There are three main types of Spanish pronouns. They are subject pronouns, direct object pronouns and indirect object pronouns. These pronouns are used to tell us who is doing what to whom in a specific situation.
The first Spanish pronouns that you should concentrate on learning are the subject pronouns. These can be divided into singular and plural pronouns. They are:
Yo – I
Usted – You (formal)
Tú – You (informal)
El – He
Ella – She
Nosotros – We (male or mixed group)
Nosotras – We (female group)
Ellos – They (male or mixed group)
Ellas – They (female group)
Ustedes – You all
Characteristics of Spanish Pronouns
One of the main differences between Spanish and English subject pronouns relates to the use of “You”. In Spanish, there are two different ways of expressing “You”. The correct one to use is determined by the level of formality or respect that you would use with the other person.
If you want to show your respect for the person that you’re speaking to, you would use the Spanish pronoun “usted”. For example, you use “usted” if you are talking to your boss, your teacher or someone else who is older than you or in a position of authority.
If you are speaking to someone who you are familiar with in an informal situation, then you would use the pronoun “tú”. For example, you use “tú” when talking to your friends, family and young children.
Another major difference between English and Spanish pronouns is that the plural subject pronouns take slightly different forms in Spanish depending on the gender of the people that they refer to.
For example, in Spanish if you want to use the pronoun “they” and the group that you are talking about is all female, then you would use the pronoun “ellas”. On the other hand, if the group is all male or they are of mixed gender, then you would use the word “ellos”. This rule also applies for nosotros/nosotras and vosotros/vosotras (used in Spain only).
Using Spanish Pronouns
Subject pronouns are positioned before the verb that they are referring to. For example:
Ella estudia Español – She studies Spanish
If it is a negative sentence then the “no” comes between the pronoun and the verb. For example:
Ella no estudia Español – She doesn’t study Spanish
In many cases it is not necessary to use the subject pronoun in Spanish because the conjugation of the verb makes it obvious who is performing the action. For further information about this see Spanish conjugation.
Differences between European Spanish and Latin American subject pronouns
There are some differences in the use of Spanish pronouns in various countries. In Spain, they use an additional subject pronoun to distinguish between formal and informal “you all” situations. When talking to a group of people informally, they use the word “vosotros” (or “vosotras” if the group is all females). In a formal situation, they use the word “ustedes” as in Latin America.
Another difference is that in Argentina where they use the word “vos” instead of “tú”. You may want to choose which Spanish pronouns you learn based on the countries you plan on visiting, but it is still a good idea to have a basic understanding of all of them.
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