1 Using subject pronouns
- Here are the Spanish subject pronouns:
|usted (Vd.)||you||ellos (masculine)||they|
| || ||ellas (feminine)||they|
| || ||ustedes (Vds.)||you|
- Note that there is an accent on tú (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:
|¿Y tú qué piensas?||What do you think about it?|
|Ellos sí que llegaron tarde.||They really did arrive late.|
|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 tú?||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 tú.||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 tú y yo||between 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 tú. In Spain tú 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 tú 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.