¿Qué Onda Vos? A Series on Speaking Guatemalan Spanish

“¿Qué onda vos?” is XelaWho’s a monthly guide to speaking Spanish Guatemalan style. This month’s topic:the vos command form, by James Gray.

Does the vos thing – that somewhat uniquely Guatemalan form of the personal pronoun “you” – freak you out, too? For me it’s the scariest part of the ‘Guatemalan’ language. Last month we covered when it’s appropriate to use vos. This month, let’s discuss the command form (imperative/imperativo) since it’s used a lot and is a challenge. Next month we’ll cover the negated form, which is even more challenging.

The basic pattern for the imperative with vos is that you drop the final -r from the base infinitive form and put the emphasis on the final syllable. The conjugation pattern for vos commands is therefore is similar to that for tu (just with different stress since the tu form puts the stress up front on regular verbs), but vos doesn’t follow tu in its irregular forms. Note where the accent is, because the stress is crucial to getting it right! Here are some key examples:

callarse – to shut up

The 2nd person usted/tu/vos forms are as follows: callese/callate/calláte.

Example using vos as a command: Calláte vos!

Translation: Shut up, dude (but is unisex!)!

meter – to put, to insert

2nd person usted/tu/vos forms are as follows: meta/mete/meté

Example using vos as a command: Meté tu dedo ahí.

Translation: Stick your finger in there.

hacer – to make, to do (hacer caso = to obey, to pay attention to)

2nd person usted/tu/vos forms are as follows: haga/haz/hace

Example using vos as a command: Hace me caso, cariño, tengo mi látigo.

Translation: Obey me, darling, I have my whip.

Ponerse – to put on

The 2nd person usted/tu/vos forms are as follows: pongase/ponte/ponéte.

Example using vos as a command: ¡Ponéte un preservativo o me voy!

Translation: Put on a condom or I’m out of here!

decir (irregular verb) – to say, to tell

2nd person usted/tu/vos forms are as follows: diga/di/decí.

Example using vos as a command: Vos, decíle a Paco que llegó el envío de 100 kilos.

Translation: Dude, tell Paco that the 100-kilo shipment arrived.

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