[#024] Aló, Jorge

Have you ever wondered how rioplatófonos answer the phone? I had never actually given it much thought. But then I came across the following picture and thought I should make a comment about it on this blog.


This seems to be a photo of an old textbook used by Argentine students around 60 years ago or so. It shows a dialogue between two children who are talking on the phone. I will first give you an approximate translation of what they are saying, and then we will focus on some specific points.

    —Aló, Jorge
    —What do you mean, “aló”? Where did you get that foreign word from, Enrique?
    —I heard it from someone I don’t remember.
    —OK, OK. I prefer to say “hola”, as it is said in Argentina. Specially now that we’ve had our own telephones since the government of the General Perón bought them. Don’t you agree?
    —You are right, Jorge.

The first word that we need to pay attention to is “aló“. But Jorge has already explained it for us. As he says, rioplatófonos don’t say “aló” when answering the phone. We just say “hola“. Some people might stress the second syllable of the word, though. This “holá” version is only used when answering the phone, it is never used when greeting someone face-to-face. But the traditional “hola”, stressed on the first syllable, can always be used, both in person or on the phone.

It is interesting to point out that, apart from using “aló“, Enrique also seems to use the pronoun ““, instead of “vos“. His last phrase is “tienes razón“, instead of “tenés razón“. Maybe the use of “” was a bit more common back in those days, as a result of the influence of the Spanish that came from Spain. Or maybe people still considered the form “” as the correct one (or at least the one that was to appear on a textbook), and “vos” as a kind of evil deviation from the norm. 😛 That’s no longer the case, of course! But it seems then that Enrique is trying to speak in a more neutral way or to imitate other accents, whereas Jorge makes a stand for speaking the way Argentines do.

The last point I want to mention is actually a cultural reference. Did you notice that Jorge refers to Perón? Do you know who he was? Maybe you’ve heard about his wife, Evita Perón, or that famous song in her honor, “Don’t cry for me, Argentina”. Anyway, Juan Domingo Perón was elected president in 1946, reelected right afterwards in 1952, and then came back to power in 1973. He played such an important role in Argentina that there is still today a political party named after him: el peronismo.

Now, this is not a blog on politics, so we will not be discussing what role should politics play in education, or if it is right or wrong to include such references in school. But if you are interested in finding out more about what textbooks looked like during those years, you can easily search for something like “libros escolares Perón” on Google or YouTube and I’m sure you will get more examples.

Anyway, you now know how to answer the phone in the River Plate area. But what about saying goodbye before hanging up? Luckily, there is nothing special about that, haha! There is no specific word or different stress pattern for this, so you can just say something like “chau, nos vemos“. 😉


[#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“. 😉