The Linguistic Differences Between Spanish In Spain And Mexico

The Linguistic Differences Between Spanish In Spain And Mexico

Today, the language we know as Spanish was solidified at the end of the 12th century in Castile and was known as Castilian. During this period, it became the standard written language used for all scientific, artistic, and literary purposes.

As time progressed, in the 16th century the language was split into two primary dialects, one originating in Toledo (Castilian) and the other in Seville. This split was then brought overseas, upon Spanish expansion into Central and South America.


However, with the independent development of countries such as Mexico, more linguistic distinctions in the Spanish used in this region have emerged.

These distinctions are important to note to preserve the unique history and culture of these countries. This article highlights some of these key linguistic differences between the Spanish used in Spain and that of Spanish in Mexico.

Background Information

Christopher Columbus was one of the pioneers of exploration in Central America. His exploration route took him across the Canary Islands, and then into the West Indies. According to scholars, other Spanish speaking settlers preferred two main regions of the Americas.

The Castilian Spanish speakers preferred the highland plateau areas, particularly in Mexico and the Andes Mountains. While the Andalusian Spanish speakers (from regions such as Seville) preferred the lowland coastal areas of the region.

However, there is little existing evidence proving actual preference in settlements in regions countries such as Mexico, so often scholars discuss the development of American (primarily Mexican) Spanish in terms the proximity of governing settlement centers and the usage of proper Castilian Spanish.

Children on a wire speaking spanish.

Only with this information can we contextualize distinct linguistic differences in the Spanish spoken in Spain as opposed to the Spanish of Mexico. Some of these differences that we can account for based on this assumption are distinctions such as:

  • The retention of the final syllable “s” characterizing the Spanish in Mexico, whereas other areas discontinued the usage of this syllable.
  • The usage of "tú" when addressing people informally addressing people in the singular in Mexico. In contrast, regions that were settled by Andalusians tend to use "vos."

Moreover, these are only two small differences in Mexican about the Spanish spoken in surrounding areas. Considering that Mexican Spanish is still considered relatively similar to the Spanish spoken in modern-day Spain, it is necessary to take a closer look at concrete differences between the two dialects spoken in contemporary society.

Mexican Spanish Vs. Spain Spanish

First, it is important to recognize that both of these dialects are nonetheless Spanish. For this reason, there are a consistent set of grammatical rules and vocabulary that any relatively educated individual from either of these countries would be able to understand.

With this being said there are some differences in which of these words and phrases are used by the two countries. This being particularly true in regards to slang words, or idiomatic phrases that a citizen of each respective country might only be able to understand.

Spanish and Mexican flags.

Moreover, the pronunciation of certain letters and words are also a difference in particular instances. For example, Spain distinguishes between the letters "S" and "C and Z." Each one of these letters can be pronounced differently. In Mexico, this is not the case. Each of these letters Z sound relatively the same.

When it comes to differences in conjugation, again generally all verbs are conjugated the same except one word. This exception is that Spain the term "vosotros" instead of "ustedes." For this reason, verbs following these words are thus required to be conjugated differently depending on which word is being used.

It is also important to note that while there is a set of foundational vocabulary that people use in both Spain and Mexico, there are words used particularly in Mexico that a Spaniard would be unfamiliar with.

This is because many Native Americans from the region maintaining the usage of traditional words they used before Spanish colonization.

The Mayan, Purepech, and Otomí were all large tribes that had distinct languages that people sought to preserve post-colonization. You can still find the usage of many of these tribal words in modern-day Mexico today. On the other hand, this is not something you would be able to find in Spain.

Mexican Spanish Vs. Spain Spanish

Here are a few other small differences in the two dialects you may find useful when studying the language:

  • In Spain, the word "leísmo" is very common but in Mexico and the rest of Latin America, the pronoun is known as "lo" is used much more frequently.
  • In Spain, one says "conducer" to mean "to drive, but in Mexico, it's "manejar." Additionally, in Spain, they refer to a car as "coche," whereas in Mexico they use the word "carro."
  • In Spain, the word “gafas” is used when referring to glasses, whereas in Mexico the word “lentes” is used.
  • In Spain, the word used for computer is “oredenador,” whereas in Mexico the word “computadora” is used.
  • In Spain, the word potato is “patata,” whereas in Mexico the word used is “papa.”
  • In Spain, the word used for pen is “boligrafo,” whereas in Mexico the word used is “pluma.” The word used in the Mexican dialect also means feather.

Among these examples, there are a few other small differences in word usage among the two dialects.


Ultimately during colonialism when Spain was expanding into the America's, there were linguistic changes that Spain was undergoing on its own. For this reason, the development of Spanish in Mexico has been difficult to track and has varied depending on which region of the country you're in.

Still, regarding the Spanish used in contemporary society, there are few major differences in dialects besides those mentioned in this article.

Group of people talking in Spanish.

When studying Spanish, one can find that if you learn the language in one country as opposed to the other, you will still be able to communicate effectively. Regardless the differences between Spanish in Spain and Mexico are still a fascinating study for linguist around the world.

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