Spanish subject pronouns (Yo, tú,..): Optional or simply not necessary?

1
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This is a question which comes up almost every day and which is the most corrected mistake in proofreading. I would like you to read some comments by native speakers. I have taken the liberty to copy our friend's Lazarus comment on this matter.

23626 views
updated AGO 11, 2017
posted by 00494d19

46 Answers

3
votes

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 complaint 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 AGO 11, 2017
posted by lazarus1907
3
votes

gspajon said:

Hello HeiditaWhy is a pronoun used in addition to a conjugation of a verb...for example. "Ya me voy", "Me sopongo", "No te preocupes". "Me acabo de llegar"..the list is long.

I thought I answered this before, but here it goes again:

"Voy" means "I go" / "I'm going", and for this verb, you normally mention the destination, or this is implicit from the context. When you say "me voy", the focus is changed with from the destination to the point where the speaker is, so the verb now becomes "I leave" / "I am leaving". To many grammarians, one verb is "ir" and the other one is "irse", pretty much like "to go" and "to leave" in English.

The pronoun in "me supongo" does not modify the meaning of the verb as much as "se" in "irse" ("me" in "me voy"), and it can be omitted without significantly modfiying the original meaning. Its use is mainly colloquial, and adds a light nuance of lack of confidence in the truth of the supposition.

updated AGO 11, 2017
posted by lazarus1907
2
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Mark Baker said:

cite="http://my.spanishdict.com/forum/topic/show'id=1710195%3ATopic%3A571165#1710195Comment574396]'me voy' is along the lines of 'I go myself' which is poor English so it becomes 'I leave'. The most common reflexive pronoun is 'cómo se llamas' which really means 'cómo se llamas ustedes'' which means 'how do you call yourself'' (so the verb is reflecting back on yourself) so the correct English becomes 'What is your name''

Well... I have no faith in teaching the uses of the reflexive pronouns by just saying that they all mean "myself", because it doesn't work, and I am not talking about a few exceptions here and there, but hundred of thousands of them... all the time. When the number of so-called exceptions is so large, to me there is a clear explanation for this: the "rule" wasn't a rule, but a mere observation that happened to work in some restricted situations, and outside of them, it doesn't work. In the real world, with the real Spanish... it will be a disaster.

Let's take your "I call myself", which is another one I don't agree with, and let's explain this sentence (which is a very very commonly used one):

Este mineral se llama rutilo.

Is the mineral calling itself "rutilo"? How to explain this? Do we just say that it is another of Lazarus' twisted and unusual exceptions to a wonderful rule? Do we give a different rule? Or what about "Me canso muy rápidamente"? Would you say "I tire myself very easily"? A new rule here, perhaps? Or what about "Me caigo"? "I fall myself"? Shall we say "I remember myself" for "Me acuerdo"?

I don't know if I'm confusing you or others, but anyone following something that absurd, it is likely to end up even more confused when they can't make sense of real Spanishs sentences where those "me" don't mean "myself"... at all!

To me, it would be like trying to teach English to Spanish speakers by saying that phrasal verbs, like "find out" translate as "encontrar fuera". It doesn't make sense, and it is illogical.

updated AGO 11, 2017
posted by lazarus1907
2
votes

Mark Baker said:

I'm not entirely sure what you mean.'Starts with the person' does not make sense, could you expand upon this please'. As I understand it, reflexive pronouns work in exactly the same way as indirect object pronouns (except they use 'se' instead of 'le and les'). So, a sentence that contains a reflexive verb must also contain a reflexive pronoun likewise a sentence that contains an indirect object (prepositional) must contain an indirect object pronoun.

So, to use the reflective verb 'irse' requires using the relevant reflexive pronoun. In this case 'me voy'

First of all, a sentence that contains an indirect object (prepositional) must not necessarily contain an indirect object pronoun; this is a misconception. Although the duplication is needed in many cases, and it is normally used in general (especially in spoken Spanish), sentences without the indirect pronoun are possible, and correct.

And coming back to the reflexive pronoun in "me voy", I don't know what do you mean by "reflective", but even if you mean "reflexive", there is no action reflected towards the person here: the pronoun turns the verb "to go" into "to leave". If you define "to leave" as "to go", but reflecting the act of going towards yourself, then I have no objections, of course. What I was trying to explain is that, whereas "ir" focusses on a destination, "irse", with the reflexive pronoun, focusses on the starting point, where the speaker is, but the action is still going somewhere else: you are not going "to yourself".

updated AGO 11, 2017
posted by lazarus1907
2
votes

As Lazarus mentioned somewhere - Spanish pronouns are very complex. They are very confusing for native English speakers, just as phrasal-verbs are difficult for native Spanish speakers. I've been studying Spanish for 4 years (mainly on my own). I am a dilligent and keen student. I am reasonably intelligent but I still cannot penetrate this concept.

So...........what am I to do?

I have tried reading different grammar books (many of which seem contradictary), asking questions - but all to no avail.

Recently I have been trying a new method. I forget trying to understand the reason and instead I just accept that this is just the way that it is! Study the examples.Take it "on faith". Let my brain absorb the language. At least I get less headaches!

Does anyone have a plan or a method that works for them? Please share it.!

(Okay - that's enough rambling from me.)

!Hasta luego!

updated MAY 4, 2011
posted by patch
1
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This is a very old thread, I am adding this new thread here and this thread to the new one, just in case it gets lostwink

new thread on omission of subject pronouns

updated AGO 11, 2017
posted by 00494d19
1
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Natasha said:

quasi-reflexive, huh? Well, it's the best anyone's come up with so far . . .semi-reflexivesort-of-reflexivesort-of-kind-of-reflexivemight-be-reflexiveJUST KIDDING

Yes, isn't it wonderful! I think your ideas should also be included! I like the"sort-of-kind-of" best! (big smile)

updated AGO 11, 2017
posted by 00494d19
1
vote

Natasha said:

What do all of you think of this article? (This one's in English, which is helpful to some of us.)

I am still reading it, but it mentions Bull in the article, and surely this is worth reading, as Bull's articles were the first ones to show me how logical the subjunctive is in Spanish. Very insightful remarks, really.

However, in that article, they talk about "SE espúreo", and the word "espúreo" does not exist: it should be "espurio". Typical mistake, especially among natives.

Also, I disagree with Mr. Holt's "impersonal passive SE": it is simply a passive SE, but using the preterit(e). The impersonal tense can be used in all 16 tenses plus in imperative, so I don't see the point in giving each one a different name.

His 8th group is fine, but I think it is convenient sometimes to sub-divide that group into 4 functional categories.

updated AGO 11, 2017
posted by lazarus1907
1
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Mark Baker said:

Bravo, now that is what I call 'a proper answer'.

I am glad that now that we have both calmed down, we can reach an agreement (if only a partial one).

updated AGO 11, 2017
posted by lazarus1907
1
vote

It is almost impossible to agree on anything if each one uses a different terminology, and it is even harder if each one has its own strengths (and weaknesses), but they are also incompatible on some points. The term "reflexive" is often applied from the perspective of the English language, but Spanish is a different language, so what is true for one language, may not be for the other. Unfortunately, not even the Spanish terminology is uniform and universally used: many books and experts call things depending on their views on the subject.

But in any case, these reflexive pronouns behave in different ways depending on the verb and the sentence. Some of them are clearly objects matching the subject, whereas others are not objects at all. Some of them are essential for a grammatical sentence, but others can be suppressed without affecting the sentence at all. Some of them are used without interfering with the usual rules about subjects, whereas others impede the possibility of using any (typical) object, and force the verb to use a prepositional complement of a particular type; some of these pronouns modify 100% the meaning of the verb, others do it to a certain extent, and others just a nuance; some make sentences impersonal, others passive, others remove the agent, others make it reciprocal,...

No one really knows what is the best way to teach this in terms of simplicity and effectiveness at the same time, but these pronouns occur all the time in Spanish, and they are essential for a proper command of Spanish. Grouping all these miscellaneous manifestations of these pronouns under one label, encompassing an extremely wide range of lexical and syntactic differences, is surely bound to confuse students sooner or later, as they are not going to be able to make sense of so many situations with such a simple rule; a rule which can be, by the way, contradictory.

Natasha said:

So please, folks, does anyone have a good suggestion for what to call verbs like irse? (the overall category, I mean) -- we can't be the first ones who've encountered this terminology problem!!!!!!!

A verb like "irse" is called, in general, pronominal, and its sub-category is that of verbs of motion where their meaning are modified somehow by the presence of the pronoun, normally related to the aspect of the verb.

updated AGO 11, 2017
posted by lazarus1907
1
vote

*~ pronominal.

No sé si esto lo hace más claro o justo lo contrario:

Los reflexivos internos o pronominales propiamente dichos, a los que Bello llamaba cuasi-reflexivos, que corresponden a verbos intransitivos (sin objeto directo) y cuya forma activa correspondiente tiene un sentido diferente (o no existe): levantarse, lanzarse, etc. Un grupo importante lo constituyen los verbos de emoción o sentimiento: arrepentirse, espantarse, avergonzarse, etc.

Hay que añadir un grupo con características propias constituido por los intransitivos de movimiento que admiten el empleo del pronombre reflexivo, en ocasiones con valor incoactivo: irse, venirse, marcharse, etc.*

Esto es largo pero interesante:

[url=http://culturitalia.uibk.ac.at/hispanoteca/lexikon%20der%20linguistik/v/VERBOS%20PRONOMINALES.htm]http://culturitalia.uibk.ac.at/hispanoteca/lexikon%20der%20linguistik/v/VERBOS%20PRONOMINALES.htm[/url]

updated AGO 11, 2017
posted by 00494d19
1
vote

Mark and Lazarus, cool it down a little!

updated AGO 11, 2017
posted by 00494d19
1
vote

The "just learn" it approach is probably better than using false rules filled with contradictions and countless exceptions. Sentences like:

Me lavo.
Me compro una camisa.

are easily translated as "I wash myself", "I buy myself a shirt". These are called reflexives in any serious grammar book, and both accept an extra reflexive emphatic reduplication: "Me lavo a mí mismo". The problem starts with sentences like:

Me llamo Lazarus

Many books claim that this is not a reflexive structure. Why? Well... some people say that this sentence translates as "I call myself lazarus", but that "myself" in Spanish is "a mí mismo", and "Me llamo Lazarus a mí mismo" sounds stupid in Spanish. Actually, it probably sounds as stupid as "I call myself Lazarus". No native would ever say "Me llamo a mí mismo", ever! It sounds equally weird in both languages... if you try the reflexive approach. So, why that "me"? Well... let's say that changes a verb such as "llamar", meaning "to call (someone something)" into something like "having as a name....". The verb changes, its meaning changes a bit, and it is used in a different way. It is better to remember the verb as "llamarse", regarding it as a different verb from simply "llamar", like "ir" and "irse" (to go and to leave). Of course, you can call yourself anything you want, using the verb reflexively, but it is not the way you normally talk. Stand in front of the mirror, and call yourself "a champion". Here, you could use the reflexive construction, and say "Me llamo campeón todos los días para animarme". Here the object would be the subject. The rest of the time, you are not really calling yourself anything: your name just happens to be that one, and that's how it should be translated and understood.

updated AGO 11, 2017
posted by lazarus1907
1
vote

patch said:

Recently I have been trying a new method. I forget trying to understand the reason and instead I just accept that this is just the way that it is! Study the examples.Take it "on faith". Let my brain absorb the language. At least I get less headaches!

Does anyone have a plan or a method that works for them? Please share it.!

Try reading this article, and see if it helps (warning: it is a bit technical):

http://www.mepsyd.es/redele/revista3/lidia_lozano.shtml

updated AGO 11, 2017
posted by lazarus1907
1
vote

gspajon said:

So the question arises then, when a reflexive form of the verb is used, (exceptions aside for the moment) does it change the verb to mean the subject IS the pronoun. "Me voy", "no te preocupes". Is that also correct?

I will give you my version, whether Mr. Baker likes it or not (or understands it). Verbs with direct objects can potentially become transitive by redirecting the action to oneself, as in "I wash something" and "I was myself". However, those pronouns can have other functions that have nothing to do with reflexivity, and there are books explaining how to understand each type. Those books only call "reflexive" those where the object matches the subject, and not in all other cases.

The verb preocupar (to worry) is transitive, and that in Spanish means that it needs an object, someone to make worried. However, if you just worry, and don't worry others (here Mr. Baker's explanation applies to a certain extent), then you need the pronominal form "me preocupo", but that "me" is not an object, and cannot be understood as such, because "Me preocupo a mí mismo" (I worry myself) becomes nonsensical and plain wrong in Spanish, since it is not reflexive, so it doesn't accept that "myself" at all. This pronoun informs the hearers that there is no object. Period.

In "Me voy", the pronoun simply changes the perspective of the motion, effectively modifying the meaning of the verb.

updated AGO 11, 2017
posted by lazarus1907