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Personal pronouns

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A personal pronoun is a pronoun that refers to a person. In the following sentence, he is the personal pronoun. John went to the store, and then he went home. Personal pronouns can be used as subjects, objects of a verb, objects of a preposition, and possessive adjectives and pronouns.


Spanish and English personal pronouns in three cases
 EnglishSpanish 
SingularPluralSingularPlural
First personIWeyonosotrosSubject Pronouns (Nominative case)
Second personyouyoutú, vos, ustedustedes, vosotros
Third personhe, she, ittheyél, ellaellos, ellas
First personmeusmenosObject Pronouns (Objective case)
Second personyouyoute, lo, la, le, selos, las, les, se, os
Third personhim, her, themthemlo, la, le, selos, las, les, se
First personmy, mineour, oursmi, míonuestroPossessive Adjectives and Pronouns (Possessive or Genetive case)
Second personyour, yoursyour, yourstu, tuyo, su, suyovuestro, su, suyo
Third personhis, hers, itstheirsu, suyosu, suyo


Contents

Subject pronouns

Subject pronouns in Spanish are used much as they are in English, but there is one important difference. They are largely optional in Spanish. You only need to specify the subject pronoun in Spanish to emphasize who is doing the action or to disambiguate when it's not clear from the verb conjugation or from the context who is doing the action.

Subject Pronouns
 EnglishSpanish
SingularPluralSingularPlural
First personIWeyonosotros, nosotras
Second person informalyouyoutú, vos vosotros, vosotras
Second person formalyouyouustedustedes
Third personhe, she, ittheyél, ella, (ello)ellos, ellas

Yo

Yo is the first person singular subject pronoun in Spanish, and directly correlates to I in English. One important difference exists between I and yo- in English, I is always capitalized and in Spanish it is only capitalized if it is the first word in a sentence.

is the informal second person singular subject pronoun in Spanish, and is translated you in English. There are other second person singular subject pronouns in Spanish as well, so make sure you use the right one. is used to address one person directly, in an informal manner. It is used to address animals, pets, children, most deities, equals, and good friends. It is quite common but is not used in all Spanish dialects.

Vos

Main article: Voseo

Vos is an equivalent second person singular subject pronoun in Spanish. It is similar to , but is only used in some dialects, notably in Argentina and some Central American countries. Like , it is an informal mode of address. When using vos, the verb that follows it is conjugated differently than when using . For example: vos sos and tú eres.

Usted

Usted is the formal second person sigular subject pronoun in Spanish. You use it to address one person directly when you want to show that person additional respect. It is commonly used with people older than yourself, or with people you don't know. Some Spanish dialects use usted exclusively as the singular second person pronoun, and don't use tú or vos. One always uses third-person singular verb forms with usted.

Él

Él is the third person singular masculine and mixed gender subject pronoun in Spanish, equivalent to he or it in English.

Ella

Ella is the third person singular feminine subject pronoun in Spanish, equivalent to she or it in English.

Ello

Ello is the third-person neuter subject pronoun in Spanish, often equivalent to "it" in English. Ello is a special case: it can refer only to some previously mentioned idea or concept for which there is no noun that names it. Often one can use one of the neuter demonstrative pronouns (esto or eso) instead of ello.

Nosotros

Nosotros is the first person plural masculine or mixed gender subject pronoun in Spanish. This correlates to we in English.

Nosotras

Nosotras is the first person plural feminine subject pronoun in Spanish. This correlates to we in English. Use nosotras if everyone we is referring to is female.

Vosotros

Vosotros is the informal second person plural masculine or mixed gender pronoun in Spanish. You would normally be used in English where vosotros is used in Spanish. Vosotros is an informal way of addressing a group of friends. In some English dialects, you all, ya'll, or you guys is used in a similar manner. This verb form is normally only used in Spain, but also has a historical literary usage. For example, most versions of the Bible use vosotros, so although it's not used in common speech, it is understood in most Spanish-speaking areas. In most of the Americas where vosotros and vosotras are not used, ustedes is used instead.

Vosotras

Vosotras is the feminine-only version of vosotros. Use it just like vosotros, when all of the people you're addressing are female.

Ustedes

Ustedes is the formal second person plural subject pronoun in Spanish. This correlates to the English you or you all used in a formal setting. One always uses third-person plural verbs with ustedes.

Ellos

Ellos is the third person plural masculine or mixed gender subject pronoun in Spanish, and correlates to the English they.

Ellas

Ellas is the third person plural feminine subject pronoun in Spanish, and correlates to the English they.

Object Pronouns (Objects of verbs)

Object pronouns are objects of a verb.

Object Pronouns (Objects of verbs)
 EnglishSpanish
SingularPluralSingularPlural
First personmeusmenos
Second person informalyouyouteos
Second person formalyouyoulo, la, le, selos, las, les, se
Third personhim, her, themthemlo, la, le, selos, las, les, se
  • Usted/Ustedes always take third-person pronouns: los/les vi a ustedes ayer = 'I saw you (plural) yesterday'.
  • Te is the object form of as well as of vos where vos is used.
  • Os is the object form of vosotros, which is not used in Latin America, where ustedes is the only pronoun that is used for second-person plural address.

Object pronouns indicate the person or thing 'affected' by the verb phrase; they do not clearly indicate how the object is affected; one must work this out from the meaning of the verb, from context or by common sense. Traditional grammars often divide these pronouns into 2 or 3 lists: 'direct object' pronouns, 'indirect object' pronouns and 'reflexive' pronouns. However, only the third-person pronouns differ between these three categories, and in Spanish grammar the difference between them is not always the traditional distinction between 'direct' and 'indirect' objects. Furthermore, there are distinct regional differences in how speakers use lo, la, le, los, las and les.

Examples of translations for me
SpanishEnglish
Me han vistoThey've seen me
Me dejó una finca(S)he's left an estate to me/(S)he's left me an estate
Me ha aparcado el coche(S)he's parked the car for me
Me compró una agenda(S)he's bought a diary off/from/for me
Me sacaron tres balasThey took three bullets out of me
Me han quitado a mis hijosThey've taken my children from me (or 'they have taken me away from my children')
Me tiene envidia(S)he's envious of me
Me tiró una bola de nieve(S)he threw a snowball at me
Me encontraron mil pesetasThey found 1000 pesetas on me
Me echaron una mantaThey threw a blanket over me
Voy a comprarme un heladoI'm going to buy myself an ice-cream
Siempre me pone pegas(S)he's always finding fault with me
Me rompió el brazo(S)he broke my arm

Multiple object pronouns

What to do when combining two or more object pronouns:

The order is always:

  • (1) se (always third-person),
  • (2) 2nd person pronoun (either te or os),
  • (3) 1st person pronoun (either me or nos),
  • (4) 3rd-person pronoun (any one of lo, la, los, las, le or les).

Whenever one wishes to use two third-person pronouns, one MUST replace le or les with se.

Basic rules of third-person object pronouns

The Academy distinguishes the third-person object pronouns lo, la, los, las, le or les according to this table:

 Direct objectIndirect object
Singular
Masculinelole
Femininelale
Plural
Masculinelosles
Femininelasles
  • Standard European Spanish prefers the form le for a human male direct object: Le vi = 'I saw him', compared to Lo vi = 'I saw him' in Latin America. In the plural los is more common that les for male human direct objects.
  • Usted/ustedes 'you' (polite) takes third-person object pronouns: "Lo vi" = 'I saw you (masc.)/him' (Latin America), "Le vi" (Spain) = 'I saw you (masc.)/him', Los vi = 'I saw them/you', La vi = 'I saw you (fem.)/her', Las vi = 'I saw them (fem.)/you (fem.)'.

In general, le/les can replace any person or thing that gains from or loses by the action described in the verb phrase. Typical contexts include:

  • Receiving or aquiring any thing, impression or sensation
  • Loss or removal from
  • Sufficiency, insufficiency, lack, excess
  • Requesting, requiring, ordering
  • Many phrases involving tener plus an emotion
  • Many set phrases involving hacer plus a noun
  • To indicate persons or things affected by something done to a part of their body or to some intimate possession
  • Other less easily classified cases that convey ideas of 'giving', 'removing', 'benefiting', 'involving', 'affecting intimately'

Le/les agree in number with the noun that they stand for.

In general, lo/la/los/las as direct objects (with le replacing lo in Spain) are normally required in these contexts:

  • Direct physical actions (although there are some exceptions, such as le pega = '(s)he beats him/her')
  • Verbs of perception ('seeing', 'hearing', 'knowing' and so on)
  • Praise, blame, admiration, love, hatred, and other actions that denote attitudes toward a person or thing
  • 'Naming', 'nominating', 'describing'
  • Many other actions done to things or person but not 'involving' them in the ways described previously for typical uses of le/les

Lo/la/los/las agree in both gender and number with the noun that they stand for. If they do not replace a specific noun, lo is used: dijo que llegaría a las siete, pero no lo creo = '(s)he said (s)he'd arrive at seven, but I don't believe it', esto no lo aguanta nadie = 'no one can stand this'.

"Reflexive" Pronouns

The "reflexive" pronouns in Spanish are me, te, se, nos, os, se. They are always identical with the subject of the verb. There are at least 8 distinct possible meanings for "reflexive" pronouns:

NameExampleSingular or plural verb?Person of verbLiving or non-living subject?
Reflexiveme lavo, me calzoeitheranyliving
Reciprocalnos queremos, os habláispluralanyliving
Intransitiveme irrito, se abrióeitherany if living; third if non-livingeither
Se de matizaciónse fue, se murió, te bajaste, me lo esperaba, se lo cree, etc.eitheranyeither
'Total consumption'se bebió un litro de vinoeitheranyliving
Passive sese construyó el puenteeitherthird onlynon-living, with few exceptions
'Special construction'se arrestó a tres personassingularthird onlyhuman, with a few exceptions
Impersonal seen España se vive bien, en general se come demasiadosingularthird onlyhuman

Prepositional Pronouns

Prepositional pronouns function as the object of a preposition.

Prepositional Pronouns (General)
 EnglishSpanish
SingularPluralSingularPlural
First personmeusmí (yo*)nosotros/nosotras
Second person informalyouyouti (tú*)vosotros/vosotras
Second person formalyouyouustedustedes
Third personhim, her, itthemél, ella, (ello)ellos, ellas
Prepositional Pronouns (with 'con')
 EnglishSpanish
SingularPluralSingular ReflexiveSingular Non-ReflexivePlural ReflexivePlural Non-Reflexive
First personwith mewith usconmigoconmigocon nosotroscon nosotros/nosotras
Second person informalwith youwith youcontigocontigocon vosotroscon vosotros/vosotras
Second person formalwith youwith youconsigocon ustedconsigocon ustedes
Third personwith him, with her, with itwith themconsigocon él/ella/(ello)consigocon ellos/ellas

Most prepositional pronouns have the same form as their corresponding subject pronouns. The only exceptions are the prepositional pronouns for first-person singular (), second-person singular (ti), and third-person "reflexive" ().

The preposition con is exceptional, as it has special forms for first-person singular (conmigo), second-person familiar singular (contigo) and third-person singular/plural reflexive (consigo) uses. Except for these three forms, con takes the usual prepositional object pronouns.

(*) Seven prepositions or preposition-like words require using the ordinary subject pronouns instead of the prespositional-object pronouns. They are:

  • entre = between, among (except in the set phrase entre mí = "to myself")
  • excepto = except
  • hasta = only when it means "even", but not when it means "as far as"
  • incluso = including
  • menos = except
  • salvo = except
  • según = according to

For example: entry tú y yo = between you and me, excepto yo = except for me, hasta yo = even me, incluso yo = including me, menos yo = except for me, salvo yo = except for me, según yo = according to me.

Possessive adjectives and pronouns

Possesive adjectives identify who possesses something. Possessive pronouns are pronouns that simultaneously stand in place of a possessed noun and identify the possessor.

The following chart shows all of the Spanish possessive adjectives and pronouns.

Possessive Adjectives and Pronouns
 EnglishSpanish
SingularPluralSingular (before noun)Singular (after noun)Plural (before noun)Plural (after noun)
First personmy, mineour, ours* mi, mis# mío, mía, míos, mías# nuestro, nuestra, nuestros, nuestras# nuestro, nuestra, nuestros, nuestras
Second person informalyour, yoursyour, yours* tu, tus# tuyo, tuya, tuyos, tuyas# vuestro, vuestra, vuestros, vuestras# vuestro, vuestra, vuestros, vuestras
Second person formalyour, yoursyour, yours* su, sus# suyo, suya, suyos, suyas* su, sus# suyo, suya, suyos, suyas
Third personhis, her, hers, itstheir, theirs* su, sus# suyo, suya, suyos, suyas* su, sus# suyo, suya, suyos, suyas

Possessive adjectives and pronouns are unusual compared to other adjectives and pronouns because their stems always agree in both person and number with the possessor while the endings always agree in both gender and number with the thing possessed.

The chart shows two forms for most possessive adjectives and pronouns:
(*). Short form possessive adjectives, which are used before nouns.
(#). Full form possessive adjectves and pronouns; as adjectives they are used after nouns.

The 1st-person plural and 2nd-person plural do not have short forms; one uses the full forms before nouns.

The short forms for 1st-person singular, 2nd-person singular, and 3rd-person singular and plural are used only before nouns, while the corresponding full forms are used only after nouns. Only the long forms are also used as pronouns.

The third-person possessive adjectives and pronouns su, suyo, suya, sus, suyos and suyas can often be ambiguous if the context does not provide a clear idea of who the possessor is. It is very common to replace these adjectives with a prespositional phrase following the noun that consists of the preposition "de" followed by the approprivate prepositional object pronoun: de él, de ella, de usted, de ellos, de ellas and de ustedes are always valid alternatives.

Examples:

  • mi libro, el/un libro mío = my book, el mío = mine
  • mis plumas, las/unas plumas mías = my pens, las mías = mine
  • nuestros hijos, los/unos hijos nuestros = our sons/children, los nuestros = ours
  • nuestra gata, la/una gata nuestra = our cat, la nuestra = ours
  • tu perro, el/un perro tuyo = your dog, el tuyo = yours
  • tus revistas, las/unas revistas tuyas = your magazines, las tuyas = yours
  • vuestros zapatos, los/unos zapatos vuestros = your shoes, los vuestros = yours
  • vuestra casa, la/una casa vuestra = your house/home, la vuestra = yours
  • su libro, el libro suyo = your/his/her/their book, el suyo = yours/his/hers/theirs, de usted, de ustedes = yours, de él = his, de ella = hers, de ellos, de ellas = theirs
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