita” means “casa pequeña” (little house), and “lapicito” means “lápiz pequeño” (small pencil). This word transformation is not so common in English, but you can think of the suffix “-let” in words like “droplet” (little drop of rain) or “booklet” (a small book), which works in a similar way.

Now, these special endings (or diminutive suffixes) don’t always convey the idea of a small size, as in the examples that you read at the beginning of this post, but can also express affection. This is what linguists call “morfología apreciativa“, which has to do with the use of morphological resources like suffixes to express affection or emotions. Compare saying “little dog” and “doggy”. Or “little cat” and “kitty”. Which one would you say sounds cuter?

Now, it is well known that Spanish cannot live without its crazy and super rich morphology, so that means that we can add these suffixes to lots and lots of nouns, and adjectives too.

So if you ask for a “tomatito” to add to your salad, then yes, that can be a small tomato or it can be just a cute way of referring to it. It wouldn’t be weird for a cook on TV to say something like “y ahora cortamos unas cebollitas y después las agregamos al tuquito” (so now we chop some onions and then we add them to the tomato sauce), which will make the cook sound more loving or less cold and captivate their audience. (By the way, good luck translating this affective component in such cases. Cute onions? Haha, what’s that?)

If a friend invites you to go for a “birrita“, don’t assume you will be drinking only a little bit. That won’t necessarily be the case. Actually, this word has already appeared in a video in a previous entry. We didn’t get to say much back then, but there you have an example of this diminutive suffix. And in case we haven’t mentioned this before, the word “birra” is slang for “cerveza“, so you will only hear it in informal contexts.

Next example. Think of a cold winter sunny day. Wouldn’t if feel great to go sit over there under the warm sun? ¿Por qué no nos sentamos allá, al solcito? Of course, the sun can never be small. But the use of “solcito” conveys this nice feeling of the sun gently warming our skin.

Sometimes things get a bit more complicated, though, as in the expression “¡qué carita que tenés!” (literally, “what a face you have!”). If someone says this phrase to a friend, they will be probably trying to point out a special facial expression. Maybe their friend is tired and sleepy, maybe they look angry or they are in a bad mood, or maybe they are smiling while daydreaming. Qué cara, carita, carucha, caripela All of them are valid. Oh, the wonders of morphological derivation!


And finally, we can look at the title of this entry. Suppose we bump into Ross Geller, right after he’s been to the tanning salon.




We can then tell him: “¡Epa, qué colorcito, eh!” (Wow, nice tan you got there!)

Epa” is an interjection that usually shows some kind of surprise, at least in the River Plate area. It can be used differently in other places, though. Anyway, in this case, we can say that the word “colorcito” does not refer to size at all and is in fact being used in an ironic way. In other words, this affective meaning embedded in the suffix “-ito” does not represent our real opinion of Ross’ tan, and we probably don’t actually like his skin colour now.


Ok, to end this entry, here’s a piece of advice: be careful when you try to use these complex morphological resources. Mastering them is an art. If you want to use them correctly, start by copying what native speakers say, in the same contexts and with the same intonation. But if you want to experiment, run the risk of sounding weird and have a laugh, then go ahead and have fun with any palabritas that may come to your mind! 😉



[#008] Requetecontra

Today we’ll focus on a very short word. It has only two letters, but it has a very powerful effect. Without further ado, let me introduce you to our guest today:


Re” is a very commonly used word in Rioplatense Spanish, especially among teenagers and young adults. Some people may say it’s not actually a word on its own, but only a prefix that can be added to other words. We are not going to go into that debate here, and we’ll just treat it as a separate word.

Re” means simply “very” or “really”. It’s basically used in informal contexts as an intensifier. Here are some examples:

    Tu amigo es re gracioso.
    Your friend is very funny.

    Esa peli es re interesante.
    That movie is really interesting.

    El libro que me regalaste está re bueno.
    The book that you gave me is very good.

    Es re común usar “re” acá.
    It’s very common to use “re” here.

At first glance, the structure looks very simple: re + adjective. But that’s not all. The word “re” can also be used to modify adverbs and even some prepositional phrases.

    Vino re re rápido.
    He came really really fast.

    Lo reparó re fácilmente.
    He fixed it very easily.

    Viajo re seguido.
    I travel very often.

    Vino re de lejos.
    He came from really far away.

    Está re de moda.
    It’s really fashionable.

    Estamos re a favor.
    We are totally in favour.

Oh, well. I guess things can always get a bit more complicated, right? Because that’s not all either. It’s also possible to use the word “re” with verbs and nouns.

    Me re gusta esta canción.
    I really like this song.

    Te re esperé, boludo, y nunca apareciste.
    I waited for you a lot, dude, and you never showed up.

    Está re lloviendo.
    It’s raining heavily.

    Ayer dormí una re siesta.
    Yesterday I took a very long nap.

    Tengo unas re ganas de tomar un helado.
    I really want to have an ice-cream.

    Conseguí un re trabajo, por suerte.
    I got a really good job, luckily.

As you can see, in the previous examples the word “re” still works as an intensifier, but in some cases it can also convey some other meaning that we can recover from the context; not just “very”. When we say “una re siesta“, we are probably talking specifically about its length. Or if we say “une re crisis“, we are most likely referring to how bad it was. We can then say the following:

    Una re siesta = una siesta muy larga
    A very long nap

    Una re crisis = una crisis muy profunda
    A very deep crisis

    Un re accidente = un accidente muy trágico
    A very tragic accident

    Un re sueldo = un sueldo muy alto
    A very high salary

Of course we can also say all these sentences in other ways, without using “re“. Naturally, we can also use words such as “muy“, “mucho“, “realmente“, “un montón“, etc., which can all be considered intensifiers. But “re” is definitely heard in informal contexts quite frequently, especially among young people.

Personally, I suggest being careful with the use of “re“. As you can see, it can be used in lots of different situations and structures, but that doesn’t mean that it can be used all the time. In some cases, the structure may look fine, but the meaning conveyed might not make the sentence acceptable, such as “re mañana” (“very tomorrow” [?]), “un satélite re natural” (“a very natural satellite [?]), or “tomó re té” (“he drank very tea” [?]). Explaining the reasons why these specific examples may sound weird (while the previous ones do not) would require getting more technical, which is not the aim of this blog. So we’ll just recommend using “re” in those cases where you’ve heard it or read it before, so you can be sure it’ll sound fine.

And to finish this post, I’ll share with you a comic strip where the author seems to be making fun of the way teenagers speak in the River Plate area (overusing “re“), their apparently contradictory nature and how difficult it seems to be to understand them.

Gaturro Gateen

  • But hey, why is this entry called “Requetecontra“?

Oh, well, that’s just because we Argentines can always… “overexaggerate” things. So we don’t only say “re lindo” for “very nice”, but also “requete lindo” or “recontra lindo“… Or even “requetecontra lindo” (“very very nice”)!

And that’s all, I promise! Hmm… Oh, well, who am I cheating? We could even say something like “requetecontrísimamente lindo” (“really really really nice”).

As you can see, there’s always room for more! 😉

[#003] Me gustas tú

Have you ever listened to “Me gustas tú” by Manu Chao? It’s a song from 2001. If you pay attention to the lyrics, the singer is basically saying he likes pretty much everything. But above all things, he makes it particularly clear that he likes YOU. And he does it all the time. That’s even the title of the song.

But this blog is still about Rioplatense Spanish, so let’s leave music aside for a moment and let’s focus on the topic of this entry: the use of the pronoun ““.

” is a second person (singular) pronoun, typically used in informal situations.

Yo, , él/ella
I, you, he/she/it…

If you have studied Spanish as a foreign language, I’m quite positive this is the pronoun you’ve been taught to use. And as you can see, it works just fine. Manu Chao also uses it, just like you! Alas, rioplatófonos don’t.

In español rioplatense, personal pronouns go like this:

Yo, vos, él/ella

There’s no ““; it’s always “vos“. The use of this pronoun is called “voseo“, as opposed to “tuteo“. So yeah, we use a different pronoun to refer to the person we are talking to, but I’m afraid that’s not all. You might probably know already that when you conjugate verbs in Spanish, their endings change according to each personal pronoun. So you see where this is going, right?

New pronoun, new verb endings.

Voseo rioplatense

No need to worry too much about “vos“, though. This is quite simple, and here is one big tip: the stress always falls on the last syllable of the verb. Sometimes that’s all you have to do, just move the stress to the last part of the word. Here are some examples:

cantas / Vos cantás (You sing)
miras / Vos mirás (You look)

comes / Vos comés (You eat)
debes / Vos debés (You must)

In some other cases, other changes are necessary. Here are some example of verbs that belong to the -IR group:

vives / Vos vivís (You live)
subes / Vos subís (You go up)
pides / Vos pedís (You ask for)

You might have noticed that it’s actually quite straightforward. When verbs are conjugated for the pronoun “vos“, they behave like regular verbs, and the endings can only be -ás, -és, -ís. The only exception I can think of right now is the verb “ser“:

Tú eres / Vos sos (You are)

If you’ve studied español ibérico (the variety spoken in Spain), you will probably be familiar with the pronoun “vosotros” and you will realize that, although not exactly the same, the endings for “vos” and “vosotros” are relatively similar. So associating these two pronouns may help you remember the conjugation, but don’t forget that “vos” is a singular pronoun, whereas “vosotros” refers to a group of people.

  • So is it just you rioplatófonos the crazy ones who use this pronoun “vos“?

No, the use of “vos” is not only restricted to Rioplatense Spanish. There are many other countries in Latin America where this pronoun is also used. In some places it may have only a restricted use for certain contexts or a certain register, but you will anyway find it in other countries like Costa Rica, Paraguay, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and some parts of Colombia and Ecuador.

And remember that Rioplatense Spanish is not spoken all over Argentina, but mainly in the River Plate area. This means that you will also find the pronoun “” in some Argentine provinces. In Santiago del Estero, for example, you can find a very interesting phenomenon: people combine the use of the pronoun “vos” with the conjugation pattern for the pronoun ““. Crazy, huh?

Oh, well… After all this mess, I hope you are really confused now! lol Just kidding. The important thing in the end is that if you ever meet a rioplatófono, you won’t really need to worry about this. Just be prepared to hear us use “vos“, but whatever pronoun you use, we will definitely understand you!

So just relax and go ahead, sing “Me gustas tú” as it is. No need to change it into “Me gustás vos“. 😉