7 Main Difference Between Spain Spanish vs Mexican Spanish (With Examples)

You decided to learn Spanish. You’re looking for the best Spanish courses or the best Spanish learning methods (you’re at the right place!), but you ask yourself the question: which Spanish language should I learn? And is there any difference between Spain Spanish vs Mexican Spanish?

My other project, Spring Spanish, featured a great comparison video between the Spanish in Spain vs Mexican Spanish, take a look:

Here, on Effortless Conversations, we can teach you both versions – no matter which one you choose. In this blog post, we’ll point to 7 major differences between Spain Spanish vs Mexican Spanish. And of course, all of this with examples.

1. Spain Spanish vs Mexican Spanish: seseo vs. ceceo

One of the biggest and most important differences between Spain Spanish vs Mexican Spanish is the “seseo vs ceceo” problem.

What is it about?

In Mexican Spanish, seseo means that the “s” sound and the “z” or “c” (before e or i) sounds are pronounced the same way, like the “s” in English.

This makes some words, like “casa” (house) and “caza” (hunt) sound exactly the same!

This sounds and looks a bit complicated, right? No worries! Here’s a table that helps clear any misconceptions:

Mexican SpanishMexican Spanish 1English
casa /ˈkasa/caza /ˈkasa/House/Hunt
cocer /koˈser/coser /koˈser/To cook/To sew
cielo /ˈsjelo/silla /ˈsiʎa/Sky/Chair
cerca /ˈserka/ser /ˈser/Close/To be
cero /ˈsero/sebo /ˈsebo/Zero/Tallow
cima /ˈsima/simón /ˈsimon/Summit/Simon
cereal /seˈreal/serpiente /ˈserpjente/Cereal/Snake
cepillo /seˈpiʎo/sesión /seˈsjon/Brush/Session
zapato /saˈpato/sangre /ˈsaŋɡre/Shoe/Blood
ciruela /siˈrwela/sirena /siˈrena/Plum/Siren

In Castilian Spanish, there’s a dedicated pronunciation feature called “distinción.” In this case, the Spanish “s” is pronounced like the English “s“, but “z” and “c” (before e or i) are pronounced with a “th” sound, similar to what the English “th” sounds.

With “ceceo“, the words look and sound like this in Spain Spanish:

Spain SpanishSpain Spanish 1English
casa /ˈkasa/caza /ˈkaθa/House/Hunt
cocer /koˈθer/coser /koˈser/To cook/To sew
cielo /ˈθjelo/silla /ˈsiʎa/Sky/Chair
cerca /ˈθerka/ser /ˈser/Close/To be
cero /ˈθero/sebo /ˈsebo/Zero/Tallow
cima /ˈθima/simón /ˈsimon/Summit/Simon
cereal /θeˈreal/serpiente /ˈserpjente/Cereal/Snake
cepillo /θeˈpiʎo/sesión /seˈsjon/Brush/Session
zapato /θaˈpato/sangre /ˈsaŋɡre/Shoe/Blood
ciruela /θiˈrwela/sirena /siˈrena/Plum/Siren

2. Difference between Mexican Spanish vs Spanish in Spain: vosotros vs ustedes

The other differences we can already mention is that of the formality level when you speak.

In Spain, people use two different words to talk to a group of people. Native speakers use “vosotros” when talking to friends or family, and they

In Spain, people use two different words to talk to a group of people. They use “vosotros” when talking to friends or family, and they use “ustedes” when talking to people they don’t know well or to show respect.

spanish flag on a flagpole illustrating the difference between spain spanish vs mexican spanish

For example, if you are playing with your friends, you might say, “Vosotros sois mis amigos” (You are all my friends).

But if you are talking to your teachers, you would say, “Ustedes son mis maestros” (You all are my teachers.)

In Mexico and many Latin American countries, it’s easier because they just use “ustedes” for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to friends or adults. So, whether you’re talking to your friends or teachers, you would say “ustedes.”

Like this: “Ustedes son muy buenos” (You all are very nice.)

But let’s look at a simplified example to see everything in one place:

Example Sentence (Informal)Example Sentence (Formal)
Vosotros tenéis un perro. (You all have a dog.)Ustedes tienen un perro. (You all have a dog.)
Vosotros vais al parque. (You all are going to the park.)Ustedes van al parque. (You all are going to the park.)
Vosotros estáis listos para jugar. (You all are ready to play.)Ustedes están listos para jugar. (You all are ready to play.)
Vosotros sois mis amigos. (You all are my friends.)Ustedes son mis maestros. (You all are my teachers.)

All of these sentences would use ustedes in Mexican Spanish.

3. Pronunciation of ‘J’ and ‘X’ in Mexican Spanish language

Simply put: the letter j in Mexico is pronounced softly, like the English “h” in “hello.”

In Spain, it’s more guttural, like the German “ch” in “Bach.”

A few examples with phonetic pronunciation:

Spain SpanishMexican SpanishEnglish
José /xoˈse/José /hoˈse/Joseph
jugo /ˈxuɡo/jugo /ˈhuɡo/Juice
jalapeño /xalaˈpeɲo/jalapeño /halaˈpeɲo/Jalapeño
jirafa /xiˈɾafa/jirafa /hiˈɾafa/Giraffe
jamón /xaˈmon/jamón /haˈmon/Ham
baja /ˈbaxa/baja /ˈbaha/Low/Short
examen /eˈksamen/examen /eˈksamen/Exam
mexicano /meχiˈkano/mexicano /mexiˈkano/Mexican
extranjero /ekstraɲˈxeɾo/extranjero /ekstranˈxeɾo/Foreigner
caja /ˈkaxa/caja /ˈkaha/Box

4. Mexican and Spanish vocabulary differences

Some everyday words differ between Mexican Spanish and Spain Spanish. Without further ado, here’s a complete list of this vocabulary!

Spain SpanishMexican SpanishEnglish
móvilcelularCell phone
conducirmanejarTo drive
judías verdesejotesGreen beans
sacapuntastajadorPencil sharpener

5. Castilian Spanish slang and other regionalisms

Spanish slang and Mexican slang both deserve their own dedicated articles – and you should check them out. But still, we have to say that the slang expressions and the Spanish regionalisms differ completely.

Pay attention to these examples, so you can avoid getting into an unfortunate event when you accidentally say something you don’t want to:

Spain Spanish SlangMexican Spanish SlangEnglish Translation
Tío/TíaWey (Güey)Dude
CurrarChambearTo work
MajoBuena ondaNice/Friendly
FliparSacar de ondaTo freak out
LigarTirar la ondaTo flirt
JoderChingarTo mess up
MolarLatirTo like (something)
Tío buenoChurroAttractive person
TrapichearTransarTo scheme

6. Present perfect in Spain and Mexico

An important Spanish grammar difference between the two versions of the language is the use case of present perfect Spanish. That’s because in Spain, people often use the present perfect tense (pretérito perfecto compuesto) to discuss actions that are relevant to the present or have effects on the present moment.

If you want to fully master this tense, you have to check out our article about it!

Simply explained, you forme the present perfect Spanish by combining the present tense of the auxiliary verb haber (to have) with the past participle of the main verb. A few examples.

Spain SpanishEnglish
He comidoI have eaten
Has vistoYou have seen
Ha trabajadoHe/She has worked
Hemos vividoWe have lived
Habéis leídoYou all have read
Han estudiadoThey have studied

In Mexico, it’s totally different. Instead of the present perfect Spanish, native speakers use the simple past tense (pretérito perfecto simple).

mexico flag on flagpole illustrating the difference between spain spanish vs mexican spanish

This simple past in Spanish is formed by directly conjugation the verb in the preterite Spanish form:

Mexican SpanishEnglish
ComíI ate
VisteYou saw
TrabajóHe/She worked
VivimosWe lived
LeísteisYou all read
EstudiaronThey studied

Just to illustrate the main difference between the two: you just finished eating and you’re talking to a friend:

  • In Spain, you would probably say: He comido (I have eaten). – With this, you highlight the fact that your action of eating has a present relevance (e.g., you’re no longer hungry).
  • In Mexico, you would say: Comí (I ate). – In this Spanish sentences, you focus more on the fact that the action happened in the past, without stressing its connection to the present.

7. Diminutives in Mexican Spanish and Spain Spanish

In Mexico, the most common diminutive suffixes are -ito and -ita.

Compared to Castilian Spanish, where -ito and -ita are also used, but some regions prefer the suffixes –illo and -illa. The ones ending in -o are used for masculine Spanish nouns, while the ones ending in -a are used for feminine nouns.

Keep in mind that the suffixes aren’t universally used across all of Spain but can be heard sometimes in different regions.

Mexican SpanishSpain Spanish (some regions)English
perritoperrilloLittle dog
casitacasillaLittle house
gatitogatilloLittle cat
florecitaflorillaLittle flower
arbolitoarbolilloLittle tree
niñitoniñilloLittle boy
amiguitaamiguillaLittle friend
libritolibrilloLittle book
papelitopapelilloLittle paper
mesitamesillaLittle table

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