Spanish Variations
Language Resources

Just as there are differences between American English and British English, there are differences between the Spanish spoken in Spain (also known as peninsular Spanish) and the Spanish spoken in Latin America. In both cases, it's the same language but with certain variations in terms of vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar.

There are several Spanish dialects and varieties as you travel throughout Spanish-speaking countries... and even within the countries themselves! Read on for more information.

1. Pronunciation of the "c" and the "z"

Many people who spend time in Spain refer to Spaniards as having a lisp when the speak when, in fact, it's not a speech impediment buddt rather a form of pronunciation. In Spain, soft c's and z's (like the c in center, for example) are pronounced with a "th" sound, making the Spanish word for center (centro) sound like "thentro".

In Latin America, soft c's and z's are pronounced like an s, meaning in Spanish the word for center (centro) sounds like "sentro".

2. Vocabulary

Another key difference between peninsular Spanish and Latin American Spanish is that different words can be used for the same thing, or the same word can mean one thing in Spain but something completely different in Latin America. Many of these differences in vocabularly have to do with the influences of Latin America's many indigenous languages.

For example, the word "carro" in Spain is a cart that you push or pull to transport things, whereas in Latin America it's an actual car that you can drive around in. A car in Spain is a "coche", whereas a "coche" in Latin America is a baby stroller.

Here are some other differences in vocabulary between Spain & Latin America:

EnglishPeninsular Spanish (Spain) Latin American Spanish
carcochecarro
avocadoaguacatepalta
to get angry enfadarseenojarse
computerordenadorcomputadora
peachmelocotóndurazno
potatopatatapapa

3. Voseo

In Spanish, there are three ways to say "you"; the most common are tú (familiar) and usted (formal). However, in many parts of Latin America you will also come across the word "vos". While its use is widespread, it also has wide differences in social consideration. In some parts it is considered street language, appropriate to say but not correct when written. The use of "vos" and its corresponding verb conjugations is known collectively as "voseo".

It is used extensively in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay and in parts of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Mexico.

4. Use of "ustedes"

While peninsular Spanish has two ways of saying "you" in plural form (such as when addressing a group; "you all"), Latin American Spanish has only one. In Spain, both "vosotros" (you all, informal) and "ustedes" (you all, formal) are used, while in Latin America "ustedes" is always used.

This also goes for the corresponding verb conjugations. For example, we'll conjugate the verb "hablar" (to talk):

Peninsular Spanish Latin American Spanish
yo
I
hablo
hablo

you (informal)
hablas
hablas
él, ella, usted
him, her, you (formal)
habla
habla
nosotros
we
hablamos
hablamos
vosotros
you all (informal)
habláis
X
ellos, ellas, ustedes
they, you all (formal)
hablan
hablan

So, to say "Who are you (plural) talking to?"

  • In Spain: "¿Con quién habláis?"
  • In Latin America: "¿Con quién hablan?"

Spanish Variations within Spain & Latin America

Believe it or not, variations in Spanish aren't found just between Spain and Latin America; there are also differences as you travel from region to region within single countries. Learn more by clicking on the links below: