Easy Learning Spanish

Personal pronouns: subject - Easy Learning Grammar Spanish

What is a subject pronoun?
A subject pronoun is a word such as I, he, she and they, that carries out the action expressed by the verb. Pronouns stand in for nouns when it is clear who or what is being talked about, for example, My brother isn’t here at the moment. He’ll be back in an hour.

1   Using subject pronouns

  • Here are the Spanish subject pronouns:
SingularMeaningPluralMeaning
yoInosotros (masculine)we
younosotras (feminine)we
élhevosotros (masculine)you
ellashevosotras (feminine)you
usted (Vd.)youellos (masculine)they
ellas (feminine)they
ustedes (Vds.)you
  • Note that there is an accent on (you) and él (he) so that they are not confused with tu (your) and el (the).
TipThe abbreviations Vd. and Vds. are often used instead of usted and ustedes.
  • In English we use subject pronouns all the time – I walk, you eat, they are going. In Spanish you don’t need them if the verb endings and context make it clear who the subject is. For example hablo español can only mean I speak Spanish since the -o ending on the verb is only used with I. Similarly, hablamos francés can only mean we speak French since the -amos ending is only used with we. So the subject pronouns are not needed in these examples.
Tengo un hermano.I’ve got a brother.
Tenemos dos coches.We’ve got two cars.
  • Note that usted/Vd. and ustedes/Vds. are often used for politeness, even if they are not really needed.
¿Conoce usted al señor Martín?Do you know Mr Martín?
Pasen ustedes por aquí.Please come this way.
  • For more information on Ways of saying ‘you’ in Spanish, see Pronouns.
  • Spanish subject pronouns are normally only used:
  • for emphasis
¿Y qué piensas?What do you think about it?
Ellos sí que llegaron tarde.They really did arrive late.
  • for contrast or clarity
Yo estudio español pero él estudia francés.I study Spanish but he studies French.
Él lo hizo pero ella no.He did it but she didn’t.
  • after ser (meaning to be)
Soy yo.It’s me.
¿Eres ?Is that you?
  • in comparisons after que and como
Enrique es más alto que yo.Enrique is taller than I am or than me.
Antonio no es tan alto como .Antonio isn’t as tall as you (are).
  • on their own without a verb
¿Quién dijo eso? – Él.Who said that? – He did.
¿Quién quiere venir? – Yo.Who wants to come? – I do.
  • after certain prepositions
entre y yobetween you and me
  • Note that it used as the subject, and they referring to things, are NEVER translated into Spanish.
¿Qué es? – Es una sorpresa.What is it? – It’s a surprise.
¿Qué son? – Son abrelatas.What are they? – They are tin openers.

2   Ways of saying ‘you’ in Spanish

  • In English we have only one way of saying you. In Spanish, there are several words to choose from. The word you use depends on:
  • whether you are talking to one person or more than one person
  • whether you are talking to a friend or family member, or someone else.
  • If you are talking to one person you know well, such as a friend, a young person or a relative, use . In Spain is also used when talking to someone your own age even if you don’t know them very well.
  • If you are talking to one person you do not know so well, such as your teacher, your boss or a stranger, it is safest to use the polite form, usted. In Latin America usted is often used no matter how well you know the person.
  • If you are talking to more than one person you know well, use vosotros (or vosotras, if you are talking to women only) in Spain. Use ustedes instead in Latin America.
  • Use ustedes if you are talking to more than one person you do not know so well.
TipRemember that adjectives describing and usted should be feminine if you’re talking to a woman or girl, while adjectives describing ustedes should be feminine plural if you’re talking to women or girls only.

3   Using the plural subject pronouns

  • When you are talking about males only, use nosotros, vosotros or ellos.
Nosotros no somos italianos.We are not Italian.
  • When you are talking about females only, use nosotras, vosotras or ellas.
Hablé con mis hermanas.I spoke to my sisters.
Ellas estaban de acuerdo conmigo.They agreed with me.
  • When you are talking about both males and females, use nosotros, vosotros or ellos.
Ellos sí que llegaron tarde.They really did arrive late.
Key points
  • The Spanish subject pronouns are: yo, , él, ella, usted in the singular, and nosotros/nosotras, vosotros/vosotras, ellos/ellas, ustedes in the plural.
  • Don’t use the subject pronouns (other than usted and ustedes) with verbs except for emphasis or clarity.
  • Make sure you choose the correct form of the verb.
  • Do use the subject pronouns:
  • after ser (meaning to be)
  • in comparisons after que and como
  • in one-word answers to questions.
  • Choose the word for you carefully. Remember to think about how many people you are talking to and your relationship with them when deciding between , vosotros, vosotras, usted and ustedes.
  • It as the subject of the verb, and they when it refers to things are not translated in Spanish.
  • Use masculine plural forms (nosotros, vosotros, ellos) for groups made up of men and women.
  • Remember to make any adjectives describing the subject agree.

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