Beginner Lessons
Spanish Subject Pronouns

Spanish Subject Pronouns

In addition to the web version, you can download the lesson as a PDF, found at the bottom of the page.

Spanish Subject Pronouns

You use subject pronouns every day—they make up the “I”, “you”, “he/she/it”, “we” and “they” of sentences and are an essential function of most languages.

Subject pronouns are one specific type of pronoun.

Let’s start with an example.

“Alex is my niece. She plays at the park near her house. She likes to go down the slide.”

In this sentence, Alex gets replaced with the subject pronoun she. This is obvious, but if these subject pronouns didn’t exist, the sentence would sound horribly odd and robotic

“Alex is my niece. Alex plays at the park near her house. Alex likes to go down the slide.”

Once you establish ‘Alex’, you can choose to omit the subject pronounshe’ and just use the verb to indicate the ‘who’.

The sentence then (correctly) could look like either of the following two:

“Alex es mi sobrina. Ella juega en el parque cerca de su casa. Ella le gusta bajar por el tobogán.”


“Alex es mi sobrina. Juega en el parque cerca de su casa. Le gusta bajar por el tobogán.”


Here’s a list of all the subject pronouns in Spanish. It seems like a lot, but it breaks down into a ‘cleaner’ version which we’ll get to.

Spanish subject pronouns

Singular

yo- I

tú- you

usted- you (formal)

él- he

ella- she

Plural

nosotros- we

nosotras- we

vosotros- you all

vosotras- you all

ustedes- they (formal)

ellos- they

ellas- they

Let’s clarify some things about subject pronouns.

is the informal way of saying you.
Normally you can use it for family and friends.

Usted is the formal way of saying you.
Use if for someone you want to show respect towards or someone you don’t know.

The difference here often depends on country or even region, so these are often mixed.

A similar case of usage by country/ region is made for vosotros vs ustedes.

You can read more about the differences between the two at the end. However, for this course we’re not using vosotros, as it’s not used in Latin America.

As for nosotros/nosotras and ellos/ellas, those ending in –os represent a group of all males or a mix of males and females; those ending in –as refer to a group of only females.

Unlike English, it’s not enough to just use “we” or “they“.  Spanish requires you to be more specific.

Think back to the last lesson. Just like nouns, pronouns use genders in Spanish as well.

How subject pronouns influence verbs

Let’s take a look at a few examples in order to get comfortable with subject pronouns and how they affect verbs.

Yo voy al mercado.
I go to the market.


vas al mercado.
You go to the market. (informal)


Usted va al mercado.
You go to the market. (formal)


Él va al mercado.
He goes to the market.


Ella va al mercado.
She goes to the market.


Nosotros vamos al mercado.
We go to the market.


Nosotras vamos al mercado.
We go to the market.


Ellos van al mercado.
They go the market.


Ellas van al mercado.
They go to the market.


Ustedes van al mercado.
You all go to the market. (formal)


What do you notice? Sometimes the verbs change form (conjugation) based on the subject pronoun, while other times they do not.

This happens in English, too.

I/you/we/they/you all run slowly.
She/he/it runs slowly.

In Spanish, to figure out go vs goes or run vs runs, think of the groupings like this:

yo

I

you

él
ella
usted

he
she
you

nosotros
nosotras

we
we

ellos
ellas
ustedes

they
they
you all

Let’s add a verb to make it easier to compare.

yo (voy)

I (go)

tú (vas)

you (go)

él (va)
ella (va)
usted (va)

he (goes)
she (goes)
you (go)*

nosotros (vamos)
nosotras (vamos)

we (go)
we (go)

ellos (van)
ellas (van)
ustedes (van)

they (go)
they (go)
you all (go)

So in the example of to go, Spanish used 5 different forms of the verb, while Enlgish only used two—go and goes.

This is one advantage English has, as it cuts down on the number of forms.

However, Spanish sometimes has the advantage, as the subject pronouns don’t always need to be said.

When you need subject pronouns and when you don't

Here’s an example. In English you want to say:

You went to the store yesterday.”

The subject pronoun ‘you is important here. Without it, the sentence becomes:

“Went to the store yesterday.”

This is an incomplete sentence and does not say ‘who’ went to the store.

spanish subject pronouns

Spanish is less ambiguous

In Spanish, sometimes the subject pronoun isn’t necessary because the verb conjugation can indicate who went to the store yesterday.

fuiste a la tienda ayer.”

“Fuiste a la tienda ayer.”


Both of these sentences mean,

“You went to the store yesterday.”

The subject pronoun is often left out because with the verb fuiste, we already know who went to the store.

Fuiste can only be used with the subject pronoun and therefore it leaves no doubt who went to the store yesterday.

Let’s run through one more example:

“I need bread.”

Leaving out the subject pronoun ‘I‘ does not work and makes you sound like a caveman:

“Need bread.”

Again, the subject pronoun Yo is not necessary because the verb necesito indicates who needs bread.

“Yo necesito pan.”

“Necesito pan.”

Both of these sentences mean the same thing and both are equally correct.

The conjugated verb necesito can only be used with the subject pronoun ‘Yo and therefore leaves no doubt as to who needs bread.

Spanish is more ambiguous

Conversely, Spanish is sometimes unclear in ‘who is doing the action.

“Ella necesita pan.”
“She needs bread.”

“Él necesita pan.”
“He needs bread.”

“Usted necesita pan.”
“You need bread.” (formal)

In cases where the same conjugation is used (necesita) across different subject pronouns (ella/él/usted), it’s a good idea to first use the subject pronoun.

This helps clear up any doubt.

Once you’ve identified the ‘who’, you can later omit it.

Ella necesita pan.
Va a la tienda para comprarlo.”

She needs bread. She’s going to the store to buy it.”

Again, once the subject is identified (ella) it can be omitted in a follow-up sentence when referring to the same person.

In English, the second ‘she’ was necessary for a complete sentence— “Is going to the store to buy it.”—is incorrect.

Learning the subject pronouns are critical for progressing in Spanish because they indicate how to conjugate verbs.

Just like in English, when you want to use the verb, ‘to go’, it’s important to know ‘who is doing the ‘going’.

You go shopping with your friend.”

He goes shopping with his friend.”

The subject pronouns ‘you’ and ‘he’ tell you whether to use ‘go’ or ‘goes’—i.e., how to conjugate the verbto go’.

The next lesson looks at direct object pronouns—yes more grammar. It’s important stuff and can help you avoid a mountain of confusion if you learn it well early on.

Side note

This course is designed to replicate Latin American Spanish. Therefore, the vocabulary, grammar and recordings will reflect that.

The majority of Spanish is the same between Latin American Spanish and the Spanish from Spain.

So no worries—you’ll still be understood and able to communicate if making a trip to Spain.

However, since this course is geared for Latin American Spanish, we’ll be omitting the vosotros/vosotras forms—that’s right, forget about ’em.

They can easily be found elsewhere through a quick Google search if you’re interested but they’re not necessary for Latin America.

Bottom line: forget about vosotros and use ustedes instead.

saying where you're from in Spanish

But wait there's more…

Here’s a quick breakdown of vosotros and ustedes in Spain. Ya know, just in case.

Since vosotros is the informal way of addressing multiple people at the same time, Spain still uses both vosotros and ustedes. Why?

Because oftentimes there are situations when you’re addressing a group of people and it needs to have a formal tone.

Think about being in a business meeting and needing to address more than one boss at a time. You could use ustedes here.

On the other hand, ustedes is used in both informal and formal situations in Latin America, leaving vosotros out of the picture.

It’s not worth more than a mention for Latin American-focused Spanish.