“I”, “we”, “he”, “she”, “it”, “they”. Pronouns pack a lot of power. They’re an essential ingredient in pretty much every language.
Pronouns are the key to understanding who or what the subject is in a sentence. Without them, sentences would get very confusing, very quickly!
Unlike English, Spanish doesn’t always use pronouns. In fact, Spanish often uses verb conjugation to show the subject of a sentence.
But that doesn’t mean you can get away with skipping over Spanish pronouns. You still need to master them.
So, let’s start by learning the basics.
What is a Spanish Pronoun?
A pronoun is a word that takes the place of names or nouns in a sentence. For instance, if I say “Diego is my friend. He lives near me, and he works nearby,” I’m using the pronouns “my”, “he” and “me”. That sentence would be pretty clunky without pronouns. Here’s how it would look: “Diego is Benny’s friend. Diego lives near Benny, and Diego works nearby.”
In my view, talking in the third person all the time seems strange and unnecessary! So, that’s why we need pronouns.
You might have noticed in my sample sentence about Diego there are two different types of pronouns that express me, Benny, in English: “my” and “me”. They express different things, even though they both represent the same subject: Benny. “My” is possessive, while “me” is relative – how Diego relates to me (“he lives near me”).
What about in Spanish? That same sentence looks like, “Diego es mi amigo. Él vive cerca de mí, y trabaja cerca.”
Pronouns change depending on where and how they’re used in a sentence. They can change depending on whether you’re expressing possession, direction, or using them after prepositional phrases. It’s sounds complicated, but it’s a lot like English — think of how the personal pronoun “I” changes to “me” or “my” depending on where and how it’s used.
Spanish Personal Subject Pronouns
Grammar review: The subject of a sentence is the person, object or place being discussed or performing the action of the verb.
For example, in the sentence “He runs a marathon”, “He” is the subject, and “to run” is the verb.
Here are the subject pronouns:
- I: Yo
- You: Tú (informal) / Usted (Formal):
- He: Él
- She: Ella
- We: Nosotros / Nosotras
- You, plural and informal: Vosotros / Vosotras
- You, plural and formal: Ustedes
- They: Ellos / Ellas
To learn Spanish verb conjugation, you need to memorize the Spanish personal subject pronouns, starting with “I”, “we”, “they” and “you”.
Pronouns ending with -o indicate the masculine form, used for either groups of men or both men and women. The -a endings are feminine and used only if “we”, “they” or “you” refer to a group of all women.
The other thing to know is that “you” in Spanish has a formal and informal version. You use tú for friends and family, and usted to show respect or address someone you don’t know. For the plural form, vosotros is only used in Spain as an informal “you”. In Latin America, ustedes is used in both formal and informal situations.
Connecting Subjects to Verbs and Dropping the Pronoun
In Spanish, the subject of a sentence changes the ending of the verb. It makes the subject clear and easy to understand.
Let’s try some examples of Spanish pronouns in sentences, and see how that changes the verb “to go” (ir).
- “I” in Spanish: Yo voy a la tienda. (“I am going to the store”)
- “You” in Spanish: Tú vas a la tienda (“You are going to the store”)
- “He” in Spanish: Él va a la tienda (“He is going to the store”)
- “She” in Spanish: Ella va a la tienda (“She is going to the store”)
- “We” in Spanish: Nosotros vamos a la tienda (“We are going to the store”)
- “You” (plural, informal) in Spanish: Vosotros váis a la tienda (“You all are going to the store”)
- “You” (plural, formal) in Spanish: Ustedes van a la tienda (“You all are going to the store”)
- “They” in Spanish: Ellos van a la tienda. (“They are going to the store”)
As you can see, when the subject changes, so does the verb “to go” (ir). The rest of the sentence stays the same (a la tienda). Ir is an irregular verb in Spanish, but the idea is the same. Verbs endings (also known as verb conjugations) change in a sentence based on the subject of that sentence
English is similar for some verbs. For example, with the verb “to run”, you’d say “I run”, and “she runs”. The ending of the verb changes based on the subject of the sentence. But this is only sometimes the case in English. In Spanish, it’s always the case, and the ending is different for every subject.
That’s why in Spanish, the subject can often be dropped since it’s understood by the verb structure alone. Those sentences could then be “Voy a la tienda” and “Vas a la tienda”, and you would still know the subject was “I” and “you”.
Spanish Possessive Pronouns
Possessive pronouns in Spanish answer the question “Whose is it?” They give the pronoun ownership of an object. For example, in English you might say “That’s mine” or “It’s her house”.
In Spanish, there are four forms for each pronoun: singular masculine, singular feminine, plural masculine and plural feminine. And for possessive pronouns, they are always used with “the” (which also must match one of the four forms – el, la, los and las). Which one you use is based on the gender of the word you’re saying is owned.
For instance, singular masculine possessive for “mine” is el mío. Singular feminine is la mía. And for plural masculine and feminine, it’s los míos/las mías. If you’re saying a book (el libro, masculine) is yours, you would say “Es el mío” (“It is mine”). For books, it’s Son los míos (“They are mine”). If the apple (la manzana, feminine) is yours, then it’s Es la mía, or plural Son las mías.
- Mine: El mío, los míos, la mía, las mías
- Yours: El tuyo, los tuyos, la tuya, las tuyas
- His, hers or its: El tuyo, los tuyos, la tuya, las tuyas
- Ours: El nuestro, los nuestros, la nuestra, las nuestras
- Yours: El vuestro, los vuestros, la vuestra, las vuestras*
- Theirs: El suyo, los suyos, la suya, las suyas*
Now, this is different from when you say “my book” or “my apple”. In that situation, you’re using “my” as an adjective, not a pronoun, because you aren’t replacing the noun but describing it. Then it’s mi libro or mis manzanas. Here are those possessive adjectives:
- My: Mi, mis
- Your: Tu, tus
- His, her, its, their: Su, sus
- Our: Nuestro, nuestros, nuestra, nuestras
- Your (plural): Vuestro, vuestros, vuestra, vuestras
Spanish Prepositional Pronouns
Only two pronouns change when following a preposition. (If you need a refresher of prepositions, check out this list.)
When following a preposition:
- “I” or Yo becomes mí (“me”)
- “You” or Tú becomes ti (“you”)
All other Spanish pronouns stay the same after a preposition, so that makes this set of pronouns easy to remember.
Esto es para mí, eso es para ti. (“This is for me, that’s for you.”)
The only exception is con (“with”). That’s comitative form, and it changes mí and ti to conmigo and contigo, respectively.
Spanish Direct Object Pronouns
Do you remember what a direct object is in a sentence? The object is what receives the action of the verb. So the subject performs the action, and the direct object is on the receiving end of that action. If I said, “I ate pizza” (Yo comí pizza in Spanish), “I” is the subject, “ate” is the verb and “pizza” is the direct object.
But if someone asked me, “Who ate the last slice of pizza?” I could say “I ate it,” which is Me lo comí. I’m using the direct object pronoun lo for “it” in Spanish. (In this situation, Me is “I, myself”… a reflexive pronoun. We’ll get to that in a second.)
Notice that the direct object pronoun goes before the verb, though. In most situations, Spanish has the same sentence structure as English (Subject-Verb-Object). But when it comes to direct object pronouns, it’s Subject-Direct Object Pronoun-Verb.
Here are the direct object pronouns:
- Me: Me
- You: Te
- Him, her, it: Lo, la
- Us: Nos
- You: Os
- Them: Los, las
Something to note: “them” in Spanish can be either people or items, which is why it’s plural for him, her or it. This is the same as English, but sometimes confuses people when they’re trying to remember it in Spanish.
Spanish Reflexive Pronouns
Before we talk about indirect object pronouns, let’s cover reflexive pronouns. I used it in the sentence above, Me lo comí, so let’s explain how that works.
Reflexive pronouns are words that end in “-self” or “-selves”. Oneself, myself, yourself, etc. When using a Spanish reflexive verb, such as lavarse or llamarse, you pair it with the Spanish reflexive pronoun.
How do you know when a verb is reflexive?
A verb is reflexive when the subject and object are the same. So, if I said Me llama Benny, I’m saying “I call myself Benny.” That’s why it’s me instead of yo. In Me lo comí, I’m saying “I, myself, did the action. I, myself, ate it.”
Here’s the list of reflexive pronouns:
- Myself: Me
- Yourself: Te
- Himself, herself, itself: Se
- Ourselves: Nos
- Yourselves: Os
- Themselves: Se
Reflexive pronouns seem confusing, but there’s a simple way to think about it. Take a look at that list, and then the direct object pronouns. There’s only one change: lo/la or los/las becomes se. That’s it! Everything else remains the same. If it’s easier, for now, you can think “Me, I ate it” to explain why Me lo comí uses me instead of yo.
Spanish Indirect Object Pronouns
The indirect object is someone or something affected by the action of the verb, but it’s not the main recipient of the action. Grammatically, the direct object doesn’t follow a preposition, while an indirect object comes after “to” or “for”. So the direct object is going to, or is for, the indirect object.
- To/for me: Me
- To/for you: Te
- To/for him, her or it: Le
- To/for us: Nos
- To/for you all: Os
- To/for them: Les
Notice that once again, only “it” has changed. Now it’s le or les. The rest is same as the direct object list.
If I said “I bought pizza,” that’s subject-verb-direct object. If I expand on that and say “I bought pizza for my friend,” then the direct object is “pizza” and “my friend” is the indirect object. In Spanish, that would be Compré pizza para mi amigo.
Now let’s say that same sentence using indirect object pronouns. In English, it would be “I bought pizza for him.” In Spanish, that would be Le compré pizza. Like the direct object pronouns, indirect object pronouns come before the verb, too.
Spanish Relative Pronouns
Relative pronouns connect phrases to a noun or pronoun. They’re words like “who”, “which”, “that”, “where” and “when”. They can help connect two sentences or to connect an adjectival clause to the noun.
In English, this would look like: “The new car that I bought is red.” I could’ve said “The new car is red” but I wanted to express it was my new car. So I used the relative pronoun “that” to connect it.
In Spanish, it’s El nuevo carro que compré es rojo.
The main two relative pronouns you’ll use in Spanish are que and quien. Que can mean “that”, “which”, “who” or “whom”. It connects to the noun directly. Quien means “who” or “whom” and comes after a preposition, like para (“for”) or con (“with”).
Here’s a couple examples:
- El libro que tomaste prestado. (“The book that you borrowed.”)
- Mi amigo para quien compré pizza se fue a casa. (“The friend, who I bought pizza for, went home.”)
Note that que is directly after libro, and is followed by a reflexive verb, tomaste. And quien follows the preposition para to describe specifically which friend I’m talking about.
There’s also cual, cuyo, el que, cuando and donde… Which gets pretty in-depth on the grammar aspect of building your sentences. For now, get comfortable using que and quien and understanding their differences.
Spanish Pronoun Power!
How’d it go? Is your head swimming from all of that, or did you find it easy to pick up? There are many different forms for Spanish pronouns, but if you start with mastering the subject pronouns, it gets easier from there. And three of the forms stay the same except the ever-changing “it”. Don’t forget to pay attention to the Spanish accent marks as you go.