HomeQ&AWhen do we use the "subject pronoun" in Spanish: yo, tú, él, ella....?

When do we use the "subject pronoun" in Spanish: yo, tú, él, ella....?


A good example is yo estaba corriendo = I was running as estaba can also be used for he/she was running or when using 3rd person singular él quiere ir a Madrid = He wants to go to Madrid - FELIZ77

After seeing this post by Feliz, I have decided to post this question to try and make things clearer.

This thread certainly made my daygrin

Why use "yo" when the statement already includes the yo form? For instance, why say "Yo estudio chino", when "Estudio chino" already means "I study Chinese"? Why say "I" twice?

Indeed: why?

As a general rule: Do not use subject pronouns!

Even though you think it might be necessary, look at Feliz's confusion above, don't use them, just in casewink

Are subject pronouns optional or should we not use them? We already had this discussion here, and the opinion of the Spanish native Lazarus was this:

You shouldn't use subject pronouns, 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.

So what distinctions is he talking about? Please don't miss the thread I have mentioned, he gives some examples too, but I would like to point this out to you:

Look at these examples.

It is nor necessary to include the pronoun in sentence in Spanish, with the exception of the following examples:

I. To emphasize the subject

Mi vecino sacó la basura, pero yo me olvidé de hacerlo.

My neighbour took out the garbage but I forgot to do it!

Yo soy Pepa, ella es María.

I am Pepa, this is María.

¿Sabes quién ha llamado? Yo no lo sé, a lo mejor lo sabe él!

Do you know who rang? I don't know, maybe he knows!

II. In sentences like:

Soy yo, abre la puerta.

It's me, open the door.

As you can see the pronoun is not used to distinguish between different subjects in the third person like Feliz suggests at the beginning of the thread.


http://gramaticacognitivaele.es/material didactico/pronombres/P 13-B/P 13-B.swf

For swf (Small Web Format) files you need a player. You must copy the URL manually into your browser's navigation bar. (This video is interactive, it does not play automatically like our lesson videos).

Please don't miss them!!

It took me some time to find them, but this is a real treat! You will find the examples so clear and much fun to do

updated JUN 23, 2010
edited by Goyo
posted by 00494d19
ok, the link won¡t stick, maybe somebody can do that for me? - 00494d19, JUN 14, 2010
comments appreciated - 00494d19, JUN 14, 2010
I'm not sure why that last link won't work. Q, where are you? - --Mariana--, JUN 14, 2010
or izan!!! hellllllooooooo?? Seeeee Marianne, men, when you need them.....lol - 00494d19, JUN 14, 2010
hagan preguntas!!!! No hay preguntas? Any sentences you think the pronoun is needed ? post them and I will tell you+ - 00494d19, JUN 14, 2010
Hola Heidita...From what I have seen, if the link contains a space between characters (as yours does in several places - material* *didactico/P* *13-B/P* *13.B.swf) the link will not post. As of yet, I have not found a way around this limitation - Izanoni1, JUN 14, 2010
It's me, open the door.... (A very common mistake) ..... It is I - 005faa61, JUN 14, 2010
Good, but I still don't get it. - sanlee, JUN 14, 2010
Me siento avergonzado ahora - FELIZ77, JUN 14, 2010
The link won't "stick" because there are spaces in the URL. - webdunce, JUN 14, 2010
Thanks Heidita, this helps immensely. Little typo under the sentence.. Look at these examples change nor to not. - MattM, JUN 22, 2010

26 Answers


Another way to look at this, which might help, is to consider that in Spanish, conjugation of person is done through verb selection. Period. Very easy.

Conjugation of person in English is done through the choice of personal pronouns (and some verb conjugation, ie: We/They go, She/He goes). Not so easy.

Remember this and just maybe Heidita will stop pulling her hair out.

updated JUN 23, 2010
posted by 005faa61

Heidi, Thank you and we all know that using subject pronouns will get you to the "dunce corner" quicker than a New York minute!! Thanks for the post. smile

updated JUN 22, 2010
posted by Jason7R
jejej, quiecker than a new york minute, now that is a great idiom! lol - 00494d19, JUN 14, 2010
;) - Jason7R, JUN 22, 2010

This is excellent, Heidi....I love learning something new everyday!

updated JUN 22, 2010
posted by --Mariana--

Thanks for putting all of this together for us. I know it probably seems simple from the point of view of a Spanish speaking person, but for those of us who are dunce corner regulars, we need all the help we can get! raspberry LOL

updated JUN 22, 2010
posted by Nicole-B
I know I sure do! - ray76, JUN 14, 2010

I just can't get the subject pronouns. I study everything about them that I can. It's not making sense (the direct object/ indirect object stuff). And, I constantly have to change the sentence so it has no subject pronouns and it was not what I was trying to say at all, but it was all I could say without the pronouns.

updated JUN 22, 2010
posted by sanlee
Keep working at it. You will get it if you don't give up. - Goyo, JUN 22, 2010

Thanks Heidita!

As you might remember, I certainly have had my problems (in the past) with subject pronouns.

I was thinking that there has to be times to use them, otherwise why would they exists in the first place?

It is great that you have supplied this post with links and examples.

This will definitely be helpful to me.

updated JUN 22, 2010
posted by Rolest

Great explanation Heidita smile and that site is brilliant grin! Thank you for taking the time to put this together smile.

On the exercise I only got one wrong (although there were a couple which I really needed to think about) which was the one with two aliens and two humans:

¿Queréis jugar con nosotros?

Yo no sé jugar.

Choice A: ¿Y tú sabes jugar?

Choice B ¿Y sabes jugar?

I chose choice B but I suppose I should have gotten a clue from the fact that the alien used yo raspberry.

updated JUN 22, 2010
posted by --Jen--

I think you could prepare a reference article about it! It doesn't have to be very long, just the most important things.

Y los ejercicios son geniales smile

updated JUN 22, 2010
edited by Issabela
posted by Issabela
that is the ultimate idea, first let's see if this is clear enough, do the exercise I indluded, - 00494d19, JUN 14, 2010

Yet these sentences are not typical because there is no context to get this information from as we would in normal reading or speech,

That is the problem with these kind of execises, unless you use the pronoun, it could be anyone, which does not happen in a normal everyday context.

You must take into consideration that the third person can be: he, she , it, usted.

So, we need to know the context to know which person we are talking about. But we have context when we are talking, so a sentence in a book, is something different.

updated JUN 22, 2010
posted by 00494d19

A wonderful thread mi reina, what about this sentence is the "me" really needed?

Me paso por las narices todas las opiniones que dicen de mí.

updated JUN 23, 2010
posted by billy-jones
yes, pasarse is pronominal - 00494d19, JUN 23, 2010

Thanks for the post. I got confused in one of the example 'Yo soy Pepa, ella es María. I am Pepa, this is María.' Why we have to use 'Yo' ? why can't we use just 'Soy Pepa'?

In normal circumstances, soy Pepa would be best, however in this sentence yo soy and ella es is used for emphasis, for example:

A man comes up to two girls and shakes Pepa's hand saying "Hola María" to Pepa, and Pepa replies, "Yo soy Pepa, ella es María," to emphasise that the man got their names wrong.

I hope this helps a little smile.

updated JUN 23, 2010
posted by --Jen--
great jen;) - 00494d19, JUN 15, 2010

I just saw this thread. Where have I been? :p

I loved the lesson link! Those are fun and I think very helpful. Being entirely en español is a big plus too.

updated JUN 23, 2010
posted by Goyo

This is a great post, Heidita. I'm a little confused about the use of "usted". It seems to me that I hear that pronoun used more than others. Does it still follow the same rules as you've mentioned or do people say it more just to make sure that they are being polite enough? If you meet Alvite tomorrow would you say "¿Cómo está usted?" or just "¿Cómo está?"

updated JUN 22, 2010
posted by alba3
Good question. It is like Mr. Alvite, El Sr. Alvite. - MattM, JUN 22, 2010

Sorry alba, good thing we have nametaken, she drew my attention to this questionwink

Does it still follow the same rules as you've mentioned or do people say it more just to make sure that they are being polite enough? If you meet Alvite tomorrow would you say "¿Cómo está usted?" or just "¿Cómo está?"

NO way I would say usted to him! LOL He hates thatraspberry

De todas formas, lo normal seria decir:

¿Qué tal está?

Usted de hecho es verdad que se usa más.

Your reasoning is logical, people want to be polite enoughwink

but the pronoun is really perfectly superfluous.

updated JUN 22, 2010
posted by 00494d19

Hi Heidi,

Thanks for the post. I got confused in one of the example

'Yo soy Pepa, ella es María.

I am Pepa, this is María.'

Why we have to use 'Yo' ? why can't we use just 'Soy Pepa'?

updated JUN 15, 2010
posted by Vaanz
SpanishDict is the world's most popular Spanish-English dictionary, translation, and learning website.
© Curiosity Media Inc.