Differences Between Spain’s and Mexico’s Spanish

Or Difference Between Mexican Spanish and Castilian Spanish

Spanish is a vibrant and complex language. It is also the official language of more than 20 countries in the world. As a result, approximately 572 million people speak Spanish worldwide. Thus, it is only reasonable for the language to vary from region to region or from one country to the next. 

Here, we will focus on the differences between two of the most common Spanish dialects: Mexican and Castilian Spanish. These two languages are much like British English and American English — meaning that although they come from the same root, they have some key differences:

1. Vocabulary

The first and most notable difference is, of course, the vocabulary. Many words used in Mexico are different from those used in Spain and vice-versa. More so, many terms have different meanings, and verbs can have different connotations.

For instance, if you are looking to say: I drive a blue car. In Spain, you would say: “Conduzco un coche azul.” Whereas, in Mexico, you would say: “Manejo un carro azul.” Both sentences express the same meaning but use very different words to convey it. 

Another good example is the verb “coger.” In Spain, “coger” is used as the verb to grab. While in Mexico, the word “coger” has a very different connotation. It literally translates to having sexual relations. In Mexico, the terms “agarrar” or “tomar” substitute the verb to grab. 

Food and drinks are other words that vary significantly between Spain and Mexico.

For example, in Mexico, you call corn “elote,” while in Spain, you call it “maíz.” Potato is another word that changes; in Spain, a potato is called “patata,” while in Mexico, a potato is called “papa.” 

Below, we will share categorized lists of other common words and verbs with different terms in each country:

• Foods:

Ice CreamNieveHelado
Sparkling WaterAgua MineralAgua con Gas


To driveManejarConducir
To get angryEnojarseEnfadarse
To parkEstacionarAparcar
To turnDoblarGirar
To take a showerBañarseDucharse
To workChambear/TrabajarCurrar/Trabajar
To talkPlaticarHablar
To mopTrapearFregar

• Other common words:

Cell phoneCelularMóvil

Thus, as you can see, when it comes to vocabulary Mexican Spanish and Castilian Spanish can be very different. Therefore, knowing what words to use where, can save you time and lots of headaches.

2. Pronunciation & Accent

The accent is another key difference between the two dialects. Overall, to trained ears, Mexican Spanish can sound more melodic or soft. Castilian Spanish can have a more guttural or authoritative tone. Linguistic experts say that difference stems from the fact that Castilian Spanish has more of an Arabic influence.  

It is important to note that Castilian Spanish is considered by many people to be the simplest to understand because of its clear pronunciation. Plus, many Spanish-learners say Mexicans speak very fast. And when speaking informally, they tend to cut words — similar to the french “elision.”

Moreover, Mexican Spanish can be very easily differentiated from other regional dialects. Mexicans tend to mark a certain tone, sort of like you would when asking a question, at the end of a sentence. 

But, probably the most significant difference is in the pronunciation. The letters “s,” “z,” and “c” before and “i” or an “e” are pronounced very differently in each country. In Mexico, this combination of letters sounds like an “s,” but in Spain, it would be pronounced as a “th.” 

3. Vosotros/Ustedes

There are also subtle differences when addressing others. In Mexico, there are two forms of the second-person singular. One is more formal: “usted,” and the other one, “tú” can be understood as a more informal term. Plus, in Mexico, the formal second-person singular uses the exact same conjugation as the third-person singular. 

In the case of Spain, you can also use “usted” in a more formal context or “tú” in a more informal context when addressing someone. And, there are also two different forms for the second-person plural: “vosotros” (informal) and “ustedes” (formal.) 

But, here is where things get tricky. In Mexico, there is no second-person plural informal. In other words, you always use “ustedes,” it doesn’t matter if you are speaking in a casual or formal context. 

4. Past-tenses

There is also a difference in the way you employ tenses, particularly the past-tense in Mexico and Spain. For example, Mexicans use the past and present perfect tenses like you would in the English language. But, Castilian Spanish favors the present perfect when referencing recently completed actions.  

In other words, when expressing you have finished writing a letter, in Mexico, you would say “Terminé de escribir la carta.” In Spain, on the other hand, you would say, “He terminado de escribir la carta.” 

If you are starting to learn the language, acknowledging these minor differences can prove to be complex. Thus, you must brush up on your conjugations if you truly one to speak like a native. 

5. Dialects

Lastly, you should know that within the same country, there also very different dialects. In Mexico, for example, there is a vast indigenous population, all of which have their dialect. Nahuatl, an Uto-Aztecan language, is spoken by roughly 1.7 million people in Mexico. And, approximately 1.3 million people speak other dialects like Mayan and Mixtec. 

So, even though you do not need to understand these dialects to be able to communicate in Mexico, many indigenous words are commonly used in everyday conversation. Plus, a wide variety of terms in Mexico, have a Nahuatl root. 

For example, the word “chocolate” stems from the indigenous word “xocolātl.” The term “cuate,” used to refer to a friend or close peer, also comes from the Nahuatl word “cuatl.”

On the other hand, there are five co-official dialects in Spain, including Aranese, Catalan, Euskara (or Basque), Valencian, and Galician. There are also other non-official but recognized dialects such as Aragonese, Asturian, Leonese, and others. 

As a result, dialects can also be an important thing to consider when learning Spanish, traveling abroad… or writing your website content. Do you need help? I can proofread your Spanish from Spain or I can have it proofread by a Mexican native speaker if you prefer so.

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