Why can you often leave out the subject pronoun in spanish?

Why can you often leave out the subject pronoun in spanish?


Why can you often leave out the subject pronoun in spanish?

updated SEP 28, 2009
posted by climbon

3 Answers


A lot of the times, the endings are pretty unique and a dead giveaway. Yo hablo, tu hablas, el ella habla, nosotros hablamos, ustedes hablan. As you can see, all the endings in the present indicative conjugation of hablar are different from each other.

When you start getting into other tenses such as the imperfect where it's yo hablaba, tu hablabas, el ella hablaba, nosotros hablabamos, ustedes hablaban, you can see that the yo and el ella form are the exact same. This is where you start using the context of the sentence to identify who the subject is in the sentence.

La viste?

-Sí, la vi hace ratito. (Ella) Hablaba con Mike para averiguar lo que pasó entre tú y Jill.

Ayy, ya le dije (a ella) que no pasó nada entre nostros. Siempre (ella) está celosa.

So in the example above, I've put in parenthesis all the times where I could've added the subject pronoun before the verb, but chose not to. The reason being is that the subject can be implied from the context of the conversation.

Translation: You saw her?

-Yea, I saw her just a little while ago. She was talking with Mike to see what happened between you and Jill.

Uggghh, I've already told her that nothing happened between us. She's always jealous.

In the sentence where it says 'she was talking with Mike to see what happened...' hablaba is understood as referring to 'ella' (the girlfriend). While hablaba is in the same conjugation as the 'yo' form, we can gather that we're probably talking about 'her' because the same subject is trying to find out what happened between Jill y 'yo', so it'd make no sense for hablaba in that sentence to be referring to 'yo'.


updated SEP 28, 2009
edited by Charlius
posted by Charlius

I thought it was to make up for all the redundant indirect object pronouns that were required! LOL

updated OCT 10, 2009
posted by ocbizlaw

This is a great question. The reason is because when verbs are conjugated in Spanish, the ending of each conjugation tells you the tense or the mood. However, unlike English, the ending to conjugated verbs in Spanish also tells you who the subject is.

Por ejemplo: Instead of saying "Yo estoy cansada." (I am tired.) I would say "Estoy cansada." The "oy" ending on the stem of the infinitive estar tells everyone that it is the first person singular who is tired. It would be redundant for me to add "Yo" because the verb estoy already tells us who it is that is tired.

It would be helpful for you to start with Lesson 1:1 of the Learn Spanish videos. This concept is taught on the videos in a much more eloquent way than the way I am answering your question.

I hope this helps. smile

updated SEP 28, 2009
posted by Nicole-B
Well, the ending sometimes does tell you the subject, but not in the imperfect, (present, imperfect, present perfect or past perfect subjunctive), conditional, pluperfect indicative, many of the progressive tenses...heck, it's just not a good statement. - 0074b507, SEP 28, 2009
I'm sure I could have worded my statement better, but I was generalizing. I realize that, for instance, that at times the first and third person singular conjugation, in certain tenses, is the same. There are also coupound tenses, etc. - Nicole-B, SEP 28, 2009
My point was that in general, the way a verb is conjugated can point us in the direction of who the subject is. Without a doubt, I know you would be able to explain this better than I ever could Quentin. - Nicole-B, SEP 28, 2009
So even just for my sake and all who are interested, show me how I should have explained it. I always look forward to your answers. As Heidi puts it...you know "everything". - Nicole-B, SEP 28, 2009
Defensive much? Hee hee. Please don't hurt me. - Charlius, SEP 28, 2009
I'm not sure what you mean Charlius. I really am humbly asking for Q's suggestions and help. - Nicole-B, SEP 28, 2009
Didn't mean anything at all, just toasting your grits like I do with Q. Love 'ya! - Charlius, SEP 28, 2009
Thanks...back at you. - Nicole-B, SEP 28, 2009
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