Are you worried about not being able to understand a word of Argentine Spanish? This quick guide to Spanish in Argentina will get you on track
Latin America,  Argentina,  Spanish,  Travel

10 Popular Spanish Words in Argentina for Travellers to Know

In Argentina, the official language is Spanish. However, it can be very difficult to understand Spanish in Argentina if you are not used to it or learned Spanish somewhere else.

Especially Argentine pronunciation can be difficult for outsiders. On top of that Argentines have a whole catalog of different words and slang that you don’t hear in other Hispanic countries.

If you are traveling to Argentina and are worried that you will not be able to understand a word of Argentine Spanish… Then don’t worry!

With this quick guide to 10 useful Spanish phrases you should know before visiting Argentina, I will help you back on track.

Feel free to share your own experience with Spanish in Argentina in the comments below. I would love to hear about your experiences and what you think about Spanish in Argentina!

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that at no additional cost to you, Becci Abroad will earn a commission if you purchase through one of those links. This helps to pay the bills and the maintenance of the site.

A Language Guide to Spanish in Argentina

10 Spanish phrases you should know before visiting Argentina

#1 Castellano – not español

The Argentines don’t refer to their language as español as most other Hispanics. No, they speak castellano!

Most people will bear over with you if you say that they speak español… And then they will kindly correct you.

Castellano refers to the Spanish from the Spanish region of Castile. It is assumed that Castile is the origin of the Spanish language. Why Argentines insist on using Castellano as the term for their Spanish, I still haven’t figured out.

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10 Spanish phrases you should know before visiting Argentina

#2 Vos means you in Argentina

One of the most common differences in Argentine Spanish is the use of vos as a second-person pronoun (e.g. you) instead of the normally used .

Honestly, for me, it has been the most confusing thing in Argentine Spanish.

Firstly, sometimes the verb for the second-person changes when you use vos compared to ! According to the verb conjugations with vos are always regular. Whereas, with you have many irregular verb conjugations.

So, for example, the conjugation of the verb pensar (to think): when you use it is tú piensas, but with vos it is conjugated vos pensás. Or the verb dormir (to sleep) becomes vos dormís instead of tú duermes. Easier? Maybe. But for sure not when you are used to the -way

Secondly, some pronouns change according to the use of vos and some don’t! For example, instead of saying contigo when referring to “with you”, Argentines use con vos.

However, they do say tuyo (e.g. yours) as all other Hispanic none-vos-speakers do. Maybe because it would sound too weird to say “vosyo“…? Just joking!

Confused? Well, I was to! Thus, I have good news for you; the Argentines do understand you perfectly if you speak with ! So don’t you worry; your school Spanish will work perfectly fine.

To make a bit fun of the situation and the obvious fact that I’m a foreigner, then for the first many months I was in Argentina, I said: Disculpe, todavia no he aprendido hablar con “vos”(e.g. “sorry, I still haven’t learned to speak with vos“).

Generally, it creates a big smile on their lips – at least I’m trying!

10 Spanish phrases you should know before visiting Argentina

#3 Che has a lot of meanings in Argentina

You properly know the word che from the famous Che Guevara. And if you studied Spanish somewhere else than Argentina, I’m sure your Spanish teacher would have mentioned che as one of the words that mark the variety of the Spanish language. At least it was one of the favorite examples of my Spanish teachers.

Che is a very common word to hear in the streets of Buenos Aires. Well, I assume all over Argentina. It is the Argentine way of saying mate, bro, dude, etc. Or basically, just a way to call out somebody’s attention.

But it is a very informal way of calling people. So, don’t throw a “che, qué te pasa?” if you are at a job interview… Just a tip 😉

#4 The prefix re means very in Argentina

Argentines place the prefix re in front of almost any word when they want to express that it is very something. 

Está re loco” my Argentine friends will say when something is very crazy. Or “está re buena la comida” when the food is very good. So, this is “re bueno saber” (e.g. very good to know).

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10 Spanish phrases you should know before visiting Argentina

#5 Coger is to f***

If you like me learned Spanish in Spain, then you are properly used to the fact that the word coger can be used for almost anything to do with “taking” or “catching”. Either to catch the bus (coger el bús) or pick up the keys (recoger las llaves).

Well, watch carefully out to use coger in Argentina. The meaning is quite different here… As it refers to having sex!

It is actually harder than one thinks to change the habit of each word you use in a foreign language. Little by little, and with a good amount of bullying from my friends, I have so far succeeded in eliminating coger from my everyday vocabulary.

10 Spanish phrases you should know before visiting Argentina

#6 Tirar onda is to flirt in Spanish in Argentina

A common way to express that somebody is flirting with you is to say that they está tirando onda.

Onda can best be translated as vibe. So, this somebody is actually throwing (tirando) vibes at you.

BONUS: to express good and bad things the Argentines as well use the word onda. Buena onda and mala onda, respectively for good and bad thing. Thus, this doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with flirting.

10 Spanish phrases you should know before visiting Argentina

#7 El subte means the subway in Argentina

I was super confused the first time I heard somebody referring to el subte. What the h*** is el subte, I thought.

But you don’t have to stay a long time in Buenos Aires before you find out that el subte is the porteños’ (e.g. citizens of Buenos Aires) name for the subway system.

When I remembered that the Spanish translation of the underground is Subterráneo, it made even more sense.

10 Spanish phrases you should know before visiting Argentina

#8 Colectivo means the bus in Spanish in Argentina

The bus in Argentina is another important transportation word to know. In Argentine Spanish, the buses in the cities are called colectivo. In Buenos Aires, there are 180 different bus lines that can be differentiated by their number and the color on the bus, so there are enough reasons to use the word colectivo!

The colectivos in Buenos Aires run pretty often, however, they forget about figuring out their schedule. They seem to arrive more or less when they feel like it, and it is common to see two of the same bus running one after the other. On the other side, maybe it is for the best that they don’t have any official schedule because that way they are never late and always on time…Right?

Finally, you might as well hear the word bondi used among Argentines. Bondi is the slang for colectivo. In my head, it still doesn’t make any sense… But whatever, not everything has to, does it?

10 Spanish phrases you should know before visiting Argentina

#9 Anteojos means glasses in Argentina

It is just strange how certain things change names between Hispanic countries. One of them is: glasses.

In Spain, they are called gafas which in Cuba means sunglasses. Instead, in Cuba they use espesjuelos. And then I thought that I was settled to be understood… Well, no!

In Argentina, they call glasses for anteojos! Thus, properly this is the most logical word as it means “before the eyes”.

10 Spanish phrases you should know before visiting Argentina

#10 Frutilla means strawberry

I keep on running into words for fruits and vegetables which are different in Argentina compared to other Spanish-speaking countries.

For example, bell pepper is called “morron” in Argentina whereas other places call it “pimiento”. A bit nerdy, I admit it. But isn’t it strange that the same vegetables are called differently?

Have you been to Argentina and run into other examples of different Spanish words? Let me know which ones by leaving a comment below!

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  • Diego

    Sarpado! Which can be a positive or negative reaction to a situation/thing you hear/see. In the positive it means VERY COOL, in the negative could mean kind of TOO MUCH (comes from the word “pasado”, which in this case means beyond). ?

  • Camila

    Hey there! I’m from Argentina, and I thought you should know: “che” is quite informal. No one would use that with his/her boss, for example. It is common among friends and family, for sure; but not in any semi-formal or formal situation. Cheers!

    • Rebecca

      Hi Camila,
      Thank you so much for your comment! I really appreciate it!
      Yeah, that’s right! I might not have made it so clear in the description – I will upload it asap 🙂

  • Eugenia

    Hi Rebecca,
    This was a fun read, however as a native of Argentina (and a linguistics nerd), I thought I’d let you know: Che is really more of a ‘hey’ used when talking with mates rather than meaning mate. As you might have noticed, we Argentines have a tendency to all talk at the same time, so che works well as a sort of ‘hey listen here to what I’m about to say’. I hope that makes sense. Also, just to complicate things a bit further, peppers are ajies, whereas a ‘morron’ is the very popular roasted pepper. We like to eat red roasted peppers so much, that we’ve given them their own separate name 😉 Hope you have a great time in Argentina!

    • Rebecca

      Hi Eugenia,
      Thank you so much for your excellent comment! And interesting points you come it. I get your point about “che”! However, might just be me hearing wrong but I tend to hear it used like “eh/hi/ay che”, where I don’t know, it sounds wierd to use the translation “hey”. So, I did a bit of research 🙂 And Gringo in Buenos Aires (good reliable source 😉 ) put it like this:
      “The word che is ubiquitous in Argentina. It has three uses. First, it’s the equivalent of the English hey or hey you: in other words it’s a way of getting someone’s attention, for example the bartender when you want to order more Quilmes. Second, it’s also used as the equivalent of mate, dude or buddy: it’s a generic word for a person or something to call someone when you forget their name. And third, it’s one of those meaningless interjections that do no more than keep a conversation going.”
      I think that actually catches both of our “translations”. And then again, it is difficult to translate everything exactly to one language to another.

      Oh, very interesting about the morron! Then it is “el boliviano a la vuelta de casa” that got it wrong! He puts morron on the signs by the bell pepper… Thank you for making me clever!
      Once again thank you for this very interesting comment! And I’m so happy to hear that you found it funny to read

    • Rebecca

      Thank you Marcelo! Actually, working on a post about swearing in Argentina, so “boludo” will for sure get a place there! Thanks for your comment!

  • Daniela

    Great article, Becci. I like the “vos” but don’t think I’ll ever use it. I had a very unfortunate love affair with an Argentinian in Lima, so I’m familiar with some Argentinian Spanish. He used to call me “petisa” because I’m quite small (especially for German standards). And I’m looking forward to the subte and it’s generally great that all public transport can be paid with the same card. Makes life a lot easier.

    • Rebecca

      Thank you so much, Daniela! I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed the post! Haha, I said the same thing, when I just arrived to BA.. buuut now I use “vos” only, and I have to force the “tu” 😉 Ooh, been down that road too! Watch out when you get here! They can be very pushy those Argentines! Yeah, it is super smart with the SUBE card. Working on a good introductional piece to public transporation in BA. Will it be your first time in BA?
      Looking forward to seeing you here! Keep safe – and pet the cats for me 😉

    • Rebecca

      Thank you for the visit, Audrey! I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed the read! Yeah, one can just hear those porteños saying these phrases ?

  • Sonia

    Hi Rebecca,
    I would like to add that originally the word “che” meant “my” and it is still used in that sense in NE Argentina. So you will hear “che amigo” (chamigo) in Corrientes.
    Another Argentinian word used a lot is “pedo” (fart) which has different meaning according to the situation. “Ni en pedo” (not a chance). “Al pedo” (not doing anything useful). “En pedo” (drunk), etc.

    • Rebecca

      Hi Sonia!
      Thank you so much for your visit on the blog! 🙂
      Wow, I had no idea about that “che” means “my” in the NE Argentina. That’s so interesting! Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention!
      Haha, yeah, “pedo” and its meanings I do know by now – I really need to do a second post soon 😉 Thank you so much!

  • Laura

    Hi rebecca! I’m porteña and I think you missed the word “flashar”. It can also be used as an adjetive (flashero) . It’s mostly used by teenagers here (and some informal adults too). I don’t really know how to properly explain it but let’s try.
    Well if someone tells you you are “flashera” it means that they think you are being fantasious, dramatic or not realist at something you are saying. They could also say “estas flashando” wich means exactly the same but using the verb and not the adjetive.
    Ps: it can also be used in things. Ex: someone who is watching a very strange tv show would say “es re flashero” wich means it’s crazy and out of normal, extremely fantasious.
    Ps 2: if someone tell this to you it could mean they think you are lying or that they are just joking with you (if you are close friends) yes we are complicated…
    I TRIED MY BEST!! haha. I hope my english is not that bad bc I’m going to college in april and study to become an english traslator! Please if any english speaker could help me and correct my mistakes it would be sooo helpful!! Thank you so muchhh and I hope someone can get the meaning of this crazy word haha♡♡

    • Rebecca

      Hi Laura,
      Thank you so much for dropping by the blog! Yes, yes! “Flashar” should definitely be on the upcoming list of word and phrases in Argentina! Thanks for sharing and your explaining was excellent! I wish you all the best luck with your education as English translator. My best advice to became really good at a language is just to continue, continue and continue, and try to listen and read in the language every day. For example, I used a lot audiobooks when I was learning English, then you can listen to English books while on the Subte, the bus or at home while doing other things. Thanks again. Un beso enorme!

    • Graciela

      The word “che” is a ‘guaraní’ word meaning “my” — It is used in Argentina as well as in Uruguay.
      The guaraní indians used it in the colonization years by saying: che general, meaning mi general, my general when refering to the head of the military troops.

    • Pete

      Hi Laura,
      So I understand your description of “flashar”, as a description of something or someone who is acting in a dramatic, excessive way. In English this could be “flashy”.
      So flashy means, “ostentatious, bold, showy”.
      I suppose that is similar to “flashar” ?

      Also, if you want to hear Australian English, I am Australian. I make videos about South American football and especially the Copa Libertadores. My objective is to tell the great stories of the Copa Libertadores, to English and European football fans.

      But I do have an Australian accent. My accent is a bit “stronger” (because I am from the countryside/rural Australia, not the bit cities). But it is not that much different from most Australians of my age (34). So you could listen to me speaking in the videos if you wish to get an understanding of how Australians sound.
      The link to my YouTube channel is:

      Also to Rebecca, thanks ever so much for making this post and your website generally. It is remarkably helpful for me – I speak Castellano poorly, and in a formal way, and I love hearing and learning all these sayings. I would love to go to Argentina some day soon. It is a dream for me.
      All the best,

      • Rebecca

        Hi Pete!
        I’m so so sorry for the late reply! Thank you so much for dropping by my blog and taking time to leave a comment!

        How awesome that you do videos about Copa Libertadores for English-speakers!! I’m sure there are plenty of good stories to tell 😉

        I’m really happy to hear that you found the blog and my post about Spanish useful – stay turned! There’s more to come 😀

        All the best,

  • Laura

    I read a lot of books in english but I’ve never tried the audiobooks! Thank u. Some accents are hard for me to understand so it will be helpfull!
    Ps: your english is so great that I thought you were an english speaker…
    Thank you so much for your wishes!! Great blog. Xoxo

    • Rebecca

      Exactly, the audiobooks help a lot with the different accents in English. I feel that the pronunciation is better than in many movies because they a made for listening.
      Oh, thank you 🙂 Wishing you all the best of luck! Xoxo

      • Carolyn

        Hola Laura y Rebecca!

        Me encanta este sitio. Es re bueno:)

        Laura, busca unos vloggers en Youtube también, para que tengas una gran variedad de acentos diferentes, especialmente considerando la gran diferencia entre los países del Reino Unido, Australia y los EEUU. Vivo yo en California, y aún es difícil entender a gente de unas de las otras regiones.

        Ahora una pregunta de FLASHAR – ¿es decir que algo es muy raro, como, por ejemplo un episodio de Stranger Things o una pintura de Dalí? ¿Pero también significa que uno miente?

        • Rebecca

          Hola Carolyn,
          Mil veces gracias por tu comentario! Sí, es cierto! Escuchando vloggers en Youtube es una muy buena idea para aprender idiomas (creo que no exisitían tantos vlogger cuando yo estudiaba inglés, jaja).

          Bueno, la pregunta te querría para un argentino que de verdad no lo sé responder bien :/ Otra vez muchas gracias por la visita! Me alegro que te haya gustado la página.

  • Ana

    Hi! In Spain, they have many languages, like Catalán, Eusquera, Castellano (and some more). The most popular language is Castillian (Castellano), because when Spain was unified the king was from Castilla and was the language impose to everyone in the kingdom to speak. So, beacuse in Spain they have many language, we don’t speak “Spanish” we speak “Castellano” that is one of the languajes in Spain. (Hope to not be too confuising)

    • Rebecca

      Hi Ana! Thanks for dropping by! Sure, I’m aware that in Spain you have several different languages. However, the funny thing for me is that in Argentina you keep on calling it “Castellaño”, even though, as far that I’m aware it doesn’t have much to do with the “Castellaño” spoken in Castilla nowadays. Thus, it is interesting how Spanish has developed differently in different regions, right?
      Once again, thanks for dropping by! I hope you enjoyed the read!

  • P. J.

    The language thing is the same as in English. You don’t speak United Kindomes because the regions got together under one name, and what people speak in United States, is not as the old English either.

    • Rebecca

      Thanks for dropping by P.J.! I partly agree with you; my point of interest with castellaño and Argentina is that “castellaño” isn’t directly connected to Argentina other than possible immigrants from Castilla in Spain.
      I hope you enjoyed the reading, though 🙂

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