HomeQ&AConflicting messages about subject/personal pronouns....

Conflicting messages about subject/personal pronouns....

6
votes

Most people who have spent any amount of time in the forum are well aware that the use of the personal pronoun (except for reasons of clarification) will buy you a one way ticket to the dunce corner. wink rolleyes cheese LOL LOL

However, for some time now, I have been confused by this concept because I have so many grammar books and Spanish learning books that use the subject pronoun. I have also heard it used liberally in various learning videos on line.

This is one of those topics that I keep meaning to figure out, once and for all. I guess today is as good a day as any. smile I did a search, but didn't find anything definitive. This thread was started the other day, but only Issa answered.

The bottom line is, are subject/personal pronouns being used in my books and in video lessons for teaching purposes only? Is this a regional thing? For example, are subject pronouns totally unacceptable in Spain (since Heidi constantly teaches us not to use them), but used more frequently in Central and South America? I would just like to have a solid answer to this question which has been confusing me for awhile.

Thank you in advance for your responses. smile

3259 views
updated ABR 26, 2010
edited by 00494d19
posted by Nicole-B
category - 00494d19, ABR 26, 2010
I guess I was thinking of it as a "grammar" question. But general discussions works just as well. :) - Nicole-B, ABR 26, 2010

10 Answers

5
votes

I'm not really much in the grammar game, but this I have learned in my two short years of Spanish. Real Spanish speakers DO NOT use subject pronouns, and when they do, it's adding a wonderful 'nuance' that we usually miss as Spanish students.

For example, the other night as I was watching ¿Dónde está Elisa? (Ok, shuuuut uuuup red face ) there was a scene where a huge argument was happening. After the argument, the lady that was very angry said with a very sharp staccato voice, ¡Yo voy! right before she stormed out of the apartment. Without the 'yo' it wouldn't have had the meaning needed in the moment of ire. Probably a bad example, but it worked for me.

I am around several people trying to learn Spanish, and I hear them using subject pronouns and it drives me crazy. I correct them and they always ask 'why? It's in the book that way' which further drives me crazy. You will never, never, never sound even halfway fluent using unneeded subject pronouns. When I hear a native speak use a subject pronoun, my ears perk up because I know the emphasis has shifted and I need to pay attention smile

updated ABR 26, 2010
posted by Jack-OBrien
4
votes

The best thread on that issue is this one.

There have been many discussion on this topic, and even though you as a learner might think, hey, here it is necessary, it is mostly not. I got a long letter from a frequent forer the other day trying to reason why he had used a subject pronoun while I am always insisting D O N O T use subject pronouns. He was wrong.

it is difficult for a non native to decide when to use the pronoun or not, so to play it safe: do N O T use it.

My aim is and I guess everybody who teaches the language wants that their students "sound" native and not foreign. If you use the subject pronoun, you do, and that is it.

Acceptable? Well, it is always correct to use the pronoun, but you will always sound foreign.

Please read this opinion by our grammar geek Lazarus:

savannah said: I don't really think they are necicary when saying, the YO form, the TU form, or Nosotros, because the conjugation points it out, however, the El/ella/ud. and the Ellas/ellos,/uds. you most of the time should, because even though they use context, still, it might be easier just to say the form.

No, you shouldn't, because it is not English, and those pronouns are kept on hold for a very good reason. If you use them, you not only sound horrible most of the time, but you deprive Spanish from expressing distinctions and nuances that are normally expressed with those pronouns.

Remember than the context often decides who are we talking about. If I said:

She has come.

You wouldn't have the slightest clue about who is she, unless I told you first, so maybe we should complain about English too, and conclude that we must say the name all the time, e.g. "Julia has come". If the above sentence had followed something like "Oh, talking about Julia...", that "she" would have made perfect sense, but so would have its Spanish counterpart if we had said "Ha venido". This is something that you probably have never considered.

updated ABR 26, 2010
edited by Goyo
posted by 00494d19
Gracias Heidi. These are excellent points. ( I really do miss Lazarus and his sarcastic, but "to the point" answers.) - Nicole-B, ABR 26, 2010
I love this! It's a pronoun pillow fight!!! Seriously, when I think about 12 year old being afraid to make a mistake in Spanish, I didn't flip out over a kid using "yo" when it wasn't necessary... - mountaingirl123, ABR 26, 2010
I know some of these books, videos, etc. are trying to help by teaching this way. However, I have always found it helpful to learn/teach something the correct way from the start. - Nicole-B, ABR 26, 2010
complain or have the same complaint - nizhoni1, ABR 26, 2010
Heidi added a couple of letters in her passion. I hope it's OK that I fixed them. - Goyo, ABR 26, 2010
3
votes

I have heard native Spanish speaking people say things like "Yo te quiero." as well. Would this be considered "bad Spanish", similar to the way we say that people use "bad English"? - Nicole-Baile

If I heard this, I would think he was saying:

I love you, unlike others!

Yo voy al cine los jueves, no sé qué harás tú.

I, unlike you or others, go to the cinema on Thursdays, I don't know what you may do.

updated ABR 26, 2010
posted by 00494d19
OK, now I can "really" see what you mean about the subject pronoun adding a different nuance to the entire sentence. I know it seems simple, but this is fascinating to me. - Nicole-B, ABR 26, 2010
2
votes

Maybe people keep using the subject pronouns in the threads because they are usually writing only one sentence.There is minimal context with the single sentence.No Susie said..so she..... her. To an English speaker it looks like nothing is there until they get a feel for the inclusivenes of conjugation. Just a thought.

I have no quibble with this with N O T using subject pronouns.Sometimes I get lost in thought wondering why they exist.wink

updated ABR 26, 2010
posted by nizhoni1
2
votes

I think that subject pronouns being used in Spanish books and in video lessons for teaching purposes only. I wish that books would put them in parenthesis, for example, "(yo) hago mí tarea," but keep them out of the speaking lessons.

I have heard subject pronouns in speech; however, most times they seem to be used for emphasis only. For example, "(a mi) me gusta helado." You would use the "a mi" only when comparing yourself to someone else who said they didn't like ice cream. It would be "Well, I like ice cream."

Another reason to use them would be to avoid confusion in the subjunctive mood, because the "yo" form and "el/ella/usted" form can be the same.

On the other hand, I had a Puerto Rican boyfriend (in another life time and for only about a month), but he used the pronouns "yo" and "tú" a lot and not always for emphasis. For example, "Yo te quiero." "Yo me voy." "¿Adónde vas tú?"

updated ABR 26, 2010
posted by --Mariana--
I have heard native Spanish speaking people say things like "Yo te quiero." as well. Would this be considered "bad Spanish", similar to the way we say that people use "bad English"? - Nicole-B, ABR 26, 2010
2
votes

I just want to clarify that the subject pronoun can simply mean that the verb is 'emphatic' and that it doesn't simply mean it is exclusive (or very strong). For instance I was with a native speaker yesterday (I am currently living in Costa Rica) and when we were asked who wanted coffee he responded 'Yo quiero café' because he had only slept about 2 hours the night before.

updated ABR 26, 2010
posted by puravidacanuck
2
votes

Good question.I think I recall reading or hearing somewhere on this site subject pronouns could be used in cases of emphasis.

updated ABR 26, 2010
posted by nizhoni1
1
vote

Great question, Nicole.

I suppose it could be all of the above. I'm always amused when someone gets to wear the dunce hat for using a subject pronoun. In cases of a sentence that has numerous verbs and a repetition of the pronoun, I can understand the dunce hat being handed over. Example: "Yo corro, yo practico deportes y yo bailo cada semana."

Maybe this nipping the pronouns in the bud is a strategy to help English speakers grasp that the pronouns are not necessary because of conjugations?

Personally, I wouldn't worry about it. (Am I going to the dunce corner???? Oh, no...please! I was there once...it was a horrible experience!!!!! big surprise

Unless a student absolutely insisted on using the subject pronoun on a consistent basis, I was inclined to not make a deal of it. The tendency always self-extinguished with time and additional exposure.

As I think about what I heard in Mexico recently...hmmm...I wish I could help, but I just have no memory as to whether there were more subject pronouns floating around than in Spain.

updated ABR 26, 2010
edited by mountaingirl123
posted by mountaingirl123
I don't know why you say that,in the dunce corner are only the best;) - 00494d19, ABR 26, 2010
echando bromas! - mountaingirl123, ABR 26, 2010
1
vote

I'm always amused when someone gets to wear the dunce hat for using a subject pronoun.

I am personally thankful for the "dunce corner" in this situation. I would probably be using subject pronouns all over the place, just because it is such an English speaking habit. I really appreciate Heidi's warnings on this topic. smile

However, the fact that some people, books, videos, etc. don't seem to be bothered by this is what is so confusing to me.

updated ABR 26, 2010
edited by Nicole-B
posted by Nicole-B
0
votes

You will never, never, never sound even halfway fluent using unneeded subject pronouns. When I hear a native speak use a subject pronoun, my ears perk up because I know the emphasis has shifted and I need to pay attention

Way to go, Jackwink

updated ABR 26, 2010
posted by 00494d19
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